In “The Times,” one of the 13 songs on the new MxPx album, Plans Within Plans, bassist Mike Herrera sings a line that can easily be interpreted as a promise to fans of the veteran pop-punk band.
The lyric is “history has taught us to keep playing through.” And this spring and summer, Herrera — along with guitarist Tom Wisniewski and drummer Yuri Riley — will shine a spotlight on their history and their new album (released in April via MRI/Rock City Recording Company) by playing select U.S. shows in celebration of MxPx’s 20th anniversary.
Herrera recently checked in to talk about the band’s early days, some recent developments and much more.
Medleyville.us: Twenty years later, what is your most vivid memory of the first MxPx gig?
Mike Herrera: “I can’t remember much, but I believe it was on July 6, 1992, at my parents’ house in Bremerton, Wash., where I lived and grew up as a teenager. We performed about eight to 12 songs total. We did two sets of the exact same songs. But my most vivid memory was that I lost my voice. I wasn’t used to singing that much, and we had started practicing only one week before our first show. This is ridiculous; people don’t do this anymore — and they shouldn’t. We weren’t prepared at all for our first show. I lost my voice from singing every day, and it was horrible.”
Online bios written about the band make a casual one-sentence reference to a 1993 showcase in the backyard of your parents’ house that resulted in a deal with Tooth & Nail Records. So how did that come together, and how did the negotiations play out after you were done performing?
Herrera: “I’m not sure where that information came from, but I’m sure there’s plenty of wrong information out there. In 1992, we had our first performance, as I mentioned. It wasn’t until 1993 that we did the showcase with Brandon Ebel from Tooth & Nail. He came over and watched a practice. It wasn’t a show; it was just practice in the same spot where the ‘Doing Time’ video was made — my parents’ garage. Now it’s the offices of MxPx, its storage, and it was a recording studio for a while.
“So the negotiations — I don’t know. They offered us what we thought was a good deal, and we took it. Bad idea. But at the same time, it’s taken us all to where we are today. I can definitely say there are plenty of things that I would do differently in my life. That’s not even an interview; that’s probably a whole book worth of things. I hate when people say, ‘I wouldn’t change a thing.’ It’s like, Yeah, right, you would — of course! You have to learn from your mistakes, learn from the things you go through. If not, then it’s not really worth going through.”
Was recording for a high-profile label like A&M all you had hoped it would be? And how did that experience influence signing with SideOneDummy before returning to Tooth & Nail for a brief second stint?
Herrera: “You know, signing to A&M was great, but at the same time, it’s exactly what people said: They don’t care about your music, they care if you sell records. Quickly we realized that, you know — not maybe enough to the extent that it was so true. I think we made a lot of mistakes with management and through management. It wasn’t really A&M’s fault as a company. It was just the way it happened. It wasn’t the only thing that influenced our decision to sign to SideOneDummy. I mean, everything influences everything, so it definitely played a small factor, but back then I was just making music and not really worrying about the business end of things, and I’d say that’s another one of those mistakes, for sure.”
Where is your key to the city that you received in 2006 from Bremerton Mayor Cary Bozeman?
Herrera: “That’s a very good question. I’m going to give you the diplomatic answer. It’s on my desk in my office. But I do not have an office. So it’s not really on my desk in my office. It’s somewhere in my house. It’s not really displayed; it’s kept as a memento.”
Plans Within Plans is the first MxPx album since 2009’s On the Cover II and the band’s first original album since 2007’s Secret Weapon. Talk about some of the key personal and professional events over the last five years that have contributed to slightly longer gaps between releases compared to the band’s output from 1994 through 2005.
Herrera: “The main thing that has affected us touring as much is that Tom and Yuri got full-time jobs with limited vacation time, which makes it hard to tour for long periods of time. It was a part of growing up, but not necessarily moving on, so we’ve adapted. The fact that we’re still even a band is a testament really to the fans, not even us. The fans who have proved to be tenacious, loyal and outspoken told us, ‘We want to hear new music, you need to put out a new record, and we want to come see you live.’ It’s been a bit hard coordinating schedules, but we continue to push through and give our fans what they’ve asked for. It hasn’t been an easy five-year gap, but music is what I love to do. I’d rather not work for somebody. I’d rather just be my own boss. That’s just me. I feel like my life has been built around this music, and I’m going to continue pushing things through to see if there’s anything at the end of this tunnel, which at this point, there is.”
Without giving too much away, what can fans expect to see and hear during the band’s upcoming 20th anniversary shows?
Herrera: “We will have some special guests that are in bands that you would know. I’d like to clear one thing up, though: Tom and Yuri will be there. People keep asking us on Facebook and Twitter if Tom and Yuri will be at the shows. Yes, they will be. If it’s not MxPx All-Stars, then yes — Tom and Yuri will be there. That would mean it’s just MxPx. They can only do weekend shows and a limited amount, so we decided to do some of the major cities, and hopefully we can add more in the future.”
— Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior
MxPx on tour (schedule subject to change):
* May 26: El Corazon — Seattle
* June 29: House of Blues — Anaheim, Calif.
* June 30: House of Blues — West Hollywood, Calif.
* July 6: Best Buy Theater — New York
* July 7: Trocadero — Philadelphia
* Aug. 31: Joshua Fest — Plymouth, Calif.
Mike Herrera on tour (schedule subject to change):
* June 21: Orange County Great Park — Irvine, Calif.
* June 22: Pomona Fairplex — Pomona, Calif.
* June 23: AT&T Park — San Francisco
* June 24: Venture County Fairgrounds — Ventura, Calif.
Photo by Jered Scott