On a drizzly evening, the singers and guitarists Nick Chiericozzi and Mark Perro of the rock band The Men are relaxing inside the Coyote Club bar in Brooklyn, sipping on a couple of bottles of Pacifico while ‘60s soul music plays in the background. Perro happens to be a co-owner of the cozy wood-paneled spot—although he jokes that he’s been expressly forbidden from stepping behind the bar.
A member of The Men being involved in a local bar sounds like a natural progression of the band’s staunchly DIY mentality and fondness for performing in venues that sit on the smaller, scuzzier end of the spectrum. Since 2010’s debut album Immaculada, the group has been praised for the way it manages to shift easily from abrasive noise rock tendencies to more tender and restrained lyrical sentiments. Their new album Mercy adds on to this reputation, with Chiericozzi saying they created it in an “almost piecemeal way,” recording individual songs and letting each track breath as its own musical entity: Lonesome guitar lines waver through country and western-influenced opener “Cool Water,” while “Fallin’ Thru” relies on elegiac piano and plaintive vocals, and “Breeze” blazes along with full-on stomp-rock energy and amped-up guitar riffs.
Over a few Pacificos, I spoke to Chiericozzi and Perro about how they’d create a beer pairing for every track on The Men’s latest album, cutting and pasting together Pink Floyd and Skip Spence lyrics to create a brand new song, and the three magic properties that every good beer has.
You’re both drinking Pacifico. Is that one of your regular beers?
Mark: I was just talking about this and I think Pacifico is a perfect beer because it's a little bit better than like a Tecate—it’s got some body and flavor to it, but it's still super drinkable. It's perfected. You could drink 20 of them.
Nick: I also like the heavier stouts, like the ones that sit in the belly a little bit and more like the high alcohol ones. But at the same time I'm also into the stuff like Corona, where you can drink a lot of them.
Mark: It's about quantity!
Have you noticed your fans’ drinking preferences at shows changing over the years?
Mark: I don't know if it's our fans per se, but I've definitely noticed certain trends in drinking, like, the whole IPA thing. I don't know how that affects The Men population.
Nick: We've drank a lot of IPAs.
Mark: We used to drink Sierra Nevada, that was like the first IPA I ever had. You could drink like six of them.
What’s the appeal of IPAs for you?
Nick: I used to think IPAs went well with smoking pot. It was a similar buzz. It was almost like a wine buzz, like when you drink a good red wine, like a mellow buzz, not a charged-up buzz from whiskey. I also like the German beers, kinda like Bitburger—just your bitter, average beer.
Mark: A bitter and average man!
What’s the most over-the-top way you’ve heard someone describe the taste of a beer?
Mark: I think it's pretty funny when you start talking about hints of cinnamon and certain flavor profiles. To me it's like, cold, clean, and crisp—these are the only things that matter. Anything above that starts to get a little fancy.
Nick: Cold, clean, and crisp, that’s what you want in a beer!
Have you ever attempted to brew your own beer?
Mark: I have a friend who's made beer and it was pretty good and my dad did it a few times and it was pretty good, but I don't know where I'd put it. Where the hell would that go? But if I did, I think it would be a Mexican lager or like a Peroni, the Italian beer, my two favorites.
Nick: A cold, clean, and crisp fresh lager!
Mark: I had a Guinness on Long Island the other day and it was this new tap and it tasted really clean. Tap beer in America has a reputation that it's almost a little dirty, but in Europe the beers on tap are so crisp. Maybe it's the turnover?
Nick: I think it's prevalent. That's the biggest problem with the tap beers—it’s funky, it's soapy.
Mark: Or you get really hungover on three bad Heinekens.
The songwriting and the playing has always been great but it's sort of evolved into a new level or mastery.”
Looking back over the band’s history, how would you each say the other person has developed as a musician?
Nick: My view is that Mark’s always had the ability to edit things instantaneously, like this part should go here and this part's too long and let's cut that part out. That's always been something I feel he's been aware he can do and he’s really sharpened his tool chest for that. He’s always been like that, but now it’s more refined. I think as you get older, songwriting wise, that happens too. I used to write songs with like 80 parts, but it’s like what the hell was I thinking?
Mark: That's what I was going to say about Nick. The songwriting and the playing has always been great but it's sort of evolved into a new level or mastery and maybe that's the experience of having written 40 or 80 part songs!
Is it true that the process for writing “Breeze” from the new album involved Nick printing out the lyrics to Pink Floyd’s “Wot’s… Uh The Deal” and Skip Spence’s “Weighted Down,” and then cutting the words out and rearranging them into something new?
Nick: For the record, I regret telling the world that. When [the record label] Sacred Bones asked me, I realized I shouldn’t have said that—not before it comes out! Let people discover it.
Mark: Like 20 years from now someone can pick up on it.
Nick: Sometimes I just can't write lyrics and I'll do these baby noises and grunts and weird shit, but for that one I just had the Pink Floyd song and I typed it out by hand—I have to write a song down to realize it—and I just squeezed it together with this Skip Spence song. Cutting things up gives you a starting point and you can expand—it makes it fresh as a technique, it's a good jump off.
Mark: You can make it broader in a sense like the Bob Dylans of the world are unconsciously cutting up shit, taking fragments of Woody Guthrie songs. You can formalize it as an art form and a technique and that's very freeing to me. The idea that you create something totally original out of a vacuum is taking it to the total other extreme, but saying I'm knowingly going to cut things up and smash them together and something unrecognizable is going to come out of it is very cool. It takes on its own meaning that's equal in emotional significance, especially if [the listener] doesn’t know it's a cut up and you don’t tell the world.
If you had to create a beer pairing for each song on Mercy, what would you go with?
Mark: I’ve got one for ‘Wading In Dirty Water.’ The Delirium Tremens, the Belgium beer and the label’s like an elephant. It’s psychedelic and super high alcohol and you’re meant to trip out when you drink it. I don't know if I've ever even had it.
Nick: I'd say Pacifico for ‘Breeze.’
Mark: I'd say Pacifico for ‘Mercy.’
Nick: I was going to say like the heaviest beer for ‘Mercy.’ Or maybe something from Rochefort Brewery. We're going all Belgium.
Nick: The album's all Belgium! But ‘Fallin' Thru’ is a glass of wine and ‘Cool Water’ would be Lone Star or something, sort of like a swilly lager.
Have you ever tried the puzzles under the Lone Star bottle caps?
Nick: I have, but I've never solved any of them.
Mark: Yeah, there's no logic to them.