Hear them roar

Troy’s Miss May I headlines in Cincinnati

By Tim Anderl

Photo: Troy’s Miss May I will perform at Bogart’s in Cincinnati on Feb. 4; photo: Travis Shinn

For a young man, just years into his 20s, former Dayton native Levi Benton has a lot on his shoulders. Not only is he facing some of his most formative years as a human being, he’s also spending much of his time in a 24-hour a day job as a public figure, the frontman of internationally touring metalcore act Miss May I. With the job comes the pressure to balance delivering the right message to fans who expect a larger-than-life personality with the earth-shaking voice his puts to record.

Dayton City Paper recently caught up with Benton to discuss the band’s fourth record, and how he strikes the balance between being what people expect and being a regular dude.

Rise of the Lion came out in 2014 and you worked with Terry Date, who produced records by Slipknot and Pantera, on that. What did he bring to the process that really transformed the record?

Levi Benton: I think the biggest thing he brought was the “live” sound aspect of it. We really wanted something raw and live sounding and that’s one of the reasons we chose to go to him. We wanted a record that was in your face; that was exactly what the band sounds like live. He also brought a lot of new instruments. There is a song where we were wanting piano, and he encouraged us to use a grand piano.

We didn’t use a lot of computers on the record. We used a lot of analog equipment, he had a lot of analog faders … we were really excited because we’d never been able to do a record like that.

You guys have changed engineers and producers with each record. Is it unsettling to go to an unknown quantity for something new?

LB: Sometimes it is a little nerve-wracking. We usually spend some time with their portfolios. We give them a lot of trust, though.

Is it hard to hand off your baby to someone you don’t know personally?

LB: That is always the hardest part. But, we usually try to bro down a bit. Every producer that we’ve worked with we’ve become pretty close with. Even today, our former producers still come out to our shows. We become close friends during the recording process.

For the cover art for the record you asked fans to get a tattoo of the lion design. How was the fan who was selected for the cover eventually rewarded?

LB: We asked to see a selfie of the person. We ended up going with a guy who we felt represented the record and we flew him out to LA, and got the tattoo done. It was pretty awesome. We got to be a part of it the entire time.

You spent the better part of the last year touring in support of the record and one of your performances was at Slipknot’s music festival. How big was that for you as a fan of the band?

LB: It was crazy. We never expected that. It was an honor to be able to play. They are legends in our minds. They actually curated the festival, so to know that was an honor. It was like winning an award at a small function or something. It was crazy. That’s the only way I know how to put it. I was like, “There’s no way this is real life.” Especially getting to play the Knotfest in Japan. That was incredible.

The Bogart’s show is actually taking place in your hometown. Do those shows on the home turf feel different than the shows you play abroad?

LB: Yes, completely different. When we first started out and came back to the area after tours there was sort of a crossed-arm, hater vibe because people thought we believed we were too good for them. It was the whole “sell-out” vibe. But we were just doing what we loved to do. I think it is cool now because there are so many new fans who don’t know us from the basement and garage area and hold that against us. Other than that, the hometown shows are amazing.

It is probably challenging to be a young man with a job that is basically 24 hours a day…

LB: It definitely is hard, especially with our genre, which is edgy and extreme. We aren’t always edgy or extreme. We have fans from 10 years old up to 50, so sometimes it’s too edgy. It is definitely a back and forth struggle trying to figure out what the right thing to do is. Sometimes I find myself getting ready to post something and then I delete it a minute later and tell myself, “No, you don’t need to be that guy.”

I think I just try to be a better person today than I was yesterday, just try to be a positive person and to treat where we’re at with a positive outlook. I think about when I was on the other side of the fence as a fan of a band and I always admired bands who were willing to get one-on-one with fans. I try to keep that mindset, to put myself in their shoes and to remember what it was like to be there.

Miss May I will perform Wednesday, Feb. 4, at Bogart’s, 261 Vine St. in Cincinnati. General admission tickets are $22.50 in advance, $25 at the door. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the show is all ages. Also performing are August Burns Red, Northlane & Erra. For more information on the show, please visit bogarts.com. For more information on Miss May I, please visit mmiriseofthelion.com.

Tim Anderl is the web editor and a contributing writer at Ghettoblaster Magazine and maintains his own music blog at youindie.com. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Anderl at TimAnderl@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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