NYC’s The Men have made a name for themselves as wayfaring musicians, constantly evolving and eluding their listeners. Before they were genre-hopping through country, post-punk, noise rock, and more, they were applying that experimental nature within the more confined space of punk. Within that genre they were wildly adventurous, playing noise shows, hardcore shows, rock shows, and switching up the instrumentation as they saw fit, while always operating within a general punk ethos. Their first demo was a hand-dubbed and spray-painted run of 32 copies, half of which worked, and their first shows were at New York dives like Tommy’s Tavern, Matchless, and Don Pedro.
That hand-dubbed demo kicked off a furious run of creative output from 2008 to 2011, much of which is now collected on the new compilation, Hated. The songs on Hated are pulled from a variety of sources — the debut demo tape, a split with Nomos, a 7", a 12" EP, and a slew of unreleased demos, outtakes, and live recordings. These songs show the huge range and potential of a band still in its infancy, when they were just beginning to blaze the path they’re still on to this day.
The core value of the original incarnation of The Men was work ethic. The band became a lifestyle for original members Chris Hansell, Mark Perro, and Nick Chiericozzi, with Hansell even living off unemployment checks to dedicate his time to the project. The three of them would jam and obsess over music together over all else.
Hansell explains, “FOMO wasn’t a term at the time and it didn’t matter what was going on because we needed to keep writing. We did practice New Year’s Eve at 10 p.m. We did practice instead of seeing Wolf Eyes and Yellow Tears play a show in the same building at the same time. We did practice instead of going to the final No Fun Fest.”
Perro recalls the sessions for the We Are The Men EP as a culmination of the project to that point. “We wrote that first EP in the practice space, really quickly. I remember the exact moment when ‘Ailment’ came together. We kept talking about one riff just going on forever, and that's what that song is.”
The turning point for the band that would mean the end of the “early days” and the beginning of a strange new journey was the record release show for Immaculada, held in 2010 at the now-defunct Brooklyn DIY venue Death by Audio. All three band members remember it as a surreal moment and a coming together of disparate pockets of the NYC scene.
Chiericozzi was blown away: “I never thought more than five people knew our band, but there was excitement, and when we played, the crowd was so beautiful and intense that it washed away any doubts I had about what we were up to. People knew the songs already and were commenting on this little bit or the other. It was a great audience, a smart one, and that’s rare to play to.”
For those who were at those early NYC shows, Hated will be a welcome reminder of a glorious time in the underground. For those who weren’t, it’s a chance to experience The Men as the locals did, and to get a glimpse of a Brooklyn DIY scene that doesn’t really exist anymore, at least not in the same way. And for diehard fans of the band, it’s a reminder of how much they’ve evolved, and how much more evolution they still have to go.