Singer/songwriter, musician and actor Max Schneider is gearing up for a busy summer. He’s heading out on the Boys of Zummer Tour with Fall Out Boy and Wiz Khalifa, working on music for both his side project and his upcoming solo album, and eagerly anticipating the release of Lionsgate’s Love & Mercy, in which he has a supporting role. Read on for our interview with Max Schneider.
We have a lot to get through because you are apparently an extremely busy guy!
Max Schneider: Let’s do it!
First off, your fans are really excited to hear more about the tour – what can you tell us about that?
I’m going on tour with Fall Out Boy, Wiz Khalifa and Hoodie Allen. I’m super excited about it. I’m doing it all summer, and we’re playing the Hollywood Bowl, which is such a dream of mine. The fact that Fall Out Boy and Hoodie Allen were touring together and I could join the tour was such an awesome situation to be a part of, so I’m really excited!
Earlier this year, you joined Pete Wentz’s label DCD2. You and Pete seem to have a mutual admiration for each other – he’s said that you take him back to what the beginning of Fall Out Boy’s journey was like, and you’ve said that you’ve always been inspired by Fall Out Boy. What has it been like to work with Pete and to be on the label so far?
Oh, it’s so awesome. Pete’s the man. We met a few years ago now, and I was always a big fan of Fall Out Boy and how they handle their band and their career. They started by touring and gaining fan by fan [through] the hustle of putting out music they loved and connecting with people one by one, and that’s something I feel like in this day and age, with social media and stuff, is not something that you see as often. I’ve always really appreciated that. I’ve opened on a couple of tours now, and I definitely know that side of having a bunch of people who don’t know anything about you but care about you enough to listen to your music after a 30-minute set.
Another thing I love about Fall Out Boy is the Thnks fr th Mmrs video with all the different primates, because I’m super into primates. Fall Out Boy always takes these risks that I think are so admirable, especially in the position they’re in because they’ve had such profound success and yet they continue to take the risks. I think that’s what, after 10 years, still makes them relevant and such a huge band. It’s been such a joy to work with them and work with Pete and be a part of DCD2. I just love how everybody’s so supportive of each other. It’s this little gang, and everybody wants to see everybody else succeed, and you don’t find that so often, especially in music.
Your solo single Gibberish has this crazy simultaneous reverse- and forward-motion video, which you and your backup dancers managed to film in just two days. Can you talk a little bit about that experience?
I was so lucky to be a part of the YouTube Music Awards and having them come to us and say, “Hey, we want to make a video for you and give you a wonderful budget and really make something special.” It worked out perfectly with the new single, Gibberish. We got a few treatments from different directors, and we ended up choosing Greg Jardin’s reverse and forward concept. I was so drawn to that. I didn’t know if it was going to be possible, and I think any time I find a video like that or get to do a video like that where it seems like it might be impossible, those are always the most rewarding ones to figure out how to do.
The whole process was really wonderful. We probably met like nine or 10 times – myself; Greg Jardin; the choreographer, Laura Edwards; and the assistant choreographer, Laura Quinn – and we really dove into all the different moments. We shot the video using a motion control camera, which essentially means they program the camera to the millisecond so you can combine shots, and that’s how we pulled off the forward video and the reverse video. I did my video completely by myself in this forward world and sang and whatever else, and then for all the dancers, we reversed the track and they did their own video. Then, when you flip the reverse track and you combine the two videos, they work together and they work in the same world. When I throw water at somebody and they catch the water, there was someone who counted out every beat. We both knew on 32, we’d both have to throw our water so that when we combined the shots in post, the water would go from my cup and they would catch it in their cup. That whole process was one of the most challenging and rewarding processes I’ve ever been a part of.
That’s really cool!
Yeah, technology’s amazing. I definitely credit so much of the work to the amazing people involved, and Greg, the director, especially – he saw it from the beginning. He knew that this could happen. I had my doubts at some points! I was like, “I don’t know, man, how are we gonna do some of these things?” and he was like “Trust me, man.” I’m so glad I trusted him because he has this vision and he pulls it off in such a seamless way. He makes so much more than he has to as a director, which is so rare to find. So many guys just do it for the pay check and Greg does it for the art and for the work, and that was really wonderful and inspiring to be a part of.
In terms of your side project, Witchita, you just put out your first two singles. How does what you’re doing with that differ from your solo music?
I met Tim Armstrong, who I have the project with, about a year ago. I’d been working on my full solo album and I hooked up with him. We come from very different worlds – ska punk rock isn’t really my style of music that I do, but I’ve always been appreciative of it and been a fan of it. We ended up hanging up and writing, and we just kind of fell in love musically and became this odd couple and started making music together. We realized the music wasn’t really fitting into the vibe for the album – I love soul music, but we went so far down that soul route. We decided that maybe we’d just do a side EP, and then a few months before we ended up releasing Witchita, we were sitting in his office talking about the music and the videos that we had just shot, and he just said, “This is our project, Max, this is us – it feels like our thing.” There was this giant bass drum on the wall and it said “Wichita Marching Band,” and he was like “We’re Witchita, that’s us! We’re Witchita!”
Tim is so spontaneous and present in his creativity, and when something like that happens, he just kind of goes with his first instinct, and I love that about him – it’s been so inspiring to work with him. So he goes, “We’re Witchita!” and from then on, it was like, OK, yeah, we’re Witchita! Then we started diving into soul music coming out of the Midwest and everywhere else in the U.S., and we were like “Should we change the name?” and then it was like “No, we’re Witchita, and we’ll spell it like a witch instead of the place in Kansas to make it darker in that way.” And that was it – we decided to make this duo side project instead of just an EP of our music. It’s been really wonderful because in the pop world, people don’t always have side projects or they’re really into their solo careers, and that’s awesome, but what I’ve found with Tim is that it’s a really beautiful and therapeutic experience to have this side project that kind of expands your creativity in a different way than being in the solo music world. It’s been really wonderful to work on something that’s a different vibe than what I’ve been working on with the solo stuff, and he’s just so amazing to just hang with. We do a song one day and if that doesn’t work, we don’t really go back to it, we just move on to the next one. We’ve done about nine songs at this point and I’m excited for everybody to hear the rest. I’m glad that the first two singles, W.O.R.M. and Mrs. Magoo, are finally out. It’s been a long time coming!
It’s cool when you click with someone and you don’t necessarily know why or how it works, but you just go with it.
Totally. As humans, our first instincts are so important and we’ve developed into this way of overthinking things, so it’s a really beautiful thing when you can just sit back and trust your gut and just go with it. That’s something I’ve definitely found with Tim in a creative sense, which is so cool.
You play Van Dyke Parks in the Lionsgate movie Love & Mercy about Brian Wilson, which will be released nationally on June 5 but has already been very well-received at several film festivals, including SXSW. Are you excited for the national release?
So excited! I got to actually be at the premiere at SXSW, which was super awesome. I got to see the movie for the first time and I couldn’t be more happy. Van Dyke Parks is the first real person I’ve ever played as an actor, which was kind of nerve-wracking but also really exciting. It was added pressure of “This person not is only a real person who lived at one point but he’s living now and might see this movie and my representation of him, so I’ve gotta give it the best I can!” I spent a few months looking up whatever YouTube videos I could find of him back in the day and reading about his life and really trying to get his voice down. He’s such a special and interesting person, and such a character.
The cast of the movie is really awesome: Paul Dano and John Cusack play Brian Wilson as a young man and as an older man, and Elizabeth Banks is in the movie, and Paul Giamatti. I got to mostly work with Paul Dano, who’s one of my favorite actors of this generation – he’s a brilliant actor but also such a great guy. He takes his cigarette break in between shots and you can talk to him for 15 minutes and then he goes and takes 20 minutes to prep for whatever the next scene is. He can take himself out and be a normal guy, then get into the role and do it, and that was so cool to witness. He’s such an incredible actor, and to witness that process firsthand was really amazing. I had most of my scenes with him – he’s just so giving as an actor and that’s so rare to find. Some people are so self-centered, but he puts everything on the actor he’s working with and it was really awesome to be that person. The movie’s awesome. I love the Beach Boys; I was always such a huge fan, and to see the struggle of Brian Wilson’s life and see where this music came from, it’s so cool. I think really die-hard Beach Boys fans or even casual fans will appreciate the story behind the music and it will give [the music] even more meaning when they listen to it, so I hope people like it.
What’s coming up for you next, acting-wise?
Acting-wise, I’m just auditioning and stuff. I don’t have anything that I’m shooting right now but I’ve been working here and there with friends on their projects. In this day and age, with YouTube and all of those outlets, there are so many young people who are creating their own projects and putting them out there in a real way, to a real audience. A lot of friends of mine have been working on their own movies and TV shows, so I’ve been part of that and playing little cameos. It’s so cool to see that the youth in this day and age really has an outlet for creativity and they don’t have to wait for that big-break movie to express themselves and have an audience. But right now, it’s a lot about the music and finishing up the album. I’ve been working with Pharrell Williams and a bunch of other wonderful producers on songs for my album, so I’m really honing it and trying to make it the best body of work it can possibly be.