My Chemical Romance guitarist Frank Iero is standing side-of-stage watching Best Coast's set at the Auckland Big Day Out. He applauds at the end of every single song, squinting thoughtfully in appreciation of the band, with frontman Gerard Way joining him for a few minutes before it's time for the pair to prepare for their own set on the festival's main stage. Likewise, their band-mate Ray Toro has also been taking advantage of the day's sights and sounds, being quick to tweet his appreciation of a fellow band on the tour: "Vaccines on at BDO. Sound great!"
Earlier that day, Iero, Toro, the elder Way and his younger brother bassist Mikey Way, have assembled backstage to meet, greet, and fulfil the dreams of competition winners. The four-piece are in every way accommodating of their fans' nervousness, happily dishing out guitar-playing advice and discussing everything from New York basketball team the New York Knicks, to confirming that Volume 3 of 'The Umbrella Academy' is in the works, and the difference between coffee at Dunkin' Donuts in America and New Zealand. Which, for the record: Gerard doesn't care much for, but still buys because he likes their cups.
That's just the kind of band they are. The kind of band that inspires their fans to create original comics that boggle the mind of un-creatives [click here for comic marvels], that gives their fans hope during the dangerous of days... and if you went to any Big Day Out festival date this Summer past, it's more than likely that one out of every few t-shirts that walked past you belonged to a fan of the band wearing their heart on their sleeve, literally.
It's been four years since the band last toured this continent and over a year since the release of their 2010 album, 'Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys' - a triumphant resurfacing of next-level reinvention from a band who had clearly re-honed their raison d'être ray-guns a-blazing - but their local fan-base is living proof that absence really does make the heart grow fonder.
Over the course of the current album cycle, I've witnessed a draculoid running rampant at a local shopping mall, personally witnessed Killjoys take to a CBD park for an 'Art Is The Weapon' paint-fight... and of course, there's never been a fan-base quite so unafraid to scold any music journalist who fails to do their research prior to an interview.
They're a gang - My Chemical Romance and their fans... and their fans who be-friend each other.
Gerard reiterates these sentiments later that day while on-stage: "Man, this is going to sound weird at first, but you know what I’m talking about. This band is for fucking life... I couldn’t get out if I tried. It’s like a life sentence, and a life sentence isn’t always a bad fucking thing. Because we all get to be in this fucking cell together. You know what I’m saying? For fucking life. Ain’t no way out of this shit now. Ain’t no way fucking back."
COUP DE MAIN: This will be the last Big Day Out ever in New Zealand. Having played on this tour here twice now, how do you think BDO compares to other music festivals that you've played?
FRANK IERO: That's so sad.
RAY TORO: Well, one thing is...
FRANK: More days off! We get more days off because we travel so much. Unfortunately this is my first one, because I was sick the first time, but I really like it. It's really hot and really beautiful, we get to see a lot of amazing sights. I think probably, it's sort of like every stop is 'the most beautiful stop on the Warped Tour' kinda thing. <laughs> That's the way it feels.
RAY: Also, the people are really great. I remember last time we played, the crowds are just... no matter how hot it gets, everybody's just there for a good time, the vibe and energy out there is really positive, which is not always the case with festivals.
CDM: Have you witnessed any changes in the economics of touring internationally and/or how music festivals operate during the last ten years of your career?
RAY: As far as I know, I think everything just seems to cost more. So, I know that some bands are having a lot of trouble especially internationally, because not everyone... once gas goes up, the flights go up, travel, shipping equipment, everything. Unfortunately, it costs a lot more money nowadays for bands to tour now than it used to - that's a shame. But everyone, you still make do with what you can, you've always got to go where the show is.
FRANK: At least it's not twenty years ago! We can actually have phones, and the Internet exists, it's nice.
CDM: Better Living Industries describes itself as "the Zone's #1 outlet for information and commerce" - do you think it's dangerous or irresponsible when information and commerce are consolidated together?
GERARD WAY: I don't know if commerce can every truly be information. I think that's just commerce, that's just selling you something. I always question the information given to us, that's attached to commerce. So I guess, the answer would be, yes, it is dangerous.
CDM: If Dr. Death Defying were to give My Chemical Romance fans a piece of advice, what do you think it would be and why?
GERARD: I think all the advice he freely gives on the album; I don't know that he has any more advice. I tried to make a lot of things that he had said as simple as possible in that regard, like there's almost nothing more to say for him. And Steve [Montano], had come up with some really interesting things too, to put on the album.
CDM: Gerard, what was running through your mind when you wrote the lyrics "you only hear the music when your heart begins to break" from 'The Kids From Yesterday'?
GERARD: That's probably one of my favourites... my favourite lyrics are probably in that song and in 'DESTROYA' maybe, on the album. I don't know... I felt like it was something that had never been said, slightly obtuse but absolutely true, so it needed to be said.
CDM: Also, when will the Killjoys comic finally be released?!
GERARD: Yeah! We're actually right now working on it with Sierra Hahn who's our editor at Dark Horse on it, and Scott Allie is also involved in it, and we just had our first round of notes from them. We've already finished a lot of our part of the job and now they're doing theirs, the script-writing starts while I'm here, so I hope it's out this year actually.
FRANK: It better be. <laughs>
CDM: Ray, you've said that the 'Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys' album is "more thematic than story-based" - what do you consider to be the main themes of the record?
RAY: For me, one of the main themes is just about freedom and being free - just being that person that you've always wanted to be.
CDM: At the beginning of 'Vampire Money', you break the 'fourth wall' of the Killjoys world by referring to each other with your real names. Did you feel like this was an important progression/differentiation from 'The Black Parade' where you all completely immersed yourself within the story?
FRANK: Very astute.
GERARD: Yeah, actually. It felt nice to do that. It felt really nice to be able to break that wall and have a song that was almost like the end-credits for us, so you do realise that there are regular people that don't call themselves by their good names when they're hanging out. That's what it was, yeah.
CDM: More than ten years on now from writing the first My Chemical Romance song 'Skylines and Turnstiles', which song do you feel best represents this current decade-old incarnation of the band now?
GERARD: What do you guys think?
FRANK: I guess again, going back to 'The Kids From Yesterday', I think that does. It's weird because that song was written at such a cross-roads, not only in our lives as the band, but also our actual private lives, and it ended up being extremely personal. It means a lot of different things to all of us, and it meant something different to me when it was first written, to like a week after it was written. So I think I'd have to say 'Kids'.
MIKEY WAY: Absolutely, it feels like a time capsule.
CDM: With new albums tending to leak before their official release date, fans often have access to new music at the same time as journalists and can form their own opinions before reading advance reviews and/or interviews. Do you think this has affected modern-day music journalism?
FRANK: Well, I think that a lot of journalists don't really listen to music before they review it. <laughs> But... 'music journalism', those two words put together? It, they, tends not to hold any much more weight anymore. I think there's very little journalism in it...
GERARD: Yeah, there's a time-honoured tradition of it, and that part is great, and you find... I guess it's like anything else, it's like music, you find the real good people out there that are fighting the good fight and they're writing like Lester Bangs and stuff, they're giving a shit, basically. They're just like finding a great band, it's rare.
MIKEY: One of the problems now, is that everyone thinks they're a music journalist, everybody's opinion is the most important, and everyone is super cynical... instead of just listening... and the way things kind of used to be.
FRANK: Everybody's a 'real' fucking journalist.
CDM: Lastly, do you have a message for your New Zealand fans?
FRANK: Hi, again. I know it's been a really long time, but we're so excited to be here and to play for you guys. Your country is beautiful and I hope we get to come here a lot more often, if only you guys weren't so far away.
MIKEY: Thank you for waiting so long for us to come back!
Click here to view My Chemical Romance's photo diary for Coup De Main of their 2012 Big Day Out adventures!