The Lawrence Arms (10 mars 2006)
[MATH] You are about to release Oh!Calcutta! and compared to Greatest Story Ever Told, you’ve decided now to go with a more straight forward approach. On Oh! Calcutta!, you sound more pissed than ever, and the lyrical content is way more direct and less conceptual than it was for Greatest Story Ever Told. What has changed since the release of the last album and what is the context in which Oh! Calcutta! was written in?
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[BRENDAN] On Greatest Story Ever Told we wrote about things that were upsetting us and about the feeling we had of being marginalized and disconnected from a lot of things. As a result we ended with a record that was perhaps marginalized and disconnected. After, we were like “we’re not sure we want to do this anymore,” we kinda went on break and then we got a lot of really cool opportunities like going in Australia with ANTI-FLAG, going in Japan with NO USE FOR A NAME … We reconnected with why we’ve started doing this in the first place. It was kind of falling back in love with your wife after so many years. The reason why we’re doing this is because it’s fun and we love it: We love doing it with each other and Oh! Calcutta! is a reflection of that. There’s obviously a lot of rage with this record, but I think that overall it’s a really positive album.
[CHRIS] When we started writing the record, we were telling ourselves “wow this is really cool, we seem to be doing well, it’s exciting!” That definitely fueled the “want” to make a record. I’m sure there’s a different album that could have been made but I think the reason this record got made is just because of the way things began to happen last year, leading up to us talking about writing a record that would actually kind of present that a little bit…
[MATH] Even if Chris’s guitar riffs are still really presents on Oh! Calcutta!, it seems like Brendan is taking care of most of the vocal duties, in comparison to the two previous albums where it seemed to be more shared. Was that intended or did it just happened naturally?
[BRENDAN] The thing is that we’re doing, both of us with our voice, a lot of things that we haven’t done on records before. Just based on our past catalogue, it is very tempting to say that my voice is more present but really a lot of the things that you think are me, are him [Chris]. He sings on this record, significantly more than on Greatest Story Ever Told. We sing everything together on Oh! Calcutta! . You know it’s really hard with music to figure out who’s singing what and what’s going on. You’ll see tonight when we’ll play some of these songs. I’m sure there will be parts where you’ll go “oh! that’s how it goes!”
[MATH] Between the releases of GSET and Oh! Calcutta!, all of you took part in different side projects (THE FALCON for Brendan and Neil, solo for Chris). What do these side projects bring to THE LAWRENCE ARMS’ sound? Do these projects influence it or is it more a way for you to explore new musical avenues?
[NEIL] I play in a band COLOSSAL where I get to play a second drum set along with another drummer, Robbie Kellenberger. I bring in that influence for sure. I credited him for a lot of what Oh! Calcutta! became for me rhythmically…
[MATH] There is a lot of THE FALCON’s sound on the new record too…
[BRENDAN] Obviously my songwriting is constantly formed by things that I’ve already written. That being said, I think it’s a very different sounding record. I know where the line is in my head; to me it seems very obvious. But again, I do think my voice isn't really distinctive, it’s always gonna sound similar to anything else I’m singing. But yeah, it’s all formed by everything we’ve done, not just our side projects but also everything we’re going through every day.
[MATH] I've seen in another interview that you see yourselves as "book nerds". I know that GSET was influenced a lot by The Master And Margarita by Mikail Bulgakov. Did you use any literature references for Oh! Calcutta!?
[CHRIS] There’s not any ultra specific references or anything like that. I think this is a little bit more of like the patchwork of what we’re interested in. With this one maybe, a little more than the last one, I don’t know if it’s just because the last one we had the footnotes and it becomes a lot more obvious because it was literally pointing it out but on Oh! Calcutta! I think the words are a little bit more organic in their creations.
[BRENDAN] And also I would say that we definitely had some sort of template in mind when we wrote this record. We were listing off bands that we were like “ok, I like this about this band, I like this about this band…” So maybe Greatest Story Ever Told was more driven by our appreciation for the printed words, Oh! Calcutta! is maybe more driven by our appreciation for the bands we grew up listening to. We were telling each other “I want this to sound like GUNS N’ ROSES, I want this to have the same kind of vibe as a NO MEANS NO song. I want us to sing back and forth like the BEASIE BOYS do on Paul’s Boutique…” So maybe in that way, the references are a bit more sonically based.
[MATH] You were interviewed on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart a while ago. How was the experience? Do you see yourself doing that again?
[BRENDAN] Absolutely, It was great. The Daily Show is one of my favorites shows and I happened to be on there, I was really excited to be given that opportunity. They totally made fun of me but that’s what they do at The Daily Show! I’m not gonna sit around and be upset about it. If I could go back and know exactly what I know now having seen the piece, if I had the opportunity, I’d go back and do it again. It was really fun.
[MATH] You guys are definitely outspoken and aren’t scared to say what you think. I was reading your blog on Myspace the other day and you were making fun of both Victory Records and the Warped Tour, some of the biggest institutions in the punk community. Has your honesty had some kind of positive or negative impact on the way people perceive your band?
[BRENDAN] I don’t think it’s influenced our band too much. The interesting point about this question is the fact that we’re not really profound shit talkers or anything. We’re just regular guys who speak about things that we don’t like and it’s a pretty sad state of affairs when just doing that, makes you famous for talking. I thought this was supposed to be punk rock music…
[CHRIS] People care about not offending people so much because they think it’s gonna ruin their career. Am I that empty? Did I ever think or ever cared that something that I believed in would affect my career negatively?
[BRENDAN] I think it’s remarkable that there is such an absence of people saying what they think. It’s really sad for a kind of music that started, at least in theory, as a sort of response to the vacant bullshit of the government and like superstar rock n’ roll. I mean this whole self was started as a kind of “fuck you” and now you cant say “fuck you” anymore?
[MATH] The new album ends with a funny reference to the time you got kicked off of Warped Tour. Would you be willing to share with us what happened?
[BRENDAN] Well first of all, that song is actually not about us getting kicked off of Warped Tour; It’s about what we think is wrong with the Warped Tour in general. I’d hate to seem sour and that people would think “oh we just got kicked out of Warped Tour so now fuck this!” you know what I mean? It’s not about that. We got kicked out of Warped Tour because the tour came to Chicago and we played on it that day. It was really hot and really really crowded because they sold too many tickets so kids were just dropping like flies. Ambulances were coming in and out the whole day because kids were just passing out and water was like $6 or something like that, it was just ridiculous. So we got up on stage and before we started I said something like “hey, it’s too hot, it’s oversold, the water is too expensive, I’m sorry you guys had to pay $35 to be treated like this. Next time we play here, it’ll be inside and it’ll be cheap” and that was it.
[NEIL] There is also a little more back story: We got thrown on that show a couple days before because Gary Gersh, John Silva, and Mike D from Grand Royal were flying in to see us play cause maybe they were interested in our band. They contacted Kevin Lyman and said “put these guys on, we’re gonna fly to the show and check them out.” So they were all watching us when Brendan said this and before we were even done with our set, Kevin had gone and called our booking agent.
[BRENDAN] Well you know...whatever. Again, it’s something I would re-do in a second.
[NEIL] And being off Warped Tour, it doesn’t matter. I mean, I will never play Warped Tour, I refuse.
[BRENDAN] It’s a bad bad thing. It’s ruining the DIY economy and that’s what the song is about. The song is about the fact that, as recently as like ten years ago, every summer all these bands would go on tour and they’d bring three support bands with them and they’d play all these small clubs all around. So back then you had all these small bands getting great shows, you had local openers to play cool shows, small clubs had different events going every night and kids had something to do all summer because they had all these shows to go to. Now it all happens at the Warped Tour and all the bands are on it
[CHRIS] Now it’s like get some Yoo-Hoo, stop by Target, pick up some plastic bins or something [laughs]
[BRENDAN] …and the thing is that Warped Tour is the result to this: Small bands don’t have all these tours to go on, small clubs are closing down all around the US and kids have one day to go do something instead of a whole summer.
[NEIL] I remember being a kid and seeing fifteen concerts in a summer, just like every weekend you could go to shows.
[CHRIS] It’s something really cool to be coming through and it’s totally being melted down by the Warped Tour. The reason is because all those fucking bands at the Warped Tour are lazy and frightened! Because they’re like “huh, this is awesome it’s like summer vacation with all my friends and I only have to play for half an hour and it’s great, we sell tons of merch…” Well you know what dude? I don’t give a shit who you’re afraid of pissing off or how little you wanna work to get paid. You don’t fuckin have to do this.
[MATH] You decided to use Myspace as a promotion tool for the release of Oh! Calcutta! by offering a stream of a different songs off the album everyday, which is something quite unusual. Why did you want to share the whole album with fans before its release? What are your thoughts on the whole Myspace thing?
[NEIL] It was already available and leaked on the Internet but we were also gonna do it anyway
[BRENDAN] Yeah we had planned on doing it anyway. We had made a record that we wanted people to hear, we are psyched about it. You know, doing a tour with NOFX is the most high profile thing we’ve ever done. The name “THE LAWRENCE ARMS” is never gonna be more out there than it is now or at least it ever has in the past. And so this is happening right before our album comes out. We have this record that we really want everyone to hear, kids just go one day to hear one song and we are pretty confident that any one song they heard would be enough that they would maybe be interested in checking out more. We just thought it was a good idea. You know these days people get records the day after they came out for free on the internet anyway. So there’s really nothing to lose.
[CHRIS] Myspace is also flooded with people…
[MATH] I know you guys all have tour personnal page, what do you think of the whole Myspace thing?
[CHRIS] It’s kinda ridiculous… it’s way nerdy.
[NEIL] It’s so interesting how young it is… give it ten years and it’s gonna be insane!
[MATH] All of you have been really involved in Chicago's punk scene for more than 10 years now (SLAPSTICK, THE BROADWAYS, etc) and seem are strongly attached to it. Do you feel that scene has evolved or regressed since you first got involved and why?
[NEIL] It’s weird because we just see the same people that are involved, they just play in different bands. [laughs]
[CHRIS] You know, Chicago is such a big place, there’s a whole group of people making music in Chicago and obviously some them are really successful. We don’t know these people at all. Like we don’t know the dudes in FALL OUT BOY or THE ACADEMY IS…
[NEIL] Isn’t there some band called SPITAFIELD too…?
[CHRIS] SPITAFIELD is from Chicago? We don’t know these people. We grew up being in bands with guys from ALKALINE TRIO and RISE AGAINST and a whole bunch of other bands from Chicago that are not as well known. That’s really more our scene. There is something else going on…
[NEIL] Those are all suburban bands though. Like THE ACADEMY IS… and FALL OUT BOY, those guys have definitively been in bands for a while but they never crossed paths with us. They were all hardcore guys who played straight edge metal.
[MATH] What’s the most important thing you’ve learned by being in THE LAWRENCE ARMS?
[BRENDAN] I would say… if you got some friends and some beer and a good reason to be sitting around with those friends and drinking those beers, you’ll probably have a pretty good fuckin time. [laughs]
[NEIL] I learned that traveling is the best thing you can possibly do. Getting to see as many different places as you can go and see how they do it; It really helps to round things out a little bit.
[BRENDAN] Neil also learned that he can fit an entire squash in his ass. [laughs]
[NEIL] The first time I did it was in front of my mom and my dad… That was so bizarre [laughs]
[CHRIS] I’ve learned many things. I think both of these things [pointing Brendan and Neil] are very very good [laughs] because I love to travel and I love to hang out with my friends and get wasted and that’s definitively two of the big things that we do in THE LAWRENCE ARMS… [laughs]
Merci à Brendan, Chris et Neil d’avoir pris le temps de répondre à nos questions, à Rob chez Fat Wreck Chords ainsi qu’à Vanessa pour son aide.