At Nottingham Rescue Rooms we went to check out The Lawrence Arms and met with legend Brendan Kelly himself having one of the coolest, most relaxed and funniest interviews ever..
After polite “hello’s”, hugs and discussing various problems concerning the value and format of the GBP, we took a booth in the dimly lit bar and with liquor firmly in hand, we start on the questions..
You’ve already played a couple of shows on this UK tour, how‘s it going? How have the crowds been?
Everybody has been super awesome, at this point people kind of know what they are in for when they come to our shows; it’s a good time and people have been having fun. We’ve been taking trains everywhere and then Bangers are carrying all the equipment, we’re just taking the rails! It’s a bit of an adventure-style tour, it’s nice to not feel like we are sitting on the highway in traffic everyday, that can get kind of gruelling.
So you’ve seen some of Britain’s classy railway stations?
Yeah, that is true!
Birmingham New Street?
I ate a Burrito in Birmingham New St today..!?
I know, “British” “Burrito” those words don’t go together to me yet, but to be fair it was a pretty good Burrito.
You always end up having to change trains at Birmingham New St, and they are always the furthest platforms apart..
And it’s just so crowded, and if you are anything like me and are brutally hungover whilst in there then it’s just like being in a god damn beehive! That’s my problem though, not the stations.
It must really change up touring travelling around on the train?
Yeah it does, and it is lovely! One of the big problems with being on tour is you are always stuck together no matter what, so if someone is annoyed with me then I can’t get away from them or if I just wanna be alone and not listen to some bullshit then that isn’t an option. But on the train you can sit together, or you can sit in different cars, you can read and relax, chill.. get some coffee, get a beer, get some crisps.. yeh it’s nice.
You guys released your 6th studio album ‘Metropole‘ in January. Are you pleased with how the album turned out and how it has been received?
Yeah man totally, it was one of those things where we just wouldn’t have made a record if we weren’t excited about how it was developing. Once we had a couple of songs then we started being like “Wow there are some interesting things we are doing here” because we haven’t had a lot of records and it’s been a long time, if we didn’t have something new to say or something we didn’t think was a cool concept for an album then why even do one? So we are stoked by the project itself, people seem to like it. A lot of people don’t come up to me and say “Your new record kind of sucks to be honest” they might think it- but from what I can gather the reaction has been really good. Particularly here, this is the first time (this is the last place we are hitting for the ‘Metropole’ cycle) like where here there are people at these shows where this is the only record of ours they know, which is a new thing for us.
You made the decision to move to Epitaph for this album, is that a decision you are happy with? Did you get a lot of free reign?
We delivered the completed album to them!
So it was already recorded and you offered it them?
No, we signed, they paid for us to go into a studio, they heard no demos, they heard nothing. We just turned in the record and they were like “It’s great” -Boom! Free reign, no, there was nothing! It was like saying “Was your teacher cool to you when you were at the park after school?” When there wasn’t a teacher there at all! Epitaph is great, it is such a cool organisation and something that has been a huge part of both mine and Chris’s lives as music fans for a long time and it was such a great opportunity to get to work with those guys. When we sat with Brett and sussed out the deal, we were sitting under the original painting for the cover of ‘Against the Grain’, which you guys don’t look almost forty, so let me tell you- it was a super fucking important album way back.. An album that me and Chris rocked mercilessly non-stop. So to be sitting their with the guy that wrote the record, under the actually hand painted cover of the record was cool, really cool.
How do you go about writing at this point? Is it something you do together as a band, or separately? Is it right that this album was inspired by your stay in Italy?
The name was inspired, I was staying in this hotel and we already has this record done and I was listening to it a lot and I went to Italy right after recording it. I was staying in this hotel, the record had this theme pumping through it of being alone in this strange city and the name ‘Metropole’ universally means “city” but it isn’t necessarily an English word. So the theme of the record is this isolation in a crowd, or isolation in an urban environment. It isn’t a Chicago album, it is about living in this nameless metropolis. But while I was in Italy I was feeling that a lot, because I don’t speak much Italian, but yeh it all clicked together..
But to get back you your original question, I would say the way Chris and I write is almost like a game of chess. In that I don’t know what his process is exactly like, but for me I write words and then I set them to music because words tend to be more evocative for my brain. I’m not a great guitar player, so it is very rare that I will come up with a riff and be like “Oh, that makes a song”. I’ll send him stuff and then he’ll send me back a song, and when I hear his song I’ll be like “Damnnn that songs fucking good” and it inspires me to write another which I’ll send to him and he’ll send one back again and we just feed off each other like that. It’s great because Chris is an awesome song writer and it prevents me from getting lazy, and I would like to hope that the same is true on the other end. So that’s what the process is like.
I guess it also bears mentioning that this is the first record we’ve written where Chris has lived in Portland. I’m in Chicago and he’s in Portland so we are sending this stuff long distance. So we are no longer purely a Chicago band, Chris is in a new city and all that fed into and inspired the album with the fact that Chris moved across the country. It isn’t easy to put into words, but Portland is fucking far from Chicago. To go from Portland to Chicago is like driving from here (Nottingham) to Rome! Maybe further, it is so far. It would take me three days driving all day/all night to drive there.
Do you still feel the distance even with modern technology?
Yeah I mean for sure, like whenever Chris flys in for us to start tours or whatever, it’s two hours earlier there. So it costs a day just for him to get in! Like if he get to the airport at nine, it is already eleven in Chicago and then it is a five hour flight, so they day is over. But that being said, I think he’s really stoked out there and Portland is an awesome town and I like going and having Chris show me around.
As a band you are banned from the Warped Tour, and you personally have gone on record about how it was destroying small venues etc. We are interested to hear your opinions on it now, as ten years ago it was a punk tour but now you’ve got bands like Of Mice and Men headlining. Do you feel that justifies what you were saying ten years ago, and more so?
Well you know here’s the thing man, the big deal about the Warped Tour destroying the DIY economy was absolutely one hundred percent true until the internet came along and created an entirely new network of doing things. I think back on those times, and I’m still like “You know what fuck the Warped Tour, it’s stupid and it’s the antithesis of punk rock” but not only did it stop being a “Punk Rock tour” but Punk Rock evolved in such a way, and technology evolved in such a way that my entire argument is sort of irrelevant. So now it is this new metal and rock ‘n’ roll tour that bands that could play stadiums do and there they are playing an outdoor festival and that’s fine, Punk Rock exists on the internet now. You can find so many bands, and so many clubs and you can put on shows in your house if you want to and have bands playing every fucking night, if you are stupid enough to do that.
You’ve brought Sam Russo out on tour with you who once filled in on guitar at a Falcon’s show (Brendan’s side-project), is it nice having someone that you know on tour with you. And do you like to choose band that you know to come on tour with you in the UK?
Sam is a great musician, awesome friend. I met him through Dan from Alkaline Trio, Dan and I did an acoustic tour and it was suggested to me and Dan that we add a local opener and Sam Russo’s name came up and Dan was like “I know Sam, we did some shows together. I think he’s a good choice” and we just got on straight away. He’s a great dude, and when we are coming to the UK fuck yeah we are going to bring him because that’s our boy and we are like “Hey Sam, what band should we bring to haul our gear whilst we take the train?” and he was like “Bring Banger’s they’re awesome” and sure enough he’s right- they are awesome as guys and as a band.
And as roadies?
Haa yeh and as roadies! Poor Bangers!
You’ve been touring ‘Metropole‘ for a while, so what does the future hold? A few more months of this and then back to the studio? There was a new Falcon track released a few months back. What‘s the plan?
I want to do a Falcon record very soon, and I also have like half a Wandering Birds record written which is another project that I do, it’s not really Punk more dirty music for fucking to! I really want to do both of those, neither of which should take too long. But this has been revitalising to put out a new record, travel the world again and I think I’m already interested in writing more Lawrence Arms material, I don’t think it is going to happen real fast but I don’t think it’ll take eight years either.
~ Brendan Kelly : Speed Round ~
Do we actually get to take speed? No.
What do you want to be remembered for?
Being a good guy, a good hang, a good Dad. Really when I die the only people I care about remembering me are my kids, and I’d like them to remember me fondly.
Dream dinner guest (dead or alive)?
Fuck! Bill Bryson dude! He’s amazing, I think he’s the most fascinating person.
How long do you spend in front of the mirror?
I try to keep it pretty brief, I’m a firm believer in quick showers- get ready fast and get the fuck out. Maybe when I was younger, but look at me I can’t be looking at this for too long it’ll just get depressing.
Favourite swear word?
I don’t know, I really like funny euphemistic terms for wangs a lot but not really swear words… I like it when you put a word like that together in conjunction with something totally hilarious like “dong-cheeks” that’s really funny to me, like “hey dick teeth.” Shit like that!
Best excuse you’ve used to break up with someone?
Ha! All right, this isn’t really an excuse but I was at a club and I walked past this girl and thought she was extremely beautiful so I turned around to give her the eye and she was turned around giving me the eye. So I swung back around and grabbed her and I’m like “Hey, what’s happening?” We ended up hitting it off really well and at the end of the night she’s like “Do you wanna, you know, come back and stay at my house?” and I was like “Yes, but hold on”.. Because my girlfriend was there at the club, so I had to go through the club and be like “We’re not going to stay with you, sorry we’re taking off.” so I dumped her there on the spot. But, that girl is my wife now. And we’ve been married eleven years.
Best day of your life?
Wedding day for sure. This is starting to sound like I’m pandering to my wife.
Worse thing you’ve ever put in your mouth?
That is hard! I’ve eaten some fucking garbage, but some of it is really tasty. I can’t think of a time that I’ve put like a dick or a dead mouse or anything like that in my mouth. There is something that is on the tip of my brain. (Chuckles) One time we were driving, all night drive and I was driving. Long time ago, because they stopped letting me drive a while ago, but I’d been driving all night and we stopped at this fucking gas station and Neil wakes up and farts and it just makes barf right out onto the ground so that fart probably went in my mouth a little bit.
Last band you went to see live?
I went and saw Joey Cape and Chris Cresswell do an acoustic tour.
As a child what did you want to be when you grew up?
I kind of wanted to be everything. I used to think “When I’m an astronaut I’ll do this” and “When I’m in the army I’ll be like this” and “When I’m a famous musician I’ll be like this”. I don’t think this was really on the menu but I like it, its cool.
What would you say if you met the Queen?
I think I would just try to be super super polite and say something along the lines of “Wow, it really is an honour to meet you.”
Weirdest moment of your life?
Maybe watching kids get born.. that’s up there man. I’ve got two kids and both of those were insane, and the second one I was being audited, my wife was having an emergency C-section, when the baby came out she didn’t make any sound for four minutes and I had just gotten a text from my account saying “We can’t account for fifty thousand dollars of your expenses in this audit.” So I walk in and I’m like “I’m going to jail, my wife is going to die, my baby is dead” there was a pile of my wife’s organs on a table that I can see.. so that was pretty weird and kind of depressing but I ended up with such a cool little person out of the whole deal because she ended up being fine.
And you didn’t go to jail?
No, my audit ended up just being a case of a faulty auditor.
Who would you like to hear cover one of your songs, and which song?
That is a hard question. I want it to be Miley Cyrus, and I think she could cover,.. er what comes to mind is ‘Ramble Boys of Pleasure’ because it is more of her style, I think she could do a good version of it. I’ll go with that!
The Lawrence Arms sixth album ‘Metropole’ is out now on Epitaph Records, and is available online and in record stores (if you can still find one).