This past Wednesday afternoon, we got on the phone with Brendan Kelly to discuss his new project, his blog, The Lawrence Arms and more. Thanks to the users who helped submit some of the questions:
You just played a show on Saturday with the Wandering Birds, right?
Yeah, it was the first time itís really been attempted, but I think it went really well. I had a really good time. Two of the other guys in the band never really played a show before and the drummer, whoís Rob Kellenberger, he used to be in Slapstick with me and played in some other bands. He only had about a week and a half to learn the songs. It was hectic, but I think it worked out pretty good.
Do you plan on doing a North American tour? I know you'll be doing some shows in Europe this summer.
I would like to, itís just hard to say, everything is up in the air. This band that I put together was a band I could play with around here. I donít know how easy it would be to take this exact crew on the road, just because. Well, thereís a lot of practical concerns. We donít really have the gear, we donít really have a vehicle and no one really knows who we are. I think weíre all a little old to go into debt just to get out there and play our songs. As much interest as there is, weíll definitely do it. But if people donít really want to hear it then we arenít going to force it, you know?
I think the reception has been somewhat positive hasnít it?
Yeah, I think so. I havenít seen that much in response to it, but generally the response has been favourable which is cool. Iím really excited about that. Thereís a difference between putting out a record that people in publications like and putting out a record that people actually want to come out and see though.
What was your biggest motivation behind starting another project?
The whole way it came together was pretty unusual. I recorded four songs out in Denver, where I played everything and then I did a couple other songs here in Chicago in Atlas Studios with one other dude as my main collaborator. He and I played all the instruments and everything. I wrote the songs over such a long period of time and the final outcome saw a lot of different people playing on different tracks, some had never even met each other before. For one thing, I didnít want this to sound like a punk rock album. I didnít want to enlist anyone from the punk world to help me with it because I knew it would sound enough like punk rock anyway. I was the one doing the songs and even if I tried to steer away from that, I donít know if Iím enough of a chameleon to escape my roots, so I got other people to help. I knew it wasnít going to be a Lawrence Arms project or a Falcon project. It didnít make sense to do it under a name that already existed. It even feels a little disingenuous to even call it a band, some people were wondering why I pulled my name out. That was because it really was me and a rotating group of cast, you know?
What made you choose I'd Rather Die Than Live Forever as the title?
First of all, it was funny. It's an awesome phrase, but I think it also shows the proper amount of reckless, heedless, stupid nihilism that purveys the record. I also think it touches on the social discourse of America these days in general, not to say those things are related. I wasn't trying to write a tongue-in-cheek exposť on American culture. I guess it's getting older or getting jaded, but I look around and there's so much oppressive apathy. I guess the record is a reflection of that, but really it just seemed like a cool title.
Speaking of getting older, would you say that's something you put a lot of thought into when writing this record?
No, but itís an interesting thought. I donít think thatís what the lyrics on the record are about, but I think a lot of the choices I made stylistically, I wouldnít have been ready to write about those things until I was an aging person in a punk rock band. I feel like a lot of the stuff on this record is sort of like weird, tricky, dark subject matter. Iím pretty into that, but it was also something I was pretty scared to mess with for a long time. Just because I thought there was this necessary reflection that had to accompany your songs. You had to write from a perspective that was you. Even though I know it's possible to write widely optimistic positive songs about being friendly and nice, when in reality thatís not always the way people who sing those songs are at all. It was only after a lot of experience that I finally had the balls to do it the other way, to try something that was darker than my perspective.
Moving away from your new record and into your blog, I know your Patrick Stump entry got lots of attention on AbsolutePunk and elsewhere. Were you expecting that?
No, not at all. I mean, Iíve come to realize there is a readership for my blog and I can expect people will read it. But that being said, everyone read that one. Even Patrick Stump read that one, he got in touch with me after. Thatís not the usual protocol for when I sit down in the morning and write something, itís usually to the same group of people.
A number of people are talking about your Coco entry now.
Yeah, he was just having fun with that interview and I was just busting his balls, thatís all. I think The Replacements are cool, I think Jawbreakerís cool, I think the Gaslight Anthemís cool. Of those three bands Jawbreaker has had the biggest impact on me and The Replacements are the one I listen to the most still. I think theyíre an awesome band, but how do I put this? We were never in the same room at the same time, you know? They were never the band that got me through the dark times when I was younger, I got into them later.
Moving onto The Lawrence Arms, your DVD will finally be out this summer. Whatís the status on new music?
Me and Chris have gotten together three times already to show each other stuff. Right now weíre in the beginning stages of getting our footing back and remembering what the band sounded like. Iíve got three songs that Iíve showed him along with some other ideas and he's showed me two songs himself. Itís in the early stages, but that stuff has the tendency to start rolling pretty fast once itís been started. Weíre hoping to get in the studio sometime before the summer ends.
Are you going for a full-length or an EP?
Ultimately weíd love to do a full length if we have the songs. But at this point we just want to get something out. We donít want it to suck though, the main thrust of doing it would be quality. If we have a full length of quality material, which I hope we will, then weíll do a full-length. Itís time for us to put something out and see our fans who have stuck around all this time waiting for us to put something out. But if it has to be an EP, it will be an EP. The main thing is we donít want it to suck.
Someone was commenting on how dedicated your fans are, how they might be considered almost cult-like. Why do you think the Lawrence Arms was able to achieve that level of success, out of all your other projects?
I don't know. We got a lot of fans who like us and thatís about it, which is pretty flattering and awesome. Thereís definitely a unique sort of demographic at our shows. I couldnít really put a finger on it, but when The Lawrence Arms play I always look out at the crowd and go ĎOh yeah, these are our people.í I'd consider us to be more of a family than a cult though. I donít have any idea why. Who can say what triggers somebody to like a band? Thereís no scientific formula that can go into it. I donít know why people like our band, out of anyone on this Earth Iím probably the last person who could tell you what makes our band what it is. I donít even really know what we sound like. In AP when Apathy and Exhaustion came out, they called us Less Than Jake without the horns or Blink-182 without the fart jokes. I thought we were a very different kind of band than that, but I guess not. Itís hard to have any perspective when youíre in it and writing it.
Someone was wondering if the punk version of ďWarped Summer ExtravaganzaĒ would be released anytime soon?
Thatís a good question. The punk rock, almost hardcore, sounding song exists and was recorded. Itís around with maybe 7 or 8 Oh! Calcutta! b-sides that have never seen the light of day. As that record started shaping up, the 12 or 13 songs on there showed this real cohesion and it was quite obvious which ones were going to fit and which ones werenít. So of those unreleased 7 or 8, lots of them are unfinished, maybe they donít have backing vocals or lead guitar parts or something, itís been awhile. But thatís something that Iím very interested in releasing and weíve talked about releasing it in conjunction with our new songs in terms of a bonus at the end of a full-length or rounding out an EP to make it more of a second b-side collection with a little bit more new material. Itís not often you record a record with so many b-sides and the fact that we never did anything with them is kind of bizarre actually.
Do you still dislike Warped Tour as much as you did when you wrote that song?
You know, itís a funny thing because I donít really care more than anything else. First of all, itís moved so far away from what I was originally upset about, which was commodifying what I thought was a pretty nice, sustainable industry. But then all of a sudden the Internet took off and this whole new infrastructure popped up. I canít really keep hating the Warped Tour for something that is irrelevant now, the same problems donít exist really anymore. Thereís so many more bands and ways to promote yourself than there were at the time. That song was written 5 years after we were on the Warped Tour and now itís been another 6 years or 7 years so a lot has changed. I donít have the time to sit around and hate music festivals. Iím not touring 10 months out of the year anymore so I donít see it every day and Iíve got a lot of other shit to worry about. Do I think the Warped Tourís awesome? Not really. Would I go the Warped Tour? I donít think so, there would have to be some good buddies of mine there. And I donít take back anything I ever said, I just donít think itís worth being passionate about it anymore. The Internet and social networking allows you to have an awesome, thriving, rock Ďní roll scene in your tiny town if youíre just dedicated and that means you can have really good bands come through and itís a big snowballing thing. I donít think the Warped Tour is a threat like it was to the fragile D.I.Y economy of the early 2000s.
Lastly, someone was wondering if you'd consider releasing liner notes for all your albums, similar to what you did for The Greatest Story Ever Told?
Yeah, maybe. I try to write things on my blog that are interesting about the songs that I think people might be interested in as well. But sometimes I end up forgetting the references, the way I do it is much more stream of consciousness than sitting down and going through line by line. All I did on that record was try to be as self-aggrandizing and obnoxious as possible. If someone was interested I guess I could try.