Interview: The Lawrence Arms

Published in Drum Media (WA) | 27.09.12 | Issue # 307



Sipping on a bedtime martini, The Lawrence Arms vocalist/bassist Brendan Kellyconverses with Daniel Cribb about angry fans, growing up and why the hell the band’s been so quiet.

Brendan Kelly may be preparing for bed when he answers his phone, but his band, The Lawrence Arms, are just waking up from somewhat of a three-year hibernation. Their last release came in the form of ‘09’s Buttsweat And Tears EP, and since then things have kind of come to a standstill. What could have possibly drawn the three members away from something that is such a big part of their lives? “I had a couple kids, made a couple movies and I made two, three [solo] records… fuck. So, I’ve been pretty busy, I guess,” Kelly reveals. “I never really thought about it until you asked the question, but yeah, I guess it’s probably been the busiest time of my life,” he laughs.

“Life happened,” he sums up. “We spent over a decade just bustin’ our dicks touring every single day of our lives and we finally slowed down. And it’s weird, because that’s when people actually started to give a shit about our band. It’s hard to pick it back up again. When you’ve got nothing in place it’s easy to get up and go on tour, but now I’ve got two kids… [Touring’s] where I’m most at home, that’s where I love to be, but now, as I get older, I do have a family, so it’s tough to be out there, too. It’s like the curse of family; when you’re with them you’re like, ‘Get me the fuck out of here!’ and as soon as you’re out of there you’re like, ‘God, I miss those fuckers’,” he laughs. “It’s a no-win situation.”

It won’t be long until the dormant punk rock outfit rises from its slumber, however. The Chicago three-piece are in the process of writing their sixth record. “We haven’t even practiced the songs together, but we’ve got about half the record done.” With any luck he hopes it’ll be recorded by Soundwave.

A small, dedicated following, one that might only like The Lawrence Arms and a few other similar acts on the Soundwave line-up, has been on social media airing their displeasure about paying $200 for a ticket. But when it comes down to it, if Soundwave hadn’t offered the band the tour, they wouldn’t have been here for quite some time. “We haven’t done shit for a long time,” Kelly reiterates. “We don’t get offers to go to Australia, the regular promoters haven’t been beating down our doors to try and get us back.”

A lot of the stigma surrounding their appearance on the Soundwave line-up stems from a secret track on the band’s most recent full-length album, Oh! Calcutta!. The tune, Warped Summer Extravaganza (Major Excellent), details Kelly’s hate for the US Warped Tour – a festival that could be seen as the American equivalent of Soundwave. “That whole thing was a very specific time and place. It was about 2000. There were so many awesome small clubs and so many awesome bands and all these bands that were super popular, like your NOFXs and your No Use For A Names and your Lagwagons, who were touring and taking all these small bands on tours around the country. It was really cool, and all of a sudden the Warped Tour comes and they suck up all those headlining bands. Now, instead of 17 nights at one cool, small club, it’s one day at a fairground and all the support bands get to either play up against the Warped Tour, which sucks, or on the Warped Tour where it’s like, ‘My shitty band is playing the same time as Rancid’. That’s even worse.

“For Soundwave, we didn’t have an apparatus in place to go tour Australia. It was just impossible for us, you know? It’s chalk and cheese – I believe that’s a phase you guys have down there?” For all those unaware of such a saying, it’s the equivalent of comparing oranges and apples. “That shit’s chalk and cheese, buddy.”

Daniel Cribb