INTERVIEW: The Lawrence Arms

Published on | 03.02.14



With eight years between records, The Lawrence Arms have mastered a new form of storytelling. Bassist/vocalist Brendan Kelly takes Daniel Cribb on a guided tour of the new album.

It was 2006 when Oh! Calcutta, The Lawrence Arms’  fifth record, came out, and after its touring cycle came to an end, the band’s three members went their separate ways to work on different projects and spend time with their families. What started as a little break turned into something of a hiatus and the band only surfaced for the occasional tour and 2009’s Buttsweat And Tears EP. When many fans had given up hope on a new album – but certainly not the band – they announced their Epitaph debut, Metropole.

“A lot of people focus on the fact that it’s been eight years since our last proper full-length, but we’ve been done with this fuckin’ record for like seven months. It’s just nice to have it out and people listening to it because we’d been sitting on it for a long time,” bassist/vocalist Brendan Kelly laughs.

He’s calm and collected, a quality that bleeds in and out of the new record. In the past, Kelly’s vocals were fuelled by a relentless gruff energy, but Metropole sees a focus on lyrical content and conveying emotion. “There’s a patience in the record; you don’t have to get it all in one take. There’s a lot to unpack in the record, and that wasn’t the intention when we wrote it, but I think this time we had the confidence to not scream everything and let it unfold. This time I think a lot of the songs are very narrative.”

The cover art features Hitchcock-esque/spy-themed imagery and is somewhat the main focal point of the record. The idea of being lost in a strange land takes primary focus. Between songs are audio clips of street performers recorded on the band members’ phones whilst on tour, taken everywhere from Las Vegas to Italy.

“The whole record is about this urban isolation, and there’s two parts to it: on one hand, it’s like taking a journey through the city and you turn a corner and there’s some drunk playing a saxophone or something, and that becomes the beacon of that corner, and then you go a little further and then there’s this bagpipe sound. So it’s sort of like a guided roadmap through this city, but also, there’s nobody quite so isolated in a big crowd as a street musician; they’re not talking to anybody, they’re not communicating to anybody. It just kind of works with the theme, that’s sort of what the record is about.”

Metropole marks a departure from long-time label Fat Wreck, but not due to anything other than a desire to get signed to Epitaph ever since the band started. With the record receiving a warm welcome and a new sense of excitement now they’re on Epitaph, hopefully there won’t be another eight years between records. Although, at this rate, it seems the longer they leave each record the higher its chance of success.

“You know, that’s the weird thing, most bands take eight years off and everybody forgets about them, but for us, we just happened to draw the lucky card where we took eight years off and more and more people started to care. I don’t know why that happened, but we’re very lucky in that way; our fans are awesome, kept spreading the word, and at this point we’re more popular than we’ve ever been,” he laughs.

“Fuck, if I’d known, we would have stopped a lot earlier… This was a big hump to get over and now we’re back. I’m not saying we’ll put out another record in 2015, but this is fun. Let’s see where the day takes us.”

Daniel Cribb