The Lawrence Arms were once of those surprise names that appeared on the initial Soundwave Festival lineup, and a name that many have been crying out for a much needed return to Australia. Now it is happening, so Deborah Konopnicki and Jarret Gahan recently took the time to catch up with Brendon Kelly from the band to see how it all came about, and how progress is going on some new material. Expand this post to take a read. Soundwave Festival is sold out in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Adelaide and Perth still have tickets available.
Hi Brendon! How are you doing?
Spectacular! How about you?
We’re pretty good today! It’s a nice sunny day in Melbourne so we can’t complain.
Oh man, I love Melbourne! It’s a great town. It reminds me a lot of Chicago actually. It’s the middle of the night over here actually and I’m just standing around in my kitchen and making a cocktail and I’m going to go to bed when this is all over!
Fantastic. Now it’s been over six years you rolled into Australia. Are you excited to be coming out on the Soundwave tour?
I’m so excited! I can’t even believe that we’ve got the opportunity. We love Australia and we’ve always had so much fun there. It’s a pretty cool tour to be on, so we’re thrilled to be a part of it.
Were you guys looking to hop onto a tour and come to Australia, or was it Soundwave that approached you to play on the festival?
It was actually really out of the blue. They just hit us up and said “Hey, do you guys want to come to Australia?” We didn’t really have any plans to tour or do anything really. It was an opportunity that we couldn’t really pass up though so we jumped on it.
Are there any bands that you’re keen so see from the line-up at this stage?
I’m really looking forward to seeing Metallica, and I’m not even bull-shiting you guys right now. Not because I think they’re still good… I’m curious to see Metallica. They’ve gone from one of my favourite bands in the world to a band that’s made some pretty questionable decisions and I’d really like to see where all of that is at.
What’s the likelihood of you guys doing a sideshow while you’re out on the festival circuit?
I haven’t really spoken in-depth to anybody about any of that stuff, so I’m not really sure about the practicality of that stuff and how it all works. Our tour managers also managed the Menzingers when they were out for the festival last year and as per my understanding, that shit just happens. You kind of almost have to turn it down to not do it. We want to play as many shows as we can while we’re out there!
Even though it was quite some time ago, do you have any fond memories of being here back in 2006?
Last time we were there we were with Frenzal and those guys are awesome. It was complete madness and I think that we only slept for two hours every night because we were up so late and we had to get up so early for the next shows. I remember by the end of the tour that we were all delirious and we were all so delirious that we would all just start laughing for no reason. I remember that our guitar player just passed out in the hallway in the airport at one point; not because we were super wasted but because of the massive exhaustion. I remember we stayed at this hotel and the girl that worked at the front desk of the hotel was like “Oh my gosh! You guys are the Lawrence Arms!” we were like “You don’t know who we are! Come on…” so she opened up the bar for us that night and we were drinking there for free! Gordy from Frenzal Rhomb pissed out of a balcony from the window and the whole thing went tits up real fast.
You guys put out the “Butt, Sweat & Tears EP” back in 2009 but you last studio album was over six years ago. Is there any intention to record any new Lawrence Arms in the nears future?
Absolutely! I’m writing right now and I’ve got about half a record ready. If Chris comes through with the other half then I think we’re good to go! I have reason to believe that he’s already well into his songs. It’s a bit more of a logistical difficulty to write and record because we don’t all live in the same city anymore and we’re not doing this full time anymore. The time is right for us for sure and I’m really itching to put out a new record.
You just put out a new record earlier this year; your own sort of-solo album; Brandon Kelly and the Wandering Birds. It’s one of my top five albums of this year – it’s incredible! It seems like a pretty big departure because it’s got a wide encompassing sound and there are so many varied songs on there with such a dark subject matter. What’s been the general reaction from the crowd on the European tour and just in general?
Oh thank you! Well on the European tour, the crowd thought they were at a comedy show where I was just talk about what the songs were about. The subject matter is so absurd that I think they thought that I was just telling jokes, but that’s really what the songs were about! It’s funny to hear somebody say “This is a song about cutting kids into little pieces!”
That’s a classic track! And bizarre!
It’s been really fun. All the press that I’ve seen for the record has been pretty positive; I’ve not seen anything that’s really negative. I’m really proud of the record; I really like it a lot. I hadn’t listened to it since it came out and I actually just listened to it yesterday to see how I still found it. I was like “wow… I still really like this record!” I think that overall the response has been good. I think it’s just one of those records that’s weird enough that it threw a lot of our fans off but as they return to it more I think that people will find reasons to return to it again and again.
You’ve been touring Europe with Dan Andriano from Alkaline Trio and you guys have played a few Falcon numbers together in the set lists. Is there any intention to get together and do another Falcon EP or album down the track?
You know what man, me and Dan were just talking about doing another Falcon record! It was inspired by this dude from Chicago who’s in this band called Apocalypse Hoboken. On the European tour we sat down and talked about wanting to do a Falcon album, so we sat down and wrote out the tracks for the new album, sequenced them and now we’re going to write songs according to the track list!
That’s incredible! I saw some things on twitter that alluded to the fact that you might do something along those lines but it was very vague and a little bit critic. I was hoping that it was going to be new Falcon!
Well it’s something that Dan and I have both spoken about doing. A lot of people seem to like it and it’s a different territory for both of our bands. I get all the Trio fans and Dan gets all the Lawrence Arms fans. It used to be that it was the exact same people but as our band has developed so has the audience. Frankly, it used to be that our fans only like our band and Alkaline Trio had the same thing going on. It’s really cool to do the Falcon record and see this weird crossover all of a sudden. All of these hardcore girls with Alkaline Trio tattoos are like “Yay! I love the Falcon record!” I would be like “You guys would have never talked to me, but that’s cool!” It’s something that we’re both really interested in doing, but right now my priority is doing another Lawrence Arms record, and then I’ll do another Falcon record.
This is a little bit off topic, but it’s goes back to your dark sense of humour. A friend posted “The Spirit Of Transparency” on my Facebook a couple of months back. I was amazed to see that you not only starred in it, but you wrote and co-directed it! How did you get involved with doing these films?
I went for collage for that stuff, and it’s always been something that I’ve been really interested in. I’ve always been a writer and I’ve always been interested in telling stories. I think that it comes through in a lot of my songs. I’ve got a really old buddy who actually did the Wandering Birds record with me. He’s a production guy and we started working together to make a movie a little while ago that I wrote. We just kept doing it! We started doing it for fun; and we’re still doing it for fun! We just kept cranking out these movies. We have a feature film and a few shorts. Being in a punk rock band is cool, but after a certain number of years not everybody can be Keith Morris. That dude’s awesome, but I don’t think that I’m going to be that cool when I’m 50.
Going back to really early in your music career for a moment; Chicago Riot Fest is coming up with a dream line-up. There’s Descendents, Built To Spill, Evils Costello, Gaslight Anthem, Alkaline and Slapstick! Are you psyched to get back together and do another one of these reunion shows?
Well we did it for the Asian Man anniversary shows. Mike Park called us and tried to get every band that was ever on Asian Man to reunite and play a show. I think that if anyone else had called us and asked us to play a show, we would have been like “No fucking way…”. But, it was Mike Park! So we were all like “Oh… ok… we’ll do it.” So we got back together and we practiced. We played the show and it was super fun. We were talking and said “Well, we’ve done one show in 20 years and it was in San Francisco?! We’ve got to play a hometown show!” It was a pragmatic nightmare to get all of us together. We’re all living all over the country and none of us really have gear anymore. I mean, I sing in the band but our guitar player is a lawyer now! He hasn’t owned a guitar in years. It was just a matter of figuring out how we could do it, because we didn’t see how it was going to be feasible to do. Then this opportunity came up and made us an offer! I’m stocked. I think that it’s going to be a lot fun.
Speaking of the Asian Man record show, do you know if Mike got Bruce Lee Band to play?
I don’t know man. I played in Lawrence Arms, Slapstick, The Broadways and solo.
Brutal! Just a couple more for today. Your blog – Bad Sandwich Chronicles – makes for some very entertaining reading. Do you have any intention of getting that up and running when you tour Australia?
You know, what I’ve been doing now is I’ve been doing that European tour and then I came back and did like a tour journal update. I’ll probably do the same thing from Australia. I don’t think that that there’s any real way that I could bring my computer and blog… although maybe I can. I don’t know! I’ll have to think about it! I’m definitely going to do a tour journal. I think that it’s a really fun thing and people seem to really be responding well to it. I’ll keep the tour journal thing going, at Australian Soundwave? I’m going to be telling fucking stories about James Hetfield and shit! If course I’ll keep it going!
Just finally today, what are you most looking forward to about coming back down to Australia and playing the Soundwave festival?
Well, I’ve said this a few times but Australia is beautiful and so much fun. Everything about it just seems so nice to me. The thing about it is, the place is only as good as it’s people. We have so many great friends down there that I’m just looking forward to seeing everybody, and I hope that I do get a chance to see everybody! I’m excited about the new friends that I’m going to make. That’s what it’s all about man! That’s why I got into this in the first place.
Catch The Lawrence Arms playing