Photo by Ben Pier
There’s a lyric on Metropole, the new album from the Lawrence Arms, that goes, “I blinked twice and 20 years went by.” Fortunately, it hasn’t been quite that long but still, the Lawrence Arms, one of punk’s most beloved bands, have not released a new album in nearly eight years.
For a while there, it looked like there might not ever be another album from the Arms. Guitarist/singer Chris McCaughan moved from Chicago to Portland, drummer Neil Hennessy was active with Smoking Popes and Treasure Fleet, and bassist/singer Brendan Kelly became a dad twice over. But then, as if out of nowhere, the members announced that they were writing new songs together, and then recording them, and now, here we are, only a few weeks away from a full-on new release from the band.
The Lawrence Arms have not lost a single damn step with Metropole, their sixth album and their first on their new home at Epitaph Records. It captures everything that is great about the band—distinct but collaborative dual vocals, sing-along choruses, and of course, a great sense of juvenile humor. But while the album still maintains the Arms’ trademark sense of youthful levity, it is also the band’s most mature album to date, often touching upon adult themes like the acceptance of aging and the passing of time. To counter the band’s newfound maturity, we did the stupidest, most infantile interview we could possibly do with bassist/singer Brendan Kelly. Enjoy.
Noisey: Whattup, Beex.
Brendan Kelly: Hi buddy.
I’d like this go down as the worst interview of all time in history ever. You game?
I mean, I guess. As long as I don’t turn out sounding like the worst human being. But I guess there’s like, Hitler and Bernie Madoff out there so we’re not gonna bump those guys. So yeah, I’m cool. I’m cool.
Cool, let’s start by offending an entire social group based on our own personal prejudices.
I hate food bloggers and men who carry tote bags.
Oh yeah. I’m not big for mixologists and generally, I don’t like hippies although that’s a pretty popular opinion. I guess I’m opposed to staunchly atheist people, people who are smug about atheism.
Oh they’re the fucking worst. Have you seen Marc Maron’s newest special? He’s got a whole bit about that.
I didn’t see it. I don’t know him but I hate people who like him. I don’t know who he is. I know he’s really popular on Twitter. I’ve never heard his podcast. People tell me I should check it out.
Speaking of Twitter, I noticed you follow and interact with a lot of porn stars on Twitter.
I sure do, yeah.
I guess that’s pretty much my question.
Oh yeah, well I mean, I find pornography to be pretty awesome. Pretty fascinating. The lives behind it are really fascinating to me. Twitter’s a place where I’ve interacted with porn stars on a really human level and I think it’s great for that industry to be a little less demonized in general. I think it’s super fun to type something like, “Got a dildo up my ass right now!” It’s a total mindfuck. On one level, these are regular human people and no duh. But it’s always weird to see famous people interact like normal human beings but on the other hand, it’s like no, these are fucking weirdos about to get fucked in the ass or suck penis.
It’s like they tweet about getting fucked in the ass with a giant dildo the way most people post pictures of cupcakes.
Right, it’s like, “Here’s my brunch... but it goes into my ass.”
I also saw you just started following Riff Raff.
Yes. I most recently started following Riff Raff. He’s completely bizarre to me and amazing. Why, would you like to tell me something about Riff Raff right now, Dan?
No, I don’t have much to tell you except that we’ve covered him a lot at Noisey and he’s been a ridiculous person to work with as is probably evident from his personality.
I mean, he’s super out there and bizarre and I read that article in LA Weekly about him. Fascinating as shit. But I think there’s something to be said for anybody who lives so completely ensconced in style. Whether it’s authentic or not to me is secondary to the fact that he’s like, every bit of him is covered with something. That’s crazy, you know? It’s like the Wes Anderson interview where he talks about Luke Wilson’s character in The Royal Tenenbaums. And he was like, “I’ve always been fascinated by people who have a beard, and sunglasses, and a headband. It’s like, they’re so hidden from something." But Riff Raff takes that sort of paradigm and and blows it out by a zillion. Like, his fucking hands are covered in things. It’s insane to me.
You spend a lot of time on Twitter. Who are the worst kinds of people on Twitter?
Any real heartfelt thing complaining about personal issues. That’s the worst. Like, “My boyfriend’s a douche” or “Oh, I guess I’ll just sit around here and be broken hearted tonight.” Take that shit somewhere else, man. Nobody cares.
It’s weird because when you put that out into the world as your persona, why the fuck would anyone want to hang out with you, especially in a dating sense?
Because it’s this thing where—and I’ve been in this situation—when you’re depressed, you kind of get depressed and then you get more depressed because people don’t notice you’re depressed. And then it’s like, “OK, fine, well fuck this. I’m just gonna walk around miserable until somebody figures it out.” And it’s like, well, good luck, asshole. Nobody cares. That’s sort of how life is. It’s magnified on Twitter a little bit. Being depressed is such a downward spiral.
Speaking of downward spirals, you recently started cutting your own hair. I guess my question is: Why are you such an asshole?
[laughs] Wait, hold on, hold on. Are you trying to diss me for cutting my own hair? Is that what’s going on here?
No, you’ve dissed yourself about it. I think you said you look like Euro-trash which is, in my opinion, true.
[laughs] Well, I do think this haircut is a little too funny to completely get rid of. And it’s really easy to do so I keep doing it to myself. I guess I really don’t care much about my hair. It’s kind of shitty but I’m not gonna spend money to go to somebody to make them not make me look any better. So fuck it.
What’s the style you’d say you’re going for right now?
I’m not really going for much of a style. I’m trying to stay out of the Slobby Old Man Who Doesn’t Give A Shit About Himself At All category. But whatever I ricochet out of that category into, I’m fine with.
You’re wandering into like, European Club Scene Teenager territory.
[laughs] That’s pretty cool. I can live with that.
People say you look like Nick from the show, New Girl, which I haven’t seen.
Yeah, I’ve heard that before.
Chris told me he gets mistaken for Daniel Craig.
I’ve definitely heard people say that, yeah.
Who is Neil?
Neil is a person from space who has come to Earth to play drums for the Lawrence Arms. He’s a wonderful man but he cannot easily be compared to any other man or woman. I’ve described Neil before as a graduate student from the Harvard of Mars. Number one of all time in his class at studying Earth, sent to come down to Earth to fit in. He’s like, 99% there but then it’s like, “Wait, you don’t know the difference between kinds of cheese?” That’s something he said—that he doesn’t know the difference between any kinds of cheese.
Well shit, do you wanna talk about the new Lawrence Arms record or not?
Yeah, we can talk about the new record, for sure.
Almost eight years. Was that a lot of pressure, the more time that went by?
It’s interesting because I never felt like there was a ton of pressure. It was more like the idea was that I’m not gonna put out another record—and I know Chris feels the same way—unless it was cool. So there was never any pressure because we were never on a schedule. It was never like, “Oh fuck, well, it’s time to crank up the touring machine.” It was more like, “Well, if we make a new record, it better be good or else we’re not gonna make it.” So slowly and organically, we wrote a few songs that we were feeling pretty good about. And then it got to the point where, all of a sudden, we were ready to make a record. I guess it seemed less likely that we were gonna make a record because so much time had passed. I’ve always been very cognizant—Chris has too—about bands who get older and start to really suck.
But Metropole is, I would say, the most mature of the Lawrence Arms albums.
Um, I think it’s the most fully realized album. It’s not a record written by kids. There’s a lot of attention to detail that went into it.
I even mean mature just in the sense that there’s a lot of adult issues you deal with—getting older and such. There’s a line about hairs in your beard going white and girls not paying attention to you anymore.
Yeah, for sure. That’s what I’m saying, it’s not a record written by kids. I mean, what am I gonna write about, fucking skateboarding and smoking pot behind the 7-11?
Teenage Bottlerocket does it.
Yeah, Teenage Bottlerocket lives in fucking Wyoming where that’s the only thing to do. [laughs] I can only write about what I know. And I wake up in the morning and I’m like, “Fuck, I’m getting old, man. Cool.”
But this had to have been a real serious decision to make this record since Chris lives in Portland now. That added a level of difficulty.
Yeah, true. But in a way, it was really nice because we’ve always recorded in Chicago at Atlas. This time, Chris came in and we did it in like, two and a half weeks because we had to be fucking on point. So in a way, it was a really focused effort. But when we started putting this whole thing together, there was never any point where we were like, “Alright, fuck it, guys, we’re all in!” It was a much more organic process.
Well, congrats on your move to Epitaph.
Thanks so much. We’re fucking stoked to be here, man.
What’s the first thing you’re gonna buy now that you’re filthy rich?
Either like, a really nice blazer that I can wear with anything or nothing. And maybe some sort of jet ski or helicopter.
If you had like, Drake money, what would you buy?
Drake money… that’s a terrific question. I’d do all the reasonable things like make sure my parents were cool for the rest of their lives and that kind of shit. But then the very next thing I would do after that would be to like, plate a shark in gold or something like that and just watch it go. You’d have to get a little bit stupid with your money.
We’re both greasy Italians. Wanna try to answer some questions in Italian?
Oh my god, this is gonna be very difficult but yeah, I’ll try.
OK… Qual è il tuo album preferito da The Lawrence Arms? (What is your favorite album by The Lawrence Arms?)
Prefisco, uh... Oh Calcutta! e il nuovo. (I prefer 'Oh Calcutta!' and the new one.)
Quali band è più influente su di voi? (What band is most influential on you?)
Oh, see that question sucks in English. You’re gonna make me answer it in Italian? Fucking, I dunno...Bad Religion, Fifteen, Jawbreaker, there you go.
Come funziona Fat Mike odore? (What does Fat Mike smell like?)
What does he smell like? You know what’s interesting, man? I can’t answer this in Italian but I can tell you this. Fat Mike, hell of a guy, love him to pieces. A lot of times, older dudes that do a lot of drinking and ride life hard give that smell of like, an old couch kind of smell, you know? Like your first apartment in college. But Mike does not have that. He doesn’t have that all. It might be because he goes on juice cleanses and shit because he’s wealthy enough that he can afford to not smell that way. I don’t know what it is, but he smells clean.
Interesting. Well this went horribly. Didn’t you go to Italy this year?
Fuck yeah I did, it was awesome.
How was that?
I just told you it was awesome, man.
Well tell me about it, dick!
Well, you know, I’ve got a lot of family over there. So we went over there, brought the kids, stayed in cool hotels, ate some really good food. Actually, one of the hotels we stayed at was called Hotel Metropole. And a lot of those sounds between songs on the new record, a lot of them were recorded live in Italy on my iPhone.
What’s your favorite derogatory term for Italians?
“Dago,” for sure. “Dago.”
See, I knew you liked “dago.” I’m a fan of “guinea,” myself.
Yeah I know, but you spell it like a fucking dipshit. “G-I-N-N-Y?” That’s Ginny, dude. Guinea is G-U-I-N-E-A.
Wow. Well, I have nothing else to ask you. You can literally say anything here.
Well, Dan, you interview a lot of bands. Have you ever seen on my blog, I did a primer—the five worst questions you can ask a band?
Did I cover all of them, I hope?
You only asked me one of them and it was in Italian. So I think that’s kind of acceptable. [laughs]
What are the other ones? “How did you get your band name?”
“How did you get your band name,” “tell me a funny story that happened on tour,” fuck, I can’t remember what the other ones are. I haven’t done an interview in a while man. Like you said, I haven’t put out a record in eight years.
Has anyone asked you who has the biggest dick in the band? Would that be a bad question or a good question?
It’s a great question but the thing is but I don’t think we’ve ever been in the same room with our dicks out.
And you guys have been around forever. If it hasn’t happened now, it’s probably just not gonna happen.
It’s probably not gonna happen, yeah. [laughs] I’m gonna go ahead and say it’s probably one of those other two guys.
Metropole is out January 28, 2014 from Epitaph Records.
Dan Ozzi is a contributing editor at Noisey and would like to throw out conspiracy theories about that new press photo a la ‘Abbey Road.’ (Seriously, why is Chris walking in a different direction? What does it meeeeean?) Follow him on Twitter - @danozzi