Happy Lagwagon Day: Joey Cape Explains the Significance of “May 16”

Check your punk calendar.

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May 16 2016, 9:16am

There are a handful of days in the year that music fans will always know for certain songs: Jimmy Eat World fans will always know December 23, 1995, Pedro the Lion and David Bazan fans will wonder who passed away on June 18, 1976, Jawbreaker fans wonder what fight went down on May 4, and so on. One of the biggest days in the punk calendar year is today, May 16, because of the song by Lagwagon.

Written by Lagwagon vocalist Joey Cape, the song holds the sort-of obvious meaning presented on Songfacts but unverified in other places: Cape had a falling out with friends, then woke up on May 16 after a one night stand—“just another Saturday” according to the lyrics—to hear wedding bells, look outside the window, and literally see his former friends getting married.

Rather than chalk it up to deleted interviews, unsourced claims, or, you know, immature speculation of lyric booklets, we talked to the deep-voiced Cape (“It was a bad decision to sing so high when I was young!”) while he’s off touring Europe with Me First and the Gimme Gimmes about how the song came to be and where those friends are now.

Noisey: What’s the real story behind the song? Has the knowledge of it affected things?
Joey Cape:
Sometimes you explain what a song is about and it’s about a friend of yours, and someone you’ve become friends with again after having a falling out at some point in your life. Sometimes you tell the story and it’s like “it’s not a big deal, I’m just being transparent.” But I remember when that story started getting around and people would just quote me from this one interview rhetorically, and I was like, “Oh shit, I don’t know if I should keep telling this story ‘cause I’m pretty close to this person now.” [Laughs]

That said, it is an interesting story. A lot of songs are written in a reactionary fashion, and it’s a good thing; there’s a moment when you’re really feeling passion. Most of the songs I’ve written have taken me a long time and there’s a lot of rough drafts, but every once in a while there’s a song you write in ten minutes—lyrics and everything, it just comes out. I don’t know why, but those songs seem to resonate the most with people, and “May 16” is one of those songs.

You know, it was me, hungover in an apartment with some girl I went home with from the bar the night before. There was an acoustic guitar in the corner. I heard this ruckus happening in a park adjacent to the apartment complex, and it was just a wedding happening on this Saturday, May 16. And my heart just broke; this wedding that I hadn’t been invited to for someone I was so close to for so many years of my life, where a misunderstanding caused a falling out between us from some time before. That story is very long and I don’t want to revisit it, but I kind of picked up the guitar and the first thing that came to mind was: “It’s just another Saturday,” but obviously I was in denial. The melody and the song came together; by the time my new friend got out of the shower or whatever, I had this terribly sad song.

You’ve made up with the two friends that got married that day?
Yes, I did, a couple years later. And we’ve never spoken about that song! But I suspect that he must know. I obviously know their anniversary every year. [Laughs]

There are songs I’ve written about people I’m close to; I believe the best way to write is to write exactly what you feel. I try not to use names but it happens sometimes. There have been songs before where friends have called me out on it, and some of them have been wrong! I’ve had old friends come up to me and quote me on a song and be like, “Oh, nice lyric,” wink wink, but it’s like: Hey dude, that song’s not about you. But it was about someone!

At the time, we were pretty hurt. Time healed those things, though. It’s a weird thing if you write songs the way I do.

Have you talked to the one night stand person at all?
Yes, because she became a close friend later. That was just when I first met her. I’m not proud of that story. I’ve been married for 14 years and I have a child; those type of things are just things you did when you were younger. I don’t know, it’s funny. There are a lot of worse examples though; a lot of songs that I cannot talk about. [Laughs]

You’re on tour with Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. Is there something in the works there after your Europe tour ends?
We talk about it a lot, but truthfully, probably not. It’s not that we don’t want to, it’s that I don’t have confidence in us rallying to the extent of an album and being pros. It’s very much a band we’re in as a holiday, it’s a lot of fun, and as soon as you start talking about a record, there’s work involved and most of us would rather spend it working on the actual arts.

We should do another record! It’s always a lot of fun. We talk about doing some seven-inches like we did in the old days. I’m game for any of it, it’s just not up to me.

What about Lagwagon after the Me First tour ends? What’s next there?
The night I get home, I’m starting production on another record for a different project I do called Scorpios, and we’re going in the studio on the 15th to make a new record. After that’s done, I have another record that I’ve been producing that I don’t know that I’m at liberty to talk about because the band is trying to keep radio silence until they’re ready.

So I’ve got both those things, and then a tiny bit of time off, then Lagwagon’s touring in June and July and August, but I don’t know about a new record yet. I mean, I’m writing all the songs for it. These things are so impossible to predict! There’s not a lot of planning that goes on. It just seems to always happen miraculously when someone brings it up and I have a bunch of songs. But that’s another thing: as soon as we’re on tour and together again, it should be discussed. I really want to make another record. I don’t want to wait nine years! No one in the band wants that! So here’s hoping.

Dan Bogosian gets awkwardly sad every May 16 for reasons unshareable to Noisey. Please be nice to him on Twitter: @dlbogosian