Lawrence Arms : punk rock circuit heroes : an interview
Chicago’s Lawrence Arms are a hard working modern day punk rock band, they are a gritty but clever punk rock three-piece that trace their beginnings back to 1999. Their involvement in bands and the punk scene goes back many years prior however, as the members were involved in Windy City mainstays Slapstick, The Broadways, and Baxter. The band takes it’s name from a run-down building the members resided in called the Lawrence Arms, which was located in a very lower-class area of uptown Chicago. For the record, they were eventually evicted from the place in the middle of the night.
– we asked them what life was like on the road and about the friendship with the great Against Me!
*Hi, Brendan. How’s it going?
You’ve recently come off (by the time you’ve answered I imagine) a European
tour with Dan Andriano. You guys have a lot of history both musically, and
by the looks of things, on a more personal level too. With you both having
very busy schedules was it a relief to be able to spend some quality time
with an old friend doing what you love?*
Absolutely. Dan is one of my oldest and dearest friends and the whole tour
was more like an extended vacation than anything I’m used to, touring wise.
It was one of the best, if not THE best tour I’ve ever been on.
*Now, a lot (if not all) of these venues were quite small in capacity and
by the sounds of things the entire tour was practically sold out. What was
the main decision behind such small venues? Was it merely a wanting to have
a more intimate, friendly, ‘shoulder to shoulder’, environment or was it a
surprise that so many people took to it?*
Well, there were two considerations when we planned this thing. Firstly, we
had been told that shows in Europe and the UK were kind of bombing this
summer, and we didn’t want to book ourselves into big rooms and look like
jerks, especially because neither of us have ever done a tour like this in
this part of the world. It just seemed smarter to play it safe and
hopefully play to small full rooms as opposed to big empty ones. Secondly,
the nature of the show kind of suggests an intimate setting and we did
truly want to get out and meet people and have it be more of an experience
for us and the crowd and less of a traditional show. The fact that all the
shows did really well (with the France show being the one exception) was
great and we’ve talked already about doing this again and trying to build
on the momentum. It was so much fun. I’m glad we did the little rooms and
got to hang out with everyone. Good times.
*Sticking with the Andriano/Kelly pact, you’re also releasing a 7″ through
Red Scare. What can we expect from this? Will there be new material? Have
you heard Dan’s songs and what is your opinion on them?*
Well, we’ve talked about doing a new album for The Falcon, which is the
band that we’re in together. Our solo stuff has nothing to do with one
another, besides that we’ve done this 2 song 7″. The 7″ was put out for the
tour. Dan’s song is a lot like his (awesome) solo LP ‘Hurricane Season’ and
my track is a B side from the Wandering Birds album.
*You released your solo debut under the moniker ‘BK and the Wandering
Birds.’ Was this some kind of dig at, the very shitty, Noel Gallagher’s
‘High Flying Birds’? I really hope it is.*
No. I’d never heard of that band until after our record was out. I like
Oasis though. They were a cool band.
*I wrote a review of the album for one website and it seemed like it came
across more of an E.P. of solo material with additional Falcon-esque
B-sides to boot. Would you agree? Are the many stylistic changes throughout
the album there so you could release a full length for fans, rather than
just a few songs?*
I don’t know. I am the worst person to ask about how the record sounds. To
me, it’s very cohesive as far as stylistically and point of view, but I
have the advantage/disadvantage of having been there for every decision in
the entire process, so I know intimately how the songs play off of each
other. I DO think that reviewers are often quick to label side projects as
B sides from main acts. The Falcon record, which I think is still a pretty
solid album, was called Lawrence Arms B sides by a TON of reviewers (and
these are reviewers who don’t particularly care for the Lawrence Arms, by
the way). By that extension, these newer songs are just Lawrence Arms D
sides, I guess. Sigh. I don’t really think that’s accurate, but again, what do I know? I am literally the only person on earth who can’t ever listen to this record with fresh ears and hear it for the first time. This record was definitely informed by all the work I’ve done in all my other bands. That’s about as much objectivity as I can really have, I guess.
*I just have to say, Rambling Revisited is an incredible song (done with
the butt kissing now).*
Thanks. I like that one a lot too. One of my faves. It made my wife cry.
That’s kind of cool.
*You’ve won an abundance of awards recently from the Chicago reader. Is it
a humbling thing to be honoured in a home town newspaper?*
Well, I don’t know how many people vote for that stuff, but it was a
readers poll, not a staff pick poll. On one hand, it’s much more important
to be awarded by the people than a bunch of hipster douche journalists. On
the other hand, the Reader seems to have an axe to grind with me and my
friends and absolutely refuses to cover our shows, review our records or
have anything to do with the Lawrence Arms, the Falcon, Red Scare, the
Wandering Birds and even for the most part Fat Wreck Chords. So, whatever.
I’m glad I hijacked their dumb reader poll.
*Someone once told me, in a drunken conversation, that you weren’t really
a big fan of playing U.K. shows. Is this true? Having you over here
doesseem to be a rare occurrence”Â¦
I love the UK. I just used to get burnt out playing long European tours
because I don’t really know anyone and I start to get lonely. Now, I have a
lot more friends (especially in the UK) and I’m excited to come back for
*Finally, and sorry to bring this up as I’m sure it has been done to death
in interviews. But Laura Jane Grace is a very close friend of yours (she
showed me the ‘B’ you tattooed on her arm…don’t quit ya day job, dude
:P). Did you know about the whole thing prior to the, for want of a better
word, outing? How do you think this will effect Against Me!’s fan base?*
I did know, actually. Tom told me about his desire to live as a woman about 2 years ago after I did an interview with him where I asked him point blank about the recurring subject of gender confusion in his lyrics. We never really discussed it again and next time it came up, I was talking to Laura. I don’t know what’s gonna happen with Against Me! and their fans, but I will say that having seen them when they recently stopped through Chicago, Laura is WAY better at what she does than Tom ever was. I can’t wait for their new record.
Thank you very much, Brendan. Hopefully you’ll be in the U.K. again very
Thanks, dude. It’s a huge help. Sorry I couldn’t be there in person in
Manchester. Damn panic attacks got the best of me.
Toby, thank you for arranging this all.
Lot of thank you’s. Time for some drinks.