Recently, I was fortunate enough to have the chance to catch up with Brendan and Chris of The Lawrence Arms before they got into costume for one of their Halloween shows on November 1st at The Metro in their home town of Chicago. Brendan (bass and vocals) and Chris (guitar and vocals) proved to be fun guys with extremely great senses of humor, though their drummer, Neil, didn’t make an appearance until after our interview had come to its conclusion. I was pleased to discover how cool they all were in person. Many of The Lawrence Arms’ song lyrics relate to how much people from Chicago like to drink, so I wasn’t too surprised to see the large box of iced beers be brought into the room for them. The latest album released by this Chicago punk band is entitled Apathy and Exhaustion and their amazing onstage performance was greatly energetic.
Kat: How did you three originally come together to form a band?
Brendan:One fine February we were sitting around, bored, and Neil called me and said, “Hey, let’s have a band,” and I said, “Sounds good”. We went and practiced. The next day I called up Chris, who was actually my roommate, so it was more like, “Hey Chris!” You know, I was calling him from across the room. And I said, “Me and Neil play some music and you should come down and play some music with us,” and he said, “Okay,” because he wasn’t doing shit. So, then we just started playing, in the basement, and that’s basically the story. It’s not as exciting as some of the fake versions I have told in the past, but it gets the job done.
Kat: Why do you call yourselves “The Lawrence Arms”?
Chris: At the time this was going on, we lived in a building, and the building happened to be called the Lawrence Arms…or at least it happened at one point.
Brendan: It was on our lease, it said the Lawrence Arms as our building. We lived there, it was a cool apartment where everybody used to go and hang out on the Lawrence Avenue.
How long ago was it?
Brendan: That would be three years ago.
Brendan: Four years ago perhaps. Yeah, I guess I’m 26 now.
Kat: Your getting old.
Brendan: I’m getting old, man.
Chris: But looking young.
Brendan: Hey! And feeling young!
Kat: What part of Chicago are you from?
Chris: We’re from right around here (Northside of Chicago) more or less.
Brendan: Both of us grew up probably within a mile of here. Just by the old Metro. As an interesting side note, one of the first concerts I ever attended was here at The Metro, The Dead Milkmen.
Chris: One of the first (punk rock) concerts I ever attended was at Medusa’s, not far from here, Bad Religion.
Brendan: That’s true too, oh! I remember that was so exciting. Bad Religion at Medusa’s with Life Sentence. Somebody threw a bottle at the guy from Life Sentence, and he goes “Go ahead”.
Kat: Who were your idols or greatest influences?
Chris: Brendan’s one of my idols and [one of] my greatest influences.
Brendan: So very true. Growing up I thought everybody in a band was just so cool. Especially anybody who lived in Chicago and went to shows in Chicago. Punk rock bands, they’re all a joke now. It didn’t even matter, I mean we had our favorite bands and shit, I mean it could be a band like Bad Religion, which is one of our favorite bands, or it could be just some band that fucking sucked.
Chris: A horrible, horrible band.
Brendan: But it was awesome.
Kat: A lot of it has to do with the audience.
Brendan: The thing is, for us I think, and we’ve been best friends since we were little kids, and I speak for the both of us when, in haste, it was just the whole idea of the culture of punk rock was just the coolest thing in the world. When we were little kids it didn’t even matter if you were good at it, bad at it, if you were doing it, it was just the awesomest thing in the world. I guess we were young and naïve then. I think the scene’s very different now, I don’t think kids have that same mentality anymore. I think now the kids are a lot more savvy, their tastes are more refined. Now I don’t think bad bands fly with the kids the way they used to.
Who are some bad bands?
I won’t talk about that. I get a lot of trouble saying what bands I think are bad.
Chris: Most bands are bad.
Brendan: I mean, fuck, we’re terrible.
Who is your favorite band now?
Chris: New band, I don’t know, but the band I just discovered, or we just discovered, Cursive.
Brendan: An amazing band.
Chris: One of my favorite new bands. New to me, old perhaps to other people.
Brendan: Dillinger Four is another band I love as well. Not that they’re a new band, they’ve been around for ten years or something.
Kat: If you could play a show with any band, alive or dead, together or apart, who would it be?
Brendan: Marley and the Wailers.
Chris: Good one.
Brendan: For sure. Probably get our asses kicked though. Yeah, I would love Bob Marley and the Wailers.
Chris: You don’t think we’d get our asses kicked there?
Brendan: These are high on love. And drugs. I mean there are so many good ones. Like ones that are doing back flips for the crowd and shit.
Kat: Have you considered learning some back flips?
Brendan: No, man.
Chris: I know how to do backflips.
Brendan: Chris does back flips only in the privacy of his own home. Back flips have no place in punk rock this day and age.
Kat: Do you believe your musical style has changed at all since you first started playing? If so, how?
Chris: Yes, it probably has. I have gotten progressively gotten happier with what we do, with what we produce. I think our sound has evolved.
Brendan: It’s definitely different now, but it all comes from the same place. The thing is you can say that we’ve slowed down. But we really haven’t because some of our fastest songs we have ever written are on our newest record. It’s just gotten definitely different. We never used to have choruses in our songs, and I think we just experiment with different kinds of song writing. I think our next record is going to sound different. I don’t think any of our records really sound the same. I am happier with everything we’ve done.
Kat: Where do you get the inspiration for some of your songs?
Brendan: Michael Park [of Asian Man Records]-major inspiration for some of our music…I would say [that] Will Smith is the perfect black male.
Kat: Are there any messages that you try to deliver through your music?
Brendan:I think so, but I think it’s gotten a lot more vague over the years because back in the old days, we’d used to write songs that were very specifically about something. We’d be like, this right here is fucking stupid, and we’d sing that in a song. And now, it’s like you really have to delve into it. I think the general theme, at least in my music, is sort of just an idea that happiness in paramount and doing what you want to do and doing what you love to do are the only things that should really be in this life and anybody who tries to stand in the way of that is an asshole. Any institution that stands in the way of that deserves to be destroyed.
Kat: Hey, you’re an existentialist.
Brendan: Well, you know, I do dabble in the philosophical arts every now and then.
Chris: It’s true.
Brendan: For the most part, I just sit around and talk shit on bar stools.
Kat: All right, here’s one I’m sure you don’t get asked too often. Do you know how many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop?
Brendan: One, two-hooo…
Kat: How do you like your place at “Fat Wreck Records” as compared to that you had at “Asian Man Records”?
Chris: It’s awesome, but it’s kind of like we’re on both labels.
Brendan: It’s true.
Kat: Are you signed to both? Or…
Chris: Well, it’s not that we’re really signed to both, its just that we’ve been a part of Asian Man for so long that I think we’re always going to be a part of Asian Man. They’re both really really great, kick ass labels and they’re very similar. It’s really cool.
Kat: I know you’re from Chicago, so I’ve got to ask Sox or Cubs?
Kat: What was your opinion of the whole Napster/Audiogalaxy free music downloads? Did you support the free exchange?
Brendan: It’s fucking stupid.
Chris: Lars can come over to my house and I’ll beat him up because I think he’s a total dip shit.
Brendan: Lars can come over to my house and blow me.
Chris: People who enjoy music and want to buy records are always going to buy records. Regardless. It’s like when they’re talking about publishing online. People are still going to buy books. It sounds better, the stuff you find on the Internet, too. There are so many reasons to buy CDs. The fact is we don’t sell a lot of records anyway. If that’s how it’s going to get out there that’s fine.
Brendan: Fucking aye right it is, I couldn’t agree more.
Kat: So you have a new video out, tell me a little about that.
Brendan: It’s funny.
Chris: It’s a funny video, it’s really really nice looking and everything. Our friend Bob Tronson directed it. It’s been aired on some hilarious stations and stuff. M2V and Much Music up in Canada.
Brendan: MM as we call it in the industry.
Chris: And it was fun, and it’s cool to see it get played and stuff. It’s awesome. Some people hate it, that’s fine, I don’t care. Let me express how much I have to justify the fact that I don’t care.
Brendan: Do you know what’s really funny? As I am struggling over here, as I am sure you guys noticed, what I was doing was I getting my wallet out so I could put this [paper] in it. But you might notice that it is not in my wallet, it’s still here.
Kat: It hasn’t quite made it there yet.
Brendan: No, it’s just that I pulled out the wallet, all my shit got all over the place, I put the wallet back because it was such a chore. Just to get that it felt like I was doing the job I was supposed to be doing. But it wasn’t. I totally fucked up and now I’ve got to do this again.
What do you put in there? [Brendan’s wallet]
Brendan: Collected shit, I clean it out every once and a while. Here’s photos of me and the Roary from American Steel, this is right before we made sweet passionate love.
Kat: Nice, you can see the passion in your eyes.
Brendan: Well actually the top one is right before we made love and the bottom one, I’m glowing afterward.
Kat: Do you have any final words for this interview?
Chris: Brendan-handsome guy, beautiful ass.
Brendan: Very true. I believe I’ll have a beer. It’s a barrel of good times here at team Lawrence Arms, and I hope that that is acutely expressed.
Special thanks to: Vanessa and Fat Wreck Records for making this interview possible The awesome people working at The Metro My interview buddy Justyna who was my protection on the CTA And of course the guys of The Lawrence Arms