Lagwagon's Fountain of Youth

Lagwagon's Fountain of Youth
"Hello, welcome to the show, thought we'd broke up years ago," sings Joey Cape on "Falling Apart." It's the band's ode to aging punk rockers and it's almost as much ironic self-fulfilling prophecy as it is hysterical self-parody. The reason? It's been four years since the 'Wagon last graced us with a record of new material and in the punk rock world, that's long enough to lead many to wonder if they had indeed packed it in.

While relaxing in his Santa Barbara crib on the eve of the release of his band's sixth album, Blaze, Cape explains that despite the lack of new studio material (a compilation of outtakes and curiosities was released in 2000), Lagwagon has been a going concern in the intervening years. Sort of.

"We've existed, we've toured quite a bit here and there, less than normal because we haven't had a new release," he says. "It really boils down to this. We weren't ready to make a new record and there was a real chemistry breakdown in our band for a while. Every time we recorded, it just sucked and I didn't want to put it out. It was like we lost our soul, as cliché and cheesy as that sounds, but it's true."

But last year, while spending time as part of the annual punk rock summer camp experience known as the Warped Tour, that changed. "Something happened on the Warped Tour and we started to have really good shows on the East Coast and the chemistry came back," Cape recalls. "I don't think Lagwagon was there for a while but something clicked on the tour and we were playing well. We were really anxious to get back and record. I wrote a lot on that tour and toward the end had written most of the record. When we got home the record came together. Whether the record is better than the stuff we've recorded before I don't know, but it seems for us the quality level is higher because it came more naturally and that's what needs to happen in a band."

But beyond the intangible return of the chemistry, Cape says the cathartic experience of recording two albums with his experimental, pseudo-prog-rock side project, Bad Astronaut, allowed him to "exorcise the demons" both musical and otherwise and clear his head for a new Lagwagon disc.

And while he's the chief songwriter, he calls Blaze a true band effort that finds them four years older, wiser and more musically adventurous. Songs on the record touch on the typical SoCal melodic hardcore themes of love and loss, but it also finds Lagwagon at its most political — taking pot shots at the American over-reaction to terrorist attacks on "Dividers" — and self-deprecating like on "Falling Apart." It was the last song completed for the album, and the lyrics that chronicle the trials and tribulations of aging punk rockers were written as a collaborative effort. While sitting around in the recording studio, the guys just started brainstorming and out it came. "Ten years ago it was appropriate for me to be jumping up and down on stage and running around," Cape admits. "I'm 36, the guys in my band are in their 30s too. It's a joke. We're not that old, obviously, but I do have a blown out knee and I do have back problems. We've toured with bands who are all over the stage and even when we look into audience, sometimes you just feel a little bit old."