Published Aug 28, 2008In the world of SoCal pop punk, Santa Barbaras Lagwagon are an institution. Renowned for their quirky, hyperactive, hook-laden songs teeming with tongue-in-cheek humour, Wagon albums such as Double Plaidinum and Lets Talk About Feelings are genre legends, adored years after their initial release. Its the flippant outlook thats so appealing. Realistic and dry, it only gets better with age, exemplified in the title of their latest EP, I Think My Older Brother Used To Listen To Lagwagon (Fat Wreck Chords). Yet while such a moniker would seem self-deprecating and somewhat depressing, front-man Joey Cape is quick to point out that after two decades of wry wit and edgy attack, fans should expect nothing less... or more from himself, guitarists Chris Rest and Chris Flippin, bassist Jesse Buglione and drummer Dave Raun. Gearing up to tour Canada in support of the new EP, Cape chats with Exclaim! about life in an aging punk band, unleashing more of that candid humour.
I hear the Lagwagon line-up are going to be somewhat altered for the upcoming Canadian tour.
Yeah, we have a fill-in guy on guitar for the Canada tour called Scott Shifflet. Our regular guy Chris Flippin cant make it for legal reasons so were gonna rehearse with him and get some chemistry going.
How heavily does a temporary line-up change affect band dynamics?
I dont know. Weve only done it once before. Thats an interesting tale though. Scott is the brother of Chris Shifflet, whos in Me First And The Gimme Gimmes. Scott was in Face To Face and has been playing for the Gimmes for six years too. Years ago, Chris filled in with Lagwagon. Its very incestuous. Now Scotts filling in and his brothers the only other guy whos had to fill in for Flip - its complicated.
Anyway, those Shifflets are unbelievable. I gave Scott the 24 songs he has to know for the Canadian tour and 24 hours later he was playing every one perfectly. Hes on another level. Theyre the guys you want filling in for you. Anyway, well rehearse for four days so itll be fine. They have an older brother Mike that we need to have fill in with us once. Then well have the hat trick. Itll be fun but I dont want Flip to feel bad. Hell be sorely missed... but fuck him! [Laughs]
Sounds like your current status relates to the EP title: I Think My Older Brother Used To Play In Lagwagon.
Yeah! That should be the name of the tour [laughs].
Do you think people appreciate the EP titles humour?
I hope so. Really, its more of an homage to bands that have been around for a long time. Its an obvious inside joke. When youve been around for as many years as us, you know that comment firsthand. Its the lesser of evils from comments you get. You stop at a gas station and hear, "Are you guys in a band? When you tell them the name, thats the direct quote you hear. Weve had it a million times: "I think my older brother used to listen to you guys in high school. Sometimes its worse though: "Yeah, you guys! I had that record you made, and they name your first or second record as if its the only one youve ever made. "Oh, youre back? Yeah...and weve made nine records since that, man. But what are you gonna do?
That sounds somewhat discouraging. Is there any validation you can obtain from instances like that?
For sure. You just have to look at the big picture. You have to remember how fortunate you are to even do this; to be around as long as we have been and make as many records as we have. The majority of people that like our band know us and our records. Were plenty lucky. Thats just one part of it thats funny for us and its getting to be more common. Weve never had a big overnight sensation part of our career. When you dont have that in your career, you get a lot of that sort of thing. The benefits still outweigh that though.
Most overnight sensation bands have a pretty steep career curve while youre pushing 20 years at this. Id assume youd want that over stardom, no?
Yeah. Besides, that life is super-stressful and not real. Most of them admit that when you talk to them: it was crazy and they did amazing things like play Wembley Stadium but then it was gone. Most of them arent the Foo Fighters or R.E.M. Its a quick ride and painful for them. No thanks. Ive never been in a situation where I cant go to the grocery store. Im thankful for that. It doesnt sound fun and I dont care about those venues or experiences. To me, theyre not as memorable as the floors with cockroaches you had to sleep on. We had a lot of down and dirty years that were great. Weve played festivals and been in buses but I wont remember those like I do the darker days. The point is: when youre a band doing the things the way we doand there are a lottheres more consistency to it, less rollercoaster ride. Its easier to keep your integrity and love of music when you do it this way.
Whats the transition in your live show been like over the course of two decades?
Were not nearly as good as we used to be [laughs]. Thats the downside of being a band as long as us: playing the same venues you did 16 years ago. We had a lot of that on the last European tour. Its the same packed club but you look out and realize there are faces there that were at your show back in 92... but youre not onnpar with that 92 show. Youre not kids anymore. Kids have more energy; theyre better. Theres certainly a maturity aspect that comes into play like more soul or better chemistry and things were better at but Im 41. Im not gonna pretend. I cant do the things I did when I was 20. Theres an element of that but the good news is we recognize it and were humble. As long as you have those things, youre alright.
Surely youre given graces for getting older. The fans are older too so they dont want/expect to see 40-somethings acting like kids anymore.
Thats true! Thats good to think about. Ill focus on that. You try to do the best show you can every night and remember people are only coming to that one show even if youve done 20 before it. When youre having a bad show you feel it but were pretty consistent. Were aware of that.
Having said that, do you have any more words of advice for fans coming to these Canadian shows?
Im not gonna bring my wheelchair or my walker to Canada...Im goin for it! [Laughs]