Lawrence Arms Talk the Triumph and Tragedy of 'Metropole'
Published Jan 30, 2014It's been eight years since Chicago punks the Lawrence Arms put out their last album, Oh! Calcutta!, so it only makes sense that their new disc, Metropole, features the sounds of a much more mature band. Sure, it's still loud punk rock, but it's got an undeniable feeling to it that this is punk rock made by men, not boys.
"Until you're 30, you have these huge defining things that happen in your life, that really indicate how much time has passed," bassist/vocalist Brendan Kelly tells Exclaim! "But once you hit 30, it's just smooth sailing until you die [laughs]. The years just start blending together."
Usually, when there's a break between albums that approaches a decade there's been a breakup or two in there, some huge cases of inter-band strife... something... anything. Not in the case of the Lawrence Arms, who just didn't have songs jumping out of them, so they waited until those songs were coming.
"It just wasn't happening, you know what I mean?" says Kelly. "We're not a band to push shit out for the sake of any schedule. We had to have songs that were worth doing, and had to be at least as good as the stuff we'd done in the past. And that just didn't come up. I'd love to have a dramatic story, but it just didn't come up. And when it finally did come up, we thought, 'These are pretty cool songs, let's push this as far as we can.' This was a very natural process, I don't think we rushed it, and I don't really feel like we waited too long, either. We just did it exactly how we were going to do it."
And how they did it worked out just fine — the album a shining example of how great punk rock can be when it's done honestly and with passion, and just enough brains to make it all work. The brains come with age, which goes back to the fact that the album definitely feels more mature than the band's others. And that doesn't mean it's acoustic and coffee shop ready; it just means that you can tell these guys aren't interested in going all rage, all the time anymore.
"The thing is, we are definitely a lot older," says Kelly. "When we set out to make the last record, we were guys in our 20s, and now we're in our mid-30s, late 30s. That's a big difference. There's no way that we're fooling anyone. We're older dudes. I could make some record that is this fast blasting record with these jumps where we all leap together on stage, but how pathetic is that, you know? It's a fucking combover. And the last thing I want is to write a record that's a combover."
Kelly says that even though there was a eight-year gap between albums the band didn't spend all those years writing Metropole, but they did have a lot of "contemplative time in between where we honed a lot of ideas about what is cool and what is acceptable." And part of what the band has come to realize — and it's all over Metropole — is that powerful music hits many different emotional points, not just one.
"The real sweet spot that we try to hit is to have these songs that have triumph and tragedy in the same breath," he says. "The snottier songs have a hint of despair, and some of these more despairing songs need to have a hint of light in them. You can't have total darkness, and you can't have total light."
Which sums up much of life outside of music as well, themes of which circle back into the band's lyrics on the new disc. But Kelly says the band isn't running from getting older, despite the fact that lots of people don't like to accept it.
"The only way to get past what a lot of people perceive as a weakness is to tackle it head on, then you've got the power. That being said, I don't think getting old is a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination," he says. "I don't need to go back."
Metropole is out now on Epitaph. In support of the record, the band have several U.S. dates lined up, and you can see all those here.