After a couple of albums on Asian Man Records, The Lawrence Arms released their second album for Fat Wreck Chords, called "The greatest story ever told". Everyone of you should know this masterpiece. Read below what Chris, singer and guitarist in The Lawrence Arms had to say...
Hey Chris, how are you at the moment and do you have any introduction to start this interview off with?
Hi. I'm Chris. I play guitar and share the vocal duties with BK. I'm faring pretty well. Just got home this morning from tour. I've been driving since about five this morning.
Let's talk a little bit about your latest record "The greatest story ever told" first. I totally love this album by the way, and that's not just words, it's the truth! The first thing I obviously noticed when I got the CD was the whole concept dealing with circus life regarding the cover, layout etc. Who came up with this idea and why did you decide to use this concept?
Well the idea developed as we were working on the record in the studio. Bren and I were starting to pick up on themes in the lyrics. we were both sort of writing in conscious and subconscious ways about the circus, the circus of life, of touring; and it began to dawn on us that we had something more complex and just a lot cooler and more special than just a dozen songs. So we decided to exploit the theme and this is what happened.
Does that circus concept only appear on the cover and the layout of the record or did it also have an influence on your lyrics?
The songs were all written before we came up with the circus idea. What made it interesting was that Brendan and I were dancing around very similar ideas.
Let's go to the extensive footnotes you included to explain certain passages of the lyrics: I think that's a really cool and innovative idea, so how did you come up with this idea? Did you ever think about not to include these footnotes because some people might find out that their interpretations of the lyrics were not right?
The footnotes are 1) not entirely truthful 2) spawned from the idea of including a note in the booklet about how I do a 'wicked Margaret Cho' impression (she is a stand up comic) 3)also kind of was stolen from Stanislaw Lem's book 'A Perfect Vacuum' in which said author presents a series of reviews of non-existent books. Okay, so if that didn't answer it: We thought it would be cool to compile some notes. Then we decided to take it a step further. Exploit the idea. Really blend the literary and the absurd. I think people will realize that the footnotes won't really taint their perceptions of the songs too much.
When I take a look at these footnotes it seems you're pretty interested in literature as there are lots of references to books. So did these books have a direct influence on the way you wrote the lyrics or even on the content of the lyrics or did you just take certain lines from books because you liked these words?
I like to steal. But most of the authors that we reference I think have had a big influence on the way we write and approach writing and all that garbage. Kafka is one of my favorite writers. I've been to his grave in Prague. I have a big poster of a statue of him in my living room. It's just something that is part of who we are. These writers are a part of me.
Instead of using your real names, there are fake names on the record. Now I'm pretty sure I know who that Gordon Shumway is (ALF, right?), and Magellan also doesn't sound that unfamiliar to me, but who is Ivan Nikolayevich? I think I should know that, but it doesn't come to my mind who that is. Why did you use these names?
Magellen is a famous explorer (Yep - Stefan). Thinks 'Straits of.. . '. Ivan is the 'poet homeless' who is a character in the book "Master and Margarita" (featured in the footnotes).
There are also lots of additional musicians on the record. Who are those people, where do you know them from, do they play in other bands and what was their part on this album?
You'd probably be surprised to find out who all those names are. That being said they are all our good friends and without them there's no record.
I was very happy to see that "Catcher in the rye" reference in your lyrics, so do you also like that book as much as I do? I'm 28 now but I still like it a lot, maybe I'm still growing up, who knows? What are your feelings concerning this particular book?
It's a great book. Holden thinks things are dumb and crumby and lousy. He's also convinced that most everybody is a phony. The older I get the more I understand Holden and understand why at some point everyone has to kill the Holden Caulfield that lives inside them.
To be honest, before "The greatest story..." I only knew your previous record which also came out on Fat Wreck, but I know that you already did some more records for Asian Man Records before. Please give me a summary of those early days of the band. How would you describe the evolution the band has made since the beginning?
Two full lengths on Asian Man. Came out real fast. We've evolved a lot since then. We've toured a ton. We've just become better at doing what we do and we just try to take risks. It's a long sordid drunken story that ends up here and starts in a crumby lousy apartment surrounded by a world full of phonies (Seems like he really enjoys "Catcher in the rye" a lot, but who doesn't? - Stefan).
In a couple of weeks you're coming to Europe again. I'm pretty sure you have been to Europe before, right? How many times exactly? What do you expect from this upcoming tour in comparison to the last one(s)?
This will be our fourth time. I expect to have a fucking amazing time. Maybe lose my mind a little. Who knows how the tour will be. I'm very excited.
Did you already write some new songs and if so, will you play some of them on the tour?
We made a tune for the "Against Bush" comp. No new tunes. We're looking forward to playing stuff off the new record.
These days it's no real surprise anymore if a band from the Punk or Emo scene gets signed by a major label (e.g. Jimmy Eat World, A.F.I., Saves the Day, and much more). Did you ever discuss with the other guys in the band if you would sign to a major? I mean it seems that it's not such a big problem for the Punk scene anymore if a band signs to a major, but would there be any other reasons for you not to go to a major label?
There are a ton of reasons not to go to a major. I guess maybe sometimes there are reasons to go to a major. We don't really think in those terms though. We want to keep doing what we're doing in a way that's comfortable for us. So wherever that leads us is fine. It's not like we sit around and discuss the options of a major. Frankly I don't think there's a major out there that wants anything to do with us. And fuck, man, maybe the feeling is mutual.
In other interviews I often read that the interviewer wants to know the five all time fave records of the person he's interviewing. I couldn't name only five records, maybe five per genre, so I decided not to ask you that question. Instead I want to know which five albums you hate the most, haha! Please give a short explanation why that is the case. If you want to you can name more than five as there's so much crap around :-)
There's so many bad records I can't even begin. Anything by Extreme (Why? Didn't you like "More than words, haha? - Stefan). The Darkness (this is crap. A la 38 Special) (Yeah right, The Darkness is just a big bunch of bullshit. Forget the hype! - Stefan). I'm gonna stop there. Trust me, I hate a lot of music. It's killing my brain.
Ok, I guess we're at the end of this interview. Did you like it and do you have anything to add?
Terrific. splendid (Wow, thanks. Or are you just making fun of me? - Stefan). I liked it very much. Well done (on your part at least). Sorry if my answers are stupid or winded. I'm pretty delirious. See ya'll in April. Peace. Chris.