Radio Take Over's Interview with Chris Conley
Interview with Chris Conley
Radio Take Over Interview with Saves the Day
//rto: hey chris, first off why don't you just introduce yourself for me and tell me a little bit about what you do.
chris: my name's chris conley. i sing and play guitar for saves the day. we are currently out on tour with taking back sunday and moneen. we've been out for about nine and a half weeks now. (laughs).
//rto: yes, you guys have been busy boys. like you just said, you're here with taking back sunday and moneen tonight. how's the tour going so far?
chris: this has been the best tour ever for us. all the bands are really excited to be on the tour and everyone seems like they feel fairly lucky to be here. so there are good vibes, there's good state of mind. no one's complaining - no negativity. fortunately it's really been a fun tour. it's awesome & the crowds have been amazing. i've been astonished every night.
//rto: yeah, that's excellent that you guys get along so well.
chris: yeah, on a long tour, it's amazing.
//rto: have there been any horror stories so far? i know the guys from moneen can get pretty creative with van and bus destruction.
chris: well, the only destructive thing on our tour was in norfolk, virginia. we played a club that had a hot tub in the back stage and people were just pouring alcohol in the hot tub - and chips and salsa. it was not good. (laughs)
chris: not good & chips and salsa in a hot tub. i was like, ?¨ew, someone brought chips and salsa to the hot tub. what the hell??Æ and then that was it.
//rto: i'd hate to be the guy who had to clean that.
chris: yeah, not so fun.
//rto: right now you guys are out supporting ?¨in reverie,?Æ the new album out last september. a lot of things are different on this record since the last time we caught up with you. how's the record been received so far?
chris: at the shows people have been very receptive and they seem to enjoy themselves when we play the songs. they seem to know the words and we get a very good response from them. but & as with every album we put out & because it's so different from the last one, it's hard for people to adjust. there's a portion of our audience that doesn't like it and it probably won't grow on them & which is fine. i understand that. we're growing as a band and some people will continue to evolve with us and some people will go in a different direction. that's something that's their thing to do.
//rto: for sure. is that something you're conscious of when you're in the studio, the audience's reaction?
chris: well, fortunately, the changes happen on their own, so it's never a deliberate change. it's never as if we're trying to make a conscious change and then when people don't react well say, ?¨aw, what did we do this for??Æ we really play the music that we love and we make the music we want to make. when people don't necessarily understand it right away, it is frustrating, but it's also understandable. and that's the way we'll always do it. we love just finding the way the songs want to go, because we don't sit there and write the songs, it's more like i wait for a melody to come into my brain from out of nowhere. there's never any guilt that way, because we didn't do it deliberately. there is an anxiety about how people will receive it, but it's very low on the radar. it can't be something we pull our hair out about. like, i'll wonder & i'll wonder what people will think of this, but it will never make it so that i'm too afraid to go into the studio or whatever.
//rto: obviously that's a good thing. something that's stayed the same with this album is that you guys worked with rob schnapf again to produce.
//rto: what brought all that to fruition?
chris: we liked working with him a lot last time and we learned a lot from him. we knew things were cool and very relaxed. it wasn't like we had some stern guy driving us into the night. we wouldn't work well with that & we're not big on really bad people. rob, he just works well us and the chemistry is good. he's just brilliant & i love working with him
//rto: that's lots of praise, but it sounds well earned.
chris: oh yeah, and i have way more for him! i could write a book about rob.
//rto: wow, good stuff. now, on this record, you're back playing guitar. that's something that's been very different for you on this tour. how does that make the live show for you personally?
chris: i'm a lot more relaxed onstage. it feels more natural and i'm much more comfortable & i don't feel i have to shake my ass for no reason. (laughs). it's nice to be playing guitar.
//rto: sure. as you mentioned earlier, on this cd your singing's a little different. i've read you mention that when (jawbreaker's) ?¨dear you?Æ first came out, blake schwarzenbach did the same thing. tell me a little about that.
chris: well, at first when ?¨dear you?Æ came out & that was their last album & i was a huge fan of jawbreaker and he's singing different and it just sounded different. i was really pissed off and i hated the record. six months later it was my favourite record, but not at first. so i understand that people will have different reactions to our new music & especially because the singing is more relaxed. it's fresher and not as strained. it just sounds calmer. i feel more comfortable singing like that. it happened because we played so many shows that i had to figure out the right way to perform without throwing my voice out every night, straining to hit the notes. i just had to practice for a while, with this more natural delivery.
//rto: well, the stuff sounds good, that's for sure. at first it was a little bit noticeable, but now it's just as good as everything else.
chris: yeah, well thanks.
//rto: also obvious to anyone who's known the band a long time is that brian (newman, drummer) and ted (alexander, guitarist) aren't with the band anymore. i'm wondering if you can tell us the story behind what motivated that change?
chris: well, it wasn't fulfilling for them. for different reasons, i think, for each of them, but they weren't happy playing music anymore and they weren't happy being on tour. it wasn't really a happy situation for anybody. fortunately now, they're much better off and a lot happier doing what they're doing now and we're better off as a band.
//rto: did family motivations play a part in that?
chris: it was more just deep fulfillment and they weren't getting it. this just wasn't doing it for them.
//rto: with brian in particular, so much of the last album had his touch on it in terms of photographs and the album design. where did the album design come from this time?
chris: we met this guy in london when we were touring there named stephan doitschinoff - he's the one that did the artwork - and he's a brazilian-german artist working in london and we went to a gallery one day to check out his art. we really like his stuff and we asked him if he had ever done any band stuff and he had done a couple other layouts. so we asked him if he wanted to do ours and he was very interested. we sent him the lyrics and he sent back all the illustrations. he was phenomenal.
//rto: was the art you used the first draft he sent you?
chris: yeah. like, i sent him the lyrics and i wrote him my thoughts on the album and what it's really about and he came up with all the art.
//rto: wow, that's pretty impressive that you'd hit it off so well.
chris: yeah, exactly.
//rto: going back to changes in the band, how has pete (parada, drummer) fit in taking over the drumming?
chris: pete is such a joy to be with. he has a lot of experience coming into the band and he has a much different perspective on things. he's been in much different situations than we have and he has an older, more accessible way of looking at things, which is really beneficial. musically it's really brought the entire band together. i mean, everything's such a snap because playing with pete is a blessing. he's really the best of the best in my opinion. his talent just blows my mind and he's very unassuming. he plays stuff that sounds simple, and it's very relaxed and he's just very simple in his groove. but when you really look into it, he's on the dime. he's really, really talented.
//rto: wow, again & lofty praise. from your perspective what does he bring to the live show?
chris: because he's confident, there's always a strong groove. every night it's like that & there's never any fluctuations. it's always steady as a rock.
//rto: touring has brought some hard times for you & things that are just out of the ordinary. in particular, in wisconsin you got in a car crash. for people that don't know the story, maybe you could tell me a bit about that.
chris: yeah, i was waking up & i was sleeping in the back of the van & i woke up, david (soloway, guitarist) was screaming. i felt the van slipping across the ice on the road. it happened in a split-second. we went off the road, flipped over and landed on our wheels and we were all alive. i woke up thinking i was going to die. luckily we had gotten stopped, but david had gotten thrown into the windshield and propelled back into the steering wheel. that knocked his teeth in. they got pushed up into his gums. we didn't find that out until later. we thought his teeth had all just broken off and after the x-ray we found out that they were actually stuck up in his mouth. his nose was severely broken and he's had to have several correctional surgeries.
//rto: oh, god. plastic surgery?
chris: yeah, i forget the exact words they used for correctional but he had to go back like six times until they got it all whacked out.
//rto: and you broke your collarbone?
chris: yeah, i broke my collarbone and we spent a week in wisconsin trying to recover and then we went back out on the road. we only missed like five or six shows, which was cool. we were happy about it. then when we went back to playing i had a cast on or a sling. and ted had hurt his hand moshing that night & the night we went he had broken his hand moshing to kill your idols so he ended up riding in the bus that night with h2o & the night we got in the accident. brian, our drummer, went on the bus with ted, so ted didn't have to be all by himself on h2o's bus that night. our van had gotten towed that night, so we had to go and get it out of the impound and pay the $200 to get out of the thing. we started driving, i fell asleep, we crashed, went to the emergency room on a flat bed with neck support. it was intense, a very intense experience.
//rto: given the existentialist nature of many of your songs, how did you handle that once you had gotten some perspective on it?
chris: there actually isn't a lot of perspective going through that. i think that crystallized that part of my mind that was always wondering about life and thought about life in an existential way. it drove my mind all the way there. it was like i woke up & and i was going to die. i think, fortunately, it allowed me to look at life in its basic emotions. like, as a series of vibrations. if you really close your eyes and feel what it's like to feel alive, it feels like humming - if you really spend the time in focus. you open your eyes and it looks like this & there are cars and there's the moon and there's planets out there and there's stars and there's ever-expanding space. and it sounds like this, and it feels like this, and it tastes like this. there's all of this. i used to stay up thinking about it, about the universe and travelling way out in distant space in my mind. i used to wonder about the universe and how did it start? like, where did it come from? why are we here?
i used to think about it a lot and then having the experience of almost dying & like, ?¨why am i here??Æ it reignited that wonder. it's a huge part of the person i am today, being in that accident and going through that experience.
//rto: wow, chris. that's excellent that you can take that outlook on it. a lot of people wouldn't look at it like that.
chris: oh yeah, yeah. our van was completely totalled, david was messed up, i was in serious pain. like, it wasn't a good thing, but for some reason that's what i got out of it & this reaffirming thing.
//rto: that's incredibly impressive. another casualty of touring for you occurred on the weezer tour when your crohn's disease started acting up really badly. how hard was it for you to keep going?
chris: that was hard. i was on steroids at the time and they just play with your nerves. it just happened to be a more down time in my life, so the steroids accentuated it. my health was really bad and we were playing arenas that we had never done before, and it was like playing to a black hole. there was no audience there & you can't see them, you don't know that they're there. it was really different. we had fill-in drummers and it was just a weird time for the band and ted was feeling more and more unsatisfied everyday. he was vocal about it, which was hard. (this bus) is our home and on that tour there were 12 people on one bus and you can't get away from everybody. you really do live with everybody else there, every moment of the day. it's weird because even brothers and sisters don't spend this much time together. we were there for ten weeks, plus the three weeks before. we were there for a shit-ass long time. it was crazy and on that weezer tour it was hard getting up on stage every night and trying to sing while i was just in a bad place.
it wasn't the right place. i feel like the songs we play are the equivalent to the blues for me & i sing it to get it off my chest and i couldn't even do that. even if i feel shitty and i sing the songs, it makes me feel better to get it out. but it was painful getting onstage. but a lot of these songs came out of that period.
//rto: for people that don't know, because there's not a lot of awareness out there about crohn's, what changes are in someone's life? how long have you known?
chris: i've known since i was 15 or 16. for different people it's worse. i've talked to a lot of people who have been hospitalized from it a number of times. i've never been in the hospital because of it. i've never been to the point where i can't eat or control my body, but i do know people it gets that bad for.
for me, the whole time we've been touring i've had it and it goes through waves. sometimes it's really bad, but on this tour it's been fine the entire time. knock on wood. (laughs). but there have been so many times & especially in the van & where it's been so hard to make it to the rest stop and get to the hotel and make it to the hotel running down the hall with shit streaming down my legs, running to the hotel room. it's humbling. i can talk about it because it stopped being embarrassing when i started shitting my pants in front of people. there's nothing you can do about it, so i'll try and find it funny. and it is funny. well, it's funny and not funny. you have to take it with a grain of salt, because if i really think about it, it's like, ?¨oh god. my body can't really digest things. am i going to die??Æ i don't want to think about it, so i just try to make light of it.
//rto: that's a brave outlook to take.
chris: well, i try. it's gotten to the point where it's very intrusive, but i try to get through it. i always work on my diet to get through it. that's why i don't eat shit, any of the crap food there is around. my body's really sensitive.
//rto: that's obviously not too easy when you're on tour.
chris: oh, it's impossible when there's nothing but cookies around everywhere. cookies and sugary cereals and stuff & it's just bad.
//rto: on a bit of a lighter note, on halloween this tour ran through dallas and you guys dressed up as the wizard of oz. did they take that the right way in texas?
chris: it worked out. most people thought it was funny. i guess i got a few stares from dudes who couldn't take it, who had issues with me being dressed up as dorothy. But i was dorothy and i looked good.
chris: (laughs). it was good. it wasn't anywhere near one of those texas-sheriff towns, so people thought it was funny. but there were definitely a few dudes who were like, ?¨what's wrong with that guy??Æ this was like the dude at the bar, who just couldn't take it. it was fun.
//rto: the first single off this album is called ?´anywhere with you.' it's based around a lullaby. written to anyone in particular?
chris: yeah, it was for a friend's sister's newborn baby, eli. i wrote this lullaby, recorded it, sent it off and one day i was playing the chords to myself and the were really pretty. them all of a sudden, it went from lullaby to freaked-up in like five minutes. i was just playing with the idea and it happened.
//rto: now, there's an acoustic version of it that comes up with the enhanced features on the cd. is that something you're going to put together with other rare material some day?
chris: yeah, we're going to make a b-sides record eventually, just to put every we've ever done on something. all the oddities and stuff & there's a lot out there. there's a lot of random songs, so eventually people will be able to get it all on one cd.
//rto: are you still playing ?´i melt with you' at the shows?
chris: ah, modern english. no, we've only played that three or four times way back like five years ago.
//rto: another one of the news songs is called ?´wednesday the third,' and it's about sticking it to the man. why don't you tell me a little more about that.
chris: i would say the song ?´monkey,' is about realizing the extent of your conditioning. how society and the establishment weighs down on your mind and i'd say ?´wednesday the third,' is giving the establishment the finger.
//rto: i've also read that you guys would like to have a monkey on the bus.
chris: yeah! a touring monkey would be awesome! (laughs).
//rto: you guys got on jimmy kimmel with this record and you were on conan o'brien with the last one. which one was more fun?
chris: jimmy kimmel was really fun because he's such a normal guy and we went into his dressing room and we were hanging out. he was pouring us drinks, stuff like that & like a normal dude just shooting the shit. craig kilborn we never even saw with our own two eyes and conan, he's this big star so he didn't have very much time. we talked to him & he introduced himself and we talked about the simpsons and he was really nice. but it wasn't like hanging out whereas with jimmy kimmel, we were hanging out and it was cool.
//rto: after you put out "stay what you are," you started getting serious attention from the majors. how was it that you ended up signing to dreamworks?
chris: it felt like the right home. they were still an independent label, but had lots of money. they weren't owned by stockholders even though they're not technically an independent. they just had a good vision and they like working with musicians and artists. it just seems a little more artistically oriented. they were really there to nurture a band. that's what they believe in.
//rto: ok, cool. just to wrap up here, how do you feel about the website emogame.com?
chris: i think it's funny! i saw it once & i played and i was the virgin who was to be sacrificed to the devil or something. i played as an alkaline trio dude & i played as either matt or dan & and i defeated hitler and unlocked me. i was the virgin being sacrificed. it was hilarious. so i unlocked me and then you can play as me and it was just fun. i got a kick out of how they made my character & how i was the virgin who had never touched a boob or anything.
//rto: oh no.
chris: i thought that was amazing. so funny.
//rto: that's cool. i'm glad to hear you've checked that out. everybody asks what you're listening to, how about you give me a singular album that i should hear?
chris: ok, al green & "let's stay together." i just listen to it from beginning to end. it's phenomenal. i have an ipod with thousands and thousands of songs and lots of albums and i probably listen to it every day. i listen to a very broad mix of music.
//rto: i think you can hear that in the music you play.
chris: yeah. you know who's really cool if you're into the indie/rock thing? archers of loaf. there's an album out there called "icky mettle." that wore i literally wore the label off the cd when i was 15 because i listened to it so much. you couldn't make it play anymore. that is the real thing & amazing songs.
//rto: just to wrap up, how about some parting shots or final words of wisdom?
chris: i always like to thank the people coming out to the shows. i'd just like to say thank you for listening to the music. i'm not sure people understand how important they are as the audience. to us the audience is equally as important as the band. sure you could keep playing the music if no one listened, but you wouldn't be able to continue, to carry on, if people didn't listen to us and come out and support us and listen to the albums and enjoy the music. there would be no point and we physically couldn't do it. so i always like to let the people who listen to us know how important they are to us. that's how we see it.