Some Photography's Interview with Chris Conley

Some Photography
Interview with Chris Conley

Saves the Day: An Interview With Chris Conley

by Tim Garso from

Some Photography

Nov 2005

So Chris, how's the tour going so far?

It's been really fun. Good people.

So, it's kind of like a Vagrant tour almost, with ? of the bands all on the record label

Well, we're not on Vagrant anymore, but we were. It is kind of semi-Vagrant, huh?

The new album, you're all finished recording it, right?

Yeah.

You guys don't have a label yet, correct?

Right, yeah, we're in between labels, we're kind of free agents at the moment.

Any progress, any leads, maybe a major?

Not yet, not yet, we're not sure. We're waiting to hear what people think.

Manny, of GlassJAw is playing bass on this tour, and also he did his own bass lines on the album, right?

Yeah, he played the bass on the album.

Are there any plans for him to become a permanent fixture in the band, or is there someone else lined up for after this tour?

Well, we're kind of leaving it up to him, and see if he wants to do this. He's got so many options, he's really talented, so he could play with pretty much anybody he wanted. That would be pretty neat though.

You've been playing out some of the new songs on the tour. How do fans seem to be receiving them?

They seem pretty excited I think.

Could you draw a parallel from the new record to any of the older ones you've released?

Like how people receive it, or do you mean in general?

Well, in sound.

I'd say it's pretty...like...it's pretty you know...sounds like Saves The Day, but each of our records change so doesn't really mean that much. It just has some kind of crucial core sound that we've always had; I don't know what it is. But it's pretty rocking. It's new stuff but it's still us.

You guys recently did a cover of the Dead Boys' "Sonic Reducer" for the new Tony Hawk game. When I was listening to it, there seems to be a rawness and an energy in your voice that seems pretty reminiscent of the "Through Being Cool" and "Can't Slow Down" days. Is that maybe an indicator of how the new record will sound?

It won't sound like that, because I was trying to sing aggressively just to be true to the original song, and so it's definitely a different kind of style than I'm used to. But the new record is, I don't know, I guess it's in the belting range, kind of belting it out. But it's not really screamy like that.

I know in the liner notes for the B-sides album you said that some of the early songs in the band's catalogue are more fictitious, for lack of a better word, that they're not really drawn from true life experiences. Would you say the contents of your new songs are more from actual happenings in your life?

I think what gets misinterpreted by what I said is that rather than the stuff is all made up it's that the feelings are very real. And rather than write "I am sad", I'll write whatever, some kind of disgusting and disturbing image to describe how I feel. So it's extremely real, you know, it's all very real but the images are more poetic. If I write about a Nick or a Holly Hox...holly hox is a type of flower, so are forget-me-nots. So it's made up kind of happenings, but it's extremely real, the emotions are very real and the images come out of the emotions. It's like the emotions inspire these kind of sick thoughts and then that's what I write. So the new stuff's the same, like that style.

Let's talk about "In Reverie" for a minute. Whether unfair or not, and I personally feel unfair, that album wasn't exactly received as well as some of your previous albums. Has that criticism from your hardcore fan base affected how you wrote the new songs and recorded them?

Oh, hell no.

Just staying true to yourself then?

That's what we do. I think that's what we need to do because if we were compliant and tried to change ourselves for our fans or a potential fan base, then it'd be meaningless.

Sonically, Saves The Day has constantly evolved, always changing from record to record. You were most successful in your "Stay What You Are" days. I read an article with you from a couple years ago when "In Reverie" came out that you said one of the reasons for the drastic change from SWYA to IR was the sudden emergence of a squillion SWYA-like albums, but also had to do, of course, with the band itself maturing. Has the current landscape of the music scene helped shape your record at all?

I don't remember saying anything like that, that other records out there made us make a different record...

Well, not so much that, but it was like, you guys already made SWYA and you didn't need to add to that SWYA madness.

Right, and I think that's just how it is with each record for us. It would feel redundant and it would feel lifeless if we were trying to do the same thing.

So, as always, with the internet there are always rumors. Can you shed any light that the new record will have a West Coast-bluegrass-house-metal flavour and maybe the next tour will feature Ted Nugent and the North Ontario G-Unit All Stars?

Yes, actually, there is rapping, and I do the human beat box thing, and the record starts out with a trombone that was actually played by a goat. It's different; it's all over the place.

Your last record was put out by DreamWorks. When bands like AFI and the All-American Rejects signed to DreamWorks their careers just took off, and there was some speculation that with the talent you guys were bringing to the table that that could quite feasibly happen to you too. It did not, but would you say you are pretty happy with your current place in the music world?

Hell yeah. I love where we are, because we just get to do our thing and if people don't like it then they don't like it. We're able to keep going.

Yeah, you've played arena tours and huge festivals, but then you've done those tiny venues from your early roots and then House of Blues, some pretty good size venues. What's your favourite crowd size?

I like this kind of venue, I love playing the House of Blues, like the medium capacity...I guess it's not even medium, kind of smaller range like 1200 people. That's perfect for me.

Right now, what bands do you really find innovating or impressive?

Like current bands?

Well, current, but also what inspires you.

I love the Bad Brains. They blow my mind. But new bands, I really like Emanuel, these guys playing right now [note: they're sound checking in the background]. That was my choice to have them on the tour. I don't know, I have a hard time talking about new music. I think something needs to happen; it needs a little bit more life.

Yeah, it seems once one band puts out something that seems to really grab the attention of the mass media, all these bands want to mimic and copy that. That's one of the things I've always liked about you guys, you've never played to a specific audience, and with each record it's a major change.

Oh, you know who I really like these days is Ween. They're currently out there, they're not like an old band or anything. But they just do their own thing; they're fearless; they make the records they want to make. To hell with anyone who doesn't like it. You know that sort of thing. I love them.

Last fall, you guys were supportive of the John Kerry campaign, raising funds for him at one of your shows. How do you feel President Bush is doing in his second term?

[pause] If the shit never hit the fan, you wouldn't realize how bad it stinks.

Did you find it at all odd that a lot of bands last fall went from an album full of teenage angst and love songs, and not really caring anything about world events, to only talking about the election? Do you attribute that a lot of bands feeling urgency for the past election or maybe just trying to capitalize on the moment via punkvoter and the like?

Oh, I don't think it was really like a conscious decision by bands. I think it was just you can't help but feel the weight of it. You know, shit's fucked. So there are bigger things than boy-meets-girl and stuff.

Right. It was nice to see a lot of bands trying to educate their fans but sometimes you wonder were their hearts really in it or was it just "Hey, they're doing it so I need to also".

I don't think so. I mean, I don't know, I can't speculate for other bands.

I know your music hasn't been overtly political or anything, but you've always had that slightly philosophical edge. You always seem like, you know, there were things you cared about besides the music and the partying after the shows and stuff.

Yeah. It's never been about that stuff for us.

Ok, if forced to vote for one, who would you vote for: George W. Bush or R. Kelly?

R. Kelly dude. That guy is a genius. An evil genius. They're both evil geniuses.

You went back to playing guitar on tour after "In Reverie". Do you feel more comfortable onstage with the guitar?

Oh, way more comfortable. Way more.

Over the past year or so, there has been some talk circling that you might release some sort of solo effort. Are there any such plans?

Really? [laughs] No.

What about a self-help manual? Is that in the works at all?

Self-help? For others or for myself? [laughs] I need to figure shit out for myself before I can do anything like that. No, no ,none of that stuff. Dr. Phil, maybe my next career.

"Stay What You Are" got rave reviews from critics and fans alike. I've heard some different reviewers and press people call it the flag bearer or the leader in what a lot of people now call "emo". Personally, I feel "emo" is a bad term because what's music without the emotion to it. Do you feel that this "emo" business has been detrimental or adversely affected how people view music?

Like, the labeling of it?

Right. <

Well, I think, did labeling "punk" hurt the music? I don't think so. I just think it's easier to organize it in your brain. There are so many different types of music so you've got to be able to sort stuff out.

Over the years, the band has gained and lost several members. You're the only original member, and Dave's been in it from pretty early on. At what point to you feel the band was at its pinnacle? Is the current lineup what you consider the strongest?

I'd say we are currently at our peak, or continuing the upward journey.

Do you care to discuss about Eben at all?

Do you have any questions?

Well, I'm just wondering, because everyone wants to know what happened to Eben, why'd he leave? Was he kicked out? Did he choose to leave? Are things still good with him?

He wasn't on the same page as us musically.

When you first released "Can't Slow Down" and started the band, you guys were just teenagers. At that point, could you see yourself 8 years later doing this?

No, you know, I don't tend to...try to...for some reason I've never...I don't know...I'm just pretty much excited to be where I am, kinda, at each moment. So, I've never really thought too much about down the line. Like, I didn't do the air guitar in the mirror type thing when I was a kid. I wanted to be a football player, so I never dreamt of being a musician. So all of it is just icing on the cake. I feel very blessed and lucky. But I never dreamt it up.

You guys have been touring for many, many years now. You've crossed the country multiple times, you've even played overseas. Are there any areas you particularly enjoy playing?

Australia was pretty fun, it was cool. I like playing in England. I mean, I love touring the states most of all. It's good food.

Your fifth full length is soon to be released, you have an EP and a B-sides album under you belt also. Are there any plans to possibly do a live DVD or a live album anytime soon?

Probably not soon. But potentially, definitely.

Every time I've seen you guys live, you have such an energetic live show. And while the records are really good, the live show seems to capture a whole new level.

Yeah, that's like, the band. You can really see what we're all about. That's us in our essential elements.

You've been a band for 8 solid years now...[Chris shakes head in disbelief]. Yeah, it's been long. Hasn't it been that long?

I think so. ?97, but it was a little earlier than that too.

It's been a long time. 8, 9 years. Almost a decade. In that time, you guys have set some trends, set some standards, and just generally been a force and a big influence to a lot other bands in the industry. What is left for Saves The Day to do?

Rock out. Make music. We just do our thing. It's not like we set out to do what we've done you know, just things have happened along the way. And then in terms of influencing other bands, I think people forget all the other bands that were not recognized before. Like Jawbreaker, and Lifetime, and Sunny Day Real Estate, and Jawbox. You know bands like that. To me those are my heroes; those are the really influential guys. And then I'm sure for them, there were bands way before them that inspired them. So it's a never ending chain of influence.

I know you guys are currently inspiring so many other bands. That's one of the best gifts a musician can pass on, that gift of influence. And finally, I had one question I was requested to ask of you. A friend wanted to know what is your favourite kind of pancake? Are you fruit and nut kind of guy, chocolate chip fan? Or even, do you call them flapjacks or hotcakes?

Paaancakes. I like blueberry pancakes. No nuts though. Definitely not. Phew, I couldn't do nuts.

Alright, well, that's all I had unless you want to add anything else?

I can't think of anything.

Well, thank you very much for your time.

Thank you.

[note: after the recorder was turned off, Chris said something really deep about learning to not be afraid of silence. I wish we had gotten that on tape.]