Along with being punk’s favorite wise-ass, Brendan Kelly is bass player/vocalist for The Lawrence Arms. He is a father, a writer, a bartender and a musician. His own prolific 20+ years in punk rock display a fertile family tree that includes Slapstick, The Broadways, Falcon, and Wandering Birds. In the downtime, his blog, Bad Sandwich Chronicles is beloved for topics ranging from life as a working musician to a dog’s penis (seriously—it’s hilarious). We chatted up the Chicago native on his love of the beer, touring with Scott Stapp, and the new album Metropole, released last month.
Metropole deals with life in a city and struggles of time. Are you guys renting us an apt in your minds?
The things inspiring our lives are the same things inspiring our lyrics. That’s what I have going for me as a lyricist. I’m not the smartest guy, I don’t’ have the greatest voice, but it’s my particular outlook. So we let our lives become the fodder for a song. I don’t sit down with my kids in my head, it’s just the shit that can come out. It’s much more haphazard. If I write something down and it comes out good—shit! I hold on to that for dear life. I’ll write a hundred songs over the course of a month to be mentally in shape. I have to write every day so I can get through the garbage and reach the good shit. If I’m gong to contribute 50% of the songs to a Lawrence Arms album, I have to write about 250 songs. The most important thing to recognize is that you can’t write a piece of shit song, open a beer and say that it’s good. Being a songwriter is like being a really bad scientist, mixing things. You’ll mix a couple things and it smells terrible … then once something explodes … success!
On Bad Sandwich Chronicles you give great band advice. Genuinely good life advice.
Well I fuckin’ hope so. The way you learn how to do things is by doing them wrong. Many of those things on the band “don’t do” list I’ve definitely done all of those. I’ve only had to be carried once. I learned to not take an Ambien when you’re not in bed.
After an eight year gap in Lawrence records, what are you most stoked about?
I’m excited to hit the road with the new material. I feel really stoked to be able to do this with two guys that I’ve been friends with for so long. When we were doing this album, I was blown away by Chris (McCaughan)’s guitar parts. I like the notion of experimenting with what my voice can do. The last record was very athletic. My voice was one dimensional—a cool dimension—but it was me screaming at the top of my register for thirty minutes. There’s a reality to the fact that you can’t keep that pace forever. Eight years from now, that stuff could be hard to work up the nerve for. There’s objective to stay good and not look like a fuckin’ combover as we get older. Metropolefeels like an album we can play and not feel embarassed as we go on in our career. When I was 16, I was in Slapstick. If I were still playing those ska songs now, it would seem disingenuous. I can’t sing about walking the streets … I’ve got two kids! They’re walking the streets!
The track “Drunk Tweets” resembles previous work.
I think that’s the most incapsulating story of a young brash man. People dismiss it as a dumb song. I went into writing that about a cocksure bullshit dude that fades into a realization that you’re walking the same path of thousands before. Shit, he thinks he’s an iconoclast, but hasn’t heard of Richard Wright, Dostoyevsky, Raskolnikoff. He’s any of these guys and at the end is just self-loathing and dying.
“The YMCA Down the Street From The Clinic” is like a continuation of that character.
It’s like “Tweets” is the dude fucking up at the club or something, and then YMCA is the turnaround. That could be the same guy, that could be .. hahaha, me! Yeah, those songs get pretty dark. Chris and I have always aimed for that sweet spot, where songs are super dark, but have a glimmer of hope. It’s like the yin and the yang, aiming to achieve the sweet spot.
As a bartender, do you have fave beers on the road?
I love local beer as long as it’s not too snooty. So in Texas: Lone Star. Baltimore: Natty Boh. Sam Adams might be a little rich for my blood. I’m more of a Budweiser, Coors, High life dude. I wanna drink what the people are drinking. That’s how I like to roll, it’s a great way to get a conversation going with locals. I’ve done a lot of Midwest brewery tours, where German, drinkable beer comes from. I was born in St Louis and raised in Chicago, those are this things I grew up stealing out of people’s coolers.
As a Chicago man—would you rather eat Cheezits from a dead clown’s hand or New York pizza?
The pizza! I don’t give a fuck about rivalries. I’ll eat that shit all the time. I also eat Chicago style crust pizza. C’mon, gimme a break. I don’t want to eat anything from a dead clown’s hand. It’s like would you rather blow a dog with a perfect, beautiful, human penis or a dude with a dog penis? What’s stopping me from blowing a dog’s penis is not the ugliness of their penis. It’s fucking insane.
Would you play Warped Tour again or open for Creed?
That was would be a fuckin’ awesome time, I’d open for Creed! I’d take pictures with Scott Stapp, drink beers with Scott Stapp, I’d run on stage with them. We’ve both got sons, we’ve got that. We’re both hilarious Italians. Warped is hard, man. I’d go with Creed.
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