Interview: Brenden Kelly (The Lawrence Arms, The Falcon)

It’s been a hot minute since I have been to a show, so when I learned that Brenden Kelly‘s Here Goes Nothing Tour was making a stop in Cleveland, I knew I had to be there.

The fact the “venue” was a mere 1.3 miles away from BHP HQ sealed the deal for me. The quotes, by the way, were purposely put there as he played at a BBQ joint called Hatfield’s Goode Grub in a strip mall in the Cleveland suburb West Park.

I may have questioned the choice, but honestly, it was perfect for an acoustic set as well as a ton of hangs with some great folk.

For a Sunday night show, it was pretty packed and I have zero complaints. I got to see Brenden play a slightly extended set and even hung out with Sir Toby of Red Scare as well as some of the Heart & Lung crew.

Where I could have done a full review of the show and probably taken much better photos, I honestly went as a fan. I slammed some beers, sang along, and didn’t worry about taking notes or building a set list.

Honestly, I really needed that night. I missed live music and the interaction so much. I had fun and I know I was not the only one. That is what mattered most.

Still, when I got home that night, I couldn’t help but tell myself how I should at least do something where I could talk about the show or maybe do more.

I decided maybe an interview was in order.

I caught up with Brenden exactly one day after the tour ended just to mostly talk about the month-long series of shows and whatnot. I guess the timing was right.

Check it out:

BHP: You just finished up your Here Goes Nothing Tour with your homeboy Toby from Red Scare.  For those who may have missed out on seeing you play, can you tell me about some of the highlights other than the Four Seasons Total Landscaping show everyone is still talking about?

BK: Well, the big highlights for me mostly involved seeing friends and just getting to be out there with everyone doing what I’ve (for better or for worse) dedicated my life to doing, ya know? 

A real highlight was at a brewery in Green Bay where Jack from Arms Aloft and I were just sitting there listening to the sounds of the brewery but we thought we were listening to a super ambient Godspeed! track.  After about a minute and a half (an embarrassingly long time) I was like, “Did you put that record on?” to the promoter who was just hanging out and he said “No, couldn’t get it to work.”  We had a good chuckle at that shit. 

We got a bag full of Krystal, Southern White Castle, but they also serve chili cheese “pups”…fifty bucks worth in Georgia, and Tane called his girlfriend and said, “I just got fifty bucks worth of Krystal!” and she replied, “Tane, I thought you weren’t into hard drugs?” and we had a chuckle at that shit too. 

The shows were all fun.  Some were sold out and some were barely attended at all and some were private backyard situations.  In every instance it was really just great to be back out there again.

I was lucky enough to hit the final show in Cleveland and it was packed and even a couple of alcoholic Browns fans who were looking to keep damaging their liver some more after a pre-season win showed up. 

Was the turnout about the same at all the other places you hit up?

If you looked at the routing, you could almost certainly guess within 10 people how many people were there just based on location and whether it was a private party or not. 

There was one that was weird because I got the distinct feeling that the guy who booked the show (this was a private party) didn’t like my music.  He left while I was on stage.  He was perfectly nice and accommodating, but it seemed like a weird move to pay to have me come to your house and not watch.  Right?  But the shows in places where I tend to do well, big cities in the north (also Tampa) were jammed for sure.  It was great.

Your initial special guest did not quite pan out as planned.  I saw there were a handful of openers who took that slot including Tane Graves who played about half of the shows.  Who were some of your favs?

Well at first we had Seth from Arms Aloft, then Tane, who rode with us and did most of the tour, and at the end we had Steveo from the Crippling Addiction, formerly of The Holy Mess, so there were only 3 guests.  I would say those three were probably my faves.

You forgot to mention Heart & Lung playing as Munford & Lungs!  Seriously I hope you’re as excited for this Cleveland band’s Red Scare debut as I am.  I love those dudes.

Oh yeah.  They’re awesome and the ability those three have to not only be a great punk band but also an amazing bluegrass band is pretty astounding.  I have heard the record and can confirm it’s radical.  What do you kids say these days?  It fucks?  It slaps?  It does all that stuff.

I have to admit, I was curious about how you playing at Hatfield’s Goode Grub was going to pan out, but it worked out well.  What did you think?

That dude is a trip and the place is awesome and the food is amazing.  I had a great time and I can’t say enough good things about it.  Was it a little odd?  Sure.  All shows right now are a little odd but that place was probably the coolest BBQ bar in a strip mall run by a real live member of a blood feud family that I’ve ever been to.

Your retort to the “fan” who screamed “Free Bird” when you were asking for requests was classic.  Were there any other folk throughout the tour that made comments where you just took a moment to educate?

Oh, I dunno.  I kind of have stage brain, which is to say that no matter what is going on in my life, if I’m sad or angry or whatever, I can get up there and think with an entirely different part of my mind and do the show the way it’s supposed to be done. 

The other side of this is that I don’t tend to remember the shows particularly well.  I know what you’re all thinking but NO, mother, it’s not from boozing.  Even when I’m stone sober this happens.  Also, even when I’m stone sober everyone thinks I’m wasted so whatever.  Throw your stones.

The fact you proved to the crowd playing “Shitty Margarita” was not a good idea by playing some of it was probably one of my favorite moments of the night.  Did you get any other requests throughout tour that you just had to skip the idea on?

That one came up a lot.  So did some of the faster or just generally screamier TLA songs, like “Cut it Up”, for example.  Some things just aren’t that good acoustic.  People think they don’t care, but then they have to sit through it and it really sucks for everyone, especially me.  So I try to take requests but I know what works and what doesn’t and I try to be a good steward in that regard for everyone involved.

Toby told me to ask you about the new Guardians logo and how you loved it.  I love the team name, but if I am thinking of the same logo as you are, it is rough.  What do you like about it so much?  I can tell you the ‘G’ that obstructs the baseball just looks off.

Oh, I was referring to the Guardians fastball (I think that’s what it’s called) and I think it’s just dope looking. It’s totally got being a tattoo first and foremost in its design and I just think they nailed it.  The G evokes a super classic rust belt factory industry logo which is very, very cool to me.

That’s what I was talking about!  I’m not really sure why it bugs me.  Maybe I’ll tattoo it on me and replace the “G” with “Beex” and while I’m at it change the baseball into a garbage pail lid.  Cool?

I think this is an excellent idea.

Tour’s over, now what?  We were lucky to have you play an extended set of sorts on the last night of tour, thanks for that.  I could tell you were not really looking forward to it to end.

Yeah.  I don’t know what to do now.  My family has passed down this uh…I guess it’s our family motto (even though that sounds weird to say) which is you need 3 things: someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to.  Right now I am 1 for 3, so maybe I’ll just get a beer and see how that works out.  For real though, I just wrote a page of lyrics I don’t hate.  This tour reignited my love for everything from my family to playing to exercising and on and on so I’m optimistic.  Also, Toby is talking about doing more runs, and I’d be into that for sure.  But for now I’m gonna call the insurance company and then go get my car washed.  The dizzying highs of rock and roll, am I right?

Hate to hear about the 33% family motto standing, but I’m stoked to see what those lyrics pan out into.  Was most of the writing done when traveling from place to place or just when it hit ya?

No, I just wrote one page this morning when I woke up in my bed for the first time in a month.  It’s time to dust off my dick and start working again, as the old maxim goes.

Thanks for giving me some of your time today, enjoy that phoner with the insurance company!

Now check out a video I found on my phone from that night:

Tweet from @RedScareToby

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