Tag Archives: Fat Wreck

Interview: Chris McCaughan of Sundowner / The Lawrence Arms

A couple of months back, I remember getting an email from the good folk at Fat Wreck Chords stating that Chris McCaughan of The Lawrence Arms would be delivering another installment of his solo material, also known as Sundowner.

I was beyond stoked to learn of this as I was a big fan of McCaughan’s last Sundowner release and maybe dig The Lawrence Arms a whole lot.  Hopefully there are a few of you out there who can agree with me on both statements.

Anyways, Neon Fiction is just an amazing release and I can not stop listening to it.  I have not had time to do a proper review of the album on there here website, but I was asked if I wanted to chat with McCaughan about it.  Of course I said yes to that.

Chris and I were able to catch up on the good ol’ Internets and he was kind enough to talk about his new release.  Check it out:

Sundowner

BHP: So the last time we chatted about 3 years ago,  LeBron had kicked Cleveland in the nuts and you just released We Chase The Waves. I guess what I am trying to ask is, what the heck have you been up to?

CM: I remember. Nice to chat again. Not sure I can condense the last three years of my life into a brief synopsis of what have I been up to? So, let’s just say I’ve been livin’, man. L-I-V-I-N.

I heard you no longer live in Chicago these days.  Is that true?  What prompted the big move to the West Coast?

True. I was born and raised in Chicago. So I take that place with me where ever I go. And, anyone who knows me knows how much I identify with and love that city. But I was ready for something in my life to change and felt like a new surround would be good for me. Also, my girlfriend is from the West Coast and, after having lived in Chicago for several years, she was ready to be closer to home and out of the harsh winter. So that was part of it. But, having toured and traveled extensively in my life I wanted to know what it was like to actually live in a new place. It’s an entirely different experience. I still spend a lot of time in Chicago though, so I feel a bit like a habitant of multiple places.

You just dropped an all-new release on Fat Wreck Chords titled Neon Fiction. Care to tell me about it?

Neon Fiction is the culmination of songs I was writing somewhere in the span of Fall ‘11 into the Spring of ‘12. It’s hard to remember the exact time frame. I didn’t write this with specific intentions or deadlines or ideas about how it would all come together. It may sound ridiculous, but I really was just writing the songs I write. I’ve gotten questions over the years like how do you know when it’s a Sundowner song or a TLA song? And the truth is I just don’t think about it in that way. Or, perhaps, a bit more accurately, I just know innately. This is, simply, me and these are the songs I write. Some people ask if this is more than a side-project now and, again, I don’t think in those terms. This is part of what I do and my goals are to try to write great songs and make cool records. That’s the part I can control and that’s what Neon Fiction is to me.

I guess, in some ways, I feel like I’ve had this record in me for long time, but it took certain conditions in my life to write it. Part of that was letting go. There was definitely a time when I felt like no one would ever hear any of this and that didn’t bother me at all. I was completely at peace with that.

But, when I was finally ready, I fronted the production so we wouldn’t have to make hard decisions on the front end. We could focus on the songs and the work. We tracked it at Atlas Studio in Chicago. As usual, I teamed up with Neil Hennessy on the record. The goal was to try to make an awesome album, with cool sounds. We consciously tried to shift the perspective from the previous Sundowner albums. I felt like that was essential. We wanted layers and different kind of landscapes for the songs, and for each song. I wanted to challenge myself but work within my range. I wasn’t trying to reinvent anything.

I feel very fortunate to be working with Fat Wreck. And it meant a lot to me that everyone over there liked the songs and the album. I’m so grateful for so many people in my life who have made this possible and who have continued to be supportive over so many years. So, it’s been an amazing experience and I’m so stoked it’s out.

Does the title of the album have any hidden meaning behind it? Sounds like a typical Vegas adventure to me.

For me it just captures the nature and vibe of the collection. That was the primary goal of the title. Admittedly, I struggled naming the record. I asked my friend Ben Pier, who is a photographer living in NYC, to shoot a bunch of stuff for the album. Once we chose the cover photo it started to all make more sense to me. It’s a city record. The songs are heavily influenced by my sensory perception and how I specifically interact with environments. So lights and sounds are heavy contributors to the overall landscape, the lyrics and sonic qualities. And, honestly, I just like the way it sounds. That’s a hugely important factor to me in a title. Also, Neon Fiction has some origins for me. It’s a bit of a tip of the hat to Chicago writer, Nelson Algren, who wrote a book called Neon Wilderness. And it’s a bit of a play on Non Fiction, as the record is full of half-truths.

SundownerSo when did you start writing Neon Fiction? We you looking to write another Sundowner album, or did you just find yourself with a bunch of songs that needed a home?

I didn’t sit down to write a record. But I wouldn’t say I just found myself with a bunch of songs either. I was writing with no real goal in mind. Just writing to write. I wasn’t thinking about how or where or why. I wasn’t focused on some kind of end game. I guess somewhere in the process, when the songs began to accumulate, it occurred to me that I felt strongly about the material. At that point things felt more magnetic. I was being pulled to some kind of end and then I felt compelled to figure all the other things out so that I could make it. I’ve thought about this in a lot of different ways. In terms of the song writing I would say it this way: It’s like I was a kid out in a field in the evening with a mason jar and a lid trying to catch fireflies. Got one. Here’s another. And at some point I’d caught so many I was excited enough to go show someone.

I swore that you stated before that you were not really going to go the solo acoustic music route in the past, but here you are. Has the popularity of punk rockers following this trend changed your mind?

I’m pretty sure I never said that. Certainly not in that way. I’ve been playing as a solo acoustic artist since 2005 or 2006, when I first began writing acoustic stuff and the first Sundowner record started to come together. So, no, the popularity of the genre has nothing to do with my choices or decisions as an artist. I’m just trying to write and live a life that’s authentic and genuine to me. That’s it, man.

Can we expect you to be onboard the next Revival Tour then?

I have a great amount of respect for Chuck Ragan. He’s just an amazing guy. I first met Chuck years ago when TLA toured with Hot Water Music and I’ve had the good fortune of performing on Revival tour and doing shows with him here and there over the years. It’s always an incredible collection of talented and passionate artists he puts together for Revival and I always feel honored when he reaches out to me in any way.

I thought “Concrete Shoes” was exceptional. What made your feet so heavy that you had to write a song about it?

We live in a sticky world, man. And, I guess, at times my feet felt pretty heavy against the pavement. Just trying to get off the ground.

Was there a certain track you favored over the rest on Neon Fiction?

I’m proud of the record as a collection of songs. They belong together and I think they make each other better. And that was the goal. If I absolutely had to pick one maybe it would be Poet of Trash? Maybe My Beautiful Ruins? Grey on Grey? I don’t know, man. I have an array of feelings and connections to them all.

Overall, was there a theme surrounding all of the songs on this album?

There are a lot of themes and sub-themes. But generally speaking, it’s a record about self-acceptance and self-actualization. It’s about letting go of the things that you can’t control and being honest with who you are, embracing your nature.

Seems like I am not the only one who is digging Neon Fiction. How are you taking the feedback so far from everyone who pre-ordered the release?

It feels great to have such a positive response to the songs. And, of course, I’m happy it seems to have had some impact on listeners already. But I try not to worry too much about all of that or read into it too much. I just continue to be thankful that I’m in a position to share the work, keep believing in the craft and the process.

Who all helped you this round on Neon Fiction? How much did Neil Hennessy pitch in again?

Neil played bass and drums. I did all the guitars and vocals. That’s it. Neil is an incredibly talented musician and has been an essential part of making the Sundowner records. This record was no different. His contribution to Neon Fiction was enormous. He helped catalyze and actualize so much of what was in my head. I feel lucky to have a partnership with him that has created conditions to work in this way. Justin Yates, who works with Matt Allison at Atlas studio where we made the record, engineered and helped produce which allowed Neil and myself to really focus in on performance. Neil is a true craftsman, one of the best dudes, and we’ve had a, sort of, musical kinship for a long time. He has a sharp and sophisticated ear and what he brings to the studio, or to any project, is invaluable.

I know you hardly toured with the last Sundowner release, but that is all changing this time. How does it feel to be hitting the road without your full-time band? Any plans on expanding that tour?

Over the years I’ve played solo quite a bit, so I don’t anticipate it’ll feel too strange. This fall I’ll be doing some small runs of shows here and there and we’ll see what happens. Not getting too far ahead right now. I try to do this in the way that works best for me and not get too concerned by others expectations.

Just curious, but were you asked to cover a Tony Sly song for his upcoming tribute release? I didn’t see you on the track listing and was curious if that was due to your own choice.

Tony Sly was a great guy and an amazing songwriter. TLA and No Use toured together a bunch and I was fortunate enough to get to know him and spend some time around him. He’s deeply missed. If it’d worked out that I could’ve contributed a song that would have been awesome and an honor. But it didn’t. Don’t read too much into it.

Rumor has it that the Lawrence Arms have new material recorded. When can we expect that to drop?

There’s a new TLA record. It exists. We’re excited. That’s about all I can tell you.

So, what’s next for Sundowner?

It’s September. Neon Fiction is out. Shows ahead. I’m stoked and thankful. Just trying to live in the present moment and do the best version of me I can.


Pick up the new Sundowner on Fat Wreck Chords.

Sundowner is playing Now That’s Class in Cleveland on Sept 26th. with Meridian and The House Of Wills.  Tickets are only $10.  Do not miss out on this show!!!

Sundowner @ Now That's Class

Tony Sly Tribute Album To Drop This Fall

I still have a tough time believing that it has been a year since Tony Sly left this world.  Sure, I did not know him personally, but I was pretty damn good pals with the music he wrote seeing how much I listened to it.  To this day, I still listen to No Use For A Name as well as his acoustic material.  It will forever be on my playlist.

I remember bumping shoulders with him backstage at a Cincinnati Warped Tour years ago where I was more concerned about how many beers I had consumed over taking in all that was going on around me.  I was quick to apologize and he just smiled at me as he and the rest of his band headed to the stage to play some songs to a sea of fans.  I recall taking in their set and telling my partner in crime that day how lucky I felt to have just seen them play live again.

On October 29th, Fat Wreck Chords will officially release The Songs of Tony Sly: A Tribute.  This important release will include 26 covers of Tony Sly songs from Tony’s friends such as Bad Religion, Rise Against, Frank Turner, Anti-Flag, The Bouncing Souls, The Gaslight Anthem, and many many more.  I am still waiting for more details on when the album can be pre-ordered and check FatWreck.com almost daily as I know the vinyl version of this will be something that will sell out quickly.

Tony Sly Tribute

The good folk at Fat had this to say about the upcoming release: “We can’t express how much it means to us and Tony’s family that each of the artists and bands on this album took the time and effort to contribute such meaningful and interesting interpretations of Tony’s songs. All proceeds from this compilation will go to the Tony Sly Memorial Fund.”

Tony Sly passed away in his sleep on July 31st, 2012.  He was 42 years old.

Interview: John E. Carey Jr. & John Rosen of Old Man Markley

I remember the very first time I heard bluegrass/punk rockers Old Man Markley.  I was amazed and intrigued at the same time and could only think, “where has this band been all my life?”  The band puts together a perfect mix of genres I never really fathomed would work so well together, and the result has been in my weekly playlist for years now.

Earlier this year, the band dropped their sophomore release on Fat Wreck Chords titled Down Side Up.  Where I was a fan of their 2011 debut Guts ‘n Teeth, their second album has really grown on me.   From the ode to Gary Busey to the fun track about a certain lovable companion, the album is catchy, fun, and begs for repeat spins.

Having seen them live before, they have no problem winning new fans over.  This seven-piece act is going places and are not to be overlooked.

Recently, I caught up with John E. Carey Jr. (lead vocals and guitar) and John Rosen (banjo and vocals).  They were able to take a quick break while in between shows and were more than happy to shoot the breeze with me.  Check it out:

Old Man Markley

BHP: So, first things first, how did your latest tour treat you?

John E. Carey Jr.: Our US tour with Dropkick Murphys and Jim Lockey and the Solomon Suns was great. JLSS unfortunately had visa issues and couldn’t make the first half of the tour, so the Revillers from Boston filled in. Good Times!

BHP: You are getting ready to head to back to Europe to play some festivals and shows with the likes of Pennywise and even Larry and His Flask. How stoked is everyone in the band to return overseas?

JC: It’s a great accomplishment for us to be returning over seas! I’m Looking forward to the people, sites and falafel!!

BHP: Mmmmm falafel. So when you get back to the good ol’ US of A, you are all on board to tour with Dropkick Murphys some more. No rest for the wicked huh?

JC: No rest is right, but we are happy to again have the opportunity to go out with DM in support of our new album.

BHP: On Down Side Up, it sounds like you guys and gals toned it down a bit and focused more on the bluegrass appeal to your style. Was this on purpose, or did your recording just kind of lead you this way? Regardless, it is an incredible release.

JC: I don’t think we were intentionally toning it down, as much as toning it up and just letting our creativity flow.

BHP: I mean, y’all did have a #1 spot for a Bluegrass album. Did you ever think that would happen? I know your debut release got well-deserved attention.

JC: It was a wonderful surprise, but i guess hard work leads to great things. It’s awesome we made #1 and I’m extremely proud of the band.

BHP: So What was done differently on this album than on Guts ‘n Teeth?

JC: We built a home recording studio and tracked most of the album there. Most of the songs we really developed while we tracked them, which was a different approach to recording our first record, Gut’s ‘n Teeth, which was ready to go by the time we went into the studio to track it.

OMM - Down Side UpBHP: I love that in the album notes it was listed that a Converse shoe was used as an instrument on that track. Was that random or were there many shoes used in looking for the perfect beat?

John Rosen: When we were recording the song, Chris Hesse of Hoobastank, who played shaker on the song, had suggested the sneaker tapping to flesh out the instrumental section of the song. It was just an off-the-cuff suggestion thrown out at the spur of the moment and it just happened to work great.

JC: Like George Martin said “All you need is ears.”

BHP: How did “Beyond The Moon” come about?

JR: I’ve always been a huge fan of Gary Busey ever since I first saw The Buddy Holly Story as a kid. More recently, when reality TV breathed new life into his career, I discovered shows like Celebrity Rehab and I’m With Busey. I’ve always been fascinated with him and had toyed with the idea of writing a song about him for years but didn’t know how to approach it. My first pass at the song was a much sillier version than what we ended up recording. This first version felt a little too cheap, too Weird Al Yankovic, so I took out all the references to his movies, Dr. Drew and his teeth and shifted the song’s focus from him to me. In this version, Gary is just a passing reference in the chorus. The rest of the song focuses my struggle to write a song about him. So really, it’s not a song about celebrity or mental illness, but a song about writing a song.

BHP: Man, I loved I’m With Busey. So anyways, did the greatest villain ever out of all the Lethal Weapon franchise ever catch wind of the song, and if so, what did he have to say?

JC: As far as I know, Mr. Busey has not heard it, but I’m sure he will.

JR: I think someone may have brought the song to his attention via Twitter, but none of us have heard anything about his reaction or if he’s even heard it for that matter. I’d only hope that if he does hear it, he understands the song is not a swipe at him but just the opposite.

BHP: I loved the tracks “Up Side Down” and “Fastbreak”. You can hear the chemistry throughout those duets. Stuff like that does not happen accidentally. Was this something that had to be worked on, or did it just come naturally?

JC: Joey had all the music worked out for “Up Side Down” to a tee. Originally, I tried singing it and I had the hardest time following the up swing of the song! After a bunch of failed attempts, I realized it would better suit Annie, so she ended up taking the lead on it. Joey and Katie sang the harmonies trading back and forth and my vocal response just sounded cool so we went with it! Then it really came together. Great song, one of my favorites on the record!

Old Man MarkleyBHP: Same here. Speaking of “Fastbreak”, the album sleeve lists the song as “Fastbreak” and the lyric insert lists it as “Run Away From Me”. Which is right? More importantly, as a dog lover, tell me all about Lucy.

JC: The song “Fast Break”, and yes that’s the official title. [I] pretty much wrote [it] one afternoon after I chased my pet chihuahua Lucy down the street during one of her glorious sprints for freedom! I like how light hearted the lyrics are and dark at the same time. The line “don’t run away from me, for your own safety” makes me think of some hopeless obsessed romantic warning his ex not to leave him or else, when really I’m referring to Lucy possibly getting hit by a car on her adventures escapes!

Lucy is a chichi-mutt that we adopted off the mean streets of Redondo Beach. She rules the OMM manor and used to tour with us, but these days she’s more comfortable staying with grandma and grandpa lounging in the sun. The road can be a ruff place for a little munchie.

BHP: Sounds like one rad dog. I need to pause for a moment and give kudos to the limited edition vinyl pressing of Down Side Up. Whose idea was that? I know I missed out on nabbing one, but still, that is one cool press. Who came up with the idea?

JC: Obvious choice for us. We wanted to go all out with the limited color release so three color red whit and blue seemed appropriate!

BHP: So, what’s it like to be a bluegrass band on a punk rock label? I know that you incorporate tons of punk rock into your music, but still, you are on CMT’s radar, and I would have to say that is probably the first for a Fat Wreck band.

JC: It’s rad! We are having fun and making music and that’s all the matters! We love Fat and I like to think they love us! I’m sure we are the first Fat Wreck band to be on CMTs radar and that’s great! The more support we can get the better. It only opens up more windows of opportunity for us and that’s what we need to stay on the road.

BHP: Looks like Fat Mike assisted in producing Down Side Up. How does it feel to work again with not only the guy in NOFX, but also in a sense, your boss?

JC: I don’t really consider Mike our boss, Fat works with us like record labels are supposed to. But it’s a total family vibe with Fat and that’s what i love so much about them. Producing with Mike is really a dream come true! I always send him demos of our songs and he tells me what he thinks, its great to have his input and we trust him as a producer but ultimately Mike let’s us do what we do, and that’s what is most important to us.

BHP: That’s awesome. I think what I love the most about your band is how humble you are to your fans and how much family feeling is contained in the band. Is it always a blast to play live with the band?

JC: Lot’s of love! And yeah, it’s always a blast!

BHP: As your band clearly is maturing, are you living into a rock star life, or are you more still into just crashing on a couch at a random house while on the road?

JC: Actually, turns out these days crashing at a random fans house on the side of the road every once in a while and sleeping in our beloved bus the rest of the time is the rock star life; at least for me. So yes; I mean no.

BHP: Haha. What’s the most messed up thing that you all have witnessed to date while on tour?

JC: The price of diesel gas!

Old Man MarkleyBHP: I believe that! So does Mr. Markley himself have calluses like no other? I have seen that man shred the washboard a mere foot from my face and it is intense. Has he occurred any injuries from washboard thrashing?

JC: In the first year, Ryan would scrape up his knuckles regularly, almost every show. He went through a few different variations of spoon handles too and finally made the right set using his old drum sticks and kitchen silverware. He later hooked up with Columbus Washboard Company and now he gets his boards with stainless steel grills which hold up longer. Still he manages to tear them up after a few tours so he recently built a washboard that he can replace just the grill on once its torn up. It works great! Now Ry just orders back up steel grills and he’s good to go!

BHP: Awesome. While I am on the topic, your live shows are entertaining as hell. How fun is it to just jump on stage and do your thing to thousands of people?

JC: I’m having the time of my life!

BHP: What would you say was the best show you ever played?

JC: One of my favorite shows we ever played was in Paris at a punk squat to 300 people in a tiny sweaty concert room in an abandoned building! It was dirty in all the good ways! And the bad ways too. PunkSpring festival in Tokyo with Weezer and Nofx was pretty cool too.

BHP: So what influential punk act from the past do you thing y’all will cover next? I will not lie, I love your takes on classics

JC: We just finished tracking a No Use For a Name song “The Feel Good Song of the Year” for the benefit compilation Fat is releasing later this year for Tony Sly’s family.

BHP: I can not wait to hear that. So, folk and bluegrass seem to be really popular these days and I am sure you are all aware. I am just curious what your reaction would be if say, a band like the Avett Brothers or Old Crow Medicine Show were to ask you to join them on tour

JC: I love those bands and it would rule to tour with them!

JR: It’d be the thrill of a lifetime for me. I’ve got a ton of respect for both those bands and love their music. We’ve done our share of touring with high profile punk bands over the past 3 years and I think touring in the alt country world would be a great change of pace. It’d be a chance to expose ourselves to a broader audience and introduce our sound to people who might otherwise never have known about us unless they were punk fans.

BHP: I know you are still living off the energy of Down Side Up, but have you all started writing new material for your next release?

JC: We have some really great new songs that were demoing! Very excited to get back in the studio after these next few tours!

BHP: What do you think people like Bill Monroe and The Stanley Brothers have to say about what route you have taken bluegrass to?

JR: It’s hard to say. I’ve been playing bluegrass ever since I was a kid and one thing I’ve learned is that in this this genre anything that pushes the boundaries of what is considered “traditional” bluegrass is usually viewed with a little suspicion, even skepticism. This isn’t always the case, but among purists (and you’ll find a lot of them in bluegrass) you’ll encounter this attitude from time to time. I’m sure Ralph Stanley and Bill Monroe would be fine with what we’re doing musically. Whether not they’d consider it bluegrass might is another story.

JC: I think they would like it, and probably say that’s not really bluegrass! And that’s cool with me.


For more information on Old Man Markley, check out their band profile on Fat Wreck or head over to their Facebook page.

Down Side Up is out now.  Check it out on iTunes or Spotify.  If you really want to be cool, head over to the Fat Wreck Store and snag up a vinyl release.  It is so worth it.

Music Video: Masked Intruder – “I Don’t Wanna Be Alone Tonight”

It’s official, Masked Intruder have won me over once again.  Check out their latest video for “I Don’t Wanna Be Alone Tonight”, a heartfelt punk rock stalking jam off their Red Scare / Fat Wreck self-titled release:

I just adore the 8-bit reference throughout; especially the end.  I hope to hell someone with a lot of time on their hands will turn this video into an actual game.  I’d play it.  Props to Patt Fink for creating this.

The band is currently on the road in support of the Red Scare Across America tour.  Seriously though, I am not sure this band has stopped touring since they dropped their self-titled release.  Pretty impressive.  I still don’t trust them.

MI_By_Katie_Hovland