We here at Racket have recently had a chance to talk to Chicago-based The Lawrence Arms about drinking with Fat Mike, apathetic punks, and dick and fart jokes:
Racket: You’re doing side projects up the ass; how do you find time to do everything?
Brenden: Everything else doesn’t really take up too much time. That’s really spare time kind of stuff. We’ve had a lot of times where the Lawrence Arms haven’t been particularly active, so we’ve had time to sort of indulge in our hobbies. This is what we do. It’s like the same way I fit in time to go skateboarding.
R: Do you go skateboarding a lot?
B: I try to go out every day.
R: You hurt yourself a lot?
B: Not really. I don’t do too much that’s really dangerous. Ollieing up and down curbs. That’s about it.
R: Have you been working on a new album?
B: Absolutely. Chris and I have eleven complete songs.
Chris: Something around there.
B: I think we’ll have just about all the songs when we’re done with this tour. Practice it and record it, and hopefully, it will be out around March.
R: Any tentative titles?
B: "Best Album Ever."
C: Yes! That’s what it’s going to be.
B: The other night we were in San Fran at this party and I was drunk with Fat Mike. I was all, "I’m telling you, Mike, this new record we’re putting out is going to be the biggest selling record ever on Fat!" Which is a ridiculously stupid thing to say. Totally not going to happen. So the next day we’re in the office before Mike got there, and I said something to the effect of "Yeah, I got real drunk and told Mike that the next record is going to be the biggest selling record on Fat, so you motherfuckers better get to work!" So, yeah… "Best Album Ever."
C: Yeah, "Best Album Ever."
Neil: (Just joining the party) Are you guys talking about the new Propaghandi?
C: No, the new Lawrence Arms.
C: Yeah, he was asking about tentative titles.
N: "The New Propaghandi."
C: Yes! "The New Propaghandi" is what we’re going to call it.
R: Man, Neil, what’s up with the mustache?
N: Well, we had tour mustaches for the first two weeks of the tour…
B: Neil’s so angry about this.
N: In the van, there’s five of us… Chris, Brendan, myself, Neil, and Rich and Jordan. And we all had mustaches up until the night before San Francisco.
C: Which was the fourth of July.
N: Yes. And these guys wanted to shave them off because they were afraid of what Fat Mike would say.
B: That’s not true! … That’s not exactly true.
N: Yes. I remember Brendan saying "The reason I shaved off the mustache was because the last time I was in San Francisco I had a mustache and Fat Mike ridiculed me." It’s true.
B: That is a lot more accurate… I just don’t want to be ridiculed!
N: But it’s a tour mustache! We had a thing!!! We had a pact, you know.
B: Maybe I could…
N: NO! It’s too late.
C: I didn’t want to be on the team, anyways. That’s why I shaved the fucking mustache.
N: You know, I stick to my word.
B and C: Unlike us.
C: I can’t commit to anything. A mustache, or anything. We’re betrayers. Neil’s as loyal as an old saint bernard.
B: With a bottle of brandy around his neck.
C: Or barrel.
B: Yeah, barrel.
R: Is it intimidating hanging out with Fat Mike?
B: It’s not regular. We did grow up listening to NOFX, and thinking he’s a pretty cool guy.
C: It gets a little less intimidating the more you hang around him, I guess.
N: He’s pretty easy to be around.
C: He’s a super nice guy.
R: I was wondering if you think dick and fart jokes are funny?
B: Yeah, dick and fart jokes are pretty much the extent of our discourse.
N: When dick and fart jokes actually involve physical farts and physical dicks.
C: The proverbial dick and fart jokes are funny, but…
N: But the most hilarious is when you go "OK, who just shit in my nose?" Those kinds of things, because someone just passed some G.
R: How do you feel about the current state of youth apathy?
B: There’s a real apathy that’s sort of been nurturing here in this country. Nobody’s interested in news, because news isn’t interested in the news. I don’t want to sound like a crazy college student or anything, or a big conspiracy theorist, but the same people who own the TV news are the same people who own the factories that make all the tanks that go to Iraq. They show human interest stories about a spunky dog who saved a little boy’s life, dialed 9-1-1 when he was choking on pb or whatever. The more news is like that, the less about dismal domestic policies, the more news is focused on your neighborhood, and it’s made to be more like entertainment, the less people are going to care about it. People think they watch the news to get their information, but the fact is that that’s exactly what they’re trying to do. I don’t think Dick Cheney would be too upset if nobody knew his name and nobody knew what he looked like. I don’t think he’s in it for the fame and bitches. I think he’s more in it to quietly screw everyone over.
R: I keep seeing these kids with their Dead Kennedys and Black Flag patches and they’re still talking about Reagan… Do you think that that kind of political consciousness is kind of disappearing in the current punk scene?
B: I don’t know, man… The Stooges and The Ramones were definitely not political bands at all. Punk rock’s always been about partying as much as possible as much as it’s been about being insurgent. It’s like that Outkast song talking about critics who thought Hip Hop was all about guns and alcohol. No… But that, too. You can’t discount the idea of punk rock being a foreign, awesome escape that the captain of the football team isn’t listening to. There’s something awesome about being like "This is my band. I love this band. All you motherfuckers don’t know about them because you’re too fucking lazy to actually go to a record store to look through shit." That’s what punk rock’s about as much as anything else. Having said that, yeah, it’s fucking sad to think we had a nice little subculture here who wasn’t content to be so complacent and watch Fox News and get all their info there. It’s like… You can find a record by some band that only came out on seven inch in Japan, you can fucking hunt that down, but you can’t figure out what’s going on in your own fucking government? It’s pretty fucking ridiculous.
R: Does the way you feel about the current situation bleed into your music?
C: We’ve always been politically conscious, but we’ve never been a band that’s overtly political, though. I think our beliefs and morals come through, but I think also it’s not really super deliberate. I don’t think writing songs is about aligning with certain parties or a certain set of beliefs, but ultimately, good songs question those things.
B: The Lawrence Arms isn’t a band that’s about writing songs about how we can ignore the genocide in Sudan, but how can we ignore that?
C: If we were to write I think it would be a little disingenuous from where we come as songwriters. It would definitely be perceived as disingenuous from anyone who’s heard us. It would be like, "Who do these guys think they are all of a sudden?"
B: True! You know, we’ve written a lot of songs about drinking beer and rainy afternoons and fucking staring out your window and shit like that. The Sudan thing doesn’t really fit that sort of paradigm. Yeah, I know, I just used the word "paradigm." But, yeah… There’s something depressing about living in a country where everybody you thought was on your team is on the other team.
R: How do you feel when you see people with Lawrence Arms tattoos of logos or lyrics?
C: I think that is the most flattering thing.
N: There’s this guy in Columbus, Ohio… He has us autograph his arm, then he went down and got our signatures tattooed on his arm.
B: So that’s the creepiest, and we can work backwards from that.
R: How did you pick the logos, such as the suicide king and the hour glass?
B: The king was a real fluke. We were on tour and we decided to get it right there. (upper arm) And then ran out of shirts on the tour and none of us are graphically oriented, and I was like, "I still have this piece of paper from the tattoo." And then we sent it in and we have had that shirt since. Our friend, Chris Bach, who drew our letters the way they look and all that, he had the other logo all drawn up and we were like "That’s awesome!" and we wanted to put that by our name.
R: Elvis. Alive or dead?
N: Dead on a toilet.
B: They buried him!
R: Favorite beer?
B: It’s hard to say these days… Wait, no it’s not! National Bohemian. It’s only brewed in Baltimore. NattyBo.
N: I can’t answer that question.
C: Tequila. I like some beer. If you have some beers and shots of Petron, you’re pretty much set. I really do like Petron. We’ve had a Patron thing going on.
R: Well, that’s all I got, guys.
B: Alright, man.
C: It’s been real.
While I had a suspicion that Neil may have been hitting on my girlfriend, she convinced me that it was actually my crippling paranoid jealousy, and that nothing happened. This may or may not have been true. Either way, after catching an amazing live show, I am looking forward to The Best Album Ever.
By Jonathan Yost