My friend Joseph and I were lucky enough to interview Chris of Sundowner/The Lawrence Arms. This was at the Plea For Peace center in Stockton a couple of weeks ago.
This is the edited version. The full version where we discuss more We Chase The Waves, the other folks involved in Sundowner, old Lawrence Arms records, and Taylor Swift can be read here.
So, tell us about “We Chase the Waves”
Oh man. It took eight months to make it, at home basically, between my apartment and Neil’s apartment. We live very close to each other, and yeah. I don’t know, man, it was a different kind of project. The first record that I made, “Four One Five Two,” we made in the studio in two weeks, and it was very, sort of laid out and standard procedure. And I wrote this new record over a pretty long period of time, and once I had all the songs, Neil and I were like, “Yeah, you know, let’s not do it in the studio. Let’s just borrow some gear and try to set up a space, and just do it at home and take our time doing it.” And it was a way different kind of recording process and I think we both had fun making it. I think it turned out pretty good. As far as the songs on the record go, I think it sounds like it was meant to be an acoustic record, as opposed to the first album, which sounded like it could’ve been a rock album in some way. So we made it kind of renegade style, and hopefully that translates a little bit. And hopefully it still sounds good, too. You know, a little bit of both.
Do you approach songwriting any differently for Sundowner, as opposed to the Lawrence Arms?
Well, again, I think the first record, I was kind of gathering songs along the way. A lot of those songs pre-dated “Oh! Calcutta!” but they were songs I just didn’t feel were right. When the record came out, a lot of people asked me, “Were those just Lawrence Arms b-sides that you had laying around,” or whatever, and it’s like… well, not exactly. The first record was like a collection of stuff, gathered over time. And [for the new record], once I had a couple of songs, I was writing with actual direction. I really wrote this record specifically for this record.
Were you trying to separate yourself from the first record?
I don’t know if I wanted to separate myself from the first record, but I felt like the songs took a step forward, so we were trying to figure out how to show that with the production. There’s a lot more air and negative space on this record. The first record was super packed, front to back. It was like, every little moment we were trying to fill in along the way. This album is a lot more sparse.
About the song with the lap steel, that’s the baseball song [“Baseball’s Sad Lexicon”].
Where did you get the idea of making a song out of the poem?
You know man, it was totally just me sitting around one afternoon, just being a dork and reading about baseball… I’m a lifelong Cubs fan, and I had known the poem already, but I literally think I was reading about the history of the Chicago Cubs, and I just happened to be sitting around, playing guitar, and I wrote it as a joke, just because I was bored.
Where were you when you wrote most of the record? You talk a lot about the ocean and sea life and stuff like that. Did you spend time near the ocean?
I spent a lot of time in Hawaii over the past seven or eight years. My dad was born in San Francisco, but his father moved the family to Hawaii when my dad was about seven or eight, so he lived there for about ten or so years. So my family has spent a lot of time there and we have a lot of connections there. … I didn’t write any of these songs there, but so much of it has influenced my writing. I wrote a lot of the record in Chicago, at home. Places, where I’ve been, where I’ve traveled, for me, influences a lot of what I write about. So that’s where a lot of that ocean stuff and wave stuff comes from, from my time spent in Hawaii.
So on to some other stuff, what’s up with the tenth anniversary Lawrence Arms DVD?
I know that it’s closer than ever.
That just happened last October, right?
Yeah, we did that last October in Chicago, and it all got shot, and I know the guy who’s doing it is working really hard on it. It’s definitely in the works, and not far away.
How about “Four One Five Two” vinyl?
Also on it’s way. Red Scare is going to do it this fall, some time. I’m not entirely sure when, but Toby promised me that this fall, we’re doing “Four One Five Two” vinyl. So it’s definitely on its way. I’m stoked.
What else is going on with the Lawrence Arms?
At this time, we’re doing Riot Fest in Chicago, and we’re playing the show with Bad Religion, and I’m really stoked about that. That’s the main thing we really have going on right now, not a lot of touring or anything like that.
So I think that’s pretty much it. What do you have lined up in the next few months?
For the record, right now, I’m just doing a few shows here and there. It’s just tough to get out, balancing work and stuff. So I’m not doing any full touring, but I’m doing my best to try to get out and do shows here and there. We just did a big show in Chicago for the release and that went really well. This trip is part vacation and a few shows kind of thrown in. We’re going to San Francisco tomorrow, hopefully that’s great, and we’re playing in Santa Cruz, too. I’ve been looking really forward to it, and it’s fun to play the new songs, and just kind of see what happens. Taking it as it comes, a little, but no crazy tours planned right now.