This past November, The Lawrence Arms treated Massachusetts to two very special nights at TT the Bear's Place in Cambridge. Both nights were sold out and ended up being two of the sweatiest, memorable and amazing shows of the year. I was fortunate enough to sit down with bassist Brendan Kelly before the show at the nearby Middle East restaurant and find out more about what The Lawrence Arms have planned for the future, their thoughts on where the music industry is going and why he probably wont accept a free drink at a show if you offer it to him. As he munched on a falafel sandwich, we shared the following words. Enjoy!

Tom: Why don’t you go ahead and introduce yourself.
Brendan: I’m Brendan. I’m in The Lawrence Arms. I play bass and I sing.

Tom: How is the tour going so far?
Brendan: It’s good, this is the last day. It’s been pretty short…we flew to Philli, then we just went Philli, New York, New York, New Hampshire and then two nights here. The NH show was a little bit, uhh…squirrly…but all the rest of them have been sold out.

Now was that at Rocko‘s in New Hampshire?
Brendan: Yeah…

Tom: That place sucks.
Brendan: So weird. My wife called me and asked how the show was and what it was like there. My response was that I think if Fred Durst walked in the people at the show right now would be pretty fucking stoked, you know?

Tom: What have you guys been up to recently and what are you currently working on as a band?
Brendan: Man, this is going to be a bummer of an answer. Nothing! That’s the answer to both.

Tom: Just kind of playing one off tours and stuff?
Brendan: Yeah, we’re just doing little one off shit. We’re just not as active as we used to be. I mean the music industry is kind of going out of business, we’re all a little bit older, it’s hard to tour as much as I think we would need to do to be productive, like a really super active band. I mean, touring is fun and being in a band is awesome and we all love it but we’ve also always been a very organically growing and functioning band and when its like natural for us to write a lot of music and record and go on tour we’ve done it and when it’s not we don’t and its not like we have this huge insane momentum right now where like if we stop or we relax we’re going to lose out on something that’s going on. For better or for worse we’ve stayed a pretty small band and our fans are pretty dedicated. The results are we’re not really doing much.

Tom: So you said that the music industry is going out of business. Do you think that there is anything that could bring it back to a sustainable place?
Brendan: I have no idea man. If I could figure that out, I wouldn’t be in a band at all. I’d be wiping my ass with hundred dollar bills in someplace in paradise. But I mean, people love music and there’s going to be a methodology that is going to be imposed on the world of music consumers and music producers that will probably balance out the universe a little bit. Definitely the way things now or the way things were recently, it’s just totally messed up. It’s like people who were making the music weren’t really making any money, People who were listening to the music were spending way too much money and now there’s been this humongous shift where the people who are listening to music are paying no money and still the musicians who are making the music are making no money but now the suites make no money either. But I mean at the end of the day playing the guitar for a living its pretty frivolous and its pretty awesome and its fun, but its hard to get a lot of sympathy from people when you say I can’t play my guitar for a living anymore. It’s like well you know what why don’t you come stand next to me in the factory for a while, it really sucks there!

Tom: So what are your opinions on illegally downloading music and stuff like that that a lot of people have criticized as the reason for the downfall of the industry?
Brendan: Well, the thing is man, what relevance does my opinion have on that? I mean, I don’t want to sound like an old man and sit there and be like oh man back in the old days people used to pay for music and now you kids have gone and ruined everything…I mean, it’s the most useful line of thought that there could ever be. You know like a hundred years ago there was a dude that shoed horses for a living and then people started driving cars, he was probably like ‘you know what, these cars…fuck these cars! I can’t stand these people driving these fucking cars!’ Its like well, guess what old man, people are driving cars now. So you can either stop shoeing horses and get with doing something that works with the way the world is now or you can like sit there and let shit pass you by. That’s how I feel about illegal downloading. It’s happening. It’s going on and that’s the way the world is. I may as well bitch about the sun coming up in the morning instead of in the afternoon. There’s no practical application to wasting your energy and hating that kind of thing.

Tom: So the industry kind of just needs to figure out a way to evolve to work with it?
Brendan: I mean, I don’t know man. I don’t have the answers to that. The person who does figure that out is going to be very rich because people want to make money making music and people generally do want to support the artist that they really appreciate. But I think the thing that is becoming really apparent with this whole decline of the music industry is that people were charging way too much money for something that really a lot of people feel is sort of intangible and sort of should be kind of free if not cheap and the people making the money weren’t the people that the consumers really wanted to be giving the money to. That’s created this like backlash. And right now, people feel like they don’t need to pay for things because they’ve been kind of fucked for a long time. The music industry is pretty weird.

Tom: I have heard that you guys have pretty strong feelings against the Warped Tour and in past interviews I have read that you guys have had some say in what you think is wrong with the Warped Tour. But recently there have been a lot of DIY fests popping up all over the country like obviously The Fest in Gainesville and The Fun Fun Fun Fest and Get Better Fest and just a bunch of stuff like that. Do you think festivals like those are beneficial for combating against the Warped Tour or do you think they are kind of feeding into the same machine that is effecting touring bands and effecting smaller venues?
Brendan: Festivals are a cool and fun thing and they’re awesome and even the Warped Tour does its job. I mean like kids who live in Montana would never get to see any bands. They would never get to see NOFX or The Bouncing Souls or The Suicide Machines or The Lawrence Arms or anything but then all of a sudden the Warped Tour comes through and those kids get to see them all. I mean, the Warped Tour is not like a completely horrible thing and like festivals aren’t horrible, they’re cool. I’ve got very specific ideology issues with the Warped Tour. It has a lot to do with the fact that that shit takes place in stadiums and there’s like army booths and I thought that the reason I got into punk rock in the first place was so that I didn’t have to pay $25 to drive out to the suburbs and sit in this stadium and watch my favorite band from like a zillion miles away while someone tried to recruit me for the army at the same time. Like it has nothing to do with why I got into this. But like a festival like The Fest or The Fun Fun Fun Fest, that’s just kids putting on a show on a big scale. That’s totally cool. None of it’s evil, none of it’s like pipelines through Afghanistan. I don’t know man, I wish we lived in a world where like the insurgent music consuming public was indignant enough to not want to go to the Warped Tour, but we don’t and as a result the Warped Tour does serve an important function for better or for worse. The shit’s not evil though. It’s just a very, very opportunistic disingenuous thing and it’s repackaging something that’s punk rock which is the very fundamental antithesis of what I consider to be punk rock. But who the fuck am I?

Tom: Well, for this tour for example…you guys were supposed to play at Harper’s Ferry last night and tonight you were supposed to be down in Rhode Island. Both those places, Harper’s Ferry and Jerky’s, both closed down and they’re both not very small but they’re not very big venues either. What do you think these places can do to help themselves from closing there doors?
Brendan: Well, you know, again man, the whole country’s kind of in the shitter, man. The housing industry, the music industry, publishing, periodicals, like so many things and so many jobs are just gone and they’re just never coming back. Like we hardly even produce anything in this country anymore. The problem’s not the Warped Tour or whatever. The world’s fucked up man…if I could figure it out…
Tom: You’d be rich?
Brendan: I’d be rich haha. But what can they do? I don’t know, go be a venue in Switzerland. Times are tough right now man, times are tough. And where is that going to be reflected in like the way people spend their leisure hours and their leisure dollars? Maybe there’s a time when you feel like oh yeah Goober Patrol, I remember when they were a band on Fat Wreck Chords maybe I’ll go check them out tonight because I have nothing better to do. But like that night out is squarely competing with the twelve pack of beer that you may have bought that could last you the next couple of days or another show that you would actually want to go to in terms of the dollars in your pocket. Those kind of casual interests are just going to fucking hold up and that’s what the problem is. That’s why clubs are shutting down, man.

Tom: So you guys are pretty much road dogs…you’ve been touring your whole career all over the place. Do you have any advice to new bands who want to start touring?
Brendan: You kind of just have to get out there and do it. I mean, you’re never going to do anything by wishing you could go on the road. It’s not that expensive to buy a van and this day and age its very, very easy to book shows. When we started booking shows I had to leave messages on people’s home phone answering machines because there were no cell phones, I mean, there were but they weren’t common. And now you can go on Myspace or Facebook and you can book a tour in 45 minutes. You just have to get out there and do it because no one is going to see you in your basement or your garage and the only way to have people be interested in your band is to be in front of them. You can’t just expect to put a record and expect that to do all the work for you. You have to be out there…now that being said our band is pretty unsuccessful so I would take that advice with a grain of salt.

Tom: Ok so, less serious questions now. What song do you like to listen to that you wish you had written yourself?
Brendan: That’s a good question. You know I used to have an answer to this too…(thinks for a while)…I mean there’s a lot of songs I wish I had written but there used to be a song I remember that I would listen to and be like ‘oh man, I’m so jealous that I didn’t write this song.’ I mean, there’s a zillion! The song that comes to my mind instantly is this song called “I Was Stabbed By Satan” by this guy named Kanon, he’s like a Somalian rapper and that’s a really, really incredible song. If I had written it, it would have been vastly more incredible. But like, “Sweet Child O’ Mine”, I mean there’s just so many awesome songs. The reason I’m kind of flailing right now is because there is one song that I know I was just so jealous that I didn’t write and I think it was written by a friend of mine. I wish I had written “Trusty Chords” by Hot Water Music man, that song is incredible. But in a way, no I take that back because I would so much rather be somebody who could listen to that song and appreciate it than be the person who wrote it…but no, I don’t wish I had written that song. I don’t know man, there’s a lot of them out there. How about the first song off of the Marshall Mathers LP? It’s pretty good.

Tom: Can you tell us what your worst show experience has been?
Brendan: Hmm, no not really. We’ve played a lot of shows and a lot of them have been pretty bad. I don’t know man, it’s just so hard…we played a show where there was one person there and halfway through our second song they left. We played a show where somebody put something in a drink that they bought for me and I couldn’t stand up and play when we were there and Chris and Neil had to play and I was basically passed out on the stage. We’ve played shows where the microphone was shocking me so badly that it literally knocked me off of my feet. We’ve played a lot of bad shows, there’s no way I could even come close to figuring out what the worst one was.

Tom: Who do you think would win in a fight…all of the people in the world or all of the ants in the world?
Brendan: This is people versus ants? So the notion is that ants are becoming aggressive and looking to exterminate the humans and our option is to exterminate the ants or die?
Tom: Yes.
Brendan: Oh, people would kill the ants.
Tom: You think people would win? Why is that?
Brendan: Ants are fucking retarded. People are smart. Ants can’t even get organized enough to take something from here to there. They just work in this robotic method. Human beings…you know what we can do? We can stand on tables! There’s no question, people would win. There are those ants that can cover you and those ants will cover some people and some people would die but they’re not covering everybody. I mean they would cover one guy and the guy standing next to him would burn that guy and all those ants. All those ants would be dead. Ants don’t stand a chance against humanity.
Tom: What about flying ants?
Brendan: Fuck them too.

Tom: Haha, well thank you for the interview. It was a pleasure meeting you and I hope you have a great show tonight.

Brendan: Thanks man!

You can check out The Lawrence Arms songs, tour dates and other information at


Ali said...

awesome interview Tom! You guys had such a neat conversation

Tom said...

thanks! he was such a pessimistic bastard...but fun to talk to.

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