Interview :: Brendan Kelly – The Lawrence Arms

Insert drunken interview here…

Brendan (alongside Chris) during our interview - Joe Brownridge©

As Joe pointed out in his review, The Lawrence Arms grabbed the Leeds crowd by the balls and blew the roof off The Cockpit. However, unlike Mr. Brownridge, we have a bit more of a story to tell. A story that lead to the funniest, most confusing interview we have ever done. We arrived in Leeds with no idea what was going on. We didn’t even know if we even had this interview. We were doubting it would happen and it almost didn’t. After some persistence (persistence that didn’t seem to go down too well) we finally managed to snag 10 minutes in a corridor with, lead singer/bassist of The Lawrence Arms, Brendan Kelly. One problem…the guy had just come off stage, he’d been drinking pints of vodka (he told us in the pub afterwards) and was drunk. To make matters worse, we were ‘on our way’ too and security were trying to kick us out. Awesome!


Anthony Barlow: Hello Brendan, how’s it going?

Brendan Kelly: Umm…it’s going really, really well.

AB: Good stuff. Did you really know about this interview?

BK: Yeah

AB: No, I mean, when we showed up outside before did you know?

BK: No, but that’s not standard policy that, like, a band knows what interviews they’ve got. A band assumes that there’s always possible interviews.

AB: Oh, ok.

BK: You know what I mean?

Ian Critchley: Yeah, it could happen but you never know. You guys, The Lawrence Arms as a whole, but particularly you, have been, quote unquote, notorious for speaking out against other bands. Has anyone challenged you for anything you’ve said?

BK: Speaking out against other bands? I don’t know if I think that’s true, man.

IC: I don’t mean in a negative way, but more a humorous way. I can see some people taking it the wrong way though.

BK: Fuck. I don’t know, like exactly, what you’re even referring to. Like me saying the The Broken Side is terrible? It’s because they’re terrible. I don’t think I’m the only one saying Broken Side is terrible.

AB: You’re just being a genuine, honest person.

BK: I’m not out here to talk shit about anything or anyone. I’ve said this before and I will say it again because I think it’s relevant and important, the notion that an industry, and it is an industry, that’s know as punk rock is supposed to stand for idiosyncratic rebellion. The notion that when I see a band that stinks and I can say that they stink, that brands me as a shit talker is absolutely ridiculous. Y’know, I don’t say anything more than…Here’s the thing, in the world of music we all work and me talking shit about Broken Side, that’s industry jargon. It’s like, what’s your job?

AB: I’m a journalist

BK: You’re a journalist. Really? Great. So, you read other publications and you look at them and you critique them. You go ‘this guys good and this guy sucks’ and among your friends you’re like ‘this fucking one dildo who writes fucking op ed pieces that’re like financially based in the Leeds daily he doesn’t know his ass from a hat’. You say that to your friends and that’s fine because it’s your forte. It’s the business you’re in. Cool. I really like that. It just so happens that the business I’m in involves, like, publicity and people that arrange for things like this to happen and the result is that my views kinda get broadcast, but it’s like why aren’t everyone’s views a little more broadcast? The reason? Because people are afraid to do anything. What I’m saying is, the notion that an insurgent genre has people that are shittalkers and people that aren’t.

Here’s the point in our tale where security rudely interrupts us. Apparently we need to leave on managers orders. So Brendan goes off to speak to the manager. Upon his return he looks confused, but we can now continue as we now have passes to be upstairs.

BK: I, don’t have any memory of what the last question was about.

IC: You were talking about the whole punk rock scene.

BK: Oh yeah. The world in which there’s a punk rocker that is singled out for talking shit about other people is a bizarre and sad world indeed because that is the genre of punk rock. So it doesn’t make any sense. That’s like a turd that’s singled out for being brown and coming out of someone’s ass, you know what I mean? It’s in the definition.

IC: Yeah definitely. I was reading your blog and you had a big rant about the, quote unquote, old Against Me! fans and overly dumb anarchistic views. I’m not saying anarchism’s dumb in any sense, but this was over the top. Do you feel that a lot of bands get labelled ‘sell outs’ just for developing?

BK: It’s not a question of it. It’s like, the thing is, journalists, no offense to you guys personally but…

Once again, security took umbridge with us and we had to venture further upstairs.

IC: Leeds has an attitude, doesn’t it?

BK: No, it’s fine. It’s like bureaucracy, there’s no boundaries and I’ve worked both with and without it and it’s hard. Like, that guy personally doesn’t give a fuck and that chick personally doesn’t give a fuck, but there’s rules and it sucks. Anyway, point being…ummm what was the question? Oh, Against Me! Say the question again, because I knew what I was gonna say and now I don’t know.

IC: You had the rant on your blog about old Against Me! fans and over the top, dumb anarchistic views and within the punk rock genre a lot of bands get labelled ‘sell outs’ just for developing.

BK: Right, yeah. Exactly. The notion of selling out, and I’ve been saying this in interviews ever since I wrote that fucking blog for fuck’s sakes. It’s like no one ever read my blog until I fucking wrote about Tom Gabel and all of a sudden it’s a big deal. The fact is, the notion that a label influences you to change your sound is so naive. It’s a notion that’s held by fans. It does not exist in the industry. Like in the same way fans of pornography believe that the women getting fucked are enjoying it.

All: *laughs*

BK: You know what I mean? That is like what it is. If a band signs to a major label, they’re desire is to attract more people. They made that desire clear and public and explicit when they signed to a major label. When their next album sounds more polished and more major, it’s a result of their desire and their intentions as a band not the label. Let me tell you something, man. Fat Mike says things like ‘these songs suck, they don’t belong on the record’ and that’s a very helpful thing. He never says something like ‘what you need to do is write big, humongous choruses’. I mean, he works under the exact same fucking model that any other label head works under, any other A&R person. There is no such thing. I’m telling you right now. It does not exist, that you sign an unkown band and go ‘I’m gonna need you to change your sound’. The reason you signed the band is because you don’t want them to change their sound. Y’know? The band. It’s the people in the fucking band that go ‘you know what I want to broaden our appeal. We’ll sign to a major label, because that’s an opportunity we have, and we are going to write songs that are more populist as a result of our new found ambitions’. That’s great, that’s fine. How do I say this the right way? The motivation for making art is always an issue, but it’s the most irrelevant issue in the whole universe. I don’t care what Dostoevsky meant when he wrote Crime And Punishment. I don’t care that he meant it as a, sort of, Christian parable. That’s not what it means to me. In the same way, the new Against Me! record doesn’t mean what Tom meant it when he wrote it. Art is art. It’s not beholden to it’s creator.

IC: Are you saying “the new Against Me! record” meaning White Crosses?

BK: Yeah.

IC: The thing is, when New Wave came out, a lot of people were saying to me ‘Against Me! have sold out’ and I was like ‘at the end of the day, it’s the same fucking chord progression and the same lyrical subjects. It’s just in a studio, not in a fucking garage or some shit’. People getting pissed off because it’s clean.

BK: The guy who just walked through, his name is Jim. Tom expressively spoke out about hating what he’s become. To that, I would rejoin, listen to Screeching Weasel ‘When We Become What We Hate’. Because, we do and you will  and everybody will and it sucks and, yeah it’s not good, you don’t have to love it, but it fucking happens, man. It’s like, you’re a kid and then you get to be a man and there’s nothing creepier than a man acting like a kid. You have no choice, but to act like a man.

Once again security shoo us away and we end up in a ‘green room’ of sorts and are met by Mr. Brownridge. Also: listening to this back me and Ian are reffered to as “fucking dorks” by Toby. I take umbridge with that.

BK: Knock out the big questions that you really want to ask because it doesn’t look like there’s too much time. Sorry, I’m the verbose dick I know it ruined everything, but…

IC: You’re latest EP is Buttsweat & Tears. It was meant to be the band’s first release. Why wasn’t it?

BK: It’s not like we wrote it back then. It’s like, back then the CD industry was huge and it was easier for us to write a CD than do a seven inch, that’s why. That’s not a good last question. Is there something that you really wanna know?

IC: I really wanna know, on more of a personal than professional level, what actually happened at Tom Gabel’s wedding? Who was the best man? There was a fight? Creepy things were said?

BK: No, no no. I’ve actually talked about this before. It’s actually in the liner notes of my acoustic CD with Joe McMahon, but like the song is about our old roadie Sean Nader. He’s a visual artist, a painter. He’s a genius for sure.

Chris McCaughan: He’s a genius, that’s for sure.

BK: He really is a genius. He’s also like the biggest, most messy, awesome, unexplainable, uncaterorizable, unboxable human being that you’ll ever meet in your life and he went to a good friend of his’ wedding and when he showed up at the reception he was

IC: Too fucked?

BK: No, no no. There was like half an hour between the wedding and the reception and by the time everybody else showed up at the reception he was shirtless and prancing around and just being like ‘yo, what’s up man? Sean Nader, in the house!’, which is totally his style. The thing is, that’s a beautiful example of living life to it’s absolute god damn fullest and he does it. I don’t have the nuts to do something like that, you know what I mean? Tom Gabel’s wedding. Everybody said it was about Tom Gabel’s wedding, because I played that song and said ‘I got pretty drunk at Tom Gabel’s wedding so this song is about you tonight’, but in truth I got drunk at Tom Gabel’s wedding and I passed out at 11:45 and everyone else hung out until 4 in the morning.

IC: One other really super quick question, is Heather taller than Tom Gabel?

BK: That’s a good question.


So there you have it, the best drunken interview ever. We did eventually find out that Tom is taller than Heather, along with a bunch of other stuff in the pub after the gig. I’d like to thank everyone for making this happen. Especially Toby because we pissed him off all night and he still helped us out.

2 Responses to “Interview :: Brendan Kelly – The Lawrence Arms”

  1. Paul says:

    fuck man, you pair give M&B a bad name 😉 absolutely brilliant!

  2. Thanks mate. This interview was actually the funniest thing, I think, we’ve ever done.
    When I was typing it up, I was getting really bad looks from people because I was laughing at everything Brendan was saying. The guy’s a genius. I well reckon he hates touring the UK though.
    As for Toby…I’ll leave that be. Just so I don’t get into shit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.