SAVES The Day: the band that has changed even more than its members have, who have had almost as many label changes as they have had albums out and who we have each watched, adoringly, as they have grown through their heavier punk days of Through Being Cool and Stay Where You Are into the more mature, cultivated sound of Daybreak.
Ahead of the band’s now not-so-secret double-bill of London shows (firstly co-headlining at the Forum in Kentish Town and then playing an acoustic set at the Macbeth in Hoxton’s club night ‘Whatever Happened To Punk Rock’), we caught up with Chris Conley for some couch therapy.
Yeah exactly, and it’s like that saying, the darkest hour is just before the dawn. And I was lucky that I had my songs where I could let the feelings go in a creative way and navigate through my emotions with the songs, with the guitar, with the lyrics and then singing on stage, continuing the catharsis.
So your new record Daybreak concludes the three-part trilogy of Sound The Alarm and Under The Boards? Can you tell us a little about the story behind those records and the conclusion Daybreak brings of the three?
In 2004, I was in a pretty low place and I think it was just living in this modern world. You know we don’t really talk about the difficulties of being alive – you’re just kind of pushed out the door and told to go and do well in school and get a job and you’re never really given time to think about how you feel.
Sometimes you have these complicated feelings that are just impossible to understand without someone to say, “Hey, it’s OK, I understand how you feel.” And because I never had that, I wound up feeling alienated and I turned into a pretty angry guy because I thought, “Why aren’t people kinder to each other?” And I was teased as a kid so I didn’t have this internal sense of confidence at all.
Around 2004, I was just totally cynical and frustrated, confused, angry and it wasn’t good, but I found out I was going to be a dad and so I realised that I really needed to dig myself out of this place. The realisation was that I couldn’t change the world so I have to learn to live in it and find peace. I don’t want to be an angry dad; I don’t want to make more anger. I don’t want to be a bad influence, so I just dove into the depths of my mind and said, “OK, what’s here? What’s going on? And why is it there?”
And the albums became my way of venting what was going on and understanding the process. And so Sound The Alarm is about the anger and the cynicism and Under The Boards is about recognition that we have to make a change because it’s totally tearing our lives apart living that way and Daybreak is about accepting that it’s OK that I lost my way and learning to forgive myself and the world and finding inner peace so that I can be a better example to my family and live in the world a healthy way.
Clearly the trilogy represents some kind of therapeutic experiment; but how do you maintain a catharsis between writing for yourself and writing for the fans?
It was my own therapy and it was just a way of acknowledging to myself what I felt. I grew up feeling like it wasn’t OK that I felt a certain way because people would say, “Why do you think like that? Why do you feel like that? Why do you look like that? Why do you talk like that?” And at some point, I cracked and just said, “This is how I feel. This is real. This is my truth.”
And so I just let it all out and I found that it was amazing when I stopped fighting myself and just said, “Wow, this is not OK. I’m really struggling right now. I feel like I’m drowning.” And I gave into that feeling; I leaned into that rough edge and found that underneath the surface of anger was this frozen iceberg of tears that had never been cried. And they should have been cried along the way, but nobody was there to say, “It’s OK. That was a hard day today. I’ve been there.”
When I said that to myself, I just cried an ocean of tears and thawed. And then on the other side, I found this compassion and understanding that was born out of that suffering, but I was never going to get there if I continued to fight the way I was feeling, continued to fight the way the world is. I needed to learn to live in myself and in the world.
I think that’s a great attitude to have, but the cynical side within me questions it: Don’t you agree that it’s only in times of depression and inner-battling that you progress most as a person? In a static life, there is no necessity to change and grow. So with that acceptance you’ve found, how can you now continue to develop as both a person and a songwriter?
I just don’t fight how I feel. I’m not afraid of what the world is and it’s not as if it’s a happy realisation, it’s just an acceptance. So it’s not as if I can see the injustice and go, "Well, that’s alright." You know, I get sad, I just don’t get angry as much; I want to reach out and hold everyone and say, “It’s alright, I understand how you feel.”
I think you’re right though, that lowest point when I was going through so much in 2004 was actually the place where I began to transition. If I hadn’t got to the lowest point, I could never rise above.
Yeah, your lowest point emotionally can often be your strongest creatively.
Exactly, and it’s like that saying, the darkest hour is just before the dawn. And I was lucky that I had my songs where I could let the feelings go in a creative way and navigate through my emotions with the songs, with the guitar, with the lyrics and then singing on stage, continuing the catharsis.
It’s funny you should say 2004, because I had a similar experience at that time.
Is that right?
Lowest point – 2003/4. And then everything came together afterwards.
It was a weird time in the whole world. We’d just gone to war and especially living in America and being a sensitive, liberal guy, it was really complicated because our own president was clearly not trying to make the world a better place. That contributed to the level of anger and cynicism that was in my heart at the time. I just would not believe what the world was. It’s not about figuring out how to change the world; it’s about just figuring out how to readjust your relationship to the world and to yourself.
Which is difficult, extremely difficult.
That’s right. I mean, I was working on this trilogy from 2004 until 2010, so that’s a long process.
I had this idea that I was desperately in need of change. I didn’t know how it was going to happen. So I was writing through those feelings; the only concept was that I was going to get to a better place. It was fun for me to go through the song writing and find my own emotions along the way. Cool process. Painful, but beautiful.
And catharsis through music as well – absolute best. So, your favourite Saves The Day record?
I always like the newest album the most, but I think the trilogy, as an entire work is really cool.
And not just that, it’s a map of your own personal development, which provides another layer.
Yeah. And singing those songs feels great on stage, so I’d say the trilogy, as a whole piece is my favourite thing I’ve ever done. But I like all the albums; right now my favourite track is ‘E’ from the new album, because it’s really strange.
Four of the songs are just letters?
It’s from the original Greek alphabet. Each letter actually means something on its own, I just happened to pawn the information and I thought, if people ever find out what they means, it will give further context to the spiritual evolution of the trilogy because al the letters have to do with man and the cosmos. You don’t want to give too much away, sometimes I tell people what it really is but…
It’s good to hold something back and let people make their own interpretations of the music because that’s when music is the most powerful.
I love that it can be true to someone else, but have nothing to do with the why I wrote the song. I believe in that and I don’t want to change people’s perceptions too much, but a lot of people ask about the letters and so I tell them to hunt down the original Greek alphabet as each letter is assigned to a numerical value as well. I like to think about symbolism.
So moving forward, Daybreak, how did you get picked up by Razor and Tie records? Is there a reason Vagrant aren’t putting this out and are you pumped to be on the same roster as Twisted Sister and Alvin and the Chipmunks?
We just like them because they cared about the band. They believed in our music. Vagrant ran out of the money to fund the recordings we recorded it ourselves and then tried to find labels, and Razor and Tie was the best one by far.
Next year, we’re going on tour in Australia to Soundwave. You should come. We’re doing two sets a day there and we’re going to do Pinker Tin by Weezer everyday and a full set of originals. And then we’re going to be back here for the festivals in summer, so spread the word.
Chris, consider it spread.
Written by Nicole Dalamagas and Steve O'Brien
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