Band on Band: Brendan Kelly/Elway

Once in a hundred lifetimes certain events line up for something not to be missed. We at Punnknews would be hard pressed to find a finer example than the potential of Brendan Kelly and Elway's Tim Browne interviewing each other. Somewhere between conversations about goat fellatio, being an abortionist and shitting yourself, exists an exquisite portrait of musicianship and friendship that rivals the beauty of Sistine Chapel. Or maybe it's just funny, you decide.

Tim Browne of Elway Interviews Brendan Kelly

Brendan, you are playing this week in Fort Collins and Denver. My experience with The Lawrence Arms’ shows along the Colorado front range is usually punctuated by you falling off the stage or shitting your pants. What is your favorite story from the rocky mountain state?
Hmmmm…okay, firstly in a piece of journalism of this profile (extremely high) you really shouldn’t date the piece. What if the powers that be decide not to run this interview until the new year? At that point I will have come and gone from Colorado and we’ll collectively be left with this introductory sentence that is woefully dated and meaningless. You’re gonna have to exude a little more professional dignity if you want to make it in the rough and tumble world of interviewing barely-non-vagrant types like myself, Tim.

Anyway, to get to your accusations first, yes mother, I shit my pants on stage in Ft. Collins, but it was because I had the flu, and as for falling off the stage, uh…yeah. Like most people I tend to get up in front of large groups of people and make a dickhead of myself by not being able to stand upright on a large riser. What’s the big deal? Um, as for my favorite memory of Colorado? Uh, it’s definitely my wedding. That was easily the best day of my life. I mean, I lost my virginity that day, which was a nice treat.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: I’ve got kids, shouldn’t their births be the best days of my life? No, dude. Those days were cool, but also extremely terrifying AND watching an orderly mop up my wife’s blood is something that pretty much automatically excludes any day from being, "the best ever." Yup.

I can’t help but notice that you’ve been stepping up your solo game, what with the tour with Matt Skiba and random smatterings of gigs elsewhere. Tell me, what can your fans expect from you in the new year? Will there be lapsteel?
Uh….hmmm, I don’t know. I can tell you that the acoustic, "performances" that I do aren’t really anything I’m terribly interested in pursuing as far as a musical direction. I’m not a good singer, and I’m not a good guitar player. I never have been and I’m under no illusions about this. So, when I get up there and it’s just me and the acoustic, it’s not ever gonna be that good. It’s fun. It’s fun to get up in front of people and know that all bets are off and I can just tell jokes or dick around or play songs or do shots or whatever. That’s why I do it. There’s no pressure, there’s no illusion, there’s no endgame for me. I don’t want to be a troubadour. I don’t want to do the, "punk dude does the acoustic thing" thing. For one thing, I’ve got lots of talented friends who already do that way better than I ever could and for another thing, it would never be that good, and I’d rather focus on ways that I can make music that’s interesting to me, and that, god willing, won’t suck too terribly.

When I play acoustic, whether it’s live or on that record, it’s pretty much the equivalent of the dude at the party picking up the guitar. He’s not that good, he’s had a lot of whiskey and he’s maybe bumming a bunch of people out, but he’s having a blast and he’s not really worried about impressing anyone. That’s uh…I believe it was at one time referred to as, "punk rock" attitude, Tim.

Now, that being said, this year will hopefully see the release of this solo record I’ve been putting together for a long time. It’s gonna be really different from the Arms or the Falcon…it’s not even really, "punk" so much as it’s, I dunno…I’ve got one song demoed now and everyone I’ve played it for has said the same thing and that’s, "wow. That’s not what I was expecting AT ALL." Sounds shitty, right? Well, we’ll see. I’m demoing more songs over this holiday season and hopefully, with a proper demo in my hand, I’ll be able to get on Sire or Motown or something. Then I’m gonna leave you punks behind faster than you can say, "Stop!"

Oh, and no lapsteel. The reasons why are many and splendored, bro.

Your blog, Bad Sandwich Chronicles, has earned a sort of cult popularity among your fans, tackling such tough issues as parenting, romance, existential dread, and equine-human pornography. Is there ever a point where you wonder what your children might think should they ever read your ramblings?
Eh, I can’t live that way, for one thing, and for another thing, there’s a lot of weird shit out there for them to find written or filmed by people vastly more depraved than myself. I stand behind the stuff I’ve written on my blog and I think, in some weird way, that it’s got its heart in the right place. I know what you’re saying, the idea of a little girl reading about her dad unpacking the state of mind that goes into making some porn movie where a goat fucks a lady is kind of unseemly. But it’s an unseemly world, man. And as far as the morality that I hope to pass onto my kids goes, none of that’s compromised in my blog. I dunno…like I said, I can’t live like that. I’m just another imperfect asshole with kids, just like everyone’s dad.

It’s no secret that life for you and your band has become more uh… sedentary in the past few years. How do your experiences as a father and husband affect your craft as a songwriter and musician?
Well, it’s a lot harder for me to write songs now, because my kids are either asleep and then I need to be quiet or they’re awake and I need to pay attention to them. That’s the big difference. I used to sit down and write three to five songs a day just to get my mind in shape (most of those songs were terrible. It’s just an exercise) but now, I’m lucky to be able to write a single song a month. It’s a very different process than I’m used to. It makes for different kinds of songs, hence the new record I mentioned earlier.

I will say that although there’s been speculation that the reason we’ve stopped touring as much is due to me becoming a parent, that’s not true at all. My wife is super supportive of me going on the road, and the tours we’ve done in the last few years have all, to the last, been orchestrated by me. The truth is there’s just not really any reason for the Lawrence Arms to be out there killing ourselves in a van anymore. There was a time when the attitude in our band was, "conquer the world, make this thing as big and awesome and all consuming as possible" but I don’t think it’s any secret that we’re just not the kind of band that’s gonna get to any sort of, "next level" and at a certain point, you’ve been around the country six zillion times, so that novelty is kind of gone and the question remains, "why are we doing this yet another time?" Certain bands keep doing it because that’s how they make their living. They have to keep touring whether they like it or not. We’re uh…lucky(?) enough that we’re not in that boat.

We’ve never been a momentum band, and now we’re all older and we’re doing something that I love, but that’ll never be a huge, sustainable thing. That’s fine. We were never in this for the caviar and gold plated hoes, but we’ve experienced this lifestyle for a long time, and the luster isn’t what it once was. I love everything about what the Lawrence Arms have done so far, and I’m confident that in future recordings/tours/whatever we’ll continue to be true to the vision of the band that the three of us share. It’s not a question of money or fame or anything like that. It’s more of a question of why we’re touring, and that informs how we tour.

At this point, it’s our mission to get to where we can and play for our fans that love us. We’re not trying to win new fans anymore, we’re not part of the rat race of rock and roll anymore. We’re not attempting to reinvent anything or stay relevant or anything like that…at least not as the Lawrence Arms. We’re just being the Lawrence Arms that people hopefully like and want to come see. And we want to put on good shows. That has nothing to do with me being a dad and everything to do with the most practical way to roll these days. Does that answer the question?

Last, and most importantly: What, in your opinion, is the psychology behind hippies who play punk rock shows with no shoes?
I dunno, man. Jeff Ott used to play barefoot and so did Dan Hanaway. I did once because my shoes fell off (don’t ask) and I practically broke all my toes in the process. I mean, I can’t stand hippies or their dumb fashion, if that’s what you’re getting at, but hey man, if you’re in a cool band and you wanna be barefoot, that’s cool with me. It’s way better than being in some shitty band and wearing the coolest shoes in the world.

Brendan Kelly interviews Tim Browne of Elway

What’s up with the name change? I thought 10-4 Eleanor was a great name for a band, personally.
You know, after we announced the name change were bombarded with everyone’s two cents about why our new name sucked/ruled. The whole thing was a clusterfuck of unimportant opinions and punx posturing. I’m glad that through the fray of said clusterfuck your opinion bursts forth with the power of honesty! It was a pretty good band name, huh? Nope. Actually, when it comes right down to it, 10-4 Eleanor is just a shitty band name that none of us were ever any more than passively content with. Maybe it was just that we were tired of trying to tell someone in a bar what our band was called 8 times before they walk away still not sure what the fuck was said. Honestly, we reached a point where we actually had to consider the fact that maybe some people out there like our tunes, and we wanted to make the most of the transition that we were going through. Elway is simple; it’s five letters and it more accurately depicts the type of music that we play. We’re really happy with the new name, and we hope the new record will win back the hearts of your ilk Brendan, who mourn the loss of the greatest band name ever thought of. Also, Toby Jeg told us if we didn’t change it, he would fire us from punk.

You’re an abortionist by day. How does this god hating profession inform your lifestyle/unique take on insurgent music? More to the point, what emotion do you find the most helpful in constructing your most successful songs and is your highly controversial job a source of inspiration or stress in that regard?
Wow… I guess describing me as an abortionist isn’t quite accurate. Abortion fetishist? More my speed… Kidding. I do work at a women’s health clinic and it is one of the most rewarding and interesting things I’ve ever done. It also, as it turns out, is the very best way to get your conservative aunt to stop calling you asking how life is. Being that I do work in a field that is the very ire of the Christian right, I do sort of draw a bit of inspiration from my work. Taking charge of your reproductive health (fucking [safely]) is something that every human should have the right and compulsion to do. I guess I don’t always write my songs about women taking back their reproductive rights from the depraved clutches of the bronze age, but I do feel like my job helps to accomplish something, which is comforting on some level. I think the best songs I have ever written aren’t necessarily about political or religious issues, but more of a look at how that kind of shit affects me and people around me. I function best as a songwriter knowing that the things that I sing about and play have an emotional impact on someone who has felt the same way I have. So I guess the emotion that helps me write the best songs is remorse …or maybe redemption? It’s hard to say, but I do know that my job gives me a sort of personal fulfillment that is separate, but not entirely, from my ambitions as a musician and songwriter. I don’t know if I answered that well…

Speaking of, your songs indicate that you seem to have a lot of issues with god. Is this just a professional rivalry or are more personal things afoot?
I suppose it’s much more of the former than the latter. I believe that organized religion on the practical level and the philosophical implications of a Big Brother-style omnipotent, omnipresent sky deity on a larger scale are together the very worst creation of humans. I can’t imagine a more potent way to cause massive psychological damage to millions of people with impunity. There isn’t any valid reason why anyone should still believe in that fucking drivel. So yes, a lot of my songs take god to task. But not god like the one C.S. Lewis or Hitler or August Burns Red blow their loads to. More like god as a concept that is outmoded and almost 100% shitty. I wasn’t raised religious, so there is no trace of former belief or vendetta against the celestial dictatorship. I’m mostly interested in the stories people tell about losing faith, because that’s where shit gets interesting.

You’re originally from Vermont, a hugely lame state. What were you like in high school? Did you have devil sticks? A hackey sack? How did you discover punk rock in such an isolated environment? Walk me through your discovery and early love affair with aggressive rock and roll.
Really? With the hippy bashing? The only thing more sympathetic to hippies and their awful, awful lifestyles than having lived in Vermont is your response to my question about barefoot punk bands. I didn’t actually grow up in Vermont. I was born there. I spent the bulk of my life here in Colorado. The town I lived in was no less isolated from good music and people though. I grew up in a god awful town called Monument, which is just north of Colorado Springs (and in eye-shot of New Life Church, home of Ted ‘buttfuck’ Haggard, and Focus on the Family, home of James Dobson, who is probably also a buttfucker). It was a go-to-college-or-stay-and-deal-meth kinda town. You know, like Bakersfield or Rockford.

The memories this question invokes are just the worst. I was such an awkward dipshit in High School. I loved KMFDM and Nine Inch Nails (I still like Nine Inch Nails) and Rammstein and shit like that all through middle school. It wasn’t until I started listening to Bad Religion and the old Punk-O-Rama, Fat Wreck, and Asian Man compilations that I strayed from the gothtard path and got a respectable haircut. I got together a couple of my best friends and we formed a band called The Commies: A band that you once told me sucked after we opened for you. Show dude… show.

To be honest, it seemed really easy to get into punk rock in the town I grew up in; the alternative was literally catatonia in my eyes. I knew I didn’t want to be that fat juggalo, methmouthed, gas station attendant driving his fat meth baby to church in Monument, so I got decent grades and went to college in Fort Collins so I could get the hell out of there. Punk rock was what kept me from going all Harris and Klebold in the time between.

Finally, you’re on Red Scare now, a label known for being completely kick ass. Tell me a little about your expectations for recording and the subsequent and inevitable rise to rock and roll glory that you’re anticipating to experience as a result of signing up with confirmed pervert Tobias Jeg and his gang of intelligent and handsome underlings.
Anyone who knows anything about 10-4 Eleanor’s history knows that we have never spent a lot of money or time putting together a super great recording. Make no mistake, we back …Too Bad hard as fuck, but we just didn’t have the resources to make the album what it should have been. I think it’s for that reason that we’re gonna take a few tracks off of that record and put it on our new one that we’re recording. Speaking of which… we are fucking ecstatic to be recording at Atlas with Matt Allison. That guy has produced at least 4 of my top 10 favorite records of all time. For reals though, I think we’re sitting on a pretty solid record and we are all so goddamned stoked about everything that’s been happening. Toby, contrary to popular opinion, is a pretty great guy with pretty good taste in drinks. I think he thinks I like sports more than I do though. As for Toby’s supposedly handsome and intelligent underlings, I guess they’re alright too, when they aren’t telling my old shitty band that they are shitty.