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 Armsâ 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?
Hmmmmâ¦okay, firstly in a piece of journalism of this profile (extremely high) you really shouldnât 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 weâll collectively be left with this introductory sentence that is woefully dated and meaningless. Youâre 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, uhâ¦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. Whatâs the big deal? Um, as for my favorite memory of Colorado? Uh, itâs 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 youâre thinking: Iâve got kids, shouldnât 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 wifeâs blood is something that pretty much automatically excludes any day from being, "the best ever." Yup.
I canât help but notice that youâve 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?
Uhâ¦.hmmm, I donât know. I can tell you that the acoustic, "performances" that I do arenât really anything Iâm terribly interested in pursuing as far as a musical direction. Iâm not a good singer, and Iâm not a good guitar player. I never have been and Iâm under no illusions about this. So, when I get up there and itâs just me and the acoustic, itâs not ever gonna be that good. Itâs fun. Itâs 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. Thatâs why I do it. Thereâs no pressure, thereâs no illusion, thereâs no endgame for me. I donât want to be a troubadour. I donât want to do the, "punk dude does the acoustic thing" thing. For one thing, Iâve 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 Iâd rather focus on ways that I can make music thatâs interesting to me, and that, god willing, wonât suck too terribly.
When I play acoustic, whether itâs live or on that record, itâs pretty much the equivalent of the dude at the party picking up the guitar. Heâs not that good, heâs had a lot of whiskey and heâs maybe bumming a bunch of people out, but heâs having a blast and heâs not really worried about impressing anyone. Thatâs uhâ¦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 Iâve been putting together for a long time. Itâs gonna be really different from the Arms or the Falconâ¦itâs not even really, "punk" so much as itâs, I dunnoâ¦Iâve got one song demoed now and everyone Iâve played it for has said the same thing and thatâs, "wow. Thatâs not what I was expecting AT ALL." Sounds shitty, right? Well, weâll see. Iâm demoing more songs over this holiday season and hopefully, with a proper demo in my hand, Iâll be able to get on Sire or Motown or something. Then Iâm 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 canât live that way, for one thing, and for another thing, thereâs 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 Iâve written on my blog and I think, in some weird way, that itâs got its heart in the right place. I know what youâre 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 itâs an unseemly world, man. And as far as the morality that I hope to pass onto my kids goes, none of thatâs compromised in my blog. I dunnoâ¦like I said, I canât live like that. Iâm just another imperfect asshole with kids, just like everyoneâs dad.
Itâs no secret that life for you and your band has become more uhâ¦ sedentary in the past few years. How do your experiences as a father and husband affect your craft as a songwriter and musician?
Well, itâs a lot harder for me to write songs now, because my kids are either asleep and then I need to be quiet or theyâre awake and I need to pay attention to them. Thatâs 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. Itâs just an exercise) but now, Iâm lucky to be able to write a single song a month. Itâs a very different process than Iâm used to. It makes for different kinds of songs, hence the new record I mentioned earlier.
I will say that although thereâs been speculation that the reason weâve stopped touring as much is due to me becoming a parent, thatâs not true at all. My wife is super supportive of me going on the road, and the tours weâve done in the last few years have all, to the last, been orchestrated by me. The truth is thereâs 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 donât think itâs any secret that weâre just not the kind of band thatâs gonna get to any sort of, "next level" and at a certain point, youâve 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 thatâs how they make their living. They have to keep touring whether they like it or not. Weâre uhâ¦lucky(?) enough that weâre not in that boat.
Weâve never been a momentum band, and now weâre all older and weâre doing something that I love, but thatâll never be a huge, sustainable thing. Thatâs fine. We were never in this for the caviar and gold plated hoes, but weâve experienced this lifestyle for a long time, and the luster isnât what it once was. I love everything about what the Lawrence Arms have done so far, and Iâm confident that in future recordings/tours/whatever weâll continue to be true to the vision of the band that the three of us share. Itâs not a question of money or fame or anything like that. Itâs more of a question of why weâre touring, and that informs how we tour.
At this point, itâs our mission to get to where we can and play for our fans that love us. Weâre not trying to win new fans anymore, weâre not part of the rat race of rock and roll anymore. Weâre not attempting to reinvent anything or stay relevant or anything like thatâ¦at least not as the Lawrence Arms. Weâre 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 (donât ask) and I practically broke all my toes in the process. I mean, I canât stand hippies or their dumb fashion, if thatâs what youâre getting at, but hey man, if youâre in a cool band and you wanna be barefoot, thatâs cool with me. Itâs way better than being in some shitty band and wearing the coolest shoes in the world.
Brendan Kelly interviews Tim Browne of Elway
Whatâs 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 everyoneâs two cents about why our new name sucked/ruled. The whole thing was a clusterfuck of unimportant opinions and punx posturing. Iâm 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; itâs five letters and it more accurately depicts the type of music that we play. Weâre 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 didnât change it, he would fire us from punk.
Youâre 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?
Wowâ¦ I guess describing me as an abortionist isnât quite accurate. Abortion fetishist? More my speedâ¦ Kidding. I do work at a womenâs health clinic and it is one of the most rewarding and interesting things Iâve 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 donât 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 arenât 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 â¦or maybe redemption? Itâs 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 donât know if I answered that wellâ¦
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 itâs 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 canât imagine a more potent way to cause massive psychological damage to millions of people with impunity. There isnât 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 wasnât raised religious, so there is no trace of former belief or vendetta against the celestial dictatorship. Iâm mostly interested in the stories people tell about losing faith, because thatâs where shit gets interesting.
Youâre 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 didnât 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 âbuttfuckâ 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 wasnât 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 dudeâ¦ 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 didnât 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, youâre 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 youâre 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 Eleanorâs 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 didnât have the resources to make the album what it should have been. I think itâs for that reason that weâre gonna take a few tracks off of that record and put it on our new one that weâre recording. Speaking of whichâ¦ 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 weâre sitting on a pretty solid record and we are all so goddamned stoked about everything thatâs 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 Tobyâs supposedly handsome and intelligent underlings, I guess theyâre alright too, when they arenât telling my old shitty band that they are shitty.