Chris Conley of Saves the Day Interview
by Michael Rincon
Saves the Day has been a staple in the pop punk genre for almost 15 years, outlasting countless bands that were lucky if they made it past their second or third album. The genre goes only as deep as the power chords, boyish vocals and heart-on-sleeve lyrics will take them, but for STD singer Chris Conley, change is something he welcomes with open arms - as is evident from his band's newest and most unique release, Daybreak.
The trilogy that began with 2006's Sound the Alarm and continued with 2007's Under the Boards comes to a close with 2011's finale, Daybreak. Conley constructed the album with another line-up of new faces: Arun Bali (lead guitar/backing vocals), Rodrigo Palma (bass) and Claudio Rivera (drums/percussion). It's a fitting end to a creative spurt that spanned five years, a couple of line-up changes and tons and tons of songs.
I talked with Chris Conley about the writings process, Arun's fantastic guitar playing, cryptic symbolism in letters and what's in store for the next chapter of Saves the Day.
How do you feel now that Daybreak, an album anticipated eagerly by many fans, is finally going to see the light of day?
I feel great and I'm really excited about where the band is right now. I love Arun, Rodrigo and Claudio and we're ready to take the album on tour. We worked really hard to bring this album to life so it's quite a relief that's it's finally done. I'm proud of the album and I'm happy that the fans get to hear a version of me that's coming back to life. I think it's a new era for Saves the Day and I could not feel any better.
The opening track, "Daybreak," is almost 11 minutes long with several transitions and styles. I'd like to know what your goal was in writing that song, and if you want your audience to interpret it as a musical entity as a whole, or as a song that is meant to be understood in parts?
It's definitely supposed to be heard as one song with five sections. I had all five sections written as separate songs, and one night in a moment of inspiration they all fused together while I was playing guitar. They worked so well that I decided we would make it one song, and then I re-wrote the lyrics so it ended up being this really long song. It's supposed to be a long song with all the lyrics being thematic. It's been done before but every time I hear a band do it, whether it's the Beatles or Green Day, I really enjoy that irregular song structure. But this was three or four years ago, and the idea to make it one song was created many light years ago.
I notice that some of the song titles have one letter, like tracks "E" and "O." What was your idea behind that and why are those songs titled that way?
You'll have to look into the symbolism of letters on that one because I don't want to give too much away, but each song that has a single-letter title can be read in different ways if you know the symbolism. It has to do with the original Greek alphabet and if you dig into it you might find some interesting stuff.
What was it like having a new bass and drum player for this album and what exactly did Rodrigo and Claudio bring to the songs, in terms of their playing style and presence in the studio?
I absolutely love the new rhythm section and I think they really understand music intuitively, and they are really talented but they don't overplay. I like their style a lot, and working with Rodrigo in the studio was a gift because he seemed to know inherently how the song needed to be approached from the back end: what the drums and bass needed to be doing. So, in a way, Rodrigo produced the drums and bass with March Hudson, our co-producer. The two of them dictated how the drums and bass were going to be played. As far as Claudio, he came later on in the process and did all the percussion and extra toms. He was really great to have in the studio because he did a good job performing, as well as taking direction very well.
It seems like songs like "E" and "Chameleon" display a different style for the band and I'd be interested to know, what were some of your musical influences for this album?
With each record the sound always changes and it's hard for me to determine how that happens, but it's probably because I end up listening to some sort of new music and then my brain is curious about making new kinds of music. So when I'm writing songs, I'm sort of imitating things that I've heard. I can't really pinpoint exactly what songs are influenced by what, but at the time we were listening to a lot of 90's rock during the demo sessions, stuff like the Smashing Pumpkins, Blur, Stone Temple Pilots and Jellyfish.
Awesome. What are you currently listening to right now?
I usually listen on shuffle (laughs), but more specifically, The Zombies, The Kinks, early Rolling Stones, ELO, Jellyfish, Archers of Loaf and Sunny Day Real Estate. I'd say that's the stuff I've been listening to.
The guitar progression through all your albums has changed and I'm curious to know, as a songwriter and musician, has there always been a conscious decision to create different guitar sounds and structures? Arun has some very interesting parts, so could you talk a little bit about that?
It's partly just how I play because I get kind of bored of things that I've tried before, so I'm always looking for new stuff. In the past, it's usually been finding a new chord or using a different guitar pedal. On this album, working with Arun was amazing because he knows how to voice chords in so many different ways, so I can take away some of my notes that I'm playing and leave room for him to open up a broader spectrum. I think the guitars are interesting on this album because we worked really well together when we were figuring out what to play to complement one another. Arun's effects are definitely a new sound for Saves the Day and he works his pedals in a way I've never seen.
What are your favorite songs on the album that really stand out to you?
I think "Daybreak" is really cool because when I listen to it, I sometimes wonder how we made it work because it was such a monster. I think my favorite songs right now are "E," Z," "Chameleon" and "Deranged and Desperate."
Are you worried that some of the songs aren't going to translate well when you play them live, or do you feel that your performance will do the songs on Daybreak justice?
We'll do our best to represent the album. We'll have to alter a few arrangements because we can't have nearly as many background vocals when we play live, since we don't have that many singers in the band. We're going to incorporate a keyboard into the mix so we can do some of the background stuff. But with every Saves the Day album, there's some stuff that you don't play live because you just can't, and that's the sacrifice you have to make when you play onstage.
Since this is the last album in the trilogy, what are some feelings and ideas that you have for the near future, since you're going from this ambitious project that began in 2006 to the next album? How do think you're going to make that transition?
I'm excited about it because the trilogy took very long to finish and I'm really proud of it. The whole time I was working on the trilogy I had other songs that I was writing and I would just store them on a hard drive if they weren't part of the trilogy. So I have hundreds of songs that we have to sift through as a band, and when we find 12 songs that we really like, we will make another Saves the Day album. I'm already excited about the next album because I've been working the whole time on new stuff and I'm still working on new things. The next album is going to be a lot of fun to make because this trilogy will be successfully behind us, and it'll be time to move onward and upward.
What are some things that are in the near future for STD? Tours, festivals? What's going to be happening for the band?
We're touring this fall with Bayside, I Am the Avalanche and Transit for six weeks in the U.S. and then we're doing a month overseas with Yellowcard. After that we'll be home for the holidays and Christmas.
To stream Daybreak or otherwise stay updated on all Saves the Day's latest happenings, visit the band's website at savestheday.com
Reviewer Bio - Michael Rincon is a Entertainment/Music Journalist writing for various magazines since 2007. Based in Los Angeles Michael has gained experience within the music industry interacting with artists/bands and the labels they're a part of.