Victory Lap: Saves The Day’s Celebratory Tour

“We wanna see you at our next show!”

Saves The Day was the first concert I ever went to. With a car full of people, we drove from Indiana to downtown Chicago to see the show on a school night. The energy and passion Chris Conley emanated had us talking about the show all the way home and for weeks after. Saves The Day were young and on the tail end of the their tour in support of In Reverie. Since then, I have seen them touring at least once during each album cycle.

Having just released 9, Saves The Day are on a victory lap. Celebrating 20 years as an incredibly influential band, Chris Conley is enjoying himself and looking back at his career on stage without the pressure of still ‘having to make it.’

Conley is allowing himself to take a step back, maybe for the first time in his career. Prior to this tour, I had only seen him standing in front of the mic, smiling while he sang and wailed on the guitar. Saves The Day have always been the ‘standard’ rock band to me. Though he doesn’t run across the stage causing general chaos, Conley has always commanded the audience through nothing but music. However, this tour is the result of Conley’s two decades of devotion and hard work. Aside from a few songs, he is mostly removing himself from the guitar this time. Instead, he is opting to sing and dance to the music that made him a legend. And he deserves it.

Kevin Devine

Following Conley’s cue, the opening sets were stripped down bands. An Horse opened the night as a two-piece that utterly destroyed the Bottom Lounge. Consisting of drummer Damon Cox and guitarist Kate Cooper, the Australian duo made enough noise for a complete four-person entourage. Sharing vocal duties, Cox and Cooper ripped through a set of impressively melodic indie rock. Including their new single, “Get Out Somehow”, they ended their set with a cameo from Kevin Devine on bass, offering a quick preview of his set.

Kevin Devine has been a big name in the indie scene for a long time. I’ve never been familiar with his music, but seeing him live proved why he has persisted on the scene. Equal parts indie star and rock icon, Devine confidently raged through political songs alone on stage. Pulsing through his electric guitar, Devine screamed, crooned and broke down in melodic guitar riffs to rapt applause. Finding an audience in politically motivated songs, Devine proved to be one of the leading solo acts in the scene by skirting the traditional topics of heartbreak and relationships. The passion and intensity of his performance was something that could only be accomplished by someone performing something they believe in.

Saves The Day’s Chris Conley

Saves The Day took the stage with five members for the first time that I have seen. With a new touring guitarist joining lead guitarist Arun Bali, Chris Conley took charge of singing and just enjoying the music. Sporting dark sunglasses and a jacket, Conley opened with his signature anthem, “At Your Funeral” before launching into a series of newer songs including “Suzuki”, “Xenophobic Blind Left Hook” and “Get Fucked Up”.

Taking at least one song from every album, the band didn’t lean as far into the pop punk scene that they helped create as much as they explored the continuing evolution of their music. Saves The Day’s setlist was a sample of their greatest hits that roared through classic punk rock and modern rock. At this point in their career, Saves The Day have left their mark on the punk scene forever and influenced multiple generations of artists. Nothing cemented this legacy more than the crowd watching the band.

Saves the Day

With the Bottom Lounge mostly full, Conley announced that the band’s seminal album Through Being Cool was 19 years old that day. And while they played some of the best songs from that record (“Shoulder To The Wheel”, “Holly Hox, Forget Me Nots”), they didn’t dwell on it. Each time a classic song like “Rocks Tonic Juice Magic” or Stay What You Are’s “Freakish” came on, the younger generation began excitedly crowd surfing and opening a pit. However, fans who have followed the band for years are still showing up, just as excited as ever. As the opening lines of “Side By Side” from 9 started, a bald man in his 40’s literally threw his arms up in the air and shouted in joy.

Saves The Day are undoubtedly one of the most important bands in punk rock today. Their fanbase has grown with them and continued to expand with younger crowds throughout the years. Chris Conley has managed to navigate the harsh landscape of music and managed to stay relevant to the point that he can finally enjoy the fruits of his labor by just listening to his own music and enjoying it the same way his own fans do – by singing along and dancing until the next album.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and really just… ate far too much macaroni.

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Reflecting On: Saves The Day – Saves The Day

In 2013, I was brand new to Chicago. It was a scary move, but I thought I had made it for the right reasons. My first job here was a painfully boring temp job that left me feeling remote and empty, even compared to my new friends who worked menial jobs. Feeling rejected from an avalanche of unanswered job applications, I would drive alone as the summer sun baked the feeling of regret into my head under the glare of expressway signs, and I wondered how it would ever get better.

You can buy or stream Saves the Day on Apple Music.

When Saves The Day’s self-titled album released that fall, I was ready. I had backed its PledgeMusic campaign earlier that year, listening to the first single, “Ain’t No Kind of Love”, an energetic song about a breakup, with a pure hunger. The chorus was exactly what I was going through, as Chris Conley sang, “For right now, to now make it through the long day, is okay / Tomorrow, when anything can happen, try again”.

I truly anticipated an album from one of my first musical loves that would let me bask in my oncoming depression without guilt. Instead, Saves The Day unexpectedly lifted my spirits.

For almost 20 years, Chris Conley was a flag bearer of the emo movement. He never shied away from diving headfirst into the fragility of the human spirit. The three albums before Saves the Day were a trilogy that tackled depression and the depths it can actually go. His songwriting is morbid, but captivatingly catchy.

With the release of Saves The Day, an album bearing the name of the band itself, it felt like a shock to the system to discover that it was a positive album. Despite being released at the start of fall, it was a pure summer album, complete with cover art of a bright orange grapefruit. Similar to how In Reverie stunned fans with a change in style, Saves The Day was a full thematic shift. Instead of glorifying loneliness, Saves The Day is an extremely loose ‘concept’ album about two people falling in love through a chance encounter outside of a bar and reflecting on the good and bad of their lives after years of happy marriage.

Saves The Day was the first album by the band that wasn’t burdened with expectation. There just wasn’t a need to compete with the emo wave of the early 2000’s or attempt to recover ground after the backlash of a stylistic change. Instead, it used the harsh guitars of the Daybreak trilogy of albums to forge a new identity.

After 15 years, to hear a real love song from Conley felt extraordinarily out of place. This was someone who wrote songs like “The End” from Sound The Alarm (“I’m a danger to myself / Always blaming someone else”). But here he was, singing “Beyond All of Time”. It’s the first slower song on the record, with an enchanting chorus of, “Together forever tonight / I’ll always be right by your side, tonight / I love you beyond all of time”.

The true peak of the album is the dual lineup of “Verona” and “Ring Pop”. “Verona” tackles the struggles of a relationship. The verses hint at the fights and sacrifices a couple have to go through against harsh guitars and a depressing drum beat, only to launch into a gloriously hopeful chorus of, “After the end when he tells her he loves her / She promises not to let go / They hold on to hope”.

Immediately following this is “Ring Pop”, arguably the happiest pop punk song of all time. The song radiates with a sappy and childlike wonder of love, and caps off the theme of the record in an incredibly uplifting arc unlike anything else Saves The Day has ever written. “Born on opposite coasts for the two of us both / Knowing in 20 years we would not be alone / Might have made us a pair of zen-like two-year-olds / With a couple of ring pops, no need to propose”.

Saves The Day drastically helped curve my depression for some time as I struggled to adjust to living in Chicago. If Chris Conley, a poster child of dark songs, could find happiness, so could I. That is also when I finally noticed the last line of the chorus from “Ain’t No Kind of Love” that I had somehow missed on each listen since the song was released. Suddenly, the album made sense, as did my outlook on where I was going. “For right now, to now make it through the long day, is okay / Tomorrow, when anything can happen, try again / Until then keep on breathing / The love you long to know is within”.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and killed a spider with a broom while writing this. He is brave and a hero.

Reflecting On: Saves The Day – In Reverie

In the early 2000’s, Saves The Day were the poster child of the emo scene. Stay What You Are had set the scene on fire early into the new millennium. With expectations high, In Reverie defied them in every possible way. And fans hated it. Singer Chris Conley’s new, high pitch vocals caught everyone off guard. The dreamy lyrics were a far stretch from the desperate lyricism of the band’s past records. Fifteen years later, In Reverie is held in much higher regard within Saves The Day’s body of work, and, unfortunately, largely forgotten.

You can stream In Reverie on Spotify.

Both Through Being Cool and Stay What You Are seemed like required listening for anyone developing a sense of music. Aggressive pop punk and restrained rock, respectively, they showed alternating sides of the same band and a maturity in songwriting that few bands successfully manage. Especially after Stay What You Are, arguably one of the most popular albums of the time, the wait for Saves The Day’s next record was excruciating.

In Reverie felt different right away. It was the first album cover to feature a painting instead of a high school inspired photograph. The CD itself was a bright, tangerine orange. Before even pressing ‘Play’, it warned you to be prepared for something new.

“Anywhere With You”, one of the few singles from the album that remains a live staple, broke out with harsh, fuzzed guitars as the back drop for Chris Conley’s new vocal style. In retrospect, it’s not that big of a jump. However, at the time of release, it almost sounded like a brand new singer had taken over. Not nearly as nasally, Conley was crisper and more relaxed as his pitch edged upwards.

In Reverie also marked the beginning of the modern Saves The Day ‘sound.’ It established the tight melodic pop song formula that would become the staple format of the band moving forward. While it would take the next album, Sound The Alarm, to firmly mark the occasion with aggressive guitars, In Reverie experimented with more relaxed songwriting.

Songs like “Monkey” played with loud and soft melodies, refusing to lean too far one way or the other. “Wednesday The Third” rediscovered the dark guitars, but let Conley’s vocals explore the musical scale and harmonize off of himself.

While other albums would return to the pained existential lyricism of the band’s first few albums, In Reverie played around a bit more. While there are certainly songs pertaining to the pains of relationships, (“Anywhere With You”) or emotional turmoil, (“In My Waking Life”), there were many more songs with fanciful lyrics that don’t seem to hold much meaning other than being fun to sing.

“Morning In The Moonlight”, one of the few absolute jams on the album, delves deep into this aspect. There’s little to take away from the song other than the lyrics are just a blast to sing out loud. “Madness ensues, swimming in ocean blues / The dream-dripping sky covers my insides / The moonlight in the morning sun sends shivers over my skin / The memories are slowly slipping and I’m sailing against the wind”.

It took a few years for In Reverie to actually be discussed positively. My friend group largely ignored the album until after the release of Sound The Alarm. Conley himself stated it was his favorite record in various interviews, but acknowledged that critical reaction to it had caused a course correction. Sound The Alarm and Under the Boards were largely written as a response to In Reverie. The guitars immediately became more aggressive and the lyrics grew darker. It was a stylistic approach that appealed to the imagery of past songs, like “As Your Ghost Takes Flight”.

Looking back on it, In Reverie isn’t as drastically different from Saves The Day’s discography as it sounded upon release. It seems to fit into their body of work musically better than Stay What You Are in many ways, even if it still stands out lyrically. Many of the same people who initially hated the record now regard it as their favorite album. However, it still remains the black sheep of Saves The Day’s history. Songs from it rarely seem to be played live, and it seems rarely discussed. It’s a shame, because the album is such a cornerstone of the last 15 years of the band’s history.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and just dropped two eggs on the floor, accidentally creating the worst breakfast this side of the Mississip’.

Review: Man Overboard – Heavy Love

Man_Overboard_-_2015

Man Overboard has always been that band that stood just on my peripheral vision. Their battle ready slogan of “Defend Pop Punk” made you root for them, but something was always just a little off. “Cliffhanger”, off of the new album Heavy Love does a good job of explaining what I mean, as dual singers Nik Bruzzese and Zac Eisenstein rattle off the lyrics, “I realized that I’m a natural second best / And whatever is against me, I’ll appear as something less”.

But that isn’t this album. Heavy Love is the first Man Overboard album that really grabs what the band should have been all along and never lets it go.

Man Overboard have a definite hardcore fanbase, but they’ve seemed unable to really take advantage of the pop punk community in the way that their peers have over the last few years. Part of that, I believe, is that their albums have always felt lopsided. There are a few very good songs, and a plague of what could be argued as filler. Heavy Love feels like the first album that takes advantage of Man Overboard’s talent as songwriters. It’s the first album of theirs that I didn’t find myself skipping tracks on the second listen through.

In many ways, it reminds me of Saves the Day’s In Reverie or Weezer (pick any of the colored albums). The band has the confidence to push themselves in ways that they never had before, mixing smooth surfer rock and the harsh crunch of heavier pop punk successfully over emo lyricism.

In many ways, I wish this were the self-titled album of the band’s career, as it gives their sound the full body that it has always deserved. The guitars are heavy where they need to be, melodic and crisp. Listen to the way they pop and bounce during “Invisible”, the Say Anything/Franz Ferdinand styled breakdowns of “Deal”, or the control and melody of “A Love That I Can’t Have” before breaking into an all-out fury as the song fades to a close.

Nik Bruzzese’s bass rumbles along slightly overshadowed by the guitars, but pounds out some solid melody. Joe Talarico’s drumming seems a bit restrained during parts of the album, but unleashes full power when the songs break into choruses or solos. He basically commands “Deal” with quick snaps and rolling snares throughout the song.

Nik and Zac’s vocals are the best they’ve ever been. Zac’s deeper voice is a perfect balance to Nik’s surprisingly high notes. They really push themselves in ways that I’m not sure I’ve heard before.

Perhaps the biggest complaint that I’ve heard against Man Overboard is that their lyrics are regularly hit or miss, often covering the same material. Expect more of the same, just much, much better. With an album title of Heavy Love, it’d be ludicrous to think that the subject matter would be about anything other than relationships. It’s disappointing that the band hasn’t explored much beyond this subject matter, but what is reassuring is that it’s consistent this time around: the choruses are memorable, the verses are simplistic, but hold a depth the last albums lacked.

Heavy Love’s themes revolve around broken relationships. What is weird is that the songs don’t even seem particularly angry, but the overall tone is that of frustration with attempting to fix relationships. Lines like “If you never come home / Then you really must know / I adored you, and I adore you now” from “Splinter” or “And I already know / Cuz I can already tell / From how it feels / And how I just keep looking at you / I keep your pictures and I stare right at you”, from “She’s In Pictures” litter the album. It’s explored territory for sure, but there’s no arguing a good chorus when you hear it.

Heavy Love is what Man Overboard should have been a few years ago. This is the album that they should be known for. It doesn’t have the simple pop songs that makes a band stand out initially (see “Dead End Dreams”), but is instead packed full of every element that makes a pop punk record great. There is a lot of territory that the band isn’t covering and few places that push the boundaries of the genre as much as their peers. But Heavy Love is a solid album and a fun listen that justifies all the time invested in hoping the band really comes out on top.

As the verse in “Cliffhanger” ends, the band shout defiantly, “And the sad thing is that I’ve never been better / But if you look at the facts, you know I’ve never been better”.

4/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and first encountered Man Overboard on the Warped scene. A $5 CD started this journey into following them. Defend Pop Punk!

Review: Fireworks – Oh, Common Life

fireworks

Oh, Common Life caught me off guard almost immediately, all at once being nothing quite like I expected, but everything I had hoped it would be.

Fireworks have never quite made the headlines that they deserve, but have proven themselves as brazen artists attempting to push the boundaries of pop punk and unwilling to let their peers pass them an inch. Depending on what you’re looking for, Oh, Common Life will either be somewhat disappointing or album of the year.

First and foremost, if you liked the sound of Gospel, Oh, Common Life expands on it significantly, adding in a heavy flourish of Saves the Day circa In Reverie grunge pop and elements of Hellogoodbye’s indie synth. While the album is laced with the faster pop punk songs that the band is generally known for, Oh Common Life is much more paced. It definitely takes a step back to leave much more room for the addition of a haunting keyboard that bleeds through the melodies.

This is Fireworks much more mature than they’ve ever been, creating a more standardized rock album that has the bounce of jazz. The rhythm guitar fuzzes mechanically, creating a harsh layer that allows the bass and lead guitar to dance over it without being squashed. Bassist Kyle O’Neil consistently becomes one of the highlights of the songs, as his riffs find their way intertwined beautifully with the lead guitars.

The best way that I can describe the album is that the faster songs are wicked powerful while many of the slower paced songs remind me of “Teeth” from Gospel; slow, poppy and highly melodic. However, each song maintains an incredible hook and relentless drive.

Vocalist David Mackinder is perhaps at his strongest yet, finding the perfect melody to match the music. Although he doesn’t strain himself too harshly, he matches, if not tops his performance from Gospel. It also shows him at his most mature, forgoing the easy and generic topics like lost girlfriends and focuses on the process of growing up.

The use of callbacks late in the album is sparse, but it help the lyrics feel like a complete story and a full unit. Most notable is the theme of his father. It’s a surprising and subtle theme, but best illustrates the concept of growing up.

In “Play God Only Knows At My Funeral”, Mackinder sings “I’m half the man my father knows I should be”. A bit later in “Run, Brother, Run”, he sings, “I was twenty-five when my dad died, my arms felt weak and my heart grew tired”, before a  gorgeous part of the chorus, “I’m getting used to my skin but it doesn’t feel right, I’ve shared my name with a stranger all my life / And I feel it all”.

Oh, Common Life shows Fireworks at their best, subdued and quieter than we’re used to, baring their fangs sparingly for maximum effect. It’s sure to be their In Reverie, in that most hardcore fans are sure to love it, but it may not be the favorite of the average listener.

What it represents is the pinnacle of a band that grew from a New Found Glory sound-a-like to one of the bands at the forefront of the present pop punk movement. Oh, Common Life is brooding, uplifting, morose and surprisingly optimistic. At the end of the day, it’s an early contender as one of the year’s best albums.

4/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and yells at the rain on occasion. He also wants to play you in FIFA.