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’.

Reflecting On: Saves The Day – Sound The Alarm

saves_the_day

It feels like Saves the Day have always been a staple of the pop punk scene, forging a path on their own against the grain the their peers. At the top of their game, the band released In Reverie, a fuzzed dreamscape punctuated by the arrival of a Chris Conley with much higher vocals than on past releases. While it is regarded much more favorably today, at the time of release the album was more or less a flop; a general consensus among fans hated it compared to Stay What You Are or Through Being Cool. Sound the Alarm then, was the rebirth of Saves the Day. It wasn’t a rebirth in that is was made to please fans (it did that), but it was a response to the criticism made against In Reverie, the first album to produce the sound of modern STD albums, and the first in a trilogy of albums dealing with depression, promising a robust amount of work coming from the band for the foreseeable future.

I’ve always seen Sound the Alarm as a wake-up call to the fans. In response to the criticism of the low-key elements of In Reverie, Chris Conley turned the guitars up. In response to the pushback against the psychedelic, dreamy lyrics, he sang of much darker stories and degrading aspects of depression. Since they didn’t seem to appreciate the experimentation, he refined the way to write a pop song to a razor’s edge and slung power chords like an axe.

If Stay What You Are was the quintessential emo album of the early aughts, Sound the Alarm was the rock record that STD fans didn’t know we wanted. “Head for the Hills” opened with a blast of rough guitars, as though it were a demented cousin of “Certain Tragedy”, before blaring into the immediately chilling lyrics of, “Burning the door in the back of my mind/ Lying alone in the morning light, feel like swallowing my eyes./ I walk around the house until my feet begin to bleed/ Still I can’t forget somehow”.

Perhaps the most noticeable aspect of Sound the Alarm, other than the ‘dark’ lyrics, is how heavy the music is. By most regards, the music is still considered pop, but by Saves the Day standards it might as well be metal. The guitars raged, and the bass was turned up to fearsome levels, playing a much more prominent role than on past regards, thumping along as though following the listener down an alley. For anyone who questioned the direction of the band after In Reverie, this was an album that reminded them that this was the band who wrote Through Being Cool, found art in the depths of depression to create an emo masterpiece, and then suckerpunched haters who thought the band would try to recreated Stay What You Are to appease the detracting fans.

For everything that fans think define Saves The Day, Sound The Alarm set a precedent for staples to their live shows. For everyone who came to hear “At Your Funeral”, “Eulogy”, “Dying Day” and “The End” became new necessary songs. Simple pop songs, perfected down to the second in how long they lasted, and infused with enough energy to fill the entirety of the last couple STD albums.

“I’m living in a dark and dying day, and everything is lost along the way/ The feeling in my hearts’ not the same, so what’s to say?”, as the opening lines from “Dying Day” showed that although Chris Conley was aiming to satisfy the need the everyone who wanted a ‘dark’ album, he was having fun with it by supplanting positive sounding guitar riffs as the backbone of the song. It could may as well have been a B-Side to Through Being Cool.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Sound The Alarm though, is how it became a concept album. When it was first released, it was taken for what it was – a rock album. However, several months after its release, Chris mentioned in several interviews that this was the first in a trilogy of albums dealing with depression. That’s the first time I reexamined it. Every dark lyric took a new meaning as I tried to figure out how it would tie together with two more albums worth of music.

The sound became the writhing tide of depression when it grips you fully, tearing at your flesh in an orgy of energy that saps your strength. Although the music may have sounded poppy, the thoughts behind it ate away at the good mood. Though the energy remained, it deteriorated quickly into ideas of death and poisoned consciousness. And right when it seems like everything might be balancing out, it struck at the gut punch to anyone who has ever felt true depression: how it affects those around you.

While the first half of the album delved into dark imagery balanced by pop music, the second half truly sank hope of redemption, starting with “Say You’ll Never Leave”. It spoke directly to the people who love someone suffering from depression directly and the desperation not to hurt them while you deal with the pain inside, as Chris sang, “Say you’ll never leave, please, this war inside my mind is killing me./ I’ll cut out my throat and I’ll eat it raw, and drown in the blood as it fills my lungs./ Say you’ll never leave, please, this war inside my mind is killing me”.

The rest of the record follows this deeper pain, begging to spare those around him and almost apologizing for putting them in this position with increasingly desperate lyrics, such as “Sifting through the picture of the ghost inside my mind/ Somehow can’t forget the times I failed to get things right” (“Diseased”), or the softer “Don’t Know Why”, as he sings, “The mirror staring back at me/ The cracking lines along my face/ The times I try to get things straight, but could not./ I know how hard I try to keep myself alive/ But I don’t know, I don’t know why”.

Although Sound The Alarm never seems to pick up the pieces and becomes increasingly darker, there are two more albums to do just that. This was also around the time that I saw Saves The Day live for the first time, at the Metro in Chicago. Chris Conley walked on stage with bright pink hair and a green army-looking jacket. It nearly startled me, as I expected someone half dead to take the stage after hearing songs like these. Instead, a shit-eating grin plastered across his face, he unleashed more energy upon me than I had ever seen. Even now, over ten years later, I consider that one moment of seeing him take the stage, playing through his set immediately after the release of Sound The Alarm as one of the best concerts I have ever seen.

Chris has never hid the fact that he has dealt with depression by any means. Sound The Alarm, Under the Boards, and Daybreak are the most direct albums that deal with it head on. But seeing him in the lights of the stage, belting song after song and bouncing to each strum of the guitar, I reminded myself that no matter how dark it can get (Sound The Alarm can get dark), it is always conquerable. There is always a way to smile through it. There is always a reason to keep performing.

While I don’t expect anyone to consider Sound The Alarm the pinnacle Saves The Day album, I am hurt when it’s not considered among their best (What about Can’t Slow Down, maaaaaan?!). It signaled the resurgence of Saves The Day, the establishing of what their sound, style, and charisma would be for the next decade. Sound The Alarm did more than give them a second shot at a career; it reminded us that even in the darkest depths of our minds, we can still find reason to smile brightly and do our best, because at any given time, there are at least two albums worth of even darker trials ahead to conquer, and we should look forward to the chance to prove that we can.

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 Saves The Day was his first concert (with The Early November!) For fifteen years, Saves The Day and New Found Glory have always been his fall-to bands for music, no matter the circumstances. Long Live Saves The Day!