Except for his facial stubble, fashion sense and, well, the fact that he's a man, Saves the Day frontman Chris Conley could have been a Miss America contestant. His ultimate wish isn't for great wealth or celebrity, it's to achieve peace and harmony.
"I want peace inside my body and peace with the world," he explained. "Not peace and love like the hippie thing, but I long not to be angry with the world and angry with myself."
Conley's dilemma echoes plaintively throughout the band's fourth album, In Reverie, which comes out September 16. The group's most reflective offering to date, the album features songs like the title track, "In My Waking Life" and "Monkey," all of which address themes of struggle, survival and recovery.
"Post 9/11, the world seems to be pretty crazy," the singer said. "There's a constant battle every day to remain sane and stay afloat because it's a confusing and dark time. It's really all about trying to keep your head above the water when it seems impossible."
Since 2001's Stay What You Are, Saves the Day have experienced musical growth that should remove them from the emo category into which they've wrongly been shuffled. The first single from In Reverie, "Anywhere With You," is representative of their new direction. The song features a jazzy verse that sounds vaguely like Steely Dan and a distorted chorus that recalls Weezer. While such a shift may seem pre-meditated coming from a band that longs be viewed as musically diverse, Conley insists the music just flowed out of him.
"It really came out of nowhere," he said. "I was just playing guitar one day and I started playing the opening riff. The rest just fell into place. It was the first song we played together as a band when we started working on new material."
Like many songs on the album, "Anywhere With You" is about coming to grips with the ugliness and unhappiness in the world, whether political or interpersonal. "It's about longing for something better — for a feeling of peace or completeness," Conley said. "Psychologically, that's been the struggle with me for a few years."
As dreary as that and other songs like "Driving in the Dark" and "What Went Wrong" might seem, Conley insists that In Reverie is filled with optimism and hope and that in the dimmest situation, he always reaches for a flashlight — even if he knows the batteries are dead.
"I just try to remind myself that everything is happening for a reason, even the most horrible things," he said. "Even if it doesn't make any sense to me and it seems like the end of the world, I just try to accept that it's happening for some reason or it wouldn't be happening at all."