The members of Saves the Day recently boarded a plane bound for Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where on October 18, at the local House of Blues, the Garden State emo punks launched a 47-date tour. About 15 minutes before the guys had to head out the door for the airport, frontman Chris Conley says they were still in Southern California's Electric Ladybug Studios, working on their forthcoming, self-funded album, Sound the Alarm. A few loose ends needed to be tied up.
"We did a bunch of hand claps that didn't actually make it to the record, and we had to redo one bass note," Conley explained. Oh yeah, and then there was that goat the band brought into the studio. "He made some noises. We prodded him, and he kind of squealed a little bit. It was mainly for our own amusement, and I'm not sure if it will make the record. We tried to get a few lizards and some elephants for the album, too."
Somehow, a bleating goat doesn't seem to fit in with the overall theme of Sound the Alarm, which Conley said is one of "desolation, like you're the last person standing after the apocalypse and you're alone and you're cold. Your home has been obliterated, but you have to keep on trucking through those feelings of isolation and desolation and keep hope alive in the midst of insanity." As you might guess, Sound the Alarm is a record created during a most vulnerable period for Saves the Day.
At the moment, the band is without a label home — its last record, 2003's In Reverie, was issued by now-defunct Dreamworks Records (see "Saves The Day Attempt To Save Themselves, The World With Reverie") — meaning the guys had to pony up their own scratch to get it made.
"It stretched us, for sure," said Conley. "But we really believe in these songs, so we just said, 'F--- it — let's go for it.' We were lucky enough to have enough capital to get things going. It's a big investment, but we really believe in the music and this is what we want to do."
Working with producer Steve Evetts (Story of the Year, Dillinger Escape Plan) — who also manned the knobs for the band's first two discs, 1998's Can't Slow Down and 1999's Through Being Cool — Saves the Day took four months to record the album's 13 tracks, which include "Bones," "Eulogy," "Head for the Hills," "Hell Is Here" and "Don't Know Why."
"We wanted to work with Steve again because he can kind of see what your qualities are and bring out the best in you, rather than trying to make you more than you are," explained Conley. "He brings out the abilities you already have. We tried to stick to what we know, and rather than throw in keyboard parts and Mellotron and all kinds of vibes and bells and whistles and sh--, we kept it simple — two guitars, bass and drums. We stripped it down and tried to make a raw album."
The result, Conley said, is typical Saves: an album that sounds nothing like any of their previous efforts.
"We did the same old thing, though," he said. "We wrote songs unintentionally. They just kind of happened. And after we recorded them, we realized that this is quite different from the last record. That happens each time [we record] because we never sit down to have a powwow and discuss what we're going to do. I think people find that interesting about us — that every record is something brand new. Listening back to all the albums we've made, it's kind of shocking how different they are. Especially because at the time, we were just doing what felt right. It wasn't like there was a deliberate meeting behind the curtain, with evil laughter. It was just us doing what felt natural."
While the future of Sound the Alarm is something of a question mark (the band had hoped to have it out early next year but think a spring 2006 release is more realistic), Conley's sort of enjoying Saves the Day's free-agent status.
"It's refreshing and fortifying," he said. "I'm a nonbeliever in the industry. It's a crock of sh--. I understand it's a business, but these guys might as well be selling cars. I don't want anything to do with that. I don't want to hang my hopes and dreams on a bunch of guys that're just trying to make quarter earnings. Anything indie is more comforting, in theory, than a big conglomerate. That just makes me feel nervous."
And while he's glad to see some of his friends — Fall Out Boy and New Jersey neighbors Senses Fail and My Chemical Romance — doing well for themselves in the mainstream waters, he's not so sure he wants to go swimming.
"Every band wants people to hear the record, but I don't want to be in magazines," Conley said. "I don't want to be a Fall Out Boy. I think it puts too much pressure on you for that next album. All those industry guys breathing down your neck — it just seems like it would be tough. We'd rather fly under the radar and do our own thing. Hopefully, kids will keep coming to our shows and that'll keep us going."