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Saves the Day

Emo Band from New Jersey Gives Us an Earful

By Devdoot Majumdar

Indie-emo bigtimers Saves the Day, on the heels of their latest release, Stay What You Are, packed Avalon Ballroom last Friday night. Before the concert, lead singer Chris Conley lent The Tech a little commentary on life.

The Tech: What’s Saves the Day all about?

Chris Conley: Uh ... We like to play music.

TT: What distinguishes you from other bands?

CC: I suppose that we’ve lived out life with our experiences and they’ve lived their lives with their experiences and that alone makes us different. But I don’t know, musically, I don’t know. There are similarities here and there, and there are differences here and there.

TT: When you turn on the radio what do you hear?

CC: Well ... honestly?

TT: Yeah

CC: I hear bands that shouldn’t have left the garage. They shouldn’t have left the basement. They should still be there working out the kinks. I’m not saying we’re any better because, out of the 6 billion people in the Earth, there are probably about 5.9 that, if they heard our album, would hate it. And that ... it is what it is. I don’t think we’re any better or worse than anything, but in my opinion, there is a dearth of music with substance these days.

TT: What propelled you from the garage to national tours and considerable record sales?

CC: Just wanting to play music with a serious passion. That’s what it’s always been. As soon as we picked up the guitars and started playing, we wanted to play in front of people and that’s just kind of all gone on from there. We’re just doing our thing, you know, and it’s got its own movement now.

TT: We were having some trouble getting in. There was a humongous line of 14-15 year-olds. When you look out at these folks, what do you see? What do you want to tell them? how does it make you feel?

CC: First of all, it’s “why me?” And then, it’s “okay, well now that you are listening to me, I think you’re beautiful, I don’t think you have to change. I think you have to try to accept what you are and I think that you need to try to love everything unconditionally. And that’s the message.

TT: Where do the lyrics come from?

CC: From back here. [Pointing at the wall behind him] From a secret place. But I am I guess the vessel that lets them happen

TT: And the music itself?

CC: I write all the chord progressions and melodies and words but that’s not really what you hear. You hear the whole. You hear the heart of whatever.

TT: How has producer Rob Schraph helped you guys out?

CC: Oh God so many different levels. He’s a really mellow, laid back guy. Him being relaxed just made for a nice, creative environment in the studio.

TT: Are you a fan of his other work?

CC: Elliot Smith is one of my favorite songwriters. I think Figure 8 is a masterpiece. Total masterpiece. It’s his latest, he’s got a new one coming out..

TT: If you had to choose between the the more the more acoustic and the harder stuff?

CC: Oh, I love rocking it out. But I like doing the acoustic stuff. We did ... last night was actually the first time in a long time that I got to play acoustic guitar on stage and it was so much fun. It was awesome. I don’t know if we can do it tonight, because I broke the guitar while we were playing -- it was a bummer.

TT: Any warnings about the flabby underbelly of corporate music?

CC: Oh geez. Don’t sign to a major label unless you’re sure that they can help you out and not compromise your ambitions. The biggest thing is just trying to do what is natural, not forcing anything.

TT: What’s the public’s biggest misconception about Saves the Day?

CC: People usually hear the negativity in the lyrics, but for me it’s always optimism. I can always see the silver lining, even in the pain, you know? But I see the pain and the suffering as a fact of life, and not something to get upset about. So I think people usually think that I have all these problems -- I mean, I have problems like everybody -- but I certainly don’t hate anybody. And I understand why people perceive them like that and a lot of images are harsh. And maybe that has happened to catch people’s attention.

That’s something I have to deal with I think. I don’t think many people see the optimism, but I wish they did. There’s a song on the new album, “As Your Ghost Takes Flight,” and the image is of killing someone, but people don’t have to die physically, there’s a lot of other forms of death. That song is about a friend of mine who is going tough times and just cannot see that he is this beautiful, gentle thing. He just can’t see it, so he’s running and he’s going to run into a wall, but I’m not about to go kick him in the stomach.

There’s this saying -- I think I read it in the Dao De Jing -- the best thing to do when you feel anger is to grab a pen and not a boxing glove.

TT: You seem like you have your shit together...

CC: Psht. [Smile] I am what I am...

TT: ... what do you in your spare time?

CC: Write and play guitar and listen to music and marvel at the trees and be wide-eyed that I’m actually here and that things actually exist.

Whoa dude! Holy shit! What is going on. And this is the thing that keeps me going -- the wonder. I just can’t believe that I’m sitting here in this unbelievably gorgeous creation and it’s here for some reason. Things exist, for some reason! So this is what I do in my spare time, or I’m opening my eyes and saying, “What the hell is going on to me right now.” In the simplest way -- what is feeling, what is hearing? I may sound completely crazy to a lot of people.