My original intention was to introduce this article explaining the disappointment we all come to upon realizing that youth is fleeting, however I'll spare the euphemisms. Growing up sucks! Aside from all the responsibilities that are thrust upon you like paying bills and having to work a shitty job everyday, there are, still, greater disappointments. Sometimes your favorite bands break up, or even worse, they "progress," which is really just another way of saying "start to suck." While you may be getting fatter and the bags under your eyes become heavier, your still feel young at heart and it's the music that does it. Sadly though, you're not seventeen anymore; everything that this new generation of bands has to say seems oh so trite. Dare you utter the words, but you "just can't seem to relate anymore."
If you're not already running to your doctor for a prescription of Zoloft, let me continue. Remember the halcyon days of being a punk, going to the shitty clubs and standing right next to the speakers that were turned up way too loud to compensate for their poor sound quality? Well it has finally caught up and left you with dismal hearing. In short, your life sucks, music sucks, and even if there was a band you could manage to feel good about, the prospect of wearing hearing aids at thirty-seven turns you off from the live show. Face it, you're old. Is it time to put away those Dillinger Four records and trade them in for your parent's Cat Stevens albums? Not so fast, there is still hope, and its name is Sundowner.
The new project from The Lawrence Arms guitarist/vocalist Chris McCaughan is quite different from most of the music coming from his native Chicago punk scene. Unlike The Lawrence Arms and The Falcon, the side project of his fellow Larry Arms brethren Brendan and Neil, McCaughan is straying away from the musical styling of his current and former bands, this time opting for something quieter. "It's a different sounding kind of record than I've ever been involved in. I've always made loud rock records" says McCaughan. All the purists need not worry though; he notes that Sundowner won't be too far off from his work with The Lawrence Arms. "I've played in and been writing songs to contribute to The Lawrence Arms for nearly eight years, so it's going to have some similarities stylistically. It's lyric and melody driven like a lot of the songs I've been writing for the arms over the years, but the hope is that it has some surprises and twists."
The album, titled Four One Five Two, will be out sometime this Spring via Red Scare Records. Until then, "Sea of lights", a track that will likely be on the album can be heard on the Sundowner Myspace page.
A few questions with Chris McCaughan of Sundowner:
Scene Point Blank: Can you explain about how Sundowner came to be and where you see the project going?
Chris McCaughan: Basically Sundowner was born out of having material that wasn't quite appropriate for The Lawrence Arms. I'd been writing songs for a while before we wrote Oh!Calcutta! and kept writing after we finished the record. I was doing a lot of acoustic demo type recording at home and then last year I starting going out and playing solo acoustic shows just for fun; kind of a way to play these songs and see if they would translate in a stripped down format. Then over the course of '06 the Arms toured a lot and I started to get the itch to make a record of these songs. Anyway, Red Scare offered to put out the record if it ever got made, so I finally found some time to get into the studio and make it. So that's about what happened. I don't know where Sundowner will go. I'm currently in the process of finishing the record. It will be out in March and I'll try to get out on tour and play some solo shows in support of it. That's as far ahead as I can really see right now.
Scene Point Blank: Why the name Sundowner as opposed to just releasing music and performing under your real name?
Chris McCaughan: There are a lot of reasons I chose to name the project. Playing under your own name can kind of throw you in a corner. But the main reason I chose to name it was that I wanted other people to play on the record and I didn't want it to be completely pigeon holed into be a solo project.
Scene Point Blank: On the Sundowner Myspace page, all the songs that have been posted on the Myspace page are very stripped down, just a guitar and vocals, do you see the actual recording being similar to this or will there any added instrumentation?
Chris McCaughan: That kind of gets back to what I was trying to say. I asked my friend Jenny Choi, who is a local Chicago musician (Sanawon), to play on the record. She played cello and keys and did some singing on the record as well. The thing is she wrote all her own arrangements and melodies for the songs. So, while I penned the record, it really was a collaboration (thus it deserved a name). The only other instrument on the record is an acoustic bass.
Scene Point Blank: There is a fair abundance of simile in your lyrical style; is this just something you have developed or is it born from any literary influence?
Chris McCaughan: I'm a long time reader of fiction and I studied literature and writing in college. So, yeah there's some influence there. But, this is just the kind of stuff I write. It's just a way of expressing myself that has developed into this style over the years.