This past year has been historic for celebrated rock band Saves the Day. The group’s latest album, “9,” was released at the end of 2018, and after a five-year album hiatus, the latest record is truly groundbreaking. Frontman Chris Conley wanted “9” to take fans on a musical tour of the band’s journey over the past two decades, through the unbelievable highs and heartbreaking lows. But mostly Conley wanted to celebrate the band’s legacy, music and the fans that make it all possible. Conley sat down with Metro to talk about how he was inspired to write the autobiographical album, why he needed to reflect, and dive into why his music is always so honest.
Your latest album, “9,” tells the story of the band from your perspective. What was the inspiration behind writing it?
It sort of just came to me when I was writing the songs. Sometimes songs will pop into my head with the melodies and words, and the first song I knew was going to be on this album was the first song on the record, “Saves the Day.” When I was writing it and just sitting there with my guitar, these words just popped into my head: “Turn it up, we’re Saves the Day.” I thought it felt like a lot of fun. I had no idea where it was going at the time, but one of my favorite songs ever is the song “Wilco” by the band Wilco on their album “Wilco.” I just love that song because it’s like the Wilco theme song and also a great, weird song. Basically the message is, when you’re having a bad day, just put your headphones on and we’ll be here. So I thought, alright, I’ll go with this. I’m going to write the Saves the Day theme song. The next song that came out fully formed is the second song on the record, “Suzuki.” Once those two songs came out, I realized, okay, so this is the theme. That’s just my style of writing: I follow the inspiration and see where it leads. Once the third song came up, there was this cool guitar riff and the lyric that was attached to it when it came into my brain was “side by side.” So I thought, “Okay, how am I going to work this into my theme of writing about being in the band?” So I wrote the song about Bryan Newman, who is one of the other original band members in Saves the Day. He’s the guy that called me up one day after the summer of 1993. He said, “Hey, I heard you learned how to play guitar over the summer. Would you want to come jam?” All these years later I still have Bryan to thank for this incredible life and incredible journey — otherwise I just would have been playing Led Zeppelin songs in my bedroom.
Why do you think these songs came to you at this point in your career?
I think it’s probably just where I am in life. I was 36 when I started to write some of this stuff and so its that time in life where you start to reflect a little bit. Twenty years have gone by in the blink of an eye and all of a sudden you’re on the other side of time. It certainly is a lot of fun to reflect on what a crazy adventure it’s been.
Was all of that reflection a cathartic experience?
It was, actually. I ended up writing about things that I hadn’t thought about in years — some of the people that have come and gone in the band, which was emotional. Sometimes you don’t want to think about those things, but they surfaced as I was writing the lyrics. It was a cathartic experience and it felt very healing as well.
What songs are your personal favorites on “9”?
I think the last song “29” is really cool, it’s twenty-one and a half minutes long— it almost felt like writing a movie. But my favorite song is “Suzuki”, just because it came out totally formed. It’s one of those songs that just writes itself, those are really fun to work on. It sounds almost weird, but that’s something I’m lucky to have happen. Those are typically my favorite songs—the ones that feel like they came from somewhere else or came out of nowhere.
Where did the title “9” come from?
It’s our ninth album, and when I thought about what the title of the album was going to be, that just stuck out to me. I wanted the album to have nine songs as well. It’s also a bit of a tip of the hat to the Beatles “Revolution 9”, and also there is some numerology in that. I’m a pretty weird far-out thinker so it was just fun to play around with that idea.
Would you say for new fans this album would be a good way to get to know the band?
Yeah, that’s true I hadn’t thought about that. I have a few friends that have kids now, and I walked by one of the kids’ bedrooms the other day and they were listening to Saves the Day and I never told them about the band, they just heard it because it was on a Spotify playlist or something. I got a real kick out of that. I feel lucky that twenty years into it we are able to still make music that’s interesting to even new fans.
Overall what would you tell fans, old and new, to expect from a concert of yours when they attend?
We try to play a song from every album every single night. We’re really proud of the legacy and we like the music. Thank God we were always honest, so it never feels like a stretch even to sing songs that I wrote more than half of my life ago. We are fans of the music ourselves so we also like to play the stuff that people like to hear. Sometimes the songs evolve as you grow older and I find that I’m connected to the music even more now. So you can expect to hear a lot of everything.
Be sure to check out Saves the Day at This Is Hardcore Fest at Franklin Music Hall (421 N. 7th St.) this Saturday, July 27. For more information on the festival (happening July 26-28) and to purchase tickets visit bowerypresents.com