We’re surprised it took nearly two decades for Lagwagon’s diminutive frontman Joey Cape to finally scratch that solo songwriter’s itch and put out a proper acoustic record, especially after the primo rejiggering of his main band’s tunes on Acoustic, his pared down 2004 split with No Use For A Name czar Tony Sly. Bridge, Cape’s first full-length solo acoustic release, positions his trademark lyrical testimony front and center over an assortment of sad-faced chord progressions.
It’s worth mentioning that five of the seven songs on Lagwagon’s latest EP, I Think My Older Brother Used To Listen To Lagwagon, appear on Bridge, albeit in minimalist reconstructions. Some tracks sound like nothing more than unplugged Lagwagon (“No Little Pill”); ironic, considering Bridge was written before the aforementioned EP. Other tracks come alive with the added room to breathe-Cape’s elegiac lamenting on “B-Side” ascends into greater relief, while “Memoirs And Landmines” feels completely reborn. But it’s new songs like “Canoe” and “Non Sequitur” (the latter featuring some smokin’ keys by Bad Astronaut alum Todd Capps) that help Bridge realize another frontier for an artist most fans probably thought they had all figured out. (SUBURBAN HOME) Casey Lynch
Joey Cape/Tony Sly’s Acoustic
Bad Astronaut’s Twelve Small Steps, One Giant Disappointment
Lagwagon’s I Think My Older Brother Used To Listen To Lagwagon EP
IN-STORE SESSION WITH JOEY CAPE
Was doing an acoustic record a rite of passage for you as a songwriter?
It feels like something you should do if you’re a songwriter. If you’re a writer in a band for 20 years and you never do something by yourself, you feel like a wimp. But then there’s this anxiety that goes with it, almost like you’re suggesting that you’re interesting enough to listen to and go see play without your band.
Is the experience what you hoped it would be?
I feel like it’s about 90 percent of what I hoped it would be. I’m never totally satisfied with anything I do. I can almost listen to it, which says a lot. It’s better than a lot of the records I make. I give it a nine for me on my scale, which is good.
Were the five songs on Bridge that also appear on the new Lagwagon EP originally intended for the full-band treatment?
This is the horrible question I knew I was going to be asked. I was talking to Dave [Raun, Lagwagon drummer]; he said [Lagwagon] should do something, but I had only been writing for the acoustic record. The acoustic record was supposed to be out in April, so they checked it out. I thought the band would only hear a couple of songs that would work, but we ended up doing five, and then the Lagwagon EP ironically came out before the solo record.
What’s the best thing about playing solo?
There’s this great power you get when you play by yourself. You can play the song at any tempo, in any key, so when you’re in the moment, you can emote the power of the song any way you want. The negative is if you screw up by yourself, you’re fucked.
Can we expect a Lagwagon full-length any time soon?
There’s an issue: I don’t really see the album as a living art form anymore. I don’t really get the point of music labels and manufacturing CDs when it’s all about downloads now, and most of the people only get a few songs. So why not record fewer songs more often and give them away? Bands like [Lagwagon] make money off touring. This isn’t the best analogy, but I think about paintings. What painter works on 14 paintings at one time? By the time you do a record, you’re really just trying to finish and a lot of things fall by the wayside. The end product suffers when you cram everything together, and by the time I’m done with a record, I don’t even want to listen to it. [CL]