Saves the Day celebrated its 20th anniversary with the release of 2019’s 9, a record that came five years after its predecessor. Originally from New Jersey, the band has seen a lot of different musicians over the past two decades, but their sound has never changed. And lead singer Chris Conley doesn’t shy away from his “emo” label.
He spoke more about that and how the genre has maintained and evolved since he recorded his first record as a high school senior.
9 was released after the longest break between records you’ve had. Was that calculated? Were you deliberately taking a bit of a break?
No, we didn’t even realize it had been five years until we started doing press for the album. In the very first interview, the interviewer asked, “Why has it been five years?” and I hadn’t even thought of it. Life happens; we were touring a ton and playing festivals anyway and it felt like we’d only just stopped touring for the last album when it was time to write this one. It took about a year to get this one written, recorded and put out. I think it was just the circumstances. But there was no choice to take a break.
The sound has pretty much stayed the same for 20 years. Some of your peers have drifted off and experimented with Americana or folk stuff. Was that ever something you tried, or did you always stay the course?
Thank God our fans are loyal enough that they allow us to grow while still being Saves the Day. I think if we suddenly made a record out of left field, it wouldn’t go over so well. There have been times when you come close to encroaching on that territory, but thank God our fans are so great and they just let us do our thing.
There have been a lot of players in this band over the years. You’re the only original member at this point. Is there a reason that you never performed as Chris Conley and you remained “Saves the Day” throughout all of that change?
I like having a band and I like the name Saves the Day. I like making Saves the Day music. I dig the group. I think it’s a cool band. And I like our band. It’s been a long time since I was the only original member. The only other original member was Bryan Newman, the drummer, and he left after the third album, which was in 2001. That was a million years ago. It was just me and him in the early days and we’d get other friends to come in to play guitar and bass. Very early on, we established this routine of getting new people if somebody wasn’t working out with the chemistry of the group. The first demo to the first album, we had already had a lineup change. So we just kept doing that if things weren’t working right.
You were 17 when you recorded Can’t Slow Down.
Yeah, it was winter break of our senior year in high school. Bryan and I went in and recorded it. That was December of 1997. Then we went back to school, finished the year and went back on tour and never looked back.
Were there consequences to hitting the road at such a young age or was it all a positive experience for you?
It was great. Our parents were supportive. The very first U.S. tour we did, Bryan and I were planning – on the other side of it – going to NYU, which we did for a year. Then we made our second album, Through Being Cool, while we were at NYU and it was so good that we decided to defer for a year so we could tour for the entire year. And that went so well that we never went back to school. So we had really positive experiences in the early days. And I think on that very first U.S. tour, our folks knew that we were headed off to college anyway. So it’s not like we were going to blow our future playing in this band. But then when things started to go really well, they were also supportive of us following the path to see where it led.
It was at that point that you hooked up with what I’ll affectionately call the “Warped family;” the artists that were regulars on the Warped tour. How did that connected to similar, like-minded artists help further your career?
It was incredibly important. Without the wave of bands, the multitude of bands from all over the country, all starting to generate interesting music at the same time, we wouldn’t have been able to fit in anywhere. So thank God we all had a similar sound. We all sounded like emo bands. We were an emo band. We were all really good friends and it was happening to everybody at the same time; everybody’s growing up and playing all these awesome shows and we were all really young. It was a ton of fun. We’re still friends with the guys in Alkaline Trio and the Get Up Kids and New Found Glory and Dashboard Confessional a million years later. It’s really cool to have that shared history.
You had a pretty bad accident on tour just before Stay What You Are was released. Was there ever a question as to if the band would continue after it?
There was definitely never a point where we thought, “We’ve got to pack it in and go home.” We just stayed in La Crosse, Wisconsin for a week getting better. We were all broken up. Meanwhile, we were in talks with Vagrant and they – as a grand gesture – drove a van out to Wisconsin to meet us and help us get all the way out to Seattle to meet back up with the H20 tour we were on at the time. They flew home and let us keep the van for the rest of the tour, and that definitely helped us make the choice to go with Vagrant because they really took good care of us through that experience.
But we only missed two shows on that tour. By the time we met up with everybody in Seattle, I was in a sling. Our guitar player, Daniel, was still behind in Wisconsin getting facial reconstruction surgery. He met us a few days later; we had our roadie, Steve Looker, play guitar for a few shows. We just made it through. There was nothing that was going to stop us.
Why did you save the self-titled record for your eighth release?
[laughs] I don’t know where these ideas come from, but when they come to me and I think they’re cool, I just go with it. It’s definitely springing somewhere from the unconscious; from my imagination somewhere. I just trust my feelings when I have some sort of intuition or a sense of where the music is going. If I feel good – if I feel excited – I just go for it.
Is the genre reliant on the fans that grew up on it or is it still attracting new fans?
Oh definitely. It’s alive and kicking. A lot of people bring their younger brothers and sisters. You see people bringing their 10-year-olds now. The music resonates. It was always true when I wrote it, no matter what age I was. So if you’re 17 and feeling the same way, it’s going to hit you in that same way. We’re really lucky to have continually interested audience, but also to have new people come along and be fascinated. Sometimes, we’ll joke onstage, “How many of you guys were born when this song was written?” [laughs] There’s a lot of young bands coming up, too, that are still doing this kind of music and doing it really well.
Who are some of those younger bands that move you and inspire you today?
Balance and Composure is great. I think they’re going to be around a little while longer. Our drummer, Dennis, is going to be playing with them. I really love Joyce Manor. I think they’re totally awesome. Turnstile.
Saves the Day comes to Saturn on Friday, May 8. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show begins at 8 p.m. Remo Drive and Mighty are also on the bill. Tickets are $18.50 in advance and $23 at the door.