By Brian Leak
Chris Conley has been in the music scene since he was roughly 14 years old. As of now he fronts Saves The Day with a revolving cast of characters, while also contributing to other projects and raising a family. Chris has been a resident of Synthesis‘ own Chico, CA for the better part of a decade, enjoying the same raucous nightlife that has given all of us a touch of Peter Pan Syndrome. Synthesis had the opportunity to speak with Chris about his solo tour, the rocky lifespan of Saves The Day and his love for our beautiful town.
What was your favorite part of the “Where’s The Band?” Tour?
The “Where’s The Band?” Tour is so much fun because we all roll around in one van and listen to music all day and talk about touring and life. I wind up looking forward to the camaraderie more than the shows, even though playing the gigs is great. It’s a nice, easy tour since we all just travel with acoustic guitars, so we have more time during the day to enjoy sightseeing and fine dining in each city as opposed to showing up early and loading a bunch of band gear into the venue. It’s more of a vacation than a grueling tour.
You’ve done this tour in the past, right? What’s it like touring solo compared to touring with Saves The Day?
I’ve done a ton of solo touring over the years, but I much prefer touring with the band because my bandmates are some of my best friends and it’s just more fun to be with them than on my own. I wind up missing having them around during the day and even on stage at the shows. I’m not really an entertainer or performer so to speak; I’m a songwriter who fell into performing, so when I’m up on stage and everyone’s eyes are on me, I tend to be a bit self-conscious. But when I’m up there with my band I can totally lose myself in the music and the moment, and that is a beautiful experience.
Did you purposefully come up with the name Saves The Day to have the acronym STD?
Ha! No, we didn’t think about it until people started mentioning it at shows, at which point we thought, “Oh well!” This was before the Internet, so band acronyms were less prevelent, as people spoke band names back then instead of typing them on message boards and MySpace. We learned to embrace the humor though and have even made t-shirts playing on the initials.
What does STD have in store for the world this year?
We head to Australia in late February for the Soundwave 2012 tour and then back home for a break to work on new music. Most likely, we’ll head out on a headlining tour in the fall after doing some festivals overseas during the summer. I expect we will start recording a new album in earnest during the winter for a possible early 2013 release.
There seems to have been a somewhat ridiculous amount of line-up changes for the band in the past. With you being the only original member in the band today, what has kept you pushing forward?
I love writing songs and I will never stop. The band has always been a vehicle for my songwriting, and the line-up has always been a revolving door of supporting members. The question is a bit funny though since I’ve been the only original member of Saves The Day for almost 11 years now, so it’s something I’m quite comfortable with. From the first Saves The Day demo recorded in April 1997 to the first Saves The Day album recorded in December 1997, we already had three new band members, and then again from the first album to the next, we had another three new members. Since then virtually every single release features a different line-up and for good reason. I have a strong vision for my music and I know what I want, so the people who have come and gone in the band have had to deal with my notes and direction, which can be quite hard for younger, more insecure musicians. Unfortunately, a lot of my past bandmates couldn’t take the pressure of me telling them what to play, and so they left, or else I would ask them to leave. Now that we’re older, everyone in the band understands that at the end of the day, I need to be totally satisfied with the music, and they know to listen to my ideas if we run into sticky creative territory. My bandmates now are so incredibly talented though that I am finally able to sit back and enjoy how they respond to my compositions as opposed to telling them which notes they can play. It’s more fun for everybody when I’m pleased with the final product.
How long have you lived in Chico and why did you decide to move there?
I grew up in Princeton, New Jersey and started the band with a buddy of mine from high school who played drums. I moved to Manhattan and then Brooklyn in my early 20s, so it’s been quite some time since the early days in NJ. After visiting a few times, I moved to Chico in early 2003 because my wife grew up in Durham, and her whole family lives out here, so I thought it was best for me to come to her hometown where she has roots because I tour so much and she can benefit from having a support system around when I’m gone. As soon as I came to visit for the first time in 2002, I fell in love with Chico and the surrounding area, and I knew it would make a great home and a great place to have a family. I always felt a bit out of place in the hustle and bustle of East Coast living, so the speed of life in Chico is much more my style and I love spending time outdoors, camping during the summer and enjoying the genuine kindness of people in town.
What’s a night out in Chico consist of for you?
I like seeing shows at Cafe Coda and LaSalle’s and then grabbing a pint afterward and getting home early enough to get up with our daughter in the morning when she flies out of bed and runs down the hallway ready to play. My wife and I love eating at Sierra Nevada and 5th Street, and we’re always on the lookout for new dinner spots, but our favorite bar by far is The Banshee because they play good music, the food is great and they have an awesome beer selection.
Can we party sometime?
Yeah, let’s do it. We’ll meet at the U Bar at 10 PM on Tuesday for cheep pitchers and then out into the streets to disappear into the madness of midnight wandering.
What will you be doing on December 21st when the world is supposedly going to end?
I will be enjoying the Winter Solstice, thankful for Earth’s return toward the Sun for renewed sunshine and the promise of a new year.
What would you consider to be the biggest highlight of your career thus far?
So far, the highlight was playing a sold out Madison Square Garden with Green Day and Blink 182 when we were on the Pop Disaster tour some years ago. What a thrill. I grew up loving Led Zeppelin and I used to watch their concert film The Song Remains The Same over and over again when I was a kid, so it was bizarre in the most beautiful way to be on the same stage as my heroes and so many other legendary artists. Walking the corridors backstage was incredible; seeing all the photos of Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Elvis and the countless other stars who rocked the Garden over the years. I will never forget it.