DS Exclusive Interview: Joey Cape (Lagwagon) talks “Doesn’t Play Well With Others,” solo tours, and the future of Lagwagon

Now that all the tracks off “Doesn’t Play Well With Others” have been released, what’s next for Lagwagon frontman Joey Cape? More solo material, tours, maybe another Lagwagon album?

On March 11th at the Slidebar in Fullerton, I had the pleasure of talking to Joey a few hours before his solo set. We discussed his latest solo release, future Lagwagon plans, judging one’s own creations and much more. Check out the full interview here.

DS: So tell us about “Doesn’t Play Well With Others.”

JC: Well it’s over, which is really nice, cause it was a labor of love, but it was a burden, ya know it was hard. I did one song a month for 12 months, which is an easy task if you don’t tour the way I do. But because I tour all the time, it turned out to be a near impossible thing to pull off. And then I just did like a subscription thing where people could subscribe and they would get a download of the song every month on a certain date and then at the end of the year, they’d get a package which has like a CD and a DVD, and a 12″ vinyl.

I’m proud of it, I think it came out pretty well. People seem to be responding nicely to it. The downside if there’s any is that other than how difficult it was to pull off for me, the downside was that now people are starting to hear about it and they want the record, and I can’t give it to them.  It was sort of this exclusive thing for subscribers so I can’t be a jerk and start selling it so we have to repress it with a different cover and do all that. Which is fine for us, people have to wait if you want the record. And when you’re in my shoes and you’re just doing it yourself you don’t really wanna make people wait.

DS: It seems like a lot more bands are doing the subscription deal.

JC: Yeah. It’s not a new idea, we just had a slightly different twist on it. But certainly all kinds of things like that are happening now as a reaction, because of the way things have gone in this industry. But it’s cool I think, because it’s forcing people to be more creative and it’s also forcing people to actually be more independent in the things that they’re doing.

DS: So how is this record different from “Bridge”, if there’s any difference?

JC: I don’t know, I think it’s the first record I made over a really long period of time as well, it was done in pieces, and I had been playing acoustic and writing songs that way forever, for as long as I’ve been playing, but I was still kind of getting experienced with the recording process at my home studio. I feel like if there’s anything wrong with Bridge, it’s that there’s maybe a little too much going on at times, and I don’t know. I’m slightly more seasoned now as far as recording acoustic tracks. The songs are little all over the place on the Bridge record. It’s hard to analyze your own music, you know what I mean? It’s really hard to be objective.

DS: All right, so what kind of stuff inspires you lyrically?  Do you have any habits when it comes to songwriting?

JC: It’s always just life experiences, things that are happening in my life at the time. Which is good because it’s easy if you just write from the heart and what’s happening in your world, it’s pretty easy to find a muse. Unfortunately if you have smart friends like I do, they can usually figure out what songs are about them. Yeah, it’s kinda funny that you asked that, last night we played our first show on this tour, and an old friend of mine came up to me and said “Is that song ‘I’m Not Gonna Save You’ about me?” and I say yeah because I can’t lie about it but it happens sometimes.

DS: Your daughter actually did the artwork for “Doesn’t Play Well With Others”, how did that go on?

JC: I just like kids art. I mean her art’s evolving now and I actually like it less, which sounds harsh but it’s not at all.  It’s just something about a four or five year old, she’s seven now, so I guess she was about five or six when she painted those pictures.  I would just tell her the name of the song, and a little bit about what it was about and she’d be like “All right!” She’d run into her little art studio we set up for her, and she’d just paint a picture, and bring it back.

They have this really pure, untainted…they’re not jaded, so they have this way of getting what every artist wants, just straight to the source. Another thing is, they paint outside the lines, they haven’t been ruined by structure yet. There are artists that try to emulate that thing that kids have, that free-form thing, sometimes they pull it off, but kids just have this thing. I think my daughter’s pictures are pretty great , and I think the main thing is, it’s pretty obvious she’s my daughter and I love her more than anything in the world, and it was nice to involve her a little bit in the thing that was keeping her Daddy away so often.

DS: The tour is pretty new right now, but how’s it going so far?

JC: It’s going all right, last night was kind of rough. I’ve got a band on this tour and they don’t know the songs that well yet. The day before the tour, we rehearsed like 14 hours straight and I think we were at a place where any other time in my life I would say “All right we’re good, we got like two more weeks to rehearse,” but we start the next day. Yesterday we rehearsed all the way up until sound check, I kinda blew out my voice before the tour even started. So for me it started off a little rough, it’s not starting like a normal tour.

I’ll tell you, this isn’t by any means a stab or anything, but it’s interesting to play with people this much younger than me too. The guys in my band are all in their 20’s, so they actually care a little bit which is cool. And there’s a lot of room to grow, so I think it’s a long term thing, check back in a year, might actually be pretty good. It takes a little while for the band to get chemistry.

DS: Lagwagon has been going on for about 20-21 years. And I know you guys had a little bit of a lineup change recently.

JC: Yeah ’89 we got together.

DS: So what are you guys doing next for Lagwagon?

JC: We don’t have any plans right now. We talked about some tour stuff, but I have a weird thing for Lagwagon. I have to definitely feel like I’m inspired and envoked to write a Lagwagon record. But bands that have a lot of music, you go see them live when they make a new record, and you just want to hear the old songs. At some point or another you kind of realize when you’re in one of those bands that you don’t need to make records anymore, especially when records don’t sell.

I mean there are few people that care when they make a new record, but for the most part when you make a new record, it takes years before people want to hear the songs off of it. So I kind of think, as the songwriter of the band I feel like we can tour without making new music. And I can make new music for new things. That sounds strange to people that are in my band and other people that like the band. I know it kind of puts the band on hold a lot. I think that certain people in the band won’t tour until they make new music, and I don’t want to make new records. I’ll kinda leave it at that.

DS: Yeah, that makes sense.

JC: But we do tours every once in a while. And I’ll say this. A lot of people think when the band doesn’t do anything for a while that they break up, and I look at it totally differently. I think that people break up in bands and they inevitably (a lot of the times) get back together, and they come back like “Hey we’re back!”

If you’re in a band as long as I’ve been in Lagwagon, it’s part of your life. It’s like having a kid, it’s never not gonna be in your life. So even if we don’t do anything for years, we’ll still do something sooner or later. We did too much together not to. It’s just a matter of when things are happening in the band, other people join bands, and do other things, and everybody gets busy and it gets harder to get schedules. That was a really long answer. A simple answer would have been “no plans.”

DS: Well we like information!  So if you met someone that had never heard of your guys’s music, never heard Lagwagon, never heard your solo stuff, what kind of songs would you recommend?

JC: Like anyone else, I’m partial to what I just did. I’d play them Doesn’t Play Well With Others. It’s my most current record, it’s most partial to what I’m feeling. But I’d probably pick one Lagwagon, one Bad Astronaut album, and then give them that one. I’d probably be like “don’t listen to me,” haha. I don’t consider myself all that good.

I did have this vocal teacher for a little while, which is weird, I never really have a lot of training and I was just getting tired of losing my voice and got a vocal teacher for about six months. This is similar, she wanted to hear what I did. And so I had to make her a mix of my own music, which I had never done before. I basically did that, I put a few good Lagwagon songs, songs that I thought were the better songs. But mostly ones that had the best singing. I gave a bunch of acoustic stuff too; it was about the time I did Bridge. And it was a bummer because I thought she was gonna come back and go “Hey you’re a good songwriter.” She said nothing about the music. Which kind of hurt my feelings, even though that’s not what I was there for.

DS: Three words you’d use to describe your solo material.

JC: Amazing, original, genius. Nah, I don’t know.

DS: Yeah that’s alright.

JC: I think I’m just not all that good at critiquing what I do. And 9 times out of 10 when I think I understand something about a song I wrote or something I did, I’ll be corrected by people. I’ve had debates with people about music I’ve made that I end up losing. You just do it and you don’t really think about it too much. It’s hard to talk about.

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