Kelly, Kevin, David and Brendan
Bearded Punk Records
on August 16th, 2016 at Brakrock Ecofest, Belgium
Trophy Lungs, a Boston based pop punk act, released one of the most exciting debut albums of 2015. The band sadly played their final show last week. We didn’t know this at the time of the interview during Brakrock Ecofest in Belgium, so we’ll publish our talk with the band as our way to give these Boston punk rockers the goodbye they deserve.
Can you give us a Trophy Lungs 101. What’s everyone’s job in the band next to playing your instrument.
Kelly (bass guitar and lead vocals): I don’t have a lot of responsibilities, it’s pretty great. If I’m doing my job, you don’t know about it. And neither do I.
Brendan (drums): I think my job is to be as dumb as possible.
Kevin (guitar and lead vocals): And you’re pretty good at it.
Brendan: I know. I just say something dumb, and then people laugh and then I go back to doing whatever.
Kevin: I do most of the booking and the online stuff. I’m also the muscle. I’m also an incredible athlete. That’s probably about it.
David (guitar): I guess I’m a wild card… I joined this band in January.
Kevin: David is really good at interviews and press stuff. He does those (laughs).
Is anyone designing the t-shirts or stuff like that?
Brendan: My girlfriend’s an artist and she did the shirt for the Euro tour. We just basically come up with dumb ideas, usually movie references.
Kevin: Or baseball players.
So your Euro tour started yesterday?
Kevin: We landed yesterday and the Bearded Punk Records guys threw a little barbecue. A bunch of bands played, it was kind of awesome.
How was the show at Brakrock today?
Kevin: This is an awesome festival. I like the eco friendly part of everything, they have a lot of vegan food, everything is recycled.
Brendan: The weather is incredible, all the bands are sick.
Kelly: Maybe halfway through our set I was thinking, this is so hot, I’m miserable. And then a cool breeze came right through and brought my spirits back up for the second half. It was great. Also the beer’s good.
Is there anything else you’re looking forward to on this tour? A venue or a city?
Brendan: We’re playing the Ramones museum in Berlin which I’m incredibly excited about. That was like my first punk band that I loved when I was 12 years old. It’s one of my favourite bands of all time.
Kevin: Next to that, playing with CJ Ramone.
Brendan: Yeah, we’re playing with a Ramone.
Kevin: But that’s on a different day. If it was with CJ Ramone at the Ramones museum that would be super uncomfortable.
Brendan: I feel like reality would collapse somehow.
Kevin: It would turn into a black hole.
Kevin: We’re playing with Joe McMahon from Smoke Or Fire and Yotam from Useless I.D. so that’s going to be a fun show too. There’s a lot of awesome stuff coming up. We’re super thankful to be here.
Is it your first time over in Europe?
Kevin: Oh yeah.
Brendan: A couple of us have visited before, not playing music. But this is our first time playing shows here.
Kelly: It’s amazing, I’m having a blast. It’s the first time I’m in a country where I didn’t speak the language.
Brendan: Fortunately everyone else in the world speaks English.
Kelly: We appreciate that. A lot.
Early this year you added a guitar to your line-up. You went from being a three piece to being a four piece.
Kevin: Most of the songs have different melodies and different parts that we can’t play as a three piece. I sort of adapted our live show when I was playing guitar to mimic the recording. But certain leads wouldn’t come through and I had to get other pedals to make it work. Where adding a second guitar gets a more dynamic sound, you get that wall of sound and all the leads come through and it fills up a lot nicer.
Brendan: Plus adding another driver means that we can get drunk more often.
Kevin: Some bands can pull that off. For us, it sounded weak. The lead or just the octave or something. When you have power chords behind it, it feels so much nicer. It’s been a great addition. It sounds a lot better.
Brendan: David’s also an old buddy of ours.
The reception of Day Jobs has been really good. It has super catchy tracks, sometimes combined with heavy lyrics. How was the songwriting process for that album. In what state of mind were you?
Kelly: When we were writing Day Jobs. I was working as a dishwasher, I had to be at work at five in the morning. it was really, really brutal. We were writing most of it over winter and late at night.
Brendan: Our jobs made it so that we had to practice at like 11pm every night. We wouldn’t stop untill 2 am.
Kelly: The studio was booked before most of it was written, so we had this due date. So we just pushed it out, and what came out was just what we’re going through at the time. Working these dead end jobs. Boston’s a really hard place to live. It’s really expensive. And I think we were just wrestling with that a lot at the time. And I think it came out pretty cool, it’s pretty sincere. It took fucking forever for it to come out. We sat on it for almost 2 years.
How would you describe the ingredients of a Trophy Lungs songs? Is it always the same?
Kevin: Absolutely. We have something that we refer to as the play book. Which we generally don’t break away from. Verse, chorus, verse, chorus, and then there’s something… We make up words, like bridge, which is not what they are.
Brendan: Traditionally Kevin and Kelly have always written a song by themselves, lyrics and everything, and then we kind of arrange it with the band. But the last couple of songs we did instruments first.
Kevin: And I think you can see it in the songwriting, when we write together it becomes a little more complex and cohesive. I like writing together.
Brendan: But we always have the things we can fall back on.
Kevin: It’s fucking punk music. It’s not hard. I was kind of hoping you were going to ask what the ingredients are for a Trophy Lungs cocktail.
Ok. I’m going to change my question to: What are the ingredients for a Trophy Lungs cocktail.
Kevin: I’m going to tell you the main liquor is going to be Mcgillicuddy’s Mentholmint Schnapps. This is something that our band has had way more than anyone ever should.
Kelly: From day one.
Bredan: If there are four ingredients it would be: Jameson, Dr. Mcgillicuddy’s Schnapps, Burnett’s, Miller High Life.
Kevin: So, it’s undrinkable. Just don’t do it.
Brendan: Yeah, whenever you drink it, it’s probably an inappropriate time. In the morning, at your job, when you’re picking up, something like that.
I saw some photos of you in the studio, is that for something new.
Kevin: It is, we’re doing a split with our buddies in Worship This from Cleveland, Ohio. They did two songs and we did two. We’re trying to figure out how to put this out.
So we’ll have to wait
Kevin: Yes. I don’t want to give it all away.
One of the standout songs on Day Jobs is Bathroom Graffiti. It’s a very personal song, is it hard to be so personal when you write?
Kelly: Kevin wrote that.
Kevin: Not for me. When it comes to dealing with personal issues, writing songs is one of those things that help me get over those things or help me cope with that. Most of the stuff that my songs are written about are the struggles or obstacles that I’ve had in my life because that’s my therapy. I was never really able to talk to some random person. When I was younger I was playing drums and that’s how I worked through it. So writing for me, it calms me down and let’s me deal with a lot of thing. And that’s what that song is about. It’s about three different people that I grew up with and they all died. And the only way to get over it for me was to write music and make a song for them, about them and keep playing it.
Kelly: We’ve also had a lot of people come up and talk to us about that song and how it resonated with them.
Brendan: I’ve even had friend who had struggles of their own who said they don’t want to be the subject of a song like that. It’s helped them in that way.
Kevin: Exactly. And that’s the thing if that song helps people get over something that’s even better. More people should be writing songs about stuff they care about in stead of just going “Here’s my butt”. But there’s a time for songs about your butt too. But writing that song definitely helped me out and I hope it helps out other people too.
It sure does. Can we do another Day Jobs song, Books and Statues. The lyrics aren’t as upbeat as the song might suggest.
Kevin: Music is happy, lyrics are not. That’s Kelly’s November Rain (laughs).
Kelly: I don’t get that reference. But writing is a process. I don’t know how I feel about some things until I write about it. By the time I’m done writing I know more about how I feel and understand my feelings better than I did when I started. For that song, I was just thinking back on relationships that I’ve had with women in my life and not just romantic but just in general. And by the time I was done writing I was thinking: It’s really easy to post things online and to be an ally to women, it’s really easy to post an article about street harassment or condemning people for shitty behavior. But if you’re not willing to look at your own behavior and really wrestle with it, and deal with it, and change, then you’re just a hypocrite. It wasn’t an easy thing to do. And it’s even difficult to play sometimes.
Brendan: Both literally and mentally.
Kelly: Yeah, it’s really hard to sing. But that’s kind of good. It’s a challenge. For me, I was just trying to make sense of some things in my past and understand it better and be a better person. I think men can get away with saying they’re sorry a lot more without changing their behavior. And that’s what that song is about.
You’re a Boston based band. Is that something that influences you?
Kelly: Hell yeah.
Brendan: Boston is a very peculiar city to live in. It’s expensive, it’s cold, there’s a ton of traffic and shitty drivers.
Kevin: It’s taken over by gentrification.
Brendan: It’s getting taken over by rich people, but there’s also this amazing scene. The music scene is awesome. We have some awesome friends in bands who books shows and stuff, who do an amazing job.
Kevin: Everything like the art scene, even the food scene is incredible. Boston has such a bad rep for nonsense that went on in the 70’s and the 80’s. But there’s an actual group of people creating things every day. People shouldn’t get pushed out by people who are trying to make money out of new condos. Our city just gave a 100 million dollars to general electric, to build a new headquarters. They get tax breaks for a year or two years, so none of that money comes back to the city, and the land that it was given to was the homeless shelter. So they shut down the homeless shelter. There’s certain things about the city’s residents that are incredible, but the city itself is falling apart based on money.
Kelly: Sometimes it feels like the city is actually trying to kick you out. A lot of people are struggling in our friend group, just to pay the bills on time. It’s a harsh place.
Kevin: It’s funny because none of us are actually from Boston.
Kelly: Yeah, we’ve all chosen to live there.
Kevin: I’ve been in Boston for about 10 years now. I moved to a certain part of Boston called Sommerville, I lived there because it was cheaper. And I personally was pushed out of that neighborhood because it became too expensive. So part of me thinks that I’m part of the problem but ten years in, I’m getting pushed out by the super gentrification. Call it hypocritical or not but we’re the ones that are still there and trying to make a change. We’re not running away to Philadelphia or one of those other cities. Boston has something that is worth saving.
David: I moved to Boston six months ago from Philadelphia.
Brendan: But you’re a New Englander.
Kevin: Yeah; you have more right to it than we do.
Let’s do a few short questions to wrap up the interview.
What’s your favourite Tony Hawk song?
Kevin: No Cigar, Millencolin.
David: I can hear Adolescents playing Amoeba right over there (Adolescents played the main stage of Brakrock ecofest at that very time).
Kevin: Thats pretty good. Guerilla Radio by Rage. Bring the Noise by Anthrax and Public Enemy is on there as well.
Brendan: I think New Girl by Suicide Machines is my favourite. Those soundtracks are amazing.
Kelly: Yeah that’s fucking phenomenal. Great question.
What’s the song you love playing live the most?
Brendan: I love playing The Big Eddie. I get to do a lot of cool shit on the drums.
Kevin: That’s also the song that I do the least on guitar so I’m also very pro that song. Brendan’s pretty good on drums and I’m super bad on guitar so if he can do more rad shit and I can just kind of play a chord.
Brendan: For me it’s mostly the songs the people in the crowd are really into. That’s usually Bathroom Grafitti or Dad’s Away on Business. Even today I saw people singing our songs.
Kevin: There was a guy in his mid 50’s that was banging out the chorusses.
Brendan: That pumped me up.
What’s the song you love hearing live by another band?
Kevin: There’s this band from Boston called The New Warden and they have this song called The Long Walk Home.
Brendan: And they don’t play it. They’re the greatest band you may never hear about.
You seem to be big X-Files fans, but are there any other shows you would recommend?
Brendan: The three of us just finished watching this Netflix show, Stranger Things and it’s very like X-Files. The Simpsons, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
Kelly: Also really into The Wire.
I saw you opened for the Falcon a couple of months ago. So I got to ask: The Lawrence Arms or The Falcon.
Brendan: The Lawrence Arms.
Kelly: I’m gonna say Lawrence Arms.
David: The Falcon.
Kevin: I’m going to say the current Falcon too, because I have the biggest man crush on Dave Hause. We’re going to be roommates, we’ll get an apartment together and it’s going to be amazing.
Kelly: When we opened for The Falcon, I was so intimidated by Dan Andriano that I couldn’t fucking deal.
Brendan: You’re from the midwest. Alkaline Trio is like the bible for you.
Is there anything you want to plug?
Brendan: Keep on rocking in the free world.
Kevin: We’re sorry about Donald Trump.
Brendan: I’m not taking responsibility for him.
Kevin: Donald Trump is not our fault.
Enjoy the rest of your tour. Thanks a lot guys.
Trophy Lungs “Day Jobs” can still be ordered through
Watch ‘Bathroom Graffiti’ on YouTube.
Watch ‘Dad’s Away On Business’ on Youtube.
Find out about Brakrock Ecofest here.