Chris McCaughan (Sundowner, Lawrence Arms, The Broadways) recently released his second solo album as Sundowner, entitled 'We Chase The Waves'. The record finds Chris right at home with his fine storytelling, heartfelt melodies, and honest songwriting for which he’s known. I also made sure to ask him about his old bands and friends like Mike Park.
I think it's more comfortable in it's own skin. The first record was really a patchwork of songs collected over different periods of time. We Chase was written much more as a cohesive unit of tunes. I think that's maybe the biggest difference for me. Once I was moving on the writing I was working towards a very specific goal. 4152 was built out of a blueprint. Parts were premeditated, most everything was conceptualized and written prior to being in the studio. We Chase was made over a period of eight months and while all the songs were written and structured we took a lot more time to slowly write in all the extra stuff. Personally I feel we the new record fits better in the acoustic form. I think it's actually an acoustic record. 4152 really rode the fence in terms of if it was a soft or a rock record.
I like to think I took some risks although if you're at all familiar with the kinds of lyrics I have written in the past it is very much me. Some people have commented to me about how bleak and sad the content seemed. I think it's a lyrically and thematically hopeful record in the end. Yes, there are a lot of cryptic images and scenes but I think it's ultimately a record about confronting mortality and coming to terms with yourself. I tried to write from a landscape that had lots of natural and living things in it. I think lyrically I was trying to convey a world that I see.
How did Sundowner start out? I know you had been doing some local shows in coffee shops and continued to write acoustic songs. Did you feel a need to differentiate yourself from The Lawrence Arms and your previous work?
It started as songs on a four track in my parents house when I was still living there and the Arms were touring a lot. I think I've just followed my instincts. I was compelled to make both these records. I never felt like I should or that I had to prove myself in some way. I found myself with enough material to make 4152 and it was a great experience for me. It took me out of my comfort zone. We Chase was a challenge for me and I really enjoyed writing and making the record and to be totally honest I felt empty when it was all done and I had to actually put it out. I think it's impossible to be someone you're not. People will always stack up your newest shit against the previous stuff. You have to accept that.
Is "Baseball's Sad Lexicon" about being a long suffering Cubs fan?
From my perspective, my spin on the old 1910 poem, yes. But the poem was written from the point of view of a NY Giants fan about the great Cubs teams of the turn of the century that spoiled a lot of Giants fans dreams. We've had some great Cubs teams since, but not one that's been the greatest in a given season.
Neil Hennessy played bass on both the Sundowner records. Did you have anyone else contribute to the newest record.
An old and good friend of my named Ryan Suma played lapsteel on Baseball's Sad Lexicon and a few guitar lines on Mouth of A Tiger, but other than that it was all me and Neil, who played bass on the whole record.
You’ve had a longstanding relationship with Asian Man records. What can you can tell me about Mike Park and the label in general?
I've known Mike Park, well, since before I could legally drink. He's been a great friend for many years. He still runs Asian Man the way he always did. It's small and honest and he's does what he can with the resources he has. We toured together as solo acts all over England and Europe a few years back and had a great time and it was around the time I was initially thinking about what would become We Chase the Waves. Asian Man seemed a good place for the record to land. I'm very happy to still work with Mike in some way.
How do you think things have changed from the late 90s until the present day concerning the way you handle making records, marketing, booking tours, and using social media?
Ya know man. Things changed and I got old. I don't fully understand the game anymore. In the Lawrence Arms we put out records and then toured the hell out of them. That's really all I knew. Now, for this Sundowner stuff, I keep it small. I haven't done a lot of shows, just a handful, I don't forsee any national touring anytime soon. I do what I can in terms of small time marketing, social media, whatever but the fact is that this is a small record and I totally embrace that. Honestly, what I think of how this all changed means very little, I'm pretty fortunate to still make records.
'Broken Star' by The Broadways is one of my all time favorite records. Can you tell me anything about the process that went into creating this album and any other thoughts about your time spent in The Broadways?
That was all so long ago man. We were kids. The first real tour I ever did was with the Broadways and I remember that we played in Tiujana Mexico and there were two people there and we drank way more than our pay, which was nothing. I remember playing in Great falls Montana and in the morning watching two guys walking down the street with gold paint all over their faces and I recall that the van and all of us smelled beyond disgusting. I dunno. We made that record in a week or something in the original Atlas with Matt Allison. I used my friend Sean's white SG. At the time we probably thought it was the White Album.
How do you balance your time between Sundowner and The Lawrence Arms?
The Arms have done a few things here and there. Buttsweat and tears and west coast thing and a UK jaunt but for the most part things are pretty quiet. I don't really see it as finding the time to balance the two but more just what's up now and finding the time to work on a bunch of different shit in my life.
Any chance of a new Lawrence Arms release in the near future?
Hard to say man.
What are your plans for the next year? Do you see yourself touring or working on any new projects?
I don't see a lot of touring in the next year but hopefully some small things here and there. I'm really satisfied with how We Chase the Waves came out and am eager to figure out what's next for me but for now I'm totally happy to relish in this.
Has there been any recent bands that has caught your attention?
I love Jose Gonzalez. He's not really a band but I think he's amazing.
I really appreciate the time and support of writers and people interested in what we've done with this new Sundowner record. So, much thanks.