The party has started, and it’s getting louder by the minute.
Hailing from the Windy City, the Lawrence Arms are a no-bull punk-rock three-piece deeply rooted in the local scene. A dizzying mix of raw energy, catchy hooks and clever lyrics has earned the band a reputation as one of punk rock’s true originals, a group that speaks its mind and doesn’t polish up its sound.
“We’re very loud, excited and energetic,” vocalist/bassist Brendan Kelly tells Billboard.com. “We’re happily drunken and trouble-making punk-rock.”
Last week, the Lawrence Arms’ Fat Wreck Chords release “Oh! Calcutta!” happily debuted on Billboard’s Top Heatseekers Chart at No. 26. It is the band’s sixth album-length set.
Kelly, who sings hard-hitting punk songs with a raspy voice, shares vocals with guitarist Chris McCaughan, who is considered the melodic one. They formed the Lawrence Arms in 1999 with drummer Heil Hennessey following the break-up of their former band, the Broadways.
The dynamic three-piece takes its name from a run-down uptown Chicago building located on Lawrence Ave., where the band members used to live.
“This is where the band was born,” Kelly says. “We used to hang out there all the time. The place was a total dump, but a great place to live because it was dirt cheap and huge, and we could make as much noise as we wanted. It was in a terrible neighborhood, so nobody worried about us.”
The video for leadoff single “The Devil’s Takin’ Names” re-imagines this early-days scenario with slapstick humor. The band starts out as a bunch of destitute, homeless-looking guys in a ramshackle building and gradually transforms into elegantly dressed yuppies.
In Larry Arms’ world, it’s all about friendship and unity — and “happily drunken” moments.
“We’re three best friends,” Kelly explains. “We travel with a tour manager who’s also our best friend. Of course, we go out and get drunk together. We make the kind of music I want to sing along to when I’m drunk with my friends. We all have a lot of experiences –- good ones and terrible ones — that are influenced by us being influenced by alcohol. That’s what we write about.”
Kelly also has a lot to say about politics, and he always says what he thinks. Known for his outspoken anti-Bush opinions, he made an appearance in 2000 on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show With John Stewart, “where he took on conservative punk rocker and ex-Misfits singer Michael Graves, who had called Kelly “a dangerous radical.”
With television fame came touring infamy. In 2002, the Lawrence Arms got booted from the Warped Tour after bashing the festival organizers onstage for allowing concession stands to sell bottled water for more than $5. As a hidden bonus track on the new album, “Warped Summer Extravaganza (Major Excellent)” offers a scathing account of that experience and ensures the band will not be invited back.
Last month, the high-energy trio toured all over the United States with labelmates NOFX and the Loved Ones. The group is scheduled to perform at festivals in the U.K. and Canada in April and May, respectively, while sprinkling in a European tour.
“Whether we play for 60 kids or 6,000 kids, we put on the same show,” Kelly promises. “Chris and I sing until our voices don’t work anymore.”