When I took a first listen to Brendan Kelly and the Wandering Birds’ new album, Keep Walkin’ Pal, I was floored. It was like nothing else that he’s ever released before and also nothing like anything I would have ever expected. So I sat down with Brendan over drinks and talked all things Wandering Birds.
Keep Walkin’ Pal will be officially released on Black Friday (11/23) but you can grab an advanced copy if you’re Festing this weekend in Gainesville. You can read Part 1 of the interview now! Also, if you’re heading to Fest, check out The Lawrence Arms‘ set on Saturday the 27th at Bo Diddley Plaza at 8:30PM. Brendan also will be playing an acoustic solo set on Sunday the 28th at High Dive at 2:30PM.
The song Boardin’ USA. Holy shit. How did you come to the process of putting two and two together where you decided to write a surf sounding song about waterboarding?
So my friend John Nolan, who’s in Taking Back Sunday, he hit my up and was like, “Yo, I know we’re not in the same scene or whatever. But I want to do something now that Trump in the president and I’m doing a thing for the ACLU and I was wondering if you would write a song. I know your song won’t be totally at home on this comp but it’s called ‘Music for Everyone: a Benefit for the ACLU’ and I’d love to have you on it.” And I was like YES. I love those guys. I’ve known them since they were a little baby band that opened for The Lawrence Arms.
I thought that I don’t want it to sound just different enough that’s it’s ignorable. But then I was thinking about this whole ACLU thing, and I believe that Guantanamo was in the news at the time. I’ve always kicked around the idea of a surf song about waterboarding.
Really? How did this come about?
I mean ‘waterboard’ sounds like a sport.
*laughs* Yeah. I’m going waterboarding on Lake Michigan.
Yeah! And I gotta tell you, it turned out much better than I imagined. It was the darkest song I’ve every written by so far and no one will ever notice that.
Takin’ little Susie for a face jacuzzi?!?!
Ho-ly-shit. Who does the backups?
That’s Nick and Derek and Dan Tinkler played the drums. Derek did the vast majority of the backing vocals. “Takin’ little Susie for a face jacuzzi” is a straight up Nick Martin original.
It’s just like one of those things that’s like, “This is gonna work out really great.” But it works so well that I don’t think people notice what it really is. It’s like one of those songs where like every line has a much more significant meaning than it sounds like it has. Like I said, it’s the darkest song that I’ve ever written.
And this coming from a man who wrote a song about cutting up kids.
Yes, I did. And this is MUCH darker. This song is about… well, I guess both actually happened. But one is sanctioned by our taxes. Where I mean, at least not till 2020 are we gonna have something cutting up kids on the fucking government dole.
So the cover art – two albums down and the same blonde masked woman on both. Where did it come from? What’s the significance?
The short answer is that it’s fucking cool as shit. I think that a woman in a ski mask is hot. I find it attractive. The longer answer is sort of going back to what I was saying before. Punk rock is a little bit puritanical and afraid to erase this idea of sexuality. Even if you look at sort of Pop Punk bands that I grew up with. I’m sort of stuck in that era, with that as the discourse of what I think of when I think about Punk Rock. It’s “She didn’t love me, so now I’m miserable.” And it sort of reduces this woman to nothing. She’s nothing more than a cog in the mechanism of this guy. And so I thought that I could write a record that’s not about that at all, and sometimes it’s overtly about more than that. And then I would put a woman in a mask on it to sort of highlight that point… and I don’t expect anyone to every notice that. But the idea is like we keep these women faceless in this fucking scene.
But you said it’s not a Punk Rock record…
That’s also true. But what am I gonna do? I’m only me. I can only do what I’m doing. I mean, if anything, the mask is a representation of what I would like to leave behind. If anything and would say middle finger through the back windshield of sort of the old ideas of more mainstream Pop Punk. While I think it’s a cool looking thing, there was an intentionality behind it. If you’re gonna fucking mask this woman and make her nothing, then fucking put her on the cover, right? *laughs* Because she’s doing everything.
Derek Grant had a hand in the new album, right?
Derek did the entire track bed for “The Ballad of Buffalo Bill.” And then he added like twenty-five tracks to “Boardin’ USA.” That was the extent of Derek’s work on the project. But “The Ballad of Buffalo Bill” was the first thing that got done and that was the way that I convinced Nick to take this seriously and come do stuff. I was like “Check out what Derek did” and he was like “OH FUCK. You’ve got a guy… ALRIGHT! I’m in!” So Derek was a crucial tinder stick in the entire thing. I wish he had been part of it more. He had other things to do and so it didn’t work out. Fortunately, we were able to take his inspiration and kind of run with it.
So we were both out drinking last night, actually at this very same bar. I’m having a bit of a hard time struggling through. So, what is the best hangover cure besides hair of the dog?
The truly best hangover cure is like fucking naps and television.
Of course. But what about for us working folk?
Oh… if you’ve gotta go to work? Oh. Cocaine! *Laughs*
*Laughs* I mean you’re not wrong.
I just do like fucking coconut water and some chips. That seems fine, I dunno. I’ve got no fucking grand plan. I’ve got my coconut water and my chips and people are like, “You look like you feel like shit” and I’m like I DO. And I drink the coconut water and I eat the chips. Am I feeling better? Not at all. And I go to bed and three days later, ’cause I’m so old, I finally feel okay again. I dunno. I guess the relentless persistence of time helps? *Laughs*
You’re playing Fest this year. Two sets. The Lawrence Arms and a solo acoustic. Is that set going to consist of more of the newer songs?
I will be a regular thing but it will be more focused on the new record. It’s actually the first day that the new record will be available. So, we’ll sort of lean into that as a theme.
Do you have a favorite memory? A favorite place to eat or to grab a drink?
The thing about the Fest, and I’ve said this a million times, is that everybody there has the same sort of proclivities so everybody ends up at the same places anyway. So like everyone wants a slice of pizza at 10AM and everyone wants a beer at 10:15. And there’s lines out the door. And if you didn’t sleep in the bush right by the pizza place then you’re standing down the block from the pizza place waiting for your slice of pizza. And that’s fine. But as a result, I don’t know that I’ve been able to veer off the beaten path and find anything cool.
What I like about Fest is that everyone there is there to have a good time and like the same kind of things. And I like hanging out with people and whatever fucking hotel we stayed at last time we were there… wonderful bar in that place. It’s got a wonderful bar that is far enough away that there’s a lot of Fest goers so it still has the vibe but it’s not overwhelming. It’s really nice.
Alright, last one. Describe the new album in three to five words.
It’s… A… New… RECORD!