Lagwagon is one of those bands whose momentum never seems to flag. Eighteen years in, they're still cranking out records and touring. And while they're not doing so at a whirlwind pace, they've legitimately outlasted many punk bands that post-date them by a decade.
The first band signed by NOFX frontman Fat Mike to his then-fledgling label, Fat Wreck Chords -- which now is a fairly unassailable indie punk super-label -- Lagwagon is more of an institution than a band.
This doesn't mean they're unaffected, though. In countless hours in the studio and on the road, the five of them have collected enough experience to allow tragedy to become productive, as witnessed by their new album. The early 2005 suicide of former Lagwagon drummer Derrick Plourde was an event the band was able to channel into their newest offering, Resolve.
"It was effortless to write and effortless to record because we were so driven and inspired," says frontman Joey Cape. "When something like that happens to you -- and generally with art -- it's much easier to write and be creative when you're inspired. And, unfortunately, a lot of that time is usually when bad things happen.
"It's a bittersweet kind of thing. We all feel really good about the record, but the inspiration was obviously a tragedy and not so great."
Lagwagon's brand of melodic and quite musical punk rock is challenging enough to make Resolve an enjoyable listen. But because of the subject matter, it's not a happy record. Dark, sad and occasionally angry, Resolve has created a buzz as a callback to Lagwagon's earlier, more skate-punk style. Cape laughs when I mention this.
"Yeah, I've heard that, but I've heard that a few times for every record we've made since the first record. I suppose it's a good thing. Almost every record we make I hear both: I hear that it's a departure and I hear that it's a nod to the past.
"I never am able to really make those judgment calls about our records. The way we make music, there's very little calculation and almost nothing's really manufactured in the way we do things.
"Most of the time after we make a record, it takes me a while touring and seeing how songs go over live and getting to know them better in that sense before I really feel like I can make any kind of judgment on it. But it's difficult to be objective about your own art or, you know, your own music."
Lagwagon's venerability is a genre rarity. Punk often logs a high burnout rate. But the band's home at Fat is known for producing long-lived, flexible bands. The industry has transformed since the early days of Fat, when indie labels were a relatively new phenomenon.
"There are just so many indie labels now, and so many indie bands. And, too, at most major labels, they try to sell themselves now with subsidiaries, coming across as indie labels. It's a little confusing now, to know what's independent and what isn't, and also the business in the independent record industry has changed so much. It operates a lot like a major label a lot of the time.
"Fortunately for us, we've been with the same label the whole time. They haven't changed the way they operate personally or business-wise. Our relationship with them is virtually unchanged. It's nice, and fairly consistent."
-- Aaron Retka
Lagwagon with The Lawrence Arms and Harrison Bergeron
The Black Sheep, 2106 E. Platte Ave.
Friday, Nov. 18, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $15; visit sodajerkpresents.com.