Joey Cape Reflects On ‘A Good Year To Forget’

Lagwagon front man Joey Cape has announced he will be performing a swag of intimate acoustic solo shows, which starts in Melbourne tonight, while he’s on tour with Me First And The Gimme Gimmes in January through February. Joey wrote and recorded a beautiful record during lock down called A Good Year To Forget released via Fat Wreck Chords late 2021. A tug at the heartstrings album that not only expands Cape’s sonic palette, Cape delves deeper than he has before into themes of blistering adversity, loss and grief.

Joey Cape’s solo shows will wax poetic on his own personal tragedies drawing on a year that saw him lose his father, separate from his wife of twenty years, contract COVID and move back in with his parents as a result of a livelihood lost. Don’t miss your chance to get raw and real with punk rock legend, Joey Cape. Hi Fi Way speaks to Joey Cape about his love of touring Australia and his latest solo record A Good Year To Forget.

How much are you looking forward to returning to Australia?
I love it so much. Yeah, man. It’s one of my favourite places to travel to and to be in. It’s just always a pleasure and yeah, I can’t wait.

Are the confidence levels right back up there now being able to tour internationally now?
I don’t know that my confidence ever waned or lessened because I was pretty up on the science of everything. I experienced the virus, a heavy-duty version of the virus early on. I had real trouble with it. I ended up in the hospital and all that, and it is in fact a virus. There are many ways to protect yourself. I was ready to get back at it as soon as we could. I did some touring in those interim stages where we were allowed to do things in different places. I went to Europe on my own very early on, I think it was even late 2021.

In 2021, I went there for about five weeks and toured in a van. Every night I was told you’re the first from America back. There was a little lull in the virus for a while there, and I’m not sure if it was between Corona and Delta or whatever strain it was, but it wasn’t uncomfortable, just wore a mask and was careful. Then there was another couple times where we were able to get back out on tour, and then inevitably somebody would get the virus and then tour would stop, did a lot of that. I didn’t stay away from it long enough to really develop phobias or fears.

Is there an element of also trying to sort of claw back for lost time?
Yeah, no doubt. This tour coming up is a tour, I believe, and it’s been so convoluted, I almost don’t know the answer, but we’ve had to reschedule so many things so many times. I believe that this tour was originally booked for 2020 or something like that. When it popped up a few months back and somebody said, oh yeah we got the Gimmes tour in Australia, you still good for that? I said, yeah, hell yeah. Then I immediately went, I don’t remember there being that tour.

We did Lagwagon, about four months of makeup tours all at once, because once everything got rescheduled, it got kind of rescheduled within a very small amount of time and at one point I said to our manager, I said, are you fucking kidding me? We’re going to break up. You going to put us on tour for four months after not touring together for two years? You know, like, come on! I know a lot of people had to do these kinds of things too, just in the branding of a band and just reminding people, Hey, I know you’ve just gone through a huge coma and nap, but we still exist, you know, that kind of thing. It exists at all levels, it’s kind of a pleasure to know that it’s still possible and to just be getting back to it. It’s really not anything but pleasant for me.

Do you enjoy the touring side of life a lot more now?
It’s funny, I didn’t have that, but it didn’t last all that long. It might be because I’ve been touring for so long, I feel like I had a little, what you might call like a honeymoon period, it felt like it just lasted maybe a month or a few weeks or something where it was like wow, this is cool. You could feel it in the band with Lagwagon, we could really feel that, this sort of like renewed youth. Then you start doing anything that you’ve done for a long time again, and it starts to fall into place and feel like the routine comes back. This doesn’t make it a whole lot less enjoyable.

It’s two different kinds of psychological things happening with these things, you know. I have this very fortunate life where I get to do these things, and to be able to get back to this thing that I’ve known is just awesome, because it’s what I’ve always done for as long as I can remember. I am grateful, but, yeah, I had a little bit of that for a while now it’s just more like a matter of, it feels like the normalcy is back and that’s great.

Congratulations on your album A Good Year To Forget. Was it one of those albums that pretty much wrote itself?
It was a very slow process, but I had a lot of time as did everyone. I spent a lot of time alone during 2020, just the way things worked out. A lot of people went into isolation, but they often went with other people. I moved back into sort of like a little guest cottage kind of thing at my mom’s house, a separate little room. I just spent so much time by myself or just riding my bike by myself and this kind thing. In hindsight, I look back and I go, this is such a great thing for me. Once you realise there’s really nothing you can do about your finances and being alone or being stuck, you find a place of relaxation with it, and then it’s just suddenly there’s so little urgency.

That’s my experience, my experience with this thing was that, and so making a record and not feeling like there was any backend or backdoor or timeline for it was actually pretty great. I felt like I had all the time in the world to write. If I feel inspired, I can write. If not, I can watch more of the Hallmark Channel or M.A.S.H or some TV show that makes me feel good, or read or whatever, or build a birdhouse or fucking start taking piano lessons online, whatever the millions of things that I sort of pretended to do during that time. It was a pleasure and it was needed, it was cathartic.

Was it as therapeutic as hat you thought?
I did this thing from I think just about a week or two in to being in the lock down. I thought I’m going to journal. I’m going to just start writing every day, in the morning about the day before or at night about the day about the things that I’m doing and what I’m thinking. I hadn’t even considered, for some reason, I hadn’t even considered song writing. For months I was in limbo just writing and trying new things. Then I suddenly realised, oh, you know, you write songs, maybe you should use this time to do that. There’s a part of me that thought I could probably write like, but I had a good prediction based on science, you know, that I was going to be down for at least a year, maybe two, maybe three, who knows?

So I thought, geez, I could probably write four or five records and be all good to go for years after this with material. I was thinking about it that way part of the time. Then I dropped that as well and just said, there’s really nothing urgent. Just, just do whatever you want musically. That was a lot of fun. It was lonely, playing all the instruments and doing all that stuff that I did on that record was kind of nice. I would go in at about five o’clock every night, because my mom’s in her eighties and I would have dinner with her. A lot of those nights I would come in and say, Hey, here’s the thing I’ve been working on out there. I’d come in and I’d play it for her and it was nice. She was my audience for a year or so.

Those moments you will cherish forever and time you won’t get back again.
Yeah, no doubt. That was incredible. I think at some age, you start to really find that division between your parents and yourself because you were an adult and you have a family and you, whatever it is that you do, you’re off, your boat has sailed and it takes something like a pandemic to force you to kind of re-evaluate your relationships like those. It was fantastic for myself and my stepfather and my mom to living with them and helping them through this thing that was far more confusing and and traumatising for them than it was for me, but also just getting re-centred spending all that time. You would never voluntarily say, I’m going to have dinner with my mom seven nights a week, I don’t think! It was beautiful actually. It was good, really good for me.

How is it playing those songs live?
I don’t know. I haven’t had a lot of experience playing them yet. I’ve only done a little bit of touring. In general, I’m a very forgetful person when I use that word. When I write a song and I’m deeply in that emotion and that moment, that’s pretty fleeting for me. I connect to the songs in different ways later, it’s getting harder already to connect to the emotion that I was feeling in lock down and in isolation. I think the answer is when I play one of these songs live, I connect to it, but sometimes it actually feels a little bit like, yeah, yeah, yeah, we all went through that why are you still talking about it because it’s such a specific emotion, and we’re all fighting what we’ve already fought. I think in many ways psychologically too we need to move on from that that stuff.

This record may hold a little bit of, I wouldn’t call it regret, but it would, it may hold a little bit more of that than another song that I wrote many, many years ago about a breakup or whatever, something that was heartbreaking or traumatising. It’s definitely more nostalgic already. The real regret for me, the real hard part actually I should say, is when I play those songs, the last few records I’ve made were full band records and I can’t afford when I do the solo shows to travel with a bunch of mates, a bunch of friends, I just can’t afford to fly everybody and pay for their room and board and just afford all those bodies. So when I tour solo, I’ve rarely been able to bring a band. I always pretty much have to just do it myself, which by the way, I totally enjoy. It is interesting when I think about that record, I think God sure would be fun if I could play this with a band and that just hasn’t really panned out for me yet with the solo stuff. So there’s always like a little bit of a different approach.

Kicking it up a gear you must be looking forward to the shows with Me First and the Gimme Gimmes?
Oh yeah, it’s funny, it’s a real polarised kind of touring life for me this Australian thing. I’ve done this a lot where band like the Gimmes is going all the way to Europe, all the way to Australia or something and I say to myself, well, shit, I should try to go a little early or stay a little late and play some solo shows because it’s a long ways to go. I might as well do that too.They’re just so different. I mean that’s probably the biggest difference in the things I do would be between my solo music and the Gimme Gimmes, which is purely holiday, just fun and less precious. It’s really just a good time, but it’s still rewarding. Musically, it’s a cover band, it’s going to be really cool. It’ll start off somewhat sombre and serious for me and there’ll be the art of it, although I always have a good time playing solo shows too. Then just almost the polar opposite of like, dressing up and playing those cover songs with the Gimmes. That’s going to be great.

Is Lagwagon still bubbling away in the background?
We just did almost four months of touring. We did a solid full stage tour through Europe all back-to-back. We have less going on in 2023, but we still have a few tours here and there. I don’t know about new music because it’s really weird. We made that last record and we supported it a bit, we did most of the world in support of that album. Lastly in Australia, by the way, in 2020, March 20 was wild. It still feels like that record wasn’t that long ago because of that coma that we were all in. I’m not sure what kind of create creative stuff is going to happen with the band anytime soon, but we definitely have started touring again and we’re definitely playing really well together. The chemistry came back immediately. I look at Lagwagon as one of those things it doesn’t really matter what I think it’s unstoppable. It’s always going to exist for me until one of the wheels falls off and somebody can’t do it.

Interview By Rob Lyon

Catch Joey Cape on the following dates, tickets HERE

On tour with Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, tickets HERE

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