One question in and Joey Cape is already apologising to us for his long-winded response. “That’s OK,” we tell the Lagwagon main man. “The longer the answers, the better.” There’s a lot of catching up to do.
It’s been almost a decade since The Caper and his team of California punks released an album. In that time, a co-founder left, the closest of friends passed, and the group approached their 25th anniversary, while Cape — singer, guitarist and primary songwriter — crept up on his 50s.
The band’s last record was 2010’s self-effacing EP, I Think My Older Brother Used to Listen to Lagwagon. Cape confessed in a recent Reddit AMA that although he is still fond of Older Bro, he felt the band “rushed it a bit” and remains unsure if it was “the right record at the time”.
Cape now says these feelings were a big reason for the delay between albums proper. “The short answer is we don’t like to make records unless we’re ready,” he says with statesman-like calm, which soon turns into an apologetically long soul-searching session.
“I think there’s been many times in our career when we’ve sort of forced things a little bit, and we’ve never been happy enough with the material to put it out when that happens. So I learned a long time ago that it’s just best to wait.”
And so he waited. Immersed in side projects, and other pursuits like his indie label One Week Records, Cape bided his time until the feeling was right.
“There’s a sort of collective identity that the band has when we make a record that usually I have some sort of understanding of, and when I don’t it just seems to kill it,” he says. “There’s this thing where you hear a record by a band and you think, ‘Well, it sounds an awful lot like the last record I heard except I think I’d prefer to listen to the last record.'”
He laughs. “That’s the kind of pressure that we face being in a band. But, even more importantly, we have to be satisfied. We have to be happy with the material we’re playing or else it’ll lack conviction and I think anyone can see that, even if they’re not aware.”
Listen: Lagwagon – The Cog In The Machine
Thankfully for us, they’ve got their mojo back. Lagwagon’s eighth studio album, Hang, is finally due for release in Australia this Friday. And we’re lucky to have anything at all, by the sounds of things.
“I wasn’t sure whether it was even something we should do again,” Cape says. “We have enough material to play shows forever, and I didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of it possibly being our last record, you know, given our ages… and [the possibility of] making a crap record.”
After bassist Jesse Buglione left the band in 2010, that collective identity was difficult to redefine. Buglione had been with the band since he was just 15 — Cape was signed on as his legal guardian — and by 2007 he was already ready to quit the road life and settle down.
“I begged him over and over to stay. I actually, once or twice, went to his house with a bottle of scotch and sat him down and said, ‘Let’s drink this and talk about this,'” Cape laughs.
“I managed to convince him to stay on and I think he stayed an extra couple of years because he cared about us. At some point, you kind of have to let people go through their thing.”
To move forward, the band looked to the past, recruiting former Rich Kids on LSD (RKL) bassist Joe Raposo. “In many ways, I don’t think there would be a NoFX or a Lagwagon or many bands that sound like us if there hadn’t been an RKL,” Cape says. “They had this style of music that would just rip the whole time.”
That certainly helps to explain Lagwagon’s hard-riffing new track The Cog In The Machine, which does indeed rip. The band sounds rejuvenated, turning back the hands of time to the days of Duh and Trashed. Raposo had pushed the “old guys” to lift their game.
“It was kind of like, ‘Oh. We gotta… we gotta do what we used to do when we were 20. Uh-oh.’”