Interview by Ricky Frankel | Photo Credit: Brian Wahlstrom
It has been just about six years since Scorpios released their first album Tour Record and not only has each member done a lot since then with their separate projects, but Joey Cape started One Week Records and sadly the punk scene lost No Use For A Name’s Tony Sly. Scorpios are moving forward though. With the new addition of The Flatliners’s own Chris Cresswell, the band has released their self-titled album through One Week Records today. Features Editor Ricky Frankel interviewed Joey Cape about the new album, Tony Sly, what it was like having Chris Cresswell initially join the band, the darker lyrics in some of the songs and more. There are some behind-the-scenes photos of Scorpios in the studio through out the interview, plus you can listen to the band’s new song “Five-Minute Walk” below and you can find the full album over at One Week Records where the label’s entire catalogue is available for just $20 for the next week.
The last Scorpios record came out almost six years ago. What made the band decide that now is the time to release another one?
The first time we discussed the project, we considered Scorpios to be something that could evolve, be ever-changing and have more than a specific group of people. As long as members were born between October 23rd-November 21. After losing Tony, Jon, Brian and I occasionally spoke about doing a second album but, for many years it felt too connected to our loss. Recently we decided it should and would continue. I did some touring with Chris Cresswell with The Flatliners and solo acoustic. I also produced a One Week Record for him. We became fast friends. When I find out someone I love and respect as much as I do Chris is a Scorpio, I am happy to have any excuse to work with that person and Chris was a perfect addition.
How do the songs come together with everyone living so far apart and with such busy schedules?’ How much is done separately vs in your studio?
With the One Week Record, we all passed around demos and when it was time to record, the 4 of us sat in my studio and took turns showing each other the chords and more fine tuned arrangements, collaborating as much as possible. It was a lot of fun. And that is really the point. It’s intended to be a light-hearted project.
What do you think statistics are of any other group of talented people who already work so closely together sharing a zodiac sign?
A one in twelve chance perhaps? I don’t know, but it does feel like stars aligning. On the other hand, considering how many friends and fellow songwriters I know, it is a good way to lower the options with a prerequisite. Haha
What were Chris Cresswell’s contributions to the record other than songs like “When We Cave In?” What did he bring that the band didn’t have before?
Many things. Positive thinking and humor of course. Chris is such a cool dude. Musically, he brings great vocal and guitar technique and ideas to the table. He is very inspired and has many creative things to offer. Chris is more seasoned than most musicians his age and still very much new brave enthusiast.
“Cops On St. Andrews” is such lyrically dark song. Are the words drawn from real life experiences?
It is dark. This is a question for Brian of course. I can confidently say that it is inspired by a real life experience, having discussed the lyrics at length before we tracked the vocal. I love this song. It showcases Brian’s originality in his piano driven songwriting. The main riff is unusual, at least to my ears.
The opening lines to “Cops On St. Andrews” reference a “Catholic heaven.” Punk rock artists typically reject religion — then why do they pay attention to it so much in their art?
Well, in my case it has to do with upbringing, awakenings and disappointment facing the idealist and the faithful alike. Brian says he was raised Catholic and “Catholic Heaven” is a specific in jest. It’s about standards and measures one can so easily fail to achieve and the reward of an afterlife which is even more difficult to have faith in.
Songs like “Prost Amigos” sounds like an acoustic country(-ish) song. Is it hard for musicians who typically write distorted punk songs to have to switch genres and write songs like “Prost Amigos?” Is it a bit of a different mind set?
It is not a switch for Jon Snodgrass. He wrote the song. To me the style is reflective of his background. He comes from midwest stuff like Hüsker Dü, Replacements, Uncle Tupelo and lots of old-school country. Although our backgrounds somewhat differ and I may not write a song like “Prost Amigos”, Jon’s songs make sense to me. Maybe because I have played with him for many years. I was a fan of many things Jon was growing up so there is always an empathic connection. This is why I love projects like this so much. We all have different ideas. I always find something new collaborating on someone else’s vision. I think this is why the project is interesting for each of us.
“Civil War” is an interesting title for that track. The lyrics “Did it all for some girl” seem to indicate that it is about an internal struggle. What is the story behind this song?
Oh boy… It’s about relationships and how we choose to partner with a single person. Desire may evolve but it does not disappear. For most of my life I have put that special love I feel for my person above all, sighting loyalty as fundamental, which of course is a decency but sometimes unsustainable. We try to spare as much hardship as possible for those we care about. We honor those we love with exclusivity and abstain from sharing the benefits with others. I think many view it the way they view civil rights. The title for the song is just a play on words. It is a long struggle with casualties along the way. As I get older I see civil unions and monogamy as a part of a design chosen for us before we have reason or the ability to choose. It’s possible our relationships lack depth and actual potential to mature. It is an unpopular point of view, I know. But maybe, given a different reality, we might make deeper connections in life, possibly simultaneously. Again, many see this perspective as weak, defeatist and selfish. I believe the same can be said of monogamy. Lastly, I love my wife and daughter.
What do you want people to take away from this album? A theme? A message?
Songs are often too short for an in depth message. Albums, especially one like this with multiple points of view, are too convoluted for an overall concept. There are dark and light emotions on this record. I may need to feel inspired when I write lyrics but have no delusions that others will certainly be inspired by my prose. We enjoyed making the record. I am happy if people enjoy this album for any reason.
How are you carrying Tony’s legacy in the new album?
Hopefully by simply continuing with something Tony was involved in. We did record a song of his for this album. It’s the last track. “Five-Minute Walk”. Tony wrote it on a Scorpio’s tour. It’s a funny song about touring in foreign lands. Tony was really funny. He just whipped the song out on tour one day and we all harmonized. It developed throughout that tour and became part of our set list. We did our best to do it justice without him and added a bit more funny because, why not?
What does the rest of 2017 hold for Scorpios once the record is out?
There is talk of tours but, the reality with side projects is they have to stand in line. The Flatliners have a new album coming out very soon. That means Cresswell will no doubt be touring a lot with his immediate family. We’ll see when things align again.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Yes, maybe this album should have been released on October 23rd.