Hold on to your balls. Our 35th flexi, featuring a cover of Dave Van Ronk’s “Luang Prabang,” is a banger and is a perfect showcase for Brendan Kelly’s gravelly vocals.
Brendan Kelly on The Lawrence Arms cover of “Luang Prabang”
“It was so unbelievably powerful,” Lawrence Arms bassist Brendan Kelly says of the first time he heard Dave Van Ronk’s 1985 folk song ‘Luang Prabang.’
“It’s got that same flair of being kinda cheeky and a little bit crass, but at the same time, very impassioned and also kind of sweet, which is sort of what I strive for when I write songs. I don’t know if I succeed or not, but that’s my sweet spot that I try to hit.
The band recorded a cover of the song while they were demoing their new record, Skeletal Coast, but ultimately, it didn’t make the final cut for the record.
“It wasn’t, like, a throwaway thing that we just did,” Kelly explains. “We had it, along with everything else, recorded. Then, it just wasn’t for this album.”
Kelly notes that he also likes protest songs that don’t necessarily seem political on the surface.
“The thing is, for me, the greatest protest songs are the songs that are about you struggling with what’s going on,” he says. One of Kelly’s favorite protest songs of all time is “Clay Pigeons” by Blaze Foley.
“‘Clay Pigeons’ is just a song about a guy that’s very sad, and he goes and sits by a woman on the bus and pretends that he’s her husband for a while because he’s so sad. And it doesn’t seem like much of a protest song, but it is. The thing about being so fed up that you can’t take it anymore.”
On the other hand, if a song is going to directly address a specific social issue, Kelly thinks it should go all out. Which is what makes “Luang Prabang” so powerful: it is a blunt anti-war song that doesn’t beat around the bush.
“If you’re gonna be fuckin’ overt in a protest song,” says Kelly, “I want Dave Van Ronk, ‘Luang Prabang.’ I want ‘Fuck The Police’ [by N.W.A.]. I don’t want some art thing; I want visceral fury.”