BY LYDIA RIVERS
PHOTO BY ADAM PARSHALL
Three-piece punk-rock band Retirement Party, fronted by Avery Springer and accompanied by drummer James Ringness and guitarist-bassist Eddy Rodriguez, easily claim their spot in the Chicago music scene and beyond. The band boasts a powerfully endearing vulnerability within their seemingly simple stream-of-consciousness lyrics about anything from loss, to growing up, to the fear of sunburns turning into cancer. With crazy guitar riffs and upbeat melodies, the band throws everything they have within themselves into their music and performances. Since the release of their first EP, Strictly Speaking back in 2017, the band has grown up a bit with Springer graduating college and a number of tours under the band’s belt. Retirement Party’s awaited sophomore album, Runaway Dog is the band’s most collaborative project yet, and is set to release this Friday, May 15.
I had the chance to talk with all the members of Retirement Party about their relationship with touring, adapting to quarantine, and their upcoming album Runaway Dog.
[This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity]
What are the lyrical or sonical themes of Runaway Dog?
Avery: It deals a lot with loss and kind of moving on and dealing with loss in several different ways. Loss people, loss of passion, just across the board feeling loss.
James: Sonically, I don’t know if there’s a theme exactly, but I definitely feel like we’re trying out our softer side a little bit. In a way, we’re kind of doing a much broader sound, and there’s a lot of different things happening sonically on the record. The last album I feel was more straightforward, and I think the songs sounded more similar to each other.
What’s the story behind the cover art?
Avery: I have a friend that we commissioned to do the collage artwork. His name’s Jack Campbell. We gave him some imagery to work with, like contrasting big and small, that I think encompasses feelings on the record. We thought of the desert, space, all those things. He made a mockup of a bunch of different pieces for us and we ended up choosing this one. We think it fits really well.
What are each of your favorite songs off the album and why?
Avery: I think “Afterthought” might be my favorite, it’s the second to last track on the record. I think dynamically between us, it’s one of our strongest songs. I also think that the lyrics are some of my favorites. It’s about playing music with all your friends and the dangers you kind of face doing that. It’s not just this fun rock star life. This shit’s hard sometimes, so it’s like the reality of this whole music thing.
James: I think my favorite is “Better Off Now.” I think it really displays our wider dynamic and tonal range that’s come through on this record. That one is very different from our last record, but I feel it still sounds like our band. “No Tie,” also! That’s one that, in the writing process, I feel was one of the ones I would almost forget about, but it came together in the studio in a way that’s really cool. It has this kind of pop-punk vibe to it, but it’s more complex than it appears to be on the first listen. That kind of stuff really appeals to me.
Eddy: I would say “Afterthought” as well, but“Runaway Dog” was a song that we first started jamming out a long time ago. I remember when we first started jamming out, I was like, “Yeah, this one is sick.” I think it’s such a dope way to start the record.
Avery: Yeah, we originally didn’t have that one as the first track or the first single. Our friend Kory from Prince Daddy & The Hyena was the one who told us we should make it the first track on the record. So, shout out Kory!
When you say the reality of touring, did it live up to the expectations you had?
Avery: Yeah, I mean you always dream about touring being this really cool, fun, reckless kind of thing. I definitely got to have a really fun experience doing that for a bit, and then it just kind of transitions pretty seamlessly into like, I love this, but this is also my job now. That doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate it in the same way, but the relationship definitely changed. I stopped drinking as much on tour because I don’t want to get drunk every night anymore. I like to go to bed when I can — It’s definitely tamed down. As far as my expectations, I’m happy that it’s happening like this, I’m happy that I still really enjoy touring and the music industry, but I’ve settled nicely into it being a job.
James: There’s the obvious image of you’re in a band and like, tour is so crazy and fun. All that rock star bullshit is so lame. Like, if you get really drunk, you gotta wake up and drive eight hours the next day. That shit is not fun. The part you don’t see is that you have to sit in the van for eight hours. If you’re really hungover, that sucks. I enjoy being chill on the road a lot more than I used to. I also found out that I love driving.
Eddy: [Laughing] Yeah sometimes it’ll be like, “Oh, I have this dope story that happened on tour” and then you talk to somebody else who’s been on tour and they have the exact same story, and I go, “Maybe it wasn’t that dope.” Tours are so similar and so different, at the same time. We’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of friends who tour, but I still think there’s always something new that happens. Whether it’s that you approach it differently, like not drinking as much, or something else, I kind of see things a little bit differently. Now it’s not like, as soon as we’re done let’s go drink or something, it’s okay, well, let’s figure out something else to do. Whether it’s listening to podcasts, or taking a walk, or old things you just love doing on tour, like eating Del Taco.
What was the recording process like for Runaway Dog, your second album, compared to your debut album Somewhat Literate and your first EP Strictly Speaking?
Eddy: This one we demoed out pretty far in advance. When it came down to recording, me and James did the same thing we did on the first record — we played it live, bass and drums, and then Avery did her thing. We all hung out in the studio a lot more this time around, and we talked to each other a lot more about what we thought were good ideas and changing things, regardless of what instrument anybody was playing. It was definitely the cool collaborative studio thing where we were all there most of the time.
Avery: Yeah, yeah, very collaborative. It was very detail-oriented with all of us, and we spent a lot of time I think with these compositions in general.
James: We probably did the most thorough demos that we’ve ever done. That has always been something that we wanted to try to do more of. This time we were really careful — we had full back demos of most of the record the entire year.
Eddy: Yeah, we were on tour and we had a demo version of the whole record that we could listen to and critique ourselves on what we wanted to do when going into the actual studio, so that was sick.
James: Yeah, Eddy was writing lead parts in the back of the van with demos we had going on tour.
Eddy: We were driving through deserts a lot. I guess in a weird way, it was a part of a theme of the whole record. Do I remember writing, like, some parts driving through like desert? Yeah, in a weird way, everything kind of fit into all these little themes that we kind of came up with in our heads.
How have you guys been adapting to quarantine?
James: I think our saving grace has been that me and Avery live together. We used to share our practice space with a few people, and we have this schedule, but nobody has been in there. For a couple weeks now, we’ve been going to our practice space and we’ve been able to continue working on music. That’s been really nice.
Avery: Yeah, we’ve been making demos of the two of us and sending them to Eddy, so then he records guitar and bass and stuff. We’ve actually been doing a decent amount of writing throughout this. We’re trying to come up with some unique merch items, some more limited things to keep us busy. So it’s definitely just being creative.
What’s the best way to listen to Runaway Dog?
Avery: Maybe a little biased, but I think it’s best listen to it on vinyl, which is sold by Counter Intuitive Records, which you can purchase on counterintuitiverecords.com. But, no, definitely like listening to the record all the way through. That’s a big thing for me. That’s how I consume records, so when we were putting this together, that was a big thing that we had in mind. So we would love it if every time someone put on the first track they listened all the way through.
LISTEN TO RUNAWAY DOG RELEASING MAY 15!
RUNAWAY DOG TRACKLIST:
1. Runaway Dog
3. Old Age
4. Fire Blanket
5. No Tide
6. I Wonder If They Remember You
8. Better Off Now
10. Wild Boyz