Chris Conley of Saves The Day
Quarantine Diaries: Saves The Day's Chris Conley Is Filming A Music Video & Reading James Joyce
As the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic continues to rock the music industry, the Recording Academy reached out to a few musicians to see how they were spending their days indoors. Today, Chris Conley of emo royalty Saves The Day shares his Quarantine Diary.
Thursday, April 2
[7 a.m.-9 a.m.] Wake up at 7 to "Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?" by the Beatles. Psyched! Immediately sit for a 20-minute meditation in bed while waking up my eyes and breathing into the day. It’s cold in my room but it feels exhilarating and I’m buzzing. Pop up at 7:20 and throw on my burgundy robe and head down the hall to meet my yellow lab Jo as I open the door to my daughter Luella's room where Jo has spent the night. Jo's psyched! Feed Jo and then feed Jade, our long-haired white and grey cat. Head back to my room to shower and get dressed for the day. Grab the tangled white headphones and the green and blue peacock leash and walk out to my black Civic with Jo to head to Bidwell Park for some essential exercise on a three-mile walk to start the day.
Turn on NPR as I drive down Esplanade in Chico and reality comes crashing through the airwaves while I breathe deep and slow to center myself in the midst of the chaos of world events. Park at the park entrance and put on Coltrane and cruise down the first trail that catches my eye. Nature has a way of balancing the emotions. Feel the cool morning air on my face and in my lungs listening to Ascension walking briskly waving and smiling at people as they pass. We’re all closer now that we’re told to stay farther away.
[9 a.m.-11 a.m.] Back at the house Luella is still asleep so I quietly set out her favorite cereal and a bowl and spoon so she can wake up and ease her way into the day while I get prepped for an online all-request concert for Sennheiser. Yesterday was a show on Instagram Live with my old friend Matt Pryor of The Get Up Kids, but today I want to switch things up so I search through the comments on my post from the night before about the event and write down songs and names so I can call out to Saves fans during the live stream today before I play their requests. Notice there are a lot of people asking for a few songs I haven’t played in quite a while. Cue up a song or two to relearn and rehearse and remember how much I like playing these songs and singing those words. Run them again and again and again to get ready. Practice doesn’t make you perfect, it makes you fearless.
Matt Pryor and Chris Conley perform on Instagram Live
Screenshot by @christiegee used with permission from both Matt & Christie
[11 a.m.-1 p.m.] Lu’s up and I’m ready and we chat for a while about her plans for the day. I ask about her online classes. She tells me what she has to work on and I nod and tell her I’m proud of her for being diligent about getting her work done early every day so she can enjoy her free time when she's finished. I'm Principal now as well as Dad, but she’s proving herself to be very responsible even though this new schedule and routine is still changing from day to day. It’s amazing what the teachers and schools are doing to ensure these kids continue to stay engaged in their education. Since she has things covered up front, I head out back to my studio, The Electric Ladybug, where I start to set up for the live stream and organize my thoughts for the show. Find a corner with the most natural light and hang a purple tapestry behind a green chair and set out red and pink flowers so the folks watching later can have something to look at aside from me screaming in a seat with my guitar.
[1 p.m.-3 p.m.] Once I'm fully prepped for the performance, notes scribbled on several leaves of paper, I sit back down for another midday meditation. Another 20 minutes of deep and slow breathing and feeling my body hum as my senses heighten. Unbelievable how bizarre and how beautiful it is to be alive—what a strange and outrageous trip!
Alarm goes off and I’m back up on my feet feeling like I can jump over a mountain. Pick up my beautiful new Taylor acoustic guitar for a quick soundcheck with Sennheiser and then relax for a few minutes before launching into this hour-long all-request set for the Saves family. Ready, set, go! Get off to a quick start so I can cram in as many songs as humanly possible over the next 60 minutes. First up, "The Way His Collar Falls" for my dear friend Max Bemis of Say Anything who requested the song via text message the night before just before I climbed into bed to crash. Blast through about a hundred Saves The Day songs and one Jawbreaker cover stopping to thank each person who requested each song as I make my way through the hour. Come up for air as the live stream cuts off exactly as I finish the final notes of "Jodie" and take a quick breather before having to pop back up again and keep moving like a shark through the rest of my day.
[3 p.m.-5 p.m.] Check on Lu but she’s busy with schoolwork so I don’t linger for long as I mentally prepare for the next phase of this most long and most productive day. Feels like I’m working overtime during this quarantine with concerts happening now in my backyard and a school operating in my house but I'm excited about the challenge and the opportunity to have more time to focus on projects in the studio and practice acoustic songs for weekly performances online. Clean up the space in The Bug where I set up for the Sennheiser gig and get that corner of the studio ready for a music video shoot happening later this evening for a song we’re working on about the collective experience of quarantine.
My friend Lloyd Vines is living at the house working on an album we’ve been making together with our friend Ced Hughes for the last three months, but when the whole world got turned upside down a few weeks ago Lloyd started writing a song called "Lockdown" over a beat Ced sent which we finished writing in The Bug last week. We’re trying to get it wrapped up with a bow to release with a visually stunning video before the album is finished as a one-off single since it’s a song written for this most unusual and unpredictable moment in time for the world at large.
Colin Cone and Lloyd Vines prep for a video shoot at The Bug
[5 p.m.-7 p.m.] For the last few days and nights we’ve been recording vocals, guitars, keyboards, and drums for "Lockdown" and simultaneously shooting video footage with our friends Colin Cone and Althea Fyfe for a Groundhog Day concept Lloyd came up with to go with the song. I fire up the gear in the control room as I'm turning a riff over and over in my mind trying to hear where it wants to live in the song. By the time the computer is up and running and the microphones and amps are warmed up I’m ready to lay this thing down and hear how it sounds. I start jamming to the track having the time of my life, not stopping to think now, only feeling the music as it breathes and bumps. The guitar part I kept hearing in my head last night as I was trying to sleep was almost classical in nature and it feels cool in one section of the song but seems overcomplicated in other areas where the mood is more quiet and reserved and my part is too busy and bizarre. Not to worry! It works where it works and the other sections have their own character, their own sound. I crack a three-mile smile leaning back to listen to the track. This is cool. This is different. This is new. I’m psyched!
Lloyd and Althea are back from the day shooting with Colin at the abandoned Diamond Match Factory and we watch the footage of Lloyd in a black and red jumpsuit wearing a face mask wandering through a post-apocalyptic landscape filled with blue and yellow graffiti on moss-green brick walls. We can’t believe how cool it looks and we know it will match the haunted production of the track perfectly once everything is synced up and mixed together.
Making art is always an important and worthwhile task but in a time of crisis it can be both cathartic and critical. We want the song to help people feel at ease during this most trying time. We’re reaching out through the words and the music to connect with the world and to be there with them and to help in any way we can. Lloyd put an audio clip of a guided meditation at the end of the track and we can feel the power of its ability to help us calm down every time it gets to that point in playback: "To start with, make a clear change to your posture to wake up the body and create a sense of alertness. Ideally you’ll sit upright and close your eyes. Let yourself become aware. Bring your attention inward. Notice any sensation in your body. There’s no need to focus on particular sensations. Simply be aware." It works. We breathe.
As I exit the studio I see an enormous bright and beautiful rainbow hanging in the sky above the house. Cool!
Photo by Colin Cone
[7 p.m.-9 p.m.] I head upfront to make dinner for Lu with "Lockdown" stuck on repeat in my head. So catchy. So strange. I find Lu on the couch with Jo playing "Animal Crossing" on her Switch. She’s psyched! I ask her what she’d like for dinner and I get started on her current favorite, vegetarian chili with rice. She tells me about meeting with her teachers and classmates on Zoom and then launches into a detailed account of all the things she’s been acquiring and building in the game and tells me that her friends now hang out on each other’s islands exchanging plants and seeds and various items for their houses and homesteads. It seems like a lot of fun, and it’s cool that the kids can connect and visit one another even though it’s only in this virtual environment. Right now that’s all they have.
We eat together and decide what movie or show to watch to end the day. We both love the new show "Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet" and we’re almost done with the season. We decide tonight would be a good night to lean into the last few episodes. It’s nice to sit together and to laugh and to forget for a while that the world outside is not the same one it was only a few weeks before. It will be there waiting tomorrow and it may or may not be worse than it was the day before, so sometimes it’s okay to just be together and to not think.
Luella and Dad watching "Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet"
[9 p.m.-11 p.m.] Luella is back in her room with Jo chatting with friends on the phone and I’m in my room after a shower and another 20-minute mediation back in bed with a book. I'm endeavoring to make my way through all of James Joyce but I’m currently only about halfway through his first book of short stories, Dubliners. It’s good and I imagine each book will get more and more complex and surreal since he started so young and only grew by leaps and bounds with each new published work. I figure in order to properly understand an artist's output you need to be familiar with their entire body of work since the best artists evolve over time and the journey is fascinating if you take the time to understand their personal growth and transformation. Judging by the last few nights this past week or so I'll be out within one or two stories and back up again to…
If you wish to support our efforts to assist music professionals in need, learn more about the Recording Academy's and MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund.
If you are a member of the music industry in need of assistance, visit the MusiCares website.