The Lawrence Arms are a punk rock trio from Chicago, formed in 1999. The lineup consists of Brendan Kelly (vocals & bass), Chris McCaughan (vocals & guitar), and Neil Hennessy (drums). They have released five full-length albums and are currently signed to Fat Wreck Chords. Their music and lyrics exhibit their propensity for juxtaposing references from history and literature with American pop culture. The band takes its name from a building the members resided in (and were later evicted from) called the Lawrence Arms, which was located in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago.
The three musicians came together to form the Lawrence Arms in 1999. Although punk rock bands in their infancy generally start out by releasing EPs and 7" vinyl singles, the band members used their existing relationship with Asian Man Records to immediately begin recording a full-length album, a guided tour of chicago, which was released later that year. A second album, ghost stories, followed in 2000. Both albums focused heavily on the members' own stories of growing up and living in Chicago.
The band's next two releases were split EPs with other bands. The first, a split with Shady View Terrace, was released in 2000 and was their first release to be recorded by Matt Allison, who would continue to record and produce all of their subsequent releases. A second EP, Present Day Memories, was released in 2001 and was a split with The Chinkees.
The band's records and touring schedule had brought them to the attention of Fat Mike of NOFX, who signed them to his label Fat Wreck Chords in late 2001. Their first release on the label was a 7" vinyl single, part of the label's "Fat Club" series of 7" records. This was followed by the full-length album apathy and exhaustion, released in 2002. The album spawned the band's first music video, for the song porno and snuff films and they toured extensively with NOFX and other bands from the label.
Their next album was 2003's the greatest story ever told. Arguably their most ambitious album to date, it demonstrated the band members' continued growth as musicians and songwriters and included extensive footnotes to the lyrics detailing their many references to history, literature and pop culture. It also showed an evolution in the band's vocal style. Kelly had sung most of the vocals on their first album, while on subsequent releases he and McCaughan had split vocal duties almost equally from one song to the next, with Kelly's voice tending to sound more harsh and urgent while McCaughan's sounds more relaxed and melodic. With this release, however, the two began to move towards more of a duet style of singing which would feature prominently on their next album. Extensive touring following the album's release saw the band on the road for much of 2003 and 2004. They also contributed a song to the Fat Wreck Chords Rock Against Bush, Volume 2 compilation, leading up to the 2004 presidential election and became involved with the Punk Voter campaign.
In December of 2004 Kelly and Hennessy joined with fellow Chicago natives Dan Andriano of Alkaline Trio (who had played with Kelly in Slapstick) and Todd Mohney, formerly of Rise Against, to form The Falcon, and released an EP on Red Scare. Meanwhile, with interest in the Lawrence Arms increasing and their EPs out of print, Asian Man Records planned a CD release of the band's EP tracks. The resulting compilation album, Cocktails & Dreams, was released on Asian Man in June of 2005 and included their songs from both EPs along with nearly all of their compilation tracks, rare songs and b-sides.
The Lawrence Arms re-entered the studio in October and November of 2005 and recorded the album oh! calcutta!, which was released on Fat Wreck Chords in March of 2006. It had an overall faster and more urgent feel to it than their previous album, and demonstrated another step in the development of their singing as Kelly and McCaughan shared vocals in a duet style on nearly every song. They filmed a music video for the song the devil's takin' names.
The Lawrence Arms spent most of 2006 touring extensively alongside bands such as NOFX, Alkaline Trio, The Draft, Lagwagon, and A Wilhelm Scream. The full-length debut by the Falcon was released that fall on Red Scare. In December, the Lawrence Arms embarked on their first headlining tour of Australia, also playing supporting shows with Frenzal Rhomb.
The band toured again in 2007, with their side projects The Falcon and Sundowner as openers along with the recently reunited American Steel.
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