There’s good news: after serious bouts of depression, Conley is in a good place. You can hear it in his voice, his timely sense of reflection and most of all, in Daybreak, the latest release from Saves The Day. Daybreak is the culmination of a trilogy which catalogues his bout with depression. From the anger, to the acceptance, this is the record which finally defines who Chris Conley is.
It’s been a tumultuous 17 odd years in the music business for Conley. Speaking in a tone that combines equal parts serenity and resolve, he’s quick to detail some of the truths he’s learnt as of late.
“The first one is that we all die,” says Conley, reached on the phone on a ten hour drive between Pitssburgh and Providence, no less. “We all fight against it and we’re afraid of it. Very rarely do we get to touch the root of that fear because we’re dealing with the anxiety of the modern world. Trying to pay the bills and trying to belong. And another harsh truth I’ve learnt to face is learning that I am what I am, based on my history. It’s not as if there’s something wrong with me when I feel difficult emotions like depression and misery. That was the first step of the trilogy, realizing that, “Wow, I really feel this way.” For my whole life, I was told to “Buck up!” and be positive and the like. Nobody thought I had anything to be sad about. Finally, under the weight of all that, I realized that I do still feel sadness, confusion, anger and paranoia. No matter how many times someone is going to tell me otherwise. The truth I had to accept there is the truth of my emotions.”
Conley continues speaking openly about his depression; so much so that you get the sense he’s only grazing the surface in this interview. It’s the depth and complexity of his depression (and understanding afterwards) that gives Daybreak such emotional heft.
“The nice part about all of that was when I got to the bottom of those feelings, I could actually feel myself changing. Because I had begun to give into those changes, instead of trying to hide them as I had in the past. And it feels better to let go and feel whatever it is you’re feeling. You breathe, you stay with it and sure enough it’s temporary. But the harder you’re fighting, the louder the distractions get. I think about it a lot. Being thrown into a pool and trying to stay afloat while trying to fight the gravity in the water. You run out of energy. But if you let go, you float to the top.”
Conley is, without a doubt, now back on top. There was a time when it looked as if the future of Saves The Day was in serious doubt. Four years separated the release of Under The Boards and Daybreak. But Conley maintains he wasn’t just sitting idly by.
“We did a lot of touring. It’s definitely not as if we just disappeared. Unfortunately we were sidetracked with a number of different line-up changes. Our guitar player decided he didn’t want to tour any more, just as we were about to lay down the demos for Daybreak. So by that point it’s 2009 and we had another tour we had to go on. And that took a couple more months out of the schedule. And when we were finally ready to start recording the album, our rhythm section left the band. At that point, I realised that the album would have to wait even longer, until we actually have a real rhythm section,” he jokes. “And then it’s 2010, and there’s another tour we had to go on for two months. After that, we were finally ready to record. Two days after our tour ended we were in the studio. It was more a case of logistics than anything else. We just didn’t have the personnel and we had to wait. And there were obligations on the road. But fortunately we were able to pull it together and get it done.”
When you understand how hard Conley had to fight to get Daybreak released, you understand how important a record it is for him. Ambition certain played a factor, and can be heard in Daylight, the winding 11-minute opening track. Fortunately, ambition is something Conley has in spades.
“It certainly is ambitious. The entirely trilogy is ambitious in and of itself. 37 songs tell a story from darkness to light. But I’ve never had anything to prove. I’m just a musician who really loves to write songs. When I wrote [Daylight] I was just having a blast with my guitar. I don’t think I could live without writing music.”
And for the time being, he won`t have to. Conley has accepted who he is, and he’s accepted what he has to do to survive.
“I definitely have no notions of fame; we certainly don’t make a lot of money and it’s not like we’re a fresh, young, hot band or anything. My only goal is to keep the band going and to keep writing songs, keeping putting out albums and keep playing shows.”
BY JOSHUA KLOKE