Now is not the best time to release a new album, especially for a band trying to capitalize on the momentum started by a successful debut effort. Such is the story of Chicago-based group Retirement Party, though. Their latest, Runaway Dog, is a reflective and excellent second album that came out in mid-May, when the coronavirus pandemic, as it continues to do today, put a damper on a lot of life’s aspects that had previously been taken for granted.
Still, the band is feeling optimistic. Group leader Avery Springer just graduated college with a degree in Music Business, which should prove useful as her band navigates the uncertain times that lie ahead. Also, as aforementioned, they have a stellar sophomore record under their belts, which is going to really pop when Retirement Party gets the chance to perform it live.
When we spoke with them over the phone in late May, shortly after the release of Runaway Dog, Springer and bandmates James Ringness and Eddie Rodriguez insisted they couldn’t wait to get back on stage. They also spoke about following up a successful debut album, being creative during the quarantine, and maintaining the passion for a craft while devoting yourself to it full-blast.
Your first album earned you guys some buzz as one of that year’s best new bands. Seeing that that album did well, what effect did that have on your mindset making this new album?
Springer: We’ve kind of always had the “never stop running” mindset. It was always, “Well, let’s work harder and harder and make music so that we can go on the road a lot.” That was always kind of the goal, to have a band that can tour and does that successfully.
Ringness: It felt like there was a little more… maybe a little more pressure, I guess. But I think we took it in a good way and took it as an opportunity to just prove ourselves again as a band, rather than worry. I don’t think we worried too much about, “Oh, is everybody going to like our new records?” The first one, it was a thought, but not a big worry for us.
Rodriquez: We just want to write good songs, work together, and make the best songs that he could. That was really what we were worried about: making sure that we were happy with what we were working on.
Again comparing the first album and the new one: The new one was written during what seemed like a pretty tough time in your life, Avery. What kind of space where you in while writing this new album?
Springer: I definitely felt like there was a lot of a loss of control and the feeling of that in the first album. The second one, I feel like it’s coming from a more controlled place emotionally, but it’s a lot of harder reflecting, a little lack of panic, and a little bit more reflection. I come across a little bit more put together.
I was reading this track-by-track look of the album that you did, and one thing I noticed that you mentioned about a lot of the songs is what it’s like to play them live. I would think now that you guys must be itching to get on stage, huh?
Springer: The three of us just love to be on the road and on the stage playing. That’s a happy place, I think for all of us. It definitely hurts to not be on the road and not be able to play these songs, and show them to everyone in their truest form.
Ringness: We were lucky that we went on tour right before this and the record was done. So, we were able to play a lot of the songs from that record, but we were definitely saving a few of them.
Springer: I did the math, and before this, I think we had played nine of the ten songs on the record. But it hurts not being able to play them when people know them.
Speaking to more pandemic stuff, I’ve seen multiple artists talk about this pressure or this obligation they feel to be creative during this time. Is that a feeling you guys have had at all?
Springer: Absolutely. Now, all you have to keep peoples’ attention is whatever your online presence is or whatever you can sell them or offer to them during this weird unprecedented time. We have to be extra creative because we just put out a record and instead of relying on touring, like we were prepared to do to really promote this and prove this record, we have to find other ways and be creative with how we can connect with our fans over this record, because the live experience has been unfortunately taken away from that.
I’m getting sick of doing livestreams, where I’m practicing on my guitar in my room for an hour beforehand. Then I click “go live” and do the same exact thing over again. That’s not cutting it anymore. We’re definitely trying to figure out how we can make a personal connection between us and our fans.
Avery, you just graduated from college recently. The album talks about losing your love for your art, or feeling not as positive about pursuing a career in it. But now that you’re done with school and that the art is your main focus, has that changed your relationship with music?
Springer: Being done with school, I definitely feel at least a little bit better about that balance between the creative side of the industry and the business side, but it continues to exist in my life. I’m currently pursuing endeavors within the business side of the music industry outside of the band right now. But, I feel a little bit better now because I had struggled with it before. I got my struggling out of the way when I was in school. It was like, “Some things are contradicting and it’s a little hard to stay true to yourself but also do what’s best for selling records.”
The way that the industry is set up is an absolutely baffling thing to me still. In the way that it kind of screws over artists, or favors other people over artists, or corporations over artists. But you can exist while staying very true to yourself and the art that you make. You can continue to be a force in the industry. They’re not mutually exclusive. I found that out. It’s helped us. I’ve settled into that.
Since you are a band with a lot of songs about chasing your passions and the feelings that come with that, I was wondering if you had any wisdom or advice for anybody who might be in a similar place, who is feeling a bit unsure about the thing that they’ve always wanted.
Springer: Well, funny timing, but I’d say work your day job and work your other jobs as much as you can while making music coexist. You always have to work really hard, but be conscious of where you’re at. Be smart about the decisions you’re making, learn how to save money. Being an artist is so insanely expensive, so just be as smart as you can with your money and with your time. You’re going to have to put a lot of work in, but being smart about it is the number one. You’ll know when it’s the time to quit your job. I quit my job. And then a global pandemic happened. So, I wasn’t very lucky in that sense, but work hard, keep your nose down, and don’t get a big ego.
Runaway Dog is out now via Counter Intuitive Records. Get it here.