Atlanta, GA’s Reconciler first popped up on my radar when they released their debut LP, ‘Set Us Free,’ in February of 2019. A year later, all of us were unfortunately anything but set free when the pandemic hit. And like every other band, Reconciler had to cancel all their plans, which included their first ever European tour. They are fixing to finally come to Europe now in support of their new album, ‘Art For Our Sake,’ which sees them taking their Americana-infused punk rock to the next level. We caught up with vocalist Joseph Lazzari to talk about the new album.
‘Art For Our Sake’ will be out Feb 2nd via Smartpunk Records (pre-order).
PRT: ‘Set Us Free’ came out in early 2019, a year later we had to deal with a pandemic. You have released a couple of songs since then, but we had to wait until now for ‘Art For Our Sake’. As a band that was starting to make a name for itself, how many of your plans did the pandemic mess up? Or did you look at it as the chance to perfect the new album?
Joseph: People lost loved ones, careers, homes, and relationships, and many of us will never interact with the world in the same way again, so our band is pretty far down the list. But we were optimistic and hopeful about what we might be able to accomplish at the end of 2019 and now, 4 years later, we are skeptically optimistic and hopeful again. I would say that a defining characteristic of our music is that it is tied to the present. It's about focusing on the here and now, so taking the Chinese Democracy route would not be a good approach for us. Or anybody else for that matter.
PRT: ‘Art For Our Sake’ is a twist on they saying ‘art for art’s sake,’ which argues that art shouldn’t need to have meaning, purpose, or any emotional, moral, or political information. Which as a band with a message is something that I’m guessing you don’t necessarily agree with?
Joseph: I believe that art is a tool that helps to connect us with each other and our environment. Trying to strip all evidence of humanity from an object or act is probably a fulfilling meditation for people that are much smarter than me. I just want to feel less alone in the world and like to think there is something worth striving for that is greater than money and power.
PRT: Do you think music can still be genuine or meaningful if whoever wrote it looked at it as ‘art for their sake’?
Joseph: Who is “they”? If we’re talking “art for one’s own sake” then sure, but the artist and the audience are inseparable, and as punks we already understand that there’s no hierarchy here, so you mostly just end up in the same place. If “they” is something like… Walmart, then it's an advertisement, not art, and fuck Walmart and the plastic horse they rode in on. Unless I’m in a hurry and other stores are closed and I need to temporarily set aside my morals in favor of convenience, obviously.
PRT: Your lyrics deal with things that you are struggling with that you then try to turn into something good. Is writing your personaly therapy/moment of reflection? And have you ever come to a new insight while writing lyrics?
Joseph: Having a qualified therapist is personal therapy. Writing lyrics is highly insightful though and it can be a healing act. I like to think of Reconciler as a machine that turns bad feelings into good feelings. Lyrics can also preserve a potent dose of emotion across lots of time and space for better or worse. Listening to an old song about something that broke your heart 15 years ago and feeling some of that familiar stab all over again is wild. What’s even more wild is to learn, after some time or personal growth, that you’ve often written about things that your conscious mind wasn’t ready to confront back then. I don’t feel like I have a ton of control over my writing. I feel like I’m channeling more than writing - like pulling information from the static of an old radio. If I don’t grab it immediately, it vanishes and I think I’ve lost some bangers out there… Maybe its just the veil between my conscious and subconscious. I prefer to think there’s a little more magic to it than that.
PRT: The new album was set to come out via A-F Records, but you broke ties with the label following the allegations against Anti-Flag’s singer. How much of a setback was that for you?
Joseph: It was much less of a setback for us than it was for the victims involved who lost immeasurable parts of themselves and for the innocent folks behind the scenes at A-F who dedicated their lives to building a label that mattered in our world. I wonder if any of the survivors of the Titanic would say they “broke ties” with the ship?
PRT: And how did you end up with Smartpunk Records? Seems like finding a new home went rather smoothly?
Joseph: We’ve been buds with the Smart Punk crew for years. We admire their work ethic and passion and they were our 9th choice out of 10 labels, so its been a real match made in heaven. Jk, they were our first call and we were beyond thrilled that they welcomed us into the family! It was a beautiful moment in a chaotic year to say the least.
PRT: You play punk rock, but there are some Americana sounds mixed in as well that make me think of bands like The Menzingers and Against Me!. How did you land on that sound? Was that what you had in mind already when you started Reconciler or is that just where things went when you started writing?
Joseph: I’m from Alabama, originally. My accent isn’t as strong as it used to be when I talk, but it's pretty forward when I sing and that doesn’t bother me a bit. My lens is inherently southern. I grew up rurally, and that has greatly informed my life experiences. Everything I do is at least tinged with Americana. Reconciler actually began with much heavier leanings in that direction, but I think Derron and I relate more on a louder, faster, heavier plane.
PRT: One song on the album that has a different feel is ‘Effigy’. Can you tell me a bit more about where that one comes from?
Joseph: Our writing process has gotten increasingly collaborative. Derron wrote the music to that one and he probably imagined that I would rearrange or add to it to suit vocal stuff like I normally do, but it just felt like it was all there to me. I wrote the lyrics and melody to suit exactly what was there, which isn’t always easy or even possible for me. Its a song about Atlanta - a city that takes pride in rising from the ashes after being burned to the ground - that currently seems hell-bent on burning itself to the ground again, culturally speaking. Commercial developers are rolling through like a locust plague, cost of living is through the roof, and cop city feels like a coffin nail in the whole damn thing. Oof. This became a hot take quick. We just have to do our best to support the people and places we love while they’re here.
PRT: Some of the best bands I know are trios. But does it ever feel like you are limited in terms of what you can write? Not so much in the studio, but as far as what you can do live?
Joseph: It's definitely limiting, but limitations aren’t always bad. You just have to get better at using fewer tools and better at multi-tasking. We try hard to avoid doing too much in the studio that we can’t replicate live. In a trio, a guitar solo doesn’t really work as a crescendo. It seems to always do the opposite- a decrescendo. If you just lean into those things instead of fighting or ignoring them, you can do some really cool stuff!
PRT: If there is one band whose career you would like to emulate, who would it be and why?
Joseph: I can’t think of one that wouldn’t require us to have a time machine to have enough years left to accomplish what they’ve accomplished, so hopefully we come up with some really great ideas soon. Fingers crossed.
PRT: ‘Art For Our Sake’ will be out Feb 2nd. What’s up next for Reconciler once the album is out?
Joseph: We’re celebrating our album release on 2/9 in ATL at The Earl w/ Five Hundred Bucks, Andrew Michael, and Records of Mass Destruction and 2/10 in Birmingham, AL at The Church Key w/ Five Hundred Bucks and Opt Out. Then we’re heading out with our buds New Junk City across Europe and The U.K.!
- 19/3-KOLN, DE
- 20/3 - WIESBADEN, DE
- 21/3 - NURNBERG, DE
- 22/3 - PRAGUE, CZ
- 23/3 - LEIPZIG, DE
- 24/3 - HANNOVER, DE
- 25/3-HAMBURG, DE
- 26/3 - HELP? NL? BELG?
- 27/3 - TBA, UK
- 28/3-LONDON, UK
- 29/3 - BRISTOL, UK
- 30/3 - MANCHESTER, UK