Light Years' brand of pop-punk was born out of angst-filled teenage days spent in mall parking lots and late-night diners around Cleveland. We spoke to lead singer Pat Kennedy, who is currently sweating it out on the Vans Warped Tour, to find out exactly why Cleveland rocks, how it shaped their music and why Clevelanders are optimistic underdogs -- especially when it comes to sports. (Welcome back, LeBron!)
How has Warped Tour been going so far?
Oh, you know -- very sweaty and sleepy, but it’s fun. We’re in the dog days of summer. That’s a term, right?
You’re performing your songs in the acoustic tent. Do you approach those sets differently?
I reworked some of our songs so it wasn’t just me playing them acoustically, but more of an acoustic song. It’s more laid back. And the acoustic tent is under a huge shade with a fan–that’s a very big plus on Warped.
Congratulations on signing to Animal Style records. You’re releasing your new EP with them, Temporary. How does it feel to get a new label and new EP?
We’re excited. It’s been about a year since we’ve had anything new to promote. When we went to write Temporary it came easier. It wasn’t a breeze, but it was easier than the first time we recorded. We learned a lot from our first album I Won’t Hold This Against You. I don’t know if we changed our sound, but it’s a little more melodic–less fast punk stuff. I think these songs are a step above anything we had on the first full-length.
You all are from Cleveland. Everyone has heard that “Cleveland rocks," but does it actually rock right now?
Cleveland does rock. Maybe not as much as in past years. The local scene has taken a hit because of venues closing and changing, but there’s a healthy slew of bands that are keeping the scene going. It’s a good spot for bands to stop on tour. We don’t get passed over that much.
Where are the great venues to play in Cleveland?
There’s a place called Now That’s Class–it’s kind of a crappy dive bar, but it’s perfect for smaller shows. There’s also a bowling alley called Mahall’s. All the bands get to bowl for free as much as they want. It’s the first bowling alley that was in the Cleveland area, so you have to keep score by hand.
How’s your bowling average?
Dude, I’m awful. The angrier I get the worse I start playing, and it’s all downhill from there. Our bass player just tries to throw the ball as fast as he can. That usually works out.
Have there been iconic venues in Cleveland that you’re nostalgic for?
There was a place called the Tower. It was kind of a sketchy people-live-there punk house. It was cool, but it wasn’t a real venue. The PA was always sucking. There was one mic–maybe–that would work. But everyone was friends there, and everyone would hang out and watch the bands.
After shows, what are the best late night eats?
The spot is My Friends Restaurant. It’s right down the street from Now That’s Class. It’s a 24-hour diner. We would go in there after a show with literally 20 or 30 people, and the owner would be super-pumped. I’ll order the My Friend omelette–it’s got feta cheese and spinach–sometimes I’ll get a strawberry milkshake if I’m feeling crazy. I’m a breakfast at night guy. Breakfast is the best meal so I just stretch it out all day.
Where else would you hang out when you were growing up?
I grew up in a city called Medina, a little south of Cleveland. There was a weird combo K-Mart / Taco Bell plaza parking lot. For some reason we’d always end up there. We’d just meet there because our parents didn’t want us in their houses. On the first record, I wrote a song called “Parking Lots” which is about that. Hanging out in that specific area.
Were you a big Cleveland sports fan?
Yeah. I went to a lot of Indians games. Cavs–when LeBron was there. But he’s coming back, dude! I had a feeling. We need him back. We have nothing. Cleveland needs a championship before everyone blows up. It’s bad. We got Johnny Manziel on the Browns, though. Hopefully that does something.
Of all the teams you could see in Cleveland, I guess the Browns would be the saddest.
The thing about Cleveland is it’s still packed at a Browns game. You know it’s not going to be good, but they have such diehard fans. it’s crazy to see these blue collar dudes so mad at the Browns. But they still come out every year. It’s not a fair weather fan city. There have never been any fair weather Cleveland fans.
What has being from a Midwest city like Cleveland done for the way Light Years approaches the music… or the fans?
I think for a Midwest band like us, it’s a struggle. We’re not growing up in SoCal where it’s super sunny and bright. Here it’s cloudy more than it’s sunny. And we don’t have the best looking people, or the best scene. But I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. It’s like a brotherhood of blue-collar, working-class city people who enjoy their punk rock a little more angsty than other cities.
Does Cleveland feel like the underdog?
That’s perfect. We definitely feel like the underdog. There hasn’t really be a huge band that’s come out of Ohio. We have Devo.