After-concert quickie with … Sundowner

Sundowner is the solo side project of Chris McCaughan, vocalist and guitarist of the Chicago based band the Lawrence Arms. McCaughan released his debut solo album entitled Four One Five Two this past March. The album also features Jenny Choi from Sanawon on cello, keys and vocals. I got a chance to catch up with McCaughan at his headlining show in Chicago at the Abbey Pub on May 18.

buzz: How did you come to the decision to do this Lawrence Arms side project?

McCaughan: Basically I had a lot of songs and for whatever reason they started to build up and I wasn’t using them for the Lawrence Arms; they didn’t really seem right. There had been some talk with my friend Toby that if I did do a record he would want to put it out, so I started to get a little more serious about it. It wasn’t too, oh I’m going to start a solo project, a side project or whatever, I wasn’t necessarily super intent on doing that, it just started to evolve.

buzz: How did you get Jenny (Choi from the band Sanawon) involved on the record?

MC: I saw her out at a Methadones show one day and I’d been thinking about how I wanted to run into her so I could ask her to play for the record. So I saw her this one night and I had had a bunch of drinks and I was like, “Jenny, you’ve got to play on my record!” She thought I was totally kidding, just being a drunk and not being serious at all, but then I kept calling her like, no really, I want you to play on this record. She ended up writing a lot of cello lines and melodies for the record.

buzz: Is Sundowner just a part time thing; is your main focus still on the Lawrence Arms?

MC: Being in a band like the Lawrence Arms, we have two primary songwriters. It’s a cool kind of challenge, but it’s a fun thing to do to put a record together yourself, that’s one of the things we don’t really do in the Lawrence Arms. It was a really cool opportunity to be like, you know what? I wrote this record front to back.

buzz: Do you want to do a full U.S. tour?

MC: I don’t know. I’m doing some dates with Smoke or Fire after this show. I have clumps of four or five shows in mind. I don’t really know how to tour by myself yet, this is totally new for me. While I would want to go out and play shows, I’m not about to just go out, get in the car, and hit the road and do some ridiculous, crazy journey to play all over the country. I’m trying to pick and choose spots and see what kind of opportunities I get. As long as I keep it good times, I think it’ll be good.

buzz: What’s going on with the Lawrence Arms?

MC: We’re hanging out, everyone’s here tonight. We’re doing a few shows in California in July for the 11-year Asian Man (Records) Anniversary, that’s the next thing we’re really doing. We’re hanging out at home in Chicago.

buzz: How does growing up and living in Chicago your whole life effect/influence your music?

MC: I’ve lived here my whole life and been fortunate enough to travel a lot and I still think this is my favorite city in the world of all the places I’ve been. This is such an awesome city, people here are so good, everything about it is great. This is a place where all my friends are that make music. This is where it’s at, the best in the world.

buzz: If you could let a person know just one thing about Sundowner, what would it be?

MC: I’m a pretty “good times” oriented person. You should come see Sundowner because I’m a nice guy, and I have to be up there all by myself sometimes and it’s really weird if there’s nobody there.

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