Contender is 10 years old this year. Looking back on the album, what are your feelings of reaching this milestone?
Joseph: I lost a lot of things since the album came out 10 years ago; my grandfather, my mother, my wife and more. A lot has changed in my life, I’ve been able to grow and learn from it all. It’s great to have the memories from the road and creating this album. It reminded me that life is short, and things can change in what feels like a blink of an eye. Forever grateful that I had the opportunity to make an album with my friends that means something to people beyond our desert city.
Cody: I wasn’t in the band for the writing and recording of Contender. I grew up with Joe and was in an early version of the band, a few years before the album’s release. I remember the first time hearing the album, though, and just being floored at how good it was. I still kept up with everyone. You’re always going to be supportive of your friends and their art but when I heard Contender it really just cemented the fact that my friends had become very good. Not a “Very good for my friends” kind of good but zoomed out shoulder to shoulder with some of my favorite bands at the time very good.
Getting asked to run up these shows with them is an honor.
Looking back at Contender, is there anything you wish you did differently?
Joseph: I wish I knew then what I know now. Especially about the industry, the people you hire and put your faith in to help with your career.
As people age and mature, sometimes their views change, so looking back on the record now, is there a track that you regret writing? Or any lyrics that make you cringe?
Joseph: No, not really. Maybe I would have sung or delivered parts differently.
Cody: Joe’s almost certainly going to be tougher on himself than he should be for this question.
As a listener first, I think one of the things that I really like about Contender—and Joe’s writing generally—is that there isn’t this intense specificity that marries a song to a date or event.
“You kept the ashes, now they’re keeping you.”
“Your smile versus my fifth drink, you’ll tell me how much you miss those things that I used to be.”
In some ways lines like these have come to mean more to me, or mean different things, with age. Joe had no business writing stuff like that in the first half of his twenties.
What song on the record stands out to you after all these years and why?
Joseph: “I’ll be better” That song is a personal favourite. Lyrically and musically it still stands out, hoping to bring it back to life one day.
Cody: I think the bops are timeless and I’m looking forward to playing those. Front Porch Sunrise, The Office, Ides, Contender. Getting to play those live shows is actually so exciting.
But I actually have lots of love for songs like I’ll Be Better I Promise and even one minute tour de force For the Wolves.
You’ve announced a US tour to celebrate the anniversary, are you looking forward to it?
Joseph: Yes. It’s exciting to tour again, only now as a proper adult. We used to tour and be road dogs because we were told we had to. So, there wasn’t ever really sustainability on the road or at home. Now, I get the chance to go on the road and not be stressed about the money because I have a business with my dad (shout out Xavier Candelaris Sr.) that will keep me afloat even when I’m not home.
Cody: Absolutely. This has consumed me in the best way possible.
I’m coming off a particularly challenging eight or so months with a health issue in my family. We’re sort of on the other side of the worst of it but it was really challenging. That all happened against the backdrop of two years plus of COVID eviscerating most of what I considered my “normal life.”
Getting the opportunity to hit the road and play Contender with folks I love has become a symbolic turning of the page for me. I cannot wait.
Are there any plans to bring the anniversary tour across the pond to the UK?
Joseph: I’d love to. Working with a couple people on making it happen, but I’ve learned nothing is set in stone until you’re actually on stage. Here’s hoping?
Cody: I just go where our manager tells us.
Uh—I got some mates, colleagues across the pond. I think the UK has a really great music scene and I’ve been told that it has always been good to the band.
We always end our interviews with some random questions: You have 24 hours left on Earth, how would you spend them?
Joseph: With my family and the people I love the most. I’d take my nieces and nephew to visit my mom’s gravesite, eat ice cream with them. Then probably go back to my sister’s house and grill with everyone, enjoy the pool. There would be a lot of laughter and stories, and whiskey.
Cody: I’d just want to be with my daughter and my wife. That’s how I want to spend most 24 hours. I don’t even need a cataclysmic event on the horizon.
Would you rather write your own songs but not be able to play them or play music but not be able to write it?
Joseph: Write my own songs and not be able to play them. That’s what I did through the lockdown and it was therapeutic.
Cody: The latter, I think. There is just so, so much good music. Having a near infinite pool of outsourced bops to work through has to be the better trade.
What is the one song you wish you wrote?
Joseph: Born in the USA by Bruce Springsteen, Say So by Doja Cat, Birth by Sleep By Boyband, Congratulations by Post Malone, or Butter by BTS.
Cody: Dancing In the Dark by Bruce Springsteen, probably. What a great song. That song has so much to give you. Remarkably packaged, simple arrangement. Great lyrically and you can read into them as little as much as you’d like. It’s great to listen to intentionally, it’s great when you hear it out and about in the world.
I think one of the biggest traps a musician can fall into is that they’ll want to write music that impresses other musicians and it kinda strangles the life out of their best work. Dancing In the Dark is an excellent case for not doing that.