Don’t say Saves the Day hopped on the nostalgia train. Sure, the New Jersey emo/pop-punk greats have kept songs such as “Three Miles Down” and “You Vandal” on set lists—and played the entirety of its 2001 landmark album Stay What You Are, at FYF Fest—but the band has consistently been cranking out new songs since forming in 1994. The quartet is known for its driving pop-punk anthems with catchy hooks, which they’re bringing to DTLV on September 17. We spoke with guitarist Arun Bali about the band’s first Las Vegas gig in four years.
What are you up to at the moment?
I’m in the middle of producing and mixing in Nashville, but not [Saves the Day] stuff. As a staff composer for Black Iris Music, I write music for commercials. We’ve written stuff for Chevy, GEICO and lots of other companies. I didn’t realize I was gonna like it as much as I do, especially since it’s kind of tough [making a] lucrative living as a musician. I’m getting to write in different styles of music—when the hell am I gonna write a flamenco track? But anyways, I get to learn about different styles, and it’s cool to bring influences from the stuff to other projects.
Saves the Day played an infamous set at O’Sheas on St. Patrick’s Day in 2012. How was that?
I remember that! What a show. We played with Manchester Orchestra in an alleyway between some casinos in the center of the Strip. It was supposed to happen outside, but it rained, so they moved it inside. We didn’t know the show was going to even happen until a few minutes before we hit the stage. Logistically, it was crazy. Other than a stage, there was no front-of-house, no soundboard. But it happened, and it was a really good time even though it was a crazy stressful day.
Chris Conley is the only original member of the band. Were you a fan before joining?
It’s been about seven or eight years since I joined. I’ve played on two records; I’ve gone on countless tours, but I’ll forever be the new guy in the band. It is what it is.
[Chris and I] worked in similar circles. I used to be in an indie band in Detroit, and we had a bunch of mutual friends. I thought [Saves the Day’s] In Reverie was cool, and I was super into the late ’90s emo stuff: Texas is the Reason, Sunny Day Real Estate … that kind of stuff. Then my tastes started shifting and I got into stuff like the Cardigans and Elliott Smith. In Reverie was special, though. Friends in the music world were aware that the album was something else at the time, but it’s like the [Weezer] Pinkerton thing, where praise [didn’t] happen until later—posthumously. It’s a remarkable record, and it’s cool to see people ask about it now, so many years later.
It’s been 15 years since Stay What You Are. You played the entire album at FYF Fest. Why that album?
Contrary to trends, we’re not doing it because of a particular time frame; it was just sort of brought up. We’re never calculated about that stuff, and we do things depending on how we feel. When Through Being Cool hit the 10- and 15-year anniversary, we shied away from doing any celebrations because it didn’t feel right and genuine. Now, it finally feels kinda right. It was just suggested, and we thought it would be fun because it would be part of the festival, and alongside so many awesome bands [who] we’re playing with.
Stay What You Are came out during a special era of music. Everything exploded all at once. I was really close with the Alkaline Trio and Hot Rod Circuit guys, and [from my angle] it was cool being associated with the whole explosion. This whole subculture is finally getting its due, and the bands that play that style of music are getting successful at a rapid rate. It’s an exciting time for underground music, and I can’t wait to see where it heads. I think people associate the now with the then.
Will songs from that album make the set list for your September 17 Backstage Bar & Billiards show?
I don’t know how many we’re playing. We haven’t discussed it. We’ll probably just go off of how we feel at the moment. We’ll be on tour with Coheed and Cambria during that run, and it’s our day off. I anticipate we’ll play a pretty varied set list, since we’re not afraid to dive into anything. That’s just how we’ve done things. We’ll probably spread it around.
What’s next for the band?
Things are starting to ramp up again. We were going at it—touring constantly—for a long time, so it’s nice to take a breather and recharge. The past year or so, we’ve played only short stints and one-offs; this [forthcoming] tour will be the longest one we’ve done since 2014, and we’re playing a bunch of shows.
We also want to start working on new songs as well. There’s really no timetable or plan for what’s next, but we’re all looking forward to working on some new stuff. I’ve seen the progression from record to record, and we never rest on our laurels. We want to evolve; challenge ourselves—[and] not look back. We’re always asking ourselves, “What are we doing next?” Of course, we like to tip our hats to the legacy, but we have to keep things exciting.
What are your plans for after the gig?
We usually play it by ear. We’ll be in the middle of the tour, so we won’t get too crazy. I’m known to hit up a blackjack table or two, and sometimes a roulette table, but I can’t speak for everybody else. I’m a betting man, though.
Saves the Day
Backstage Bar & Billiards, Sept. 17, 8 p.m., $16-$20. 702-382-2227, BackstageBarAndBillards.com.