June 18, 2014
by Paul Blest

In just a few short years, Chris Stowe has gone from being a virtually unknown touring machine of a folk punk (in the “happens to play folk music but hits you as hard as Dead Reckoning” way) musician known as Anniversary Club to a member of two of Pittsburgh punk’s cornerstone bands, as the bassist of Anti-Flag side project White Wives and a guitarist for party hardcore band World’s Scariest Police Chases. In addition to this, he’s now the full-time label manager for A-F Records, and has been responsible for putting out some seriously underrated records in the past few years, such as Worship This!’s Tomorrow, I’ll Miss You.

But last year, Stowe returned his focus to his brand of ‘90s emo-influenced folk, and emerged with one of the best acoustic records of the past couple of years, Hollow (A-F Records). While the record explores themes like depression and loss in the most emotionally heavy way possible, it’s not simply a return to Anniversary Club; it’s a huge step forward for Stowe creatively and, as we learned, may be the way he closes the book on folk music for the time being.

You can listen to an exclusive track from Hollow, “Longer Than It Should Have,” and read a conversation The Runout had with Stowe about his new record and new projects.

The Runout: So, you’ve been a pretty busy guy recently. What have you been up to?

Chris Stowe: Shit, that’s a tough question to answer. I suppose running A-F Records is definitely the majority of every one of my days, and we’ve got a bunch of cool shit coming out this summer and fall that we’ve been working on that we’re really proud of. We’re a small team and summer is always pure sleepless hell, [Laughs] but in a good way.

On top of everything I’ve also been playing guitar in a punk band called World’s Scariest Police Chases, getting my LP ready to come out in July, and also starting another secret project that I’ve had in the wings for a bit.

And on top of all of that is White Wives still active?

Active….is a very relative word. I’ll say this: We are constantly hanging out with each other, drinking drinks, and making music. We also all have our own projects that we’ve unveiled and will be putting out, plus y’know Anti-Flag, so there’s really only time for us to hang as buddies right now. But, I get asked this question constantly and to me, yeah we’re totally still active…just kind of like actively hanging out doing our own things.

I owe basically most of the good parts of my life right now to joining White Wives, so to me, it’ll never really go away, it’s been the catalyst to the start of the best musical and personal relationships I’ve probably ever had. And I know the other dudes love it just as much as I do.

This is your first full-length under your own name, but your first acoustic project was called Anniversary Club. What was the reason for the change?

Yeah, the plan for Anniversary Club was to start it and tour by myself, but then eventually I wanted to have a band. I guess that’s always been the goal. But it never happened with the Anniversary Club project so, I switched it to just my name. It also wouldn’t be uncommon for me to show up at a bar where I was booked and the promoter would say something like “where’s the rest of you?” and I would have to explain that even though the name implies that there is more than one person, that it’s just me. I’m it. Also, this Hollow record is super personal. Basically naked. So I figured, ‘Fuck it, I’ll use my own name.’

Are you still playing some of those old songs at shows?

Definitely still playing Anniversary Club songs live.

When I listen to this record I can obviously tell it’s you, but it seems like there’s more influences seeping into it. Like “Longer Than It Should Have” is a dark, dark song. Definitely threw me for a loop.

Yeah, I’m not sure what that is. I wasn’t really listening to music when I was making this except for the things I’m always listening to (Weakerthans, Appleseed Cast), but I definitely was in a dark, dark place when I wrote some of these songs. I’d moved back home to where I grew up and White Wives stopped touring so I was kind of just left with nothing to do but sort out all of the shit that was eating me up inside. And I did that, I think. Everyone keeps telling me that it’s such a heavy record, but for me by the time you get to the end of it, the story gets better and the guy singing all these songs puts all of this stuff that’s been killing him to bed.

But I like that it’s heavy and it catches people…the thing that I try the most to do live is to kind of walk people through feelings that they don’t usually allow themselves to feel, if that makes any sense. It can make for a super uncomfortable show, or a show where I’m primarily ignored, but when it works, it feels pretty good, like what I imagine people feel when they go to church. Well, I feel good anyway.

I’m naming this article “Chris Stowe: Bigger Than Jesus.”

[Laughs] Nice, I knew I’d take him down eventually.

So this song in particular, “Longer Than I Should Have” – what’s the story behind it?

It’s basically about not being able to move on. That’s it. And I couldn’t do it, and I was fucking stuck there, years later, feeling like I’d just been dumped the day before. And there’s definitely a level of insanity in that, and I recognize that, but I guess I still had to write that song to feel better.

That song, and a ton of my songs, are all about a specific few years of my life that held me up emotionally for way longer than they should have. The insert for the LP is just a long story about the whole thing, shit I’ve never told anyone before, and why I’m moving on. Plus, this may be the last acoustic record that I make, so I wanted to get it all out there and kind of close all the storylines of those songs I’ve been setting up for years

So what’s next for you? Are you going to tour on this record, maybe put together a band for the next one?

Yeah for sure, I’ll tour this fall probably. I’m playing Fest, which was always a dream for me.

We’ll have a cool release show in Pittsburgh and Cleveland respectively…Y’know, all the things you’re supposed to do with a record. But I think my next project will be a lot different, both sound and content wise, so I’ll probably call that something else.