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Saves the Day

Saves the Day finds its musical muse

Early in preproduction for "In Reverie," the new CD by Saves the Day, the group was greeted with a simple assessment from producer Rob Schnapf.

"We were playing all our songs for him, and he was like: 'Wow, you guys are a band now,'" recalled Saves the Day singer and guitarist Chris Conley.

Schnapf's simple assessment actually says volumes about how far Saves the Day has come after a near-tragedy and a major transition.

The near tragedy occurred the evening of March 19, 2000, when a van carrying band members Conley, Eben D'Amico and David Soloway, as well as tour manager Steven Looker, hit a patch of ice. The trailer the van was pulling fishtailed, sending the van crashing off the road and down an embankment. D'Amico and Looker escaped with minor injuries. But Conley broke his collarbone, while Soloway had to undergo reconstructive surgery on his mouth and face after smashing his teeth on the steering wheel and breaking his nose.

Band members recovered from their injuries and made an excellent CD, "Stay What You Are," in 2001. But during touring to support the CD, the two group members who — ironically enough — were not traveling in the van on the night of the accident — drummer Bryan Newman and guitarist Ted Alexander — left the band. The group slimmed down to a four-piece unit with Face to Face drummer Pete Parada joining Conley, bassist D'Amico and guitarist Soloway to complete touring behind "Stay What You Are."

On the surface, this lineup change seemed significant enough to create questions about whether Saves the Day could live up to the standard set by the previous five-man lineup. But as Schnapf's preproduction assessment suggests, the new Saves the Day lineup has met that challenge. And Conley, for one, joins Schnapf in saying today's band is the best Saves the Day ever.

"There's something magical, there really is," Conley said. "You see bands all the time that are so good together, and then they separate, and none of them can make good music (on their own). So I don't know what it is. I mean, I'd have to say when we got Pete (Parada), everything just snapped into place."

The new CD follows the considerable success of "Stay What You Are." That CD sold more than 200,000 copies — a large total for an independently released record — and enabled the band to afford to spend more studio time on "In Reverie."

This, Conley said, made "In Reverie" easier to make than "Stay What You Are" or the band's first two CDs, "Can't Slow Down" and "Through Being Cool."

"We had fun. It wasn't stressful," said Conley, who noted extensive touring had improved his singing voice as well as the band's playing. "Our other experiences making records were a little bit tense because we didn't have as much time as we wanted. We weren't all comfortable playing together and with our instruments. This was really the first time we got to have fun in the studio. So it was quite nice for us."

"In Reverie," though, makes it clear that while extra studio time may have benefited the group, the real key remains Conley's songwriting. Once again he has delivered a set of songs loaded with gargantuan pop hooks.

The opening cut, "Anywhere With You," sets the tone, with a huge guitar riff and walloping beat that instantly commands attention. The band maintains this strong start with a variety of finely crafted songs — including "Driving in the Dark," "In Reverie" and "What Went Wrong" — that combine sugar-sweet vocal melodies and guitar lines with hard-rocking tempos that give the songs plenty of backbone and bite.

Lyrically, Conley said "In Reverie" is probably the most upbeat Saves the Day CD as well. The band always has been closely identified with emo, a label that has been slapped on such groups as Dashboard Confessional, Weezer and Jimmy Eat World for their earnest and emotional songs about relationships and other life struggles.

And where "Stay What You Are" frequently was filled with dark and even violent lyrical imagery, "In Reverie" notably is more settled in its mood.

"I think (with) 'Stay What You Are' I was just accepting that life has bad parts and just beginning my struggle to not fight against that," Conley said. "I feel like on this album, just through experiences in my life, I've learned to accept that a little bit more, and even accept the part of me that fights against everything. So I think really I'm just a little bit more comfortable and a little bit more at ease with myself and a little bit more at peace with the world, even though it seems more crazy. And that all finds its way into the music somehow."

Saves the Day co-headlines a Wednesday, April 7, bill at the Pageant, 61616 Delmar Blvd., with Grandaddy. Tickets for the 7 p.m. show, which also features the Fire Theft and Hey Mercedes, cost $20.

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