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Lagwagon’s Joey Cape On Moving Back in With His Parents and Putting Old Demons to Rest

The punk rock frontman finds a balance between calm and chaos before jumping back into tour life.

by Johnny Papan

When the 55-year old Lagwagon frontman Joey Cape moved back into his parent’s home in Santa Barbara, California during the pandemic, he thought he was there to take care of them during this tumultuous time. It turns out he was the one who needed some care.

Cape lived life on a razor’s edge while growing up in Santa Barbara during his childhood and early teens. He was no stranger to run-ins with the police and sketchy characters that lurked in California’s ghettos. In adulthood he moved to a crime-ridden seedy underbelly of San Francisco, spending the next 30 years writing, recording and touring with the legendary skate-punk band, Lagwagon. Perhaps unknowingly, Cape was consistently living a life of subtle chaos. 

“There is this undercurrent of stress that comes when you are in these kinds of situations,”  Cape says over Zoom, sitting in his Santa Barbara home. “It definitely feels like everything is still in Santa Barbara. Some of the demons and the things that I left behind. But now most of those demons are gone. They are in jail or dead.” 

Returning to Santa Barbara wasn’t the easiest move for Cape. He spent a few months in anxious isolation. His livelihood as a musician was stripped from him. Instead of hitting stages worldwide in support of Lagwagon’s 2019 album, Railer, Cape spent most of his time alone inside his parent’s guest house. Cape admits that for the first few months he was “going kind of nuts” before becoming adjusted to the situation at hand. Cape’s “go-go-go” brain finally had a chance to slow down and take his environment in. The anxiety-ridden pit in which he was living slowly evolved into a “forest of solitude.”

“I feel like much of my life has been spent trying to write music amongst chaos.” 

“I feel like much of my life has been spent trying to write music amongst chaos,” he says. “I think it’s fine to have the chaos in the past but when it’s really time to get down and focus it’s nice to be comfortable and calm, somewhere you feel safe to actually access those things. I have written songs that are reactionary and in the moment many times and sometimes it’s amazing… but I think it’s also powerful to have time in-between to really assess what’s happened. A reaction that’s immediate is not always well thought out. I have plenty of trauma from my past that I can lean on if I need it. It’s always there, it’s never gonna go away.” 

He continues: “I feel since I’ve been here I’m able to be more creative than I have been in the past many, many years. When you revisit your childhood, your parents, there’s a certain thing that you can get from that. For me it’s an important feeling I need in my life. That feeling of home.”

Cape realized he had time to do things he couldn’t do while on the road with Lagwagon. He started learning how to play piano and read books he could never get around to. He wrote a number of songs and released a new solo record, A Good Year to Forget, in 2021. In addition to his personal growth, Cape discovered one of the most important life-lesson among his personal balance of calm and chaos: “The need for healthy relationships,” he concludes. “There were many relationships in my life that got better. My family, my relationship with my daughter, old friends, these kinds of things. Sort of figuring out who is essential to your life. The really remarkable thing for me also was the reduction. Finding out about all the things in your life you are doing that are unnecessary. So much of the stress of the day-to-day and all the things that cause you to worry seem really inconsequential when the world is exploding in front of you in so many different ways.”

Lagwagon are performing across the Canadian prairies this month with shows in Winnipeg (May 15 & 16), Saskatoon (May 17), Calgary (May 19), Red Deer (May 20), and Edmonton (May 20). Tickets and more info here.