Much has changed since the last time Restorations were on tour. Not long after the Philadelphia rock outfit’s tour stop in Milwaukee in early 2015, the band took lengthy break, they parted ways with their label, and—according to singer-guitarist Jon Loudon—”the world pretty much went to shit” after the 2016 Election.
Following some time away from the stage, Loudon and the rest of Restorations are back with renewed energy, a change in focus, and an awesome new album. Before the band comes to Cactus Club on Sunday, October 14 as part of a tour for the excellent LP5000, we asked Loudon about the band’s new musical and thematic direction, what’s changed since their extended break, and what it’s like to be part of the ongoing explosion in the Philadelphia music scene.
Milwaukee Record: Not to retread on something I’m sure you’ve answered a lot, but the name of the record really hit me. You jumped from LP3 on your third record to LP5000. What’s behind the massive jump?
John Loudon: Oh, it’s just a dumb band joke when we were talking about what to name the record. Somebody was like, “We should call it LP5. That’d be funny because it took forever to make it.” And it just kind of evolved from there. It was one of those things where every time somebody brought [LP5000] up, it was really funny, so it just kind of stuck.
MR: Even though the name stems from a joke, the album itself seems to hit on some heavy issues. Whether it’s you personally or the protagonist of songs, there seems to be a sense of exhaustion, malaise from everyday existence, commentary about gentrification, and kind of being at a turning point in life. What led to the record landing in those places?
JL: It was just a time and place sort of thing. I was trying to be a little more present. I have a tendency to write lyrics for a record and keep working, working, working on them until they’re a little muddled. For this, I wanted to write quickly and work on the record when everybody could work on it and be part of it as it’s happening. It’s been a horrible year for everybody, I think. It’s been terrible for me, but it’s also been terrible for everyone else around me, so it made me realize maybe I have it good in comparison to most.
But yeah, it’s a good time for us as a band. We took a little time off from the band, and everything else in the world pretty much went to shit in the meantime. So it felt good to plug in, play as loud as you possibly could, and yell. So compared to last year, things are much better for us. We have this super bummed-out record that we’re really excited about. We’re going on tour and we’re really pumped about it and we’re having a really good time playing these songs. That’s always kind of been the band, though. We write these total drag records, then have a really good time when we’re playing shows. It’s a weird cycle to go through, but it’s kind of cathartic that way.
MR: You mentioned the break earlier. You guys were off for a couple years. What are some ways you’ve developed—either individually or as a band—during the break. I know one member opened a restaurant. Another went to grad school. This could’ve been a time to quietly bow out as a band, but you made the decision to return with a new direction and new sound. I’m rambling here. What did the break help bring?
JL: I think it helped bring some clarity and helped everybody get better at what they do. We didn’t really stop being a band. We just stopped playing a ton of shows. We’d still rehearse and write and send demos back and forth. It just gave us room to work on a few other side projects and collaborate a bit more. All this transitional stuff happened and we just got to mess around for a little while. It was a really fun period of time where there was no consequence. For the first time, we just made music when we wanted and then made a record. By reclaiming our own time a little bit, I think it made us a better band. I’m much happier with the end result.
MR: I might be way off base here, but in the new record, I’m notice a lot more electronic touches and looping interludes being cycled in. It seems like you’ve brought in new sounds that people aren’t used to hearing from you.
JL: Yeah, that was a big pursuit of mine. In the downtime, I wanted to learn more things that weren’t just guitars. It got me into wanting to work differently and find new ways to make sounds that can either be applied to things we’d written or be the springboard for new songs. That was a super positive thing for me. Finding new ways to make texture and tone was a big deal for me. It just makes everything feel a little more deliberate and carved out, especially in the live setting. The ways these songs are structured now feels much more purposeful than just turning up as loud as you can and turning on all your pedals.
MR: This is a little bit of an aside, but I talked to Joe from Hop Along—another Philadelphia band—and asked him what’s happening right now in your music scene. It seems like a lot of bands in Pennsylvania as a whole, but especially Philly, are blowing up. I mentioned you guys in that interview, but there’s also Hop Along, Menzingers, Beach Slang, The War On Drugs, and I’m sure I’m missing a million more. What’s it like being a part of what’s going on there right now?
JL: It’s pretty cool right now. Everyone’s kind of got a similar thing happening now. I mean, it’s crazy. It’s like any other bubble you’ve ever read about in music history, but everyone’s getting signed and put on tours. These little bands I saw in a basement are now opening for, I don’t know, pick a huge band or they’re on an amazing, huge festival. It’s great because it’s given bands room to grow and get better in a way that I feel most other scenes don’t lend themselves to. There’s a lot of history and a ton of bands that came before us that are more or less still active. Just by being around, you get the opportunity to do things on a slightly larger level. It’s like going to music college or something, you know?
MR: Well, onto my city. You were in Milwaukee, I think, in 2015, and played at Club Garibaldi.
JL: Oh yeah! With Cheap Girls.
MR: Do you have any specific Milwaukee memories? Anything you did or that you look forward to doing when you’re here?
JL: You know, for that trip, we toured in the middle of winter. So we basically drove 45 miles an hour the entire tour, loaded into the show, played, and crawled to the next city. But Milwaukee has always been real chill for us. For us, we mostly just go to the lake and stare into the distance. We’re playing Cactus Club, so we’ll go to the water for a little bit.
But I’ve always thought it was a really pleasant place. Everybody has been really cool. I really dig it. It’s a fun, interesting place, and it’s a town that presented itself when I got there much different than I had in my head, and I’ve always enjoyed it as a tour stop.
MR: Anything else you’d like to add or anything we can look forward to…other than maybe meeting you by the water?
JL: I’m just really excited about the set we put together and the way we’re doing things this time around. It’s been a minute for everybody, so I think we’re all super stoked to be out doing this.
Restorations will headline a show at Cactus Club on Sunday, October 14. Wild Pink and Faux Fiction will play in support. The show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12 in advance (or $14 doors).