Less than a minute into the interview Roman Candles’ Chris Gordon declares, “For me, this record is political.”
Can I Kiss You? Gordon’s second LP and reluctant return to the Orange County punk scene is a record so clearly about personal relationships, particularly love and what that means in 2018, that he had prepared his answer.
“It’s supposed to be a record about love and consent” Gordon insists. “I don’t have an audience if we are being honest, but I think a lot of people that listen to this record, and would like it, are probably straight white boys and addressing issues of consent is a political statement.”
Five years ago Gordon released his debut album Riley Vs. Jason and the Battle of Gracious Living on Plan-it-X records. Riley Vs. Jason is a hyperlocal political concept record channeling all the suburban angst Gordon could muster for Orange County, Yorba Linda particularly.
“To me that first record was just about a love hate relationship I had with the place I grew up in.” Gordon says. With lyrics about public education, Arizona’s law SB1070, skateboarding, and crushing heartbreak, Riley Vs. Jason is a declaration of misled youth.
Since writing this record Gordon went on to get his Masters degree, which included serving two years in the Peace Corp teaching English in Colombia. Living in a small village on the coast Gordon lived with a host family and spent the majority of his time detached from life back in the US and struggled to connect to the people in the impoverished communities he was serving. Gordon addresses this on the song “Tongue Tied” where he asks the heartbreaking question, “Who needs English when you’re starving?”
Using the word “guilty” in the lyrics he admits it is about “coming to terms with why you’re there.” He continues, “Before you join you feel like you’re going to accomplish all these goals and do all these beneficial things for your community, then you get there and it takes so long to build relationships and to complete your projects that by the time you leave in two years it always seems like it went by too fast.”
“I don’t think I could have written this record If i hadn’t gone through those experiences,” Gordon says. The record calls back to songs he’s been playing since he put out his last record, songs that have appeared on compilations and demo tapes from the past few years, but a majority of new unreleased material. “I have now 10 years of tapes and records and releases of watching me develop as this band, and I’m really proud of these songs. I think they are better than anything I’ve done in the past.” Gordon says.
By “experiences” Gordon isn’t referring to just his time in the Colombia, but also to his time spent going to school in Arcata, his time spent in Berkeley, and most recently his move back to Southern California to begin teaching full time.
Now back in Orange County, Gordon is still reeling from some of the same feelings he wrote about on previous records, and citing some of the same reasons to continue writing songs. “The state of the world is really heartbreaking, there’s so many things to be depressed about in the world right now, and this is the one thing that makes me feel okay.” Gordon says.
Punk helped Gordon find himself as a teenager. However, after countless releases under the name Roman Candles, years of zine making as The Stowaways, and enough house shows to permanently damage his hearing, Gordon says, “I don’t think I need punk as a platform to be political.” He continues, “I will be a political person regardless of whether or not I’m in a band.”
Roman Candles Record Release Show: Los Angeles, Friday, August 3rd at Golden Beat Recording Studio. Lineup Includes : Pinned In Place and Pretty Flowers