About four years passed between the release of Portland pop-punk band Lee Corey Oswald’s 2014 debut Regards and its follow-up, Darkness, Together, out this week on A-F Records.
For Dan Silver (guitar/vocals), Lee Ellis (guitar/vocals), and Corey Ciresi (drums/vocals), however, that four-year span came during a time of their lives that tends to lend perspective to things like playing in a pop-punk band.
“With [Regards], we wrote it in our mid-20s,” says Ellis, a cook at a bar/restaurant in Northeast Portland by day. “And now we’re in our early 30s...”
His voice trails off as Silver chimes in: “Every time you come back from tour, all your friends are maybe working toward something different,” says Silver, who waits tables when he’s not playing music. “I felt like our friends were all settling in, getting houses, that kind of stuff. I mean, I still live with Lee and I love it, but your friends definitely start looking at you like, ‘Are y’all still really trying this?’”
Lee Corey Oswald will celebrate its 10th year as a band this fall, but the road to get to this point hasn’t always been smooth. Ellis and Ciresi formed the band during college in Scranton, Pennsylvania, at first as a duo that played Bright Eyes-style indie folk. They relocated to Portland in 2009, and Silver joined soon after.
“I kind of forced my way in,” he says. “They had a couple of shows booked as an acoustic band, so we went to Trade Up Music and I bought a mandolin and was playing the show a couple nights later.”
In the years since, Lee Corey Oswald has evolved into a buzzy pop-punk band that recalls early Weezer, DIY faves Superchunk, and fellow Scranton band the Menzingers. Darkness, Together, for example, spills over with crunchy guitar riffs, catchy vocal melodies, and heavy lyrics about staying positive in tough times and the perils of growing up punk.
Darkness, Together almost didn’t happen. In 2015, Lee Corey Oswald’s longtime bassist quit suddenly in the middle of a tour, and the band left its old label, No Sleep Records. With the ever-present pressures of real life weighing on Silver, Ellis, and Ciresi, the band started to lose momentum.
“We were writing music the whole time, but we just weren’t feeling the vibes we were feeling before,” Ellis says.
The ship was righted, however, after a Canadian tour with Pittsburgh punk heroes Anti-Flag, who liked Lee Corey Oswald and wanted to put out their new record on the band’s own A-F Records label. “That really helped us get back into the mode of being a band again,” Ellis says.
Regardless of their band’s official status, the members of Lee Corey Oswald are too restless to sit completely still. During their hiatus, Silver and Ellis started both an indie band (with songs built from piano and strings) and a hardcore band, and they also play in the hilariously named Beatles cover band the Shitty Beatles.
“We’re never going to stop making music,” Ellis says. Here again, his band mate finishes the thought: “There’s always stuff in the works,” Silver says. “If someone said, ‘You’ve got two months to put out a third album,’ we would do it.”