ACL Music Fest Sunday Interview

Three chords and the truth ... on Broadway!

ACL Music Fest Sunday Interview

Ted Leo & the Pharmacists

12:30pm, Budweiser stage

Old punks may die hard, but they still fatigue. Just ask Ted Leo. The East Coast lifer turned some heads recently when the word "retirement" cropped up in a conversation about the sustainability of touring in the new music economy – doing more with less and for less.

"I feel like there's a lot of theory going around and nobody's really telling their stories," reflects Leo. "Running the numbers and projecting ahead, this is going to be a losing proposition, monetarily. That's not the only reason why we do this, but every champion of some supposed new paradigm for musicians is like [shifting to mock critical voice], 'Well, get on the road – just do it on the road.' Well yeah, of course, but I can't sit in a van eight or nine months of a year for the rest of my life."

The bitter irony is that Ted Leo & the Pharmacists' fifth album and Matador debut, The Brutalist Bricks, could just as easily be labeled a greatest hits collection. It's an airtight, blue-collar triumph of classic Jersey punk, with ambulance-siren urgency and taut, political temerity. Then there's the band's Tom Scharpling video for "Bottled in Cork," a viral classic that mocks the Broadway staging of Green Day's American Idiot, with cameos from Titus Andronicus' Patrick Stickles and John Hodgman.

"Trying to weave some lame story or narrative around a group of songs seems like a bad idea from the beginning," laughs Leo. "It's not a swipe at Green Day. That musical is certainly on the list of things being lampooned, but there's been a lot more annoying baby boomer things, like [Billy Joel's] freakin' 'Across the Universe' Beatles travesty. There's plenty to go around."

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