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This Is How We Survive: A Conversation With Joseph Lazzari of Reconciler

The punk band's new album is a reflection of the significant role that art plays in the contemporary human experience, narrated through punchy hymns and a youthful drive.

reconciler, punk rock.
Reconciler, 2023

For artist, musician, guitar maker, and furniture maker Joseph Lazzari, the arts are more than a pastime, but a necessity, one that provides a deep understanding of a life everchanging. Just prior to the weekend, Joseph's creative efforts hit a high point and a personal realization through the Smartpunk Records release of new Reconciler album, Art For Our Sake. Beyond his musical involvement in the band, Joseph is deeply entrenched in Reconciler's visual identity, which takes the form of an eclectic mixed media collage built from imagery intentionally found and placed amidst a painted landscape. It's the type of vibrant sight you expect for an uplifting punk record aimed at finding meaning.


Dive through a Q&A with jack of all trades Joseph Lazzari to learn about what drove the creative direction for Art For Our Sake, the series of paintings found throughout the album rollout, the significance of art in the contemporary time, and more:

 

Every record is like a photo, capturing a time and place for the musicians involved. Of course, that changes from one record to the next as musicians learn from past experiences and develop new mechanisms for coping. Seeing as it’s been a few years since “Set Us Free” (2019), in what state of mind does “Art For Our Sake” find you in and how did that inform the creative development of it all?


Joseph: Records are such a fantastic time capsule right?? I’d say in the time since "Set Us Free", I've had some immense personal growth and I think that rings true for the rest of Reconciler as well. We’ve weathered some big storms and lived to tell the tales.


As an artist, I’m excited and optimistic! I think I have the best grasp I’ve ever had on what I want to create and where I want to go with it right now. It's a new feeling and it's a really good one and I hope I don’t squeeze it to death. With "Art for Our Sake", I tried to focus on the big picture. It's a novel, not a collection of short stories. I also tried to really unify my visual art and songs on this one - thinking a lot about how building a stronger language between the two could improve both.

reconciler, punk rock.
Cover Artwork by Joseph Lazzari

I'd argue that it's a strong evolution from the predecessor, due in part to your own creative ambitions. Having an artist amongst a band’s members is not common, but it creates a unique dynamic that allows you to visually explore the music on your own terms, free from conventions and true to your own artistic ambitions. That said, is there a sense of pressure to operate in that way?


Ha! Yes. There’s plenty of extra pressure. If the new shirt doesn’t sell? My fault. If the poster has errors? My fault. If I get up there and fuck up three songs in the set at the show where the shirts don’t sell and the poster is wrong, it gets heavy quick. The other side of the coin is reading a positive review of my record where the writer admits they gave the record a shot because of the cover art. It's a gamble and I’m here for it.


"Art For Our Sake" definitely creates some intrigue. Visually, what were you looking for when approaching the record? Beyond the cover, the singles each have their own illustrations as well, making this one nice album rollout.


All the covers are actually large format oil paintings in the 4 - 6ft. range. They’re from an ongoing series called "Stuck Between Stations", which is a title I lifted from a Hold Steady song. You know that experience where you’re hanging out with a friend, passively watching a movie, while chatting and both scrolling through your phones? It creates this strange effect where all the information just starts to melt together. Did they just ask me a question? Was it the tv? Was it my phone? Their phone?? Should I answer it? Maybe just play it safe with a “Huh? Oh never mind.” I feel like contemporary life is kind of defined by this chaos of information flying all around us 24/7.

reconciler, punk rock.
Single Artwork by Joseph Lazzari

In this series of paintings, I’m trying to figure how to navigate the chaos. I’m exploring life and death and the passage of time in hopes of being more present and living more fully while I’m here. I’m pulling images from advertisements, art history, personal photos, memories, and everywhere in between, and I’m trying to layer up these notes into chords and end up with a composition that surprises me as much as anyone else. I’m trying to find beauty in the static of being stuck between stations. I channel songs from that same static. "Art for Our Sake" is an album about trying to find the beauty in all of it, despite all of it.



It's neat to see each painting's evolution too, which we're glad to have happen on this feature. As a musician, furniture maker, and now guitar maker, the album title, “Art For Our Sake”, certainly rings true. Would you say that this album served as an outlet of sorts for you and the band? If so, was there any sense of realization that you felt upon seeing the intersection of your art forms?


Oh absolutely. If you can sneak past your own ego, you can learn a lot about your own fears, insecurities, and trauma as well as your strengths and redeeming qualities. Making art is a great way to catch your ego slippin’. And yeah, I have a lot of irons in the fire. Too many? I don’t know. I don’t have time to stop and count them.

reconciler, smartpunk records, punk rock.
Single Artwork by Joseph Lazzari

Continuing on that topic, where do you find a common ground between art and music? For some, these are distinct elements unfortunately. The art is removed from the music and commissioned or put together as an afterthought to the music, but in Reconciler, it’s all one comprehensive piece.


I think I inadvertently answered this one pretty thoroughly two questions before, but yeah! For me, they are cohesive elements that have started to feed each other. I’m exploring the same subject matter from different angles and meeting somewhere in the middle. I’ve been trying to manifest this for a long time and I think I’m finally finding the clarity needed to make it work.



You've excelled at doing so, Joseph. In closing, what role do you feel the arts play in the contemporary world, especially as messengers and avenues for understanding? As we mentioned, “Art For Our Sake” is a fitting title.


Art reflects life. I think artists in every era highlight the human condition. And in doing so, Artists help to create avenues for all of us to connect on a deeper level. Just as death is the great equalizer, I think art is the great unifier.



Rudy Giuliani tried to censor and close the Brooklyn Museum at the opening of its controversial exhibition “Sensation” in 1999 for the same reason that George Wallace stood in the schoolhouse door to prevent the desegregation of the University of Alabama in 1963 - A unified people is a terrifying thing for those in power. They won’t stop, so we can’t stop. As artists, our job is to keep weaving the interesting connections that shake the foundations of oppression. We have to make art for our sake.

 

Art For Our Sake is available now via Smartpunk Records (Listen).

reconciler, punk rock.
Cover Artwork by Joseph Lazzari

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