Good Old War is a psych-folk trio from the Philadelphia area, comprising longtime friends Keith Goodwin, Tim Arnold and Dan Schwartz. Ahead of the group's Denver stop, Goodwin talked with Westword about the band's three-part EP series, how to stay sharp creatively, the Philadelphia Super Bowl celebration-turned-riot, and trading gas-station snacks for Whole Foods while on the road.
Where are you on the road right now?
Right now, we’re about two hours west of Austin, Texas.
How’s that drive going?
It’s going pretty good. We usually start our day going through a Whole Foods. It’s a ten-hour drive today, so we just stock up on good, healthy food for the day. Basically, what we’ve done so far is that and a little shopping, and now everybody’s kind of doing their own thing.
I guess it’s a good thing there are Whole Foods everywhere so you don’t have to live off of gas station food.
Yeah — we learned that throughout touring. Once Whole Foods started popping up everywhere — going up and getting some hot bar food and being able to stock up for the day definitely makes the mind a little clearer.
But the weather has been kind of crazy. It’s been pretty rainy for the last three days. I was kind of hoping Texas would be nice and warm, but it's been cold and rainy.
They’ve had a surprisingly cold winter, from my understanding. My mom called me several times one day to let me know it was snowing down there. I said, ‘That’s great.’
[Laughs.] Yep, that’s kind of what happened yesterday. We woke up and got out of the hotel, and it was 40 degrees and rainy. I was wearing a T-shirt, thinking it was going to be great weather.
Being from the East Coast area, I’m sure if you knew the weather was going to be bad, you would have had your jacket.
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I mean, I’m prepared, I have a nice warm jacket. I was just hoping to get some warm weather. The crazy thing is that back in Pennsylvania, it’s 75 degrees and sunny. It’s crazy.
That is crazy. Tell me about the new EP, Part of You.
It’s part of a three-part EP series that we’re doing; it’s the second one. We made the first and second EPs right around the same time. It’s a collection of songs that we had written that...with Tim Arnold back in the band, we had a little bit of a return to form from our record Broken Into Better Shape, because he wasn’t there, and [him being absent] means we’re pretty much a different band. Broken Into Better Shape was a different sort of challenge, so this was a return to the sound we had started with, which is the three-piece band.
What made you want to do a three-part series?
Really, we just wanted to stay creative and stay writing and working between tours throughout the year. We wanted to have something to work on while we tour. Instead of just touring and then coming back home and supporting just one record, we figured we would make the music, tour on it, support it, and then make something else, tour on it, support it, and see how that worked out. Just wanted to keep releasing music and keep putting things out for people to get excited about.
I know that you were previously involved in other projects. Do you three still do your own things outside of Good Old War?
Yeah. When we’re at home and there’s not much going on, we all kind of keep busy, musically. I know that [bandmember] Dan Schwartz works on stuff himself, and Tim and I have been working on some country jams. We worked on stuff with our buddy Anthony Green from Circa Survive, and help some other people do songwriting. We’re pretty active. We love making music, and if we have a chance to do things with other people and try new things out, we take it. It’s good for creativity.
How did you get into working with Anthony Green?
Tim and I grew up with him, playing shows and stuff, going back to middle school and high school. We all had different bands out of high school, and we started touring, and that lifestyle is different than a lot of other lifestyles. It was this thing where we were living parallel lives and continuing to make music, so we just kept in touch.
When he decided that he wanted to do solo stuff, he thought it was the perfect opportunity to spend more time together and be more creative together. Even in high school, we’d jam together and make music together, so it’s been a relationship that’s been going on.
Did you guys all grow up together in Philadelphia?
Tim and I grew up in Bucks County, which is 25 minutes north of Philadelphia. Dan grew up in Cheltenham, which is pretty much Philadelphia, if you ask me.
Does that mean you went nuts over the Eagles winning the Super Bowl?
[Laughs.] You know it. Even if it wasn’t the Eagles winning, it was a crazy, awesome game. We were loving it. I was pretty excited. It was a beautiful game.
Philly fans reacted the way everyone expected Philly fans to react, but it’s weird to watch this huge celebration riot happen in comparison to something like peaceful political protests. People treat them so much differently. I wonder if we’re at a different point in our culture where sports are great, but we have to think a little harder about how that bleeds into how we act.
For me, when they were talking about the parade, people asked if I was going to bring my kid. My thought about it was absolutely not, I’m not going anywhere near that. I think there were more people feeling that way and not going. But I think the people that were going there definitely were going there to drink and have a fun day out, and they got out of hand.
I think you might be right. I don’t think it’s right to go riot and doing all that crazy stuff they were doing, but I personally just avoid it.
You don’t have to be a part of that event if you don’t want to be.
Yeah. I was happy for them, but I’m not going to partake in it.
In the car flipping?
I don’t know if it’s always been this way, but it seems like artists are leaned on a bit more to be the measuring stick for the collective conscience. It seems like artists are expected to behave a little better than they used to and be more like role models. Do you feel that?
I see that happening. I notice that, at least touring in this band, we don’t really come across many bad people in general. All the people that I know [in the music scene] that I respect, they’re all funny, creative people that are inspiring by nature.
[Artists now being held to a higher standard] may be true, but I think it’s a good thing for people in this position to inspire positivity and to help create a nice community for people to enjoy music and have a good time, as opposed to going wild. And I’m sure there still are bands that are just doing their thing, and more power to them.
I think it’s different for everybody. I think everybody has their own way of dealing with things and connecting with their fan base. For us, the people that come to our shows, they’re just looking for some easygoing singer-songwriter music, and the whole experience is fun and positive.
I know that you guys have played Warped Tour before, but it’s not like you’re trying to act like big rock stars up there all the time.
Going back to Tim being brought back into the band after spending some time away: What was the most exciting thing about having the band back together?
To me, there’s just a magic that happens when it’s the three of us. It’s a sound that the band makes that makes us unique when we play together. When it was just [Dan and I], it was more of the songwriting, and that is great. Dan and I kept the band going while Tim was working on some stuff, which was fun, and we got to write some really great songs and kept touring like that.
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But the focus had shifted to songwriting and vocals. It’s pretty much always about vocals, but when Tim’s here, the band’s rocking. It just feels a little more energetic, and it’s what we set out to do from the beginning. It just feels normal and natural.
I imagine it was also nice to just have your longtime friend around again.
That is probably number one for me. When he left, he was having some issues — some issues with drugs, and it was sort of a sad situation. Now with him being back a little over two years sober, it’s a super-positive thing. To be making music and being happy as a group — to continue doing this and having it not totally fall apart from all that stuff — it’s a good feeling.