New Orleans hardcore punk act PEARS released their critically acclaimed debut album “Go To Prion” in 2014 and hit the ground running. Since their inception, they’ve toured extensively and have been hammering away at new songs. They took a break from world domination to answer some of my questions. In the interview we discussed their next release, inspiration, substance abuse, New Orleans and more.
You can read the interview below.
You released your debut album “Go To Prion” in 2014. From what I understand, the album was recorded fairly quickly. Do you attribute that to the fact that you, Zach, and Alex have been making music together since your time in The Lollies? How has your song-writing evolved over the years? What have you learned as time has gone on?
Brian: I’d definitely say that’s one of the reasons everything went so smoothly. We had so much experience recording together going into this project, that it was easy as well as fun because the material was so fresh. Recording so quickly after writing the songs gave all the tunes a kind-of spark that a lot of records don’t have because the bands seem to have been playing the songs for so long they’re just kind of old to them by the time they go into the studio. Not always the case though.
As for our songwriting, the method we use to write for PEARS is completely different than the way we ever did it before. It’s become more of a simple, almost machine-like process. If there’s one thing we’ve learned playing in bands, its that there should never be too many cooks in the kitchen for any single thing. Same goes with songwriting. We used to sit in a room and just say, “Well, who has an idea?” and just fart around until something happened, but that could take days just to write one really weird song. We would have to go through tons of dumb arguing and whatnot. Now, we just write parts while were just hanging out, record them on a phone. Nothing necessarily has to flow, but we just come up with riffs and chord progressions all the time, even just walking down the street, record them on our phones. Later on when I’m alone, I just kind of piece them together like a puzzles. I fill in the gaps, write a drum part on the recording software we use, demo the whole thing, send it to everyone, and they (Alex and Jarret) all learn the individual “skeleton” parts for the song. After running through a song together, they make the skeleton parts into their own parts. It’s the easiest, most efficient writing process we’ve ever been a part of. Not dwelling on a song or a part for too long is also something we like to try and stick by. Its like a “crank ’em out and move on” sort of approach, and it rules.
“Go to Prison” was released to a considerable amount of success. Do feel pressured about your next album?
Absolutely! Any band that has had people hear their first record would probably feel the same way. I still have trouble believing that people actually like the stuff. But in the end, the only thing thats important to us is that WE like the music. As long as we like it and can tell ourselves we gave it 110% then it will end up being rad. I think thats a weird factor in our music that people don’t quite tap into when they discover that they like it, that its rad because were just writing whatever we want, and not trying to write anything for anyone else. After all, we are our own worst critics.
You’re already demoing new songs. What can fans expect to hear on your next album? When do you think it will be out?
We never really stopped writing after “Go To Prison”. We’ve got a pretty solid arsenal of songs at this point for whatever we do next. We’re just trying to get through the 8 billion tours we’re in the middle of doing, and as soon as we can actually GET to New Orleans and have a few weeks to breathe and really hash out the tiny details of the material. We will most likely just start recording until we want to jump out of a building. Kind of like how we tour.
All the completed songs we have for the next release are quite intense if you ask me. All the different spectrums we tapped into for “Go To Prison” are pushed even further with this stuff, and there’s even different styles we didn’t try to hit at all for the first one. Anybody that liked “Go To Prison,” in theory, will love the new material. Whatever adjective one would use to describe that record, just add “x10” to it, and that’s the feel of the new stuff. It’s faster at times, poppier at times, catchier at times, seriously, seriously more angry a lot of the time, there’s some really pretty breaks in between brutally fast and brutally slow parts, its attention deficit and anxiety disorders displayed through music in the best way I could imagine. We hope to release a 6 (or so) song EP sooner than later to hold people over while we are working on a full length HOPEFULLY to be released around September
Do you have any cover songs planned or was The Ramones cover a one-time deal?
Not as of yet. We did the cover on “Go To Prison” because we learned it to fill time for our first show, and in the studio spur of the moment decided to just record it. I think everyone nailed it on the first take too, which was rad. But we most likely wont have a cover on the next release. However, we’ve tossed around the idea of doing a whole cover album for fun. Also, we have a reeeeeally rad cover set that’s being dreamed up for the near future that we would do from time to time. I Cant say much else about that though.
New Orleans is traditionally known for Jazz music. Do you guys feel out of place playing aggressive music in New Orleans or is punk a common trend there?
Beneath all of the Jazz and Brass music there’s actually a pretty thriving punk scene in New Orleans. Its kind of like a vine growing up a wall though. It just kinda grows up that wall and takes over, but after that wall, it doesn’t really go anywhere. We barely play New Orleans, and in that aspect I personally feel out of place in the New Orleans punk scene just because we’re not around enough to be considered a “local” band really. But besides the tiny analogy, there’s actually some REALLY good bands coming out of New Orleans that are starting to tour, and some that have been for a long time, a lot of them still seem to somehow have not left that “vine” though, meaning they play in town on a regular basis, whether its a good or bad thing i don’t know, I do know I miss home though and I miss all the amazing people and musicians involved in that scene. They’re some of the most amazing people in the world.
How did you all discover punk music?
I can’t say for the other dudes, but I discovered punk music when I was really young. Whenever that file sharing program “BearShare” had just popped up, I was sitting on it just being bored and searched my own name, and stumbled across “Brians Song” by the band Fifteen. It took like a whole day to download it, and I just kept listening to it like as it was downloading, with like a few extra seconds coming in every couple minutes. I’d never heard anything so fucking rad in my whole life. That song just went to the speed my brain works, and from that moment on I had to find more, so I told all my friends at school at the time, I was probably in the 6th grade or something. And a lot of my friends had somehow been stumbling across shit like that too. One of my buddies gave me a copy of Minor Threat’s “Complete Discography” and it was fucking game over. Since then I’ve pretty much had an insatiable need to find more good punk bands. Even bad ones. I like tons of bad ones. As long as the music is from the heart, and its fast, or really it doesn’t even have to be fast, it can be slow too, there’s just something that clicks in my brain when I know the band is good. I get goosebumps ALL the time from punk music. It’s like a physical sign to me that punk rock still hasn’t gotten old to me. You just have to find the right stuff :)
For those of you who have seen it, how do you guys feel about Sonic Highways’ representation of New Orleans?
This is a really good one! Alex and I actually went to the show they played in the street, were in the very front row of the show and you can even see our heads for a second in the episode while we’re pressed up against the barricade surrounded by peoples cell phones taking dumb pictures. But really, that was an amazing show and an amazing experience.
As far as the show’s representation of New Orleans, I figured if anybody could ever give a proper presentation of the city and its culture and history in a musical sense, it’d be someone like the Foo Fighters. I mean they really fucking dug in and hit the nail on the head for it. We all actually watched it in the van on my laptop. It premiered while we were on tour and I remember Zach and I looking over at each other with chills and laughing at how fucking perfect and how fucking rad it was. They did an amazing job with it. The Foo Fighters are one of the greatest bands of all time.
Zach, congrats on 18 months sober. That’s wonderful! How do you feel? Do you think it’s hard for you to maintain sobriety while at the same time playing in bars night after night?
Zach: I feel boring. No, I feel….. different. I feel like my mortality looms over me with more of a presence than ever before; I am not hiding from it, I am not allowing myself to be distracted. I was a do-nothing when I drank. Not that I feel like this is something most sober people experience, my obsession with death is obviously what drives this in me. I’m afraid that I’ll waste time, that I’ll miss out on being happy, but this fear of failure, this obsession with death itself is what I have to find a way to beat. Spending your time terrified of not living is an easy way to waste your life. As far as it being difficult to maintain, it’s not. I never had an issue being surrounded by drunks being sober. What I have had trouble with is breaking out of my shell, feeling comfortable enough to try to connect with people. It makes me sad that I feel like I can’t, this is another thing I wish to overcome now that I’m facing myself.
Do you think the punk rock community, or at least parts of the community, spend too much time celebrating self-destruction and substance use? What are your thoughts on personalities like Fat Mike and others who seem to revel in that lifestyle?
Zach: I don’t think that self-destruction or substance abuse are really the most important elements of a conversation about what it means to spend your life wisely. I think that if you love something with all your will and power in your life, then you have done well. If you can unhalfassedly love something and be a drunk, power to you. I know people who do beautiful things and have extreme party habits. Fat Mike? Fat Mike has written some of the most important music in my life. “Kids of the K-hole” are my favorite lyrics ever penned, It may be my favorite song ever written. This is a man that has made wonderful things, and that is what counts. The danger is when people let the substances become them, to the point that they haven’t the love for ANYTHING left in them to do what they could excel at.
Melody seems to play a significant role in your songs? How do you find the balance between melody and aggression? What band do you look up to the most?
Brian: To be honest, whatever we end up writing is just kind of sporadic parts, but they come together when Zach puts the lyrics and melodies/emotions to them, I guess the melody and aggression fluctuates the way that human emotions do on a really bipolar scale. But in the end, we’re all pretty sad and angry about life stuff sometimes, but we’re suckers for pop hooks, so i guess that’s just what comes out of us naturally.
As for bands we look up to, they range from the punk regulars like Descendents, Minor Threat, Bad Brains etc, all the way to other sides of the spectrum with things like J-Pop artist, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, to post rock, to bands like Failure, and all kinds of weird stuff we all like individually. Its a musical taste within the group that I’d assume comes across in the music, but I can’t tell because I’m always looking at it from an insider’s perspective.
“Grimespree” is the longest song on the record and sticks out as being different. Can you tell me about how that song came about and its meaning?
Zach: Musically, Brian and I traded chord progressions back in forth in my grandmother’s house till we had the first half of the song, then he capped it of with the epic feeling doom section at the end. Perfect. I remember being really excited that we were going there in that song. Lyrically, I guess its criticism of what I was talking about a few questions ago, letting the substance become you, and people kinda just not acknowledging the sadness of that course, then its also sort of an admission of guilt and defeat by the very things at which I shake my head.
If you guys could construct any super group you wanted, who would be in it?
Mark Hoppus – Bass/vocals
Travis Barker – Drums
Matt Skiba – Guitar/vocals
Bill Stevenson – drums
Dave Grohl – Vocals
Stephen Egerton – Guitar
Milo Aukerman – Vocals too
BB King – Guitar
Pat Smear – Guitar
Bette Midler – Guitar
Patty from D4 – Bass
Rachel Feldman from Lipstick Homicide – Bass too
Tim Armstrong – Playing Rancid(2000) from a boombox while I sleep
A pig-man – Guitar
The bald guy from the Transplants – Nothing
Nick Woods from Direct Hit – Everything at the same time
Devon Kay – Make-up/Wardrobe/Guitar
Zach from PEARS – Emotions
Alex and Jarret – Hammer/Chainsaw
Dante our Manager – Lights
A Red Guy – Don’t Cross The Street
A Green Guy – Cross The Street
Officer Bradford – Security
Ryan Young – Pep-talks
Ha. Very nice. Do PEARS the band worship PEARS the fruit? Is there a paganistic shrine dedicated to sweet, juicy pears or are you anti-pears?
Alex : Everyone in the band is anti-pears accept Alex; the consensus is that they taste like sand. Pears suck. Bananas forever.
Jarret: I’m pro pear, however, a bad pear can ruin your day. But a good pear can make your dreams come true.
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