I take comfort in knowing that the music I grew up with and love is still alive and well. When I first heard Royal Pines I wondered how it had taken me so long to hear about them. How had I not heard about these guys growing up? Well there’s an easy answer to that question, they didn’t even get together until 2008. There’s a distinct infusion of grungy, sweaty garage rock teamed with a steaming pile of hard noise, distortion and fuzzy, balls-out riffage at work here though. 2014 saw the release of Royal Pines’ third full-length release Three Sheets and while there’s six years between that and their debut album Old World it contains the same prevailing sense of dark humor and debaucherous approach to, to well, whatever exactly it is that Royal Pines does. There’re equal parts Bleach-era Nirvana, indie 90’s rock and what founding member Joe Patt might refer to as “Heavy Wood”. Or maybe not. It’s kind of hard to describe exactly what Royal Pines are doing, with dead ahead rockers like “What The Hell Happened Here Last Night” and “See The Wall” or the more dissonant and playful stuff such as “Who Ya Want Me Ta Kill?” they kind of seem to deftly dodge description or classification at every turn. When I heard them for the first time all I could think of was some bizarre version of The Violent Femmes, where they had all gotten really drunk and strung out and somehow managed to corral Kurt Cobain into writing and performing a bunch of stuff with them, in some sort of mad recording session with Nick Cave and David Lynch sitting behind the board… This is some far out there stuff, man; seriously heady rock ‘n’ roll that isn’t for the faint of heart. While there are other bands out there that play harder, or louder, or faster, or tune down farther, there’s an unrelenting darkness, and sense of foreboding doom that comes with Royal Pines that both invigorates the listener and leaves them sitting on the edge of their seat waiting to see what brutality’s coming next! Composed of veterans from different locales and settings that have joined forces in the gritty urban landscape of Chicago this time around, Royal Pines are a must for fans of 90’s rock, grunge, garage, or just psych rock as I can feel the same proto-psychedelic twinges in this, as I can in much of The Melvins’ catalog. Forget labeling or defining, selling or justifying Royal Pines though, I don’t think they need me for that. There’s a link below to listen to some music, I highly suggest you use it. While you kick back and listen to some sweet tunes there’s a sweet piece with singer, guitarist and founding member Joe Patt that follows which will give you all the info you need to get down on some Royal Pines. Trust me, they’re better than the air freshener!
- Listen while you read: http://royalpines.bandcamp.com/
What’s the current lineup in Royal Pines? I know you all have been around for a few years at this point, is this your original lineup or have you gone through any changes as far as that’s concerned since the band started?
Me, Joe Patt,on vocals, guitar, toms.
Joe Gerdeman on drums.
Fred Brown on lead guitar, backing vocals.
Brendan O’Mara on bass.
We have gone through a few lineup changes over the years. Todd Pannent was the original drummer when the band formed in 2005. When Todd moved out of Chicago he was replaced by Joe Gerdeman in late 2006. Brian Harper was the original lead guitarist. He quit the band in early 2011. Todd Pannent came back and filled in for three shows as our lead guitarist in May of 2011; guitar, not drums, is Todd’s original instrument. Freddy Brown joined in summer of 2011 as our current lead guitarist.
Are any of you involved in any other active bands or do you have any side projects going on at this point? I love being able to tell people what other bands people are in but I unfortunately don’t have enough time to research that kind of thing as I would like, not to mention, nothing beats getting the answers directly from the source!
Joe Gerdeman plays drums in a trio called Rare Animals. They’re working on a record, I believe. I have a solo recording alter ego known as Job 6 Pak (pronounced Jobe), but I haven’t released anything. One day when I get more time, I’d like to do more solo home recording and maybe make said recordings available to the public in some capacity. This past winter, when Joe Gerdeman had a broken finger, Royal Pines got together with him on guitar and me on drums. Freddy played some bass and organ as well as guitar. Brendan also played some organ and guitar in addition to bass. We just improvised and I recorded and called it Vice Mall. It might be something we revisit in the future. It was pretty cool instrumental industrial/psych/German type stuff.
Have you released any music with anyone in the past? If you have, can you tell us a little bit about that?
I’ve been involved in many releases over the years. When I was in bands as a teenager we used to make cassettes of our music and give them to people. They were mostly poor quality, live, one-track recordings. The first band that ever officially released a record was Hairy Patt Band. We were a scuzzy punk/county blues two-piece and I played drums. We released a 7” EP in 1993 and then followed that with a handful of other 7” records, one of them on In The Red records, as well as two full-length CD’s and a comp or two. Our first full-length record was recorded with Kramer (Bongwater, Shockabilly, B.A.L.L.) at his Noise New Jersey studio and was released on a Chicago label called Choke inc. That first 7” was funded by our painter and trumpeter friend, Stu Sinn, on his Belly Fu Oh Happy Whale label. Unfortunately, I recently heard that Stu departed this physical plane. I hadn’t spoken to him in years, but he was a special soul with a unique vision. He influenced Hairy Patt Band greatly with his artwork and musical contributions. The last record Hairy Patt Band put out was in 1997. Unfortunately, these full-lengths were never released on vinyl. We had a pretty fanatical local following in Ohio, so I wouldn’t be shocked if there was some sort of vinyl reissue at some point. It won’t be me doing it though, I look to the future! It might be after I’m dead, but it shall be rereleased! A complete discography can be found here. Them Wranch followed Hairy Patt Band and we put out two LP’s along with a handful of singles and maybe a comp or two, between 1998 and 2001. Them Wranch was a three-piece psych/garage/R&B band that toured quite extensively. Todd Pannent toured with us a bit as a second guitarist. He also played on a couple of tracks on our last studio album. This is how I got to know Todd. Discography can be found here. Right after I moved to Chicago in 2002, I went on tour as the drummer for Country Teasers on their summer 2002 US tour. Them Wranch had played a few shows with them when they first toured the US a couple of years earlier and I got to know them pretty well. In 2005, In The Red records put out a live Country Teasers’ compilation. I appear on about six songs on that record and my picture is on the back. In the fall of 2002 I joined Night Callers with John Humphrey of Cash Audio and God and Texas. We were an instrumental four-piece (guitar, bass, drums, organ) that played Booker T meets Led Zeppelin type stuff. We did quite a bit of recording, but unfortunately, only one song ever came out on a record. Natural Thing was featured on a tribute record to Brother Jack McDuff. With the release of Royal Pines’ third record, I’ve joked that I’ve broken the two full-length curse. In both Hairy Patt Band and Them Wranch we broke up right after the release of our second full-length records. It could’ve happened with Brian Harper leaving Royal Pines after Come Forth came out, but I’m too damned tenacious and stubborn. This captain and this ship ain’t ready to go down yet!
How old are you and where are you originally from?
I’m forty-four years old, born 12/26/69, same birthday as Phil Spector, and I’m from Cincinnati, Ohio. I lived in Columbus, Ohio from 1994 until 2002.
What was the local music scene like where you grew up? Do you feel like you were very involved in that scene or anything? Did you see a lot of shows? Do you feel like it played an important role in forming your musical tastes or shaping the way you perform today?
The local Cincinnati underground scene was intensely vibrant when I was growing up and it has had a huge impact on my musical tastes as well as the music I perform. I didn’t really know any of the bands until I was in my junior high/high school years. I didn’t start seeing shows a lot until I got to college at University of Cincinnati, but there were a handful I saw in high school that had a major impact on me. In 1985 I saw local legends The Wolverton Brothers and The Libertines (Cincy version) play in the Rhine Room at the University of Cincinnati. This had a huge impact on me and I still count The Wolverton Brothers as one of my all-time favorite bands. I still have the flyer from that show; I have shitload of old flyers. Anyway, some people who know The Wolverton Brothers say that they can hear them a bit in Royal Pines’ music. I also saw The Libertines open for The 3 O’Clock, L.A.’s Paisley Underground band, which was a tremendous show. I liked the 3 O’Clock, but my favorites from that scene were Dream Syndicate and Rain Parade. Mostly in high school, my friends and I played music for ourselves in our bedrooms and basements. Across the river in Newport, Kentucky the Jockey Club put the Cincy/Northern Kentucky punk scene on the map from 1982 to 1988. All of the touring punk and underground rock bands made it a regular stop on their tours. I only made it to one show there, which was on their last night in business. One of my favorite Cincy bands, BPA, played that night. BPA’s Tim Schwallie and Todd Witt went on to form The Wolverton Brothers. After the Jockey Club, Bill Leist* and Peter Aaron, of Chrome Cranks, began booking shows at another Newport bar called The Top Hat. I saw a lot of shows there including Mudhoney, Pussy Galore, Yo La Tengo and a band called Nice Strong Arm. I also went to many underage shows at Bogart’s which was a bigger club in Cincinnati. Some of the more memorable ones were The Meat Puppets, Screaming Trees, Butthole Surfers, Flaming Lips, Iggy Pop, Midnight Oil, Violent Femmes, Guadalcanal Diary and local boys done good, Afghan Whigs. Shorty’s Underground was just down the street from Bogart’s on Vine Street in the University area. That’s where Hairy Patt got their start playing live in the early 90’s. This was another club that Peter Aaron booked, and it was a fantastic place where I saw many great local and national touring bands. Hairy Patt opened for this amazing industrial/psych band from Austin called Crust. They put a couple of records out on Trance Syndicate which was the label started by King Coffey of Butthole Surfers. After that it became Chilly’s, which was pretty cool and down the street was Sudsy Malone’s, which became “the” place in the mid 90’s. MTV came to town around ’94 to do a thing on Afghan Whigs and the local Cincy scene. By that point Hairy Patt was living in Columbus. We happened to be playing at Sudsy’s one of the nights they were filming there and we briefly appeared on the MTV clip. We ended the segment with one of our songs crashing and burning. I believe it’s on YouTube. Hairy Patt Band opened for some great bands at Sudsy’s including Jesus Lizard, Cows, Ed Hall, Didjits and Volcano Suns. I would also point to Cincinnati underground radio as having a great impact on my musical youth. WAIF 88.3 FM was/is a community supported radio station that used to have tons of underground rock programming. I learned about all of these cool local, national, and international bands like the aforementioned BPA and Libetines, as well as The Fall, Joy Division, Rain Parade, Hüsker Dü, Meat Puppets, Minutemen, Killing Joke, Felt, Stranglers, Bevis Frond, Gun Club, Can, Velvet Underground, The Smiths, Eno, The Damned, Echo and the Bunnymen, Bauhaus, Screaming Trees, Loop, Spacemen Three, Camper Van Beethoven, Bongwater, The Feelies, The Cure, PIL, Modern Lovers, Hawkwind, Zoogz Rift, Plastic Land, Violent Femmes, Negativland, on and on and on... Jim Stevenson and Craig Kelly did a show on Thursday nights called Another Music from a Different Kitchen. These guys were like teachers to me and they started inviting me down to the studio. Eventually, I got on the air and became Craig’s partner in a new show called On the Way to the Peak of Normal. Weird Trips, Art Damage and Sounds of the Suburbs were also great shows that taught me a lot. Xavier University’s WVXU also hosted Nite Waves every night starting at midnight. This was the glory days of college radio when R.E.M. and The Replacements were kings and this was the type of music that I graduated to from the classic rock of Pink Floyd, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, etcetera. I would tape these shows and then go to local record stores like Wizard’s and Everybody’s to buy records I had heard on the radio. It was at this time that I also started buying records that just looked weird or cool, even if I hadn’t heard the music yet. The aforementioned Nice Strong Arm was one such band. Most of the time it paid off and I’d snatch up anything on SST or Homestead. There was a great local label as well called Hospital Records. They put out records by BPA, 11,000 Switches and Human Zoo. When I moved to Columbus in 1994, I became heavily involved in the local scene with Hairy Patt and Them Wranch. I went to see tons of bands all of the time, too. The Columbus scene at this time was really killer and the people in the scene seemed very supportive of each other. This is when the garage punk thing started really taking off and Columbus was definitely right up there as a hotbed; New Bomb Turks, Gaunt, Stupid Fucking Hippie, Pica Huss, Monster Truck 5, Bassholes, V3, Mike Rep, Cheater Slicks, and Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments, with whom I, regretfully, turned down an offer to play drums with. Bill Randt, the drummer for New Bomb Turks, was a Columbus friend who turned me onto a lot of cool stuff. He’s from Cleveland, so he turned me onto Pere Ubu, Rocket from the Tomb, My Dad is Dead, Prison Shake and other bands.
[* Editor’s note: during the wait for publication of this article Bill Leist unfortunately passed away. He was a radio personality, rock promoter, and the frontman of "The Reduced". Well known in the Cincinnati area for his work with The Jockey Club and music scene of Newport, Kentucky, as well as numerous other music venues in the greater Cincinnati area Bill was an avid music lover and will be missed by many. There is information on a benefit auction and memorial service in the link above if you are interested. RIP.]
What about your home when you were a child? Was there a lot of music or anything around? Were either of your parents or any of your close relatives musicians or extremely interested or involved in music?
My family wasn’t super musical and I don’t really know of any musicians in my family, but I had a sister who was ten years older than me, who did have a few records. Deep Purple’s Machine Head, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, Todd Rundgren’s Something/Anything as well as Led Zeppelin II and Presence are five records I still have from her collection. Oh, and don’t forget about Kiss! My sister loved Kiss and went to see them several times. My parents wouldn’t let me go, but I got heavily into those first three records, as well as Destroyer. I still own The Originals which was a “box set” of their first three records. By the time I was seven or eight years old I was a true disciple of rock ‘n’ roll. One of my earliest recollections of my journey in music was buying News of the World by Queen in ‘77/’78 with my own grass cutting money. That was the first record I ever bought with my own money. I still have that record in my collection and just listened to it a month or so ago. “Get Down, Make Love” is one of Queen’s most psychedelic tunes. My mother listened to crooners like Johnny Mathis, Engelbert Humperdinck, Tom Jones, etcetera. I can’t say hearing this stuff had the same impact as rock ‘n’ roll did, but I love that type of stuff now, especially Johnny Mathis. I’ve often fantasized about being a crooner instead of a rock ‘n’ roller, but let’s just say that my voice is better suited for rock ‘n’ roll. Later in life, I became obsessed with French singers such as Jacques Brel and Serge Gainsbourg. I love their mix of melancholy, romance and dark humor. She also listened to this station called WWEZ which was basically a Muzak station. I think I heard syrupy instrumental versions of Beatles’ songs before I actually ever heard the Beatles’ originals. There were definitely influences outside of my family that led me down this lifelong path. My older brother’s best friend, Tom Weirman, turned me onto harder rock like Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Aerosmith, etcetera. I remember looking at his copy of Paranoid and just being really creeped out, but fascinated. The band looked so weird to me, and the music… Oh, lord. I was warped from an early age! What was that in Tony Iomi’s little pouch hanging from his belt? Eric Louis was my best friend growing up and we shared a mutual love and obsession with rock ‘n’ roll. His dad mostly dug classical music, but I remember him having some CCR, Johnny Winter, BTO, and Guess Who records that he’d let Eric and I listen to. My future cohort in Hairy Patt Band, Jason Drenik, was also a huge influence on me musically when I first met him in sixth grade. Not long after Jason came to our school, Eric and I started making a weird musical racket with him. When Eric and I got into junior high, there was an actual rock band that moved in next store to my parents’ house. We used to listen to them practice and sometimes we’d record them. They were mainly a bar band that did early 80s covers such as Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”, Blue Oyster Cult’s “Burning For You”, etcetera. At times you could smell pot coming out of the basement and that’s when they’d get interesting and start doing some extended jams. My dad ended up hating them, because he had to get up super-early for work and sometimes they’d play late into the night. There were words! I learned from an early age that headphones were my friends, especially when I knew my dad had to get up early. Earlier in my childhood I have a recollection of hearing a band practice down the street from where I grew up. This would’ve been in the mid 70s. There was an old mansion where the music came from, and eventually it was sold and demolished for condo space. I remember going through the house before it was torn down and seeing a lot of strange things. One day there were 45 records scattered all over the driveway. The record was by a band called Bitter Blood Street Theatre who were a psychedelic/theatre band that had been around the Cincy scene since the late 60s. I still have one of those 45s to this day. Anyway, I’ve always assumed that the band I had heard as a child was Bitter Blood, but I was recently told by one of the ex-members of Bitter Blood that he doesn’t recall them ever practicing at that house. Maybe there was no band at all… Of course, there was rock ‘n’ roll radio in the form of WSAI and WEBN that I would listen to and record songs onto my Realistic cassette recorder. This was before it was called “classic rock” radio. It was just AOR. I would also say that watching The Monkees on TV was a huge influence. When I was a kid the show was still in regular repeat syndication. One of the first records my mom bought for me was The Monkees Greatest Hits. I still have that record and I still love that band. Michael Nesmith and the First National Band put out a couple of great records after The Monkees split. It’s definitely more country, but there are some psychedelic, boogie-woogie leanings. He’s a great songwriter with a wonderful voice!
What do you consider your first real exposure to music to be?
I would say hearing those records of my sister’s and also seeing The Monkees TV show.
If you were to pick a moment, a moment that changed everything for you, opened your eyes to the possibilities that music presents and kind of set you on your current path, what would it be?
There are so many that I mentioned above. I would have to say, that my first performance in front of a big group of people and having that crowd respond the way they did really set me on my path as a performer. I was a sophomore in high school and my band at the time, Serenity Square, played Jason’s high school for their year-end Music Fest. We blew them away and they went nuts. We actually got an encore, which very rarely ever happens these days. Eric Louis was in this band as well. Don’t ask about the name. Let’s just say we were more hippy than punk. A few years later, I realized that the marriage of punk and hippy (psychedelic) made for very interesting music. For years, we would just invite people over to Jason’s parents’ basement to watch us play or we’d invite ourselves over to our friends’ places to play.
When did you decide that you wanted to start writing and performing your own music and what brought that decision about for you, or was that sort of just a natural progression of being given an outlet to create something and express yourself?
Not long after discovering rock ‘n’ roll as a young child, I started “writing” and “performing” with Eric Louis. He could play a bit of guitar and I tried my hand at lyrics and singing. So, it was natural that we would get together with my trusty Realistic cassette recorder and make little songs and concept “records”. We did a lot of found sounds by recording in all types of places. Nature sounds, breaking glass, car horns, screaming, etcetera. I think Pink Floyd inspired me in this respect. The music wasn’t good at all, but we had a vision with concepts and whatnot. They were almost like little radio shows. Around the time we got to high school, that’s when we actually had some pretty good tunes. I’m pretty sure I still have some of those cassettes to this day. I’ve never been good at figuring out other person’s songs, so it was almost a necessity to write my own. This is true to this day. I often wish I was the type of musician that could hear a song and be able to play along with it, or figure it out. Instead, I pick up a guitar and I write my own.
What was your first instrument? When and how did you get that?
I got a guitar and harmonica from Santa Claus one year. I took some guitar lessons when I was very young, but it didn’t stick. The guy who actually gave me a lesson or two was one of the dude’s in the rock band next door to my parent’s house. He worked at Buddy Rogers’ music. When I was about thirty, I started seriously working at the guitar. I still don’t consider myself a very good guitar player. I’m a songwriter who uses this instrument to create songs. I suppose my first true instrument, that I was pretty good at, was my voice. When I was eighteen I started playing drums which I got very good at. Again, not in a technical way, but I’ve always had great “feel”. I never did learn that damned harmonica, though! I would love to be able to play keyboards. Still time to learn?
How did the members of Royal Pines originally meet and when would that have been?
I knew Todd Pannent from the Ohio days of Them Wranch. He met Brendan O’Mara through an ad to form a band and they played together in a couple of bands (Fertile Minds, The Tax) before Royal Pines. They formed another band and had a first gig scheduled at the Mutiny here in Chicago, but about a month before the gig their drummer stopped showing up for practice and stopped returning Todd’s calls. Anyway, Todd knew that I had been playing guitar more and writing songs, so he asked if I wanted to form a one-off band with him and Brendan. Brendan was going to play bass and Todd wanted to play drums. I knew Brian Harper from playing and recording with him for Billy Catfish and The Lonesome Tumblers. I asked him to play lead guitar. We practiced for a month and played our first gig. I’m not sure if we had the name yet, or not. The Chicago Reader had us listed as Joe Pratt. They couldn’t even spell my fucking name right! Fucking Chicago Reader! This was July 2005.
When and what led to the formation of Royal Pines?
Well, that Mutiny gig was horrible, but we decided to keep at anyway because it was fun and we all thought we had something kinda cool going on. Nine and a half years later, I think we’re pretty damned good! Eventually, Todd moved away and I invited another Ohio transplant and friend, Joe Gerdeman, to come and play drums with us. Gerdeman, like Todd, is originally a guitarist who moved to drums. I know Freddy Brown through the wine business here in Chicago. He also lived for a short time in Cincinnati during the 90s when I was around. We didn’t really know each other, but we’re certain we attended many of the same shows, parties and orgies at that time.
Is there any sort of creed, code, ideal or mantra that the band shares or lives by?
I have a mantra, but I can’t write it or speak it. I just think it and hopefully everything turns out ok. I think it to myself so much, that people who are very close to me know it, even if they don’t realize it.
What does the name Royal Pines mean or refer to? Who came up with the name and how did you go about choosing it? Are there any close seconds you almost went with you can recall at this point?
The name comes from the famous car air freshener scent, Royal Pine. I was at Pep Boys and I saw it, and it hit me. I bought one and it smelled so foul and offensive that I knew it had to be our band name. My then girlfriend, now wife, made me throw it out! It’s an unnatural smell and it’s not a good smell. Let’s see… Brendan recently found a list of possible band names when we first started: Pleasure Clues, Fog Drinkers, Iron Butterfly Lung, Steppen Wolf Mother Eyes, The Who The Fuck Are You and Why Are You Staring At Me’s, The Flaming Nips, The Shut Ins, P.P.O.H?, The Incredible Sulk, The Pours of Deception, Skali Baba. Sorry, can’t remember any others. One of my favorite things to do as a kid was to make up fictitious band names. It’s still fun!
Now, where’s Royal Pines located at right now? How would you describe the local music scene where you’re at?
Geographically we’re located in Chicago. I have difficulty with describing the local scene right now, because there’s so much going on in a big city like this, and I often feel we’re quite removed from it. I don’t keep up on other bands as much as I used to either. We’re not a punk band, we’re not a psychedelic band, we’re not a country band, we’re not a new wave band, we’re not a garage band… But we’re all of these. The closest thing to a scene that we are involved in is the PRF BBQ, which is more of a charity rock ‘n’ roll party started by Electrical Audio online forum freaks… Bands like The Columbines, Nonagon, Fake Limbs, Whales, Jap Heron, Cell Phones, and Tijuana Hercules.
Do you feel like you’re very involved in the scene where you’re at? Do you book or see a lot of shows, or anything like that?
Like I said, I don’t see as many shows as I used to, but I try to get out once a month or two to see either a touring or local band. I try to see friend’s bands and bands that support us. Royal Pines are our own scene and it’s freaking us out!
Has the local scene there played an integral role in the sound, history or evolution of Royal Pines, or do you feel like you could be doing what you’re doing and sound basically like you do despite where you were at or surrounded by?
That’s a good question and I’m not quite sure how to answer it. I wouldn’t say the local scene has played an integral part in our sound, but I can’t completely discount it. I think, ultimately, we would sound like we do in any city. People here do like to talk loudly while bands play, so that may be why we’ve gotten louder and nastier over the years. In fact, it’s a loud city so I see why the blues guys decided to plug in and turn it up when they moved here from the South. I will say that the city of Chicago itself has played a role in my songwriting and, perhaps, our sound as a band. Many of the songs on Three Sheets are directly influenced by what I see day-to-day, walking the streets of Chicago. I find comedy and joy in the streets and alleys of Chicago, but these streets and alleys also make me jaded, jagged, paranoid and deaf. “What The Hell Happened Here Last Night”, “See That Wall”, “Abandoned Cars”, “Throw It On the Ground”, “Less Expensive Daemon”, and “Playing Fetch With Rats” all evoke and convey the city experience. Any city, I suppose. We often get compared to Chicago bands of the Touch ‘N’ Go and Am Rep labels of the 90s. Maybe there’s something to that sound, or maybe critics just latch onto that because we’re from Chicago. The shitty weather in Chicago also inspires me! There are several songs I’ve written that are directly influenced by the weather. On Three Sheets “My Garden Is Dying” is a good example and then there’s “Someone Up There (Don’t Like Me)” from Come Forth. That was written in direct response to a very specific and frightening Chicago thunderstorm in the summer of 2008. I really thought the ceiling of our building was going to blow off and God was going to pluck me and my wife out and toss us into Lake Michigan. I’m working on a new weather-inspired tune called “Wave the World Goodbye”. It’s a love-song for bad weather and my wife. We’re gonna try to make it pretty.
Are you involved in recording or releasing any music besides your own? If so, can you tell us about that briefly here?
No, I’m kinda selfish that way! If I had more time and money I would like to get involved in other stuff, but not right now. We can barely afford to put our own shit out!
You have a really sweet sound going on and it seems like you draw influences from all over the place. I’m curious who you’d cite as your major musical influences? What about influences on the band as a whole rather than just individually?
I’d say pretty much everything I’ve mentioned thus far in the interview. We all love a wide variety of music, but I think the stuff that really comes out of us as a band is music from the early 80’s post punk era. Music that took punk and threw in other weirdness, like psychedelia, country, blues, jazz, folk, goth, etcetera. Bands from this era seem to be the ones we get compared to a lot; Birthday Party, Meat Puppets, Gun Club, Flipper, Butthole Surfers, etcetera. We used to get compared to early R.E.M., but not so much anymore. We also all love late 60s stuff as well. It’s that power and drive of punk married to the psychedelic 60’s. I’m kind of all over the place in what I like, from psych to punk, to crooners, to 70’s European soundtrack music, to country, to garage, to doomed folk poets, to German Kosmische (Kraut Rock)… On and on and on. I can’t speak for the other guys in the band, but we all have fairly similar tastes. Lawrence Welk, Don Ho, Mac Davis, John Denver. 70s inspired variety shows.
Whenever I talk to bands, obviously I have to describe how they sound to a bunch of people who’ve never heard them before. It’s a seriously daunting takes sometimes, especially as I’m not really big on labels to begin with. How would you describe Royal Pines’ sound to our readers who might not have heard you all before?
Heavy Wood or perhaps Gothic Garage Rock. Does that help?
What’s the songwriting process like for Royal Pines? Is there someone who usually comes to the rest of the band with a riff or more finished idea for a song to share with, and work out, with the rest of the band? Or, do you get together and create an idea as a band and then work on stuff together from there as a unit?
I typically write alone at home and bring a mostly complete song structure to the guys at practice, wherein it becomes a Royal Pines song with input from the rest of the band. We like to fuck around or jam at practice too and that has led to one complete composition so far, with the possibility of others. Sometimes, I record our improvs and then think about turning them into songs. There are a couple of potential ones waiting to become songs, one of which is a Vice Mall creation with me on drums and Joe Gerdeman on guitar. We’ll see! Oh, the future is so exciting!
What about recording? I mean, recording’s been the death of many a great band in the past. I think that most musicians can appreciate all the time and effort that goes into making an album when you’re finally holding that finished product in your hands. Getting to that point though, getting stuff recorded, and especially sounding like you want it to as a band, can be extremely difficult to say the very least. What’ it like recording for Royal Pines?
I think it’s gotten easier with each record. I actually really love recording, but it can be a drag. I tend to be very obsessive about the sound and whatnot. And we all have to agree on what we want it to sound like. It’s not always easy in that respect. Three Sheets was the record where we all said, “Let’s go in and get a good, live room sound and not fuss with it too much.” We had the songs down, and we didn’t want to beleaguer the process with a lot of overdubs and fairy dust. Benjamin Balcom of Minbal actually came to one of our rehearsals to hear us and get an idea of what we were all about. I was very impressed with that level of enthusiasm and professionalism. I feel like a lot of engineers really don’t give a shit how your record sounds. Original lead guitarist, Brian Harper, is a sound engineer. It was in this capacity that I originally came to know him, when he recorded me playing drums with Billy Catfish. Old World, our first record, was recorded with Brian engineering and playing. He had to run all the way down the hall from the booth to the live room when we would do takes. The guy who owned the studio and who was supposed to engineer didn’t show up, so that made it interesting and slightly stressful. On the other hand, it freed us up a bit to take our time and whatnot. It’s definitely our most sprawling, all over the place sounding record… For better or for worse. It’s probably our most traditionally psychedelic sounding record. On Come Forth, our second record, we recorded at our friend’s loft in the Thalia Hall building in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. It was actually one of my old bandmates from Night Callers, Otto Roeser. He’s awesome! It wasn’t a real studio, but the vibe was cool and it sounded pretty good. Again, Brian was engineering. We did a few songs there and then a few at Engine Studios. I got very obsessive about the two sessions sounding too different and not jiving. We actually got the record mastered before I made the decision that I just couldn’t deal with the sound differences in the recording from the two different sessions. We booked another session at Engine and re-recorded the songs we had done at the loft. We also got bogged down with too many overdubs and obsessive mixing sessions for that record. The first two records were Brian and I just fucking around with our sound, but it didn’t necessarily represent the band as it was live. I’m a firm believer that a record and a live performance are two completely different things, so I like fucking around a bit in the studio. However, with Three Sheets we knew we had to get a good document of the band as it was sounding live because we were really beginning to crank at that point. I look forward to recording another record with Royal Pines. We just need time and money! A label to pay for recording and putting out a record would be nice so we don’t have to do it ourselves. You know… Hire other musicians to play our parts. Maybe the Wrecking Crew! No, if we could just get a label to put the record out, distribute it and promote it, we’d be set. We’ll pay for the studio time. Come on! Ideally we would book a studio for a week and just bust everything out… Tracking and mixing in that time. The way we’ve made records in the past, has been to record a day or two here and a day or two there, over many months/years/decades/centuries.
Do you all like to take a more DIY approach to recording where you handle most of the technical aspects of things on your own, so that you don’t have to work with or compromise with anyone else on the sound at all? Or, do you like to head into a studio and let a technician handle that side of things so you can simply concentrate on the performances and the music?
Well, it would help if some of us were technically proficient at such things, but we aren’t. I like having someone there who knows that stuff so I don’t have to worry about it. I do like an engineer who’s willing to experiment and try some of the weirder stuff I ask about. There’s nothing I hate more than an engineer telling me, “We can’t do that!” Benjamin and I did some fun and interesting stuff while mixing Three Sheets, like re-amping vocals and drums to push the nastiness a little more to the front and really get that live, room sound in there. Even though I’m not technically proficient in a studio, I like to be there when all of that stuff is going on. It does interest me. We have an idea of how things should sound and it’s the engineer’s job to make it sound that way. Now, if we had a producer then I suppose he would be making those decisions. That being said, I would love to trust someone outside of the band enough to call all of the shots and make it sound amazing. It would make my job a lot easier, but I’m not ready to give up that much control. I’m very obsessive the way the records sound. However, sometimes you can get too close to it and become lost to how it really sounds. That’s why it’s crucial to have someone outside of the band to be there with fresh ears. We didn’t have that on the first two records. When we’re tracking I’m not so concerned with sounds, but when it comes to mixing I want to be there… With my extensive notes. I suppose I’m interested in mic placement when tracking. Anyway, for the mastering of the first two records I wanted to be present with Carl Saff. Partly, just to get an idea of what mastering is. Three Sheets was also mastered by Carl Saff, but he did that alone. He’s a magician and I can’t add anything to his magic. He’s also a great technician and I still don’t know anything about mastering. I think his mastering on Three Sheets really brought that room sound I was looking for to life.
Is there a lot of time and effort that goes into working out every single little part of a song before you record, with all the arrangements and compositions meticulously worked out before hand, or do you simply get a good skeletal idea of how you want a song to sound, and allow for some change and evolution during the recording process when necessary?
We’re pretty set when we go into the studio. Usually, we’ve worked out all of the parts and arrangements at practice and in the live shows. With overdubs we can be a little more flexible about changing sounds and little parts around, but with the actual songs they are pretty much always set ahead of time. Again, if we had more time and money for recording, I’d love to mess around and do more experimenting with actual songs. As it is we have to make the most of our time and it helps to be as prepared as possible. Also, if we have the songs down and ready to go, it gives us more flexibility to get the best sound possible for each song. For me, it makes the recording process less daunting. Writing and rehearsing is where we play around. We’ve also gotten more into experimenting and stretching out in our live shows.
Do hallucinogenic or psychoactive drugs play a large or important role in the songwriting, recording or performance processes for Royal Pines? I don’t mean this is a negative respect at all, people have been tapping into the altered mind states the drugs produce since the times of the cavemen for the purposes of creating art and I’m simply always curious about its usage and application when it comes to the art that I consume.
Well, I would say that for songwriting this is a tool that I’ve used in the past, more so with lyrics than music. Not so much anymore, but I still cull from my psychedelic and psychoactive experiences to help write. Not to help write, but to possibly inform me or inspire me in some respect. I do believe my experiences, not always the good ones, contribute to the weirder aspects of some Royal Pines’ songs. I do believe drugs and alcohol can be good for ideas, but not for execution. When it comes to performing and recording on drugs I would say, definitely not! In my younger days I played on pot quite a bit, but I don’t know that I could even do it now. In a performance setting, that is. The one time, many years ago, I tried playing with other musicians while on psychedelics it turned into a bit of a disaster. It wasn’t a complete disaster, but it didn’t do what we thought it would. It was kind of hard to play, mentally and physically and it just sounded bad; probably because we weren’t any good. I know the other guys have dabbled as well, but I wouldn’t say that it plays a large or important role in what we do. Though, we have been known to drink a bit here and there. In the last year and a half I’ve been practicing transcendental meditation. Meditating can put you into a trance-like or dream state which can help the creative process. I get many ideas while meditating, not the least of which was the concept for the artwork of Three Sheets. Good question, though. Hi mom!
Your first release that I know of was back in 2008, entitled Old World it was a full-length released on She-He-It Records and Grey Chord Music, who have since handled all of your releases since. Can you share some of your memories of making that album with us here? Was that a fun experience for you all at that point, or more of a difficult nerve wracking proposition? When and where was that recorded? Who recorded it? What kind of equipment was used?
First of all, Grey Chord is us. It’s just a name I came up with because you have to have a label and publishing name, right? It’s now the actual name of the real publishing I set up through BMI. She-He-It was Rudy Gerdeman’s label. He’s Joe’s cousin and our dear friend and fan. Anyway, I don’t recall too much else about recording besides what I mentioned earlier. I will say that we did experiment a little bit more because we basically recorded it ourselves. We weren’t a very well-seasoned live band when we recorded it either, so the sound is a little more folky and soft. There’s a song on there that’s completely different than any other thing we’ve ever recorded. “(Do You) Feel This Way” is me doing the doomed folkie thing. I play nylon stringed acoustic guitar on it, with Brian on piano and his brother, Eric, on bowed and fingered upright bass. We probably could have trimmed a few songs from Old World to make a better record, but I like it and I think it’s a good record. Like I mentioned above, there’s some cool, sprawling psychedelic parts to it that I like. The codas of “Rose Hill” and “Outside Tonight” are pretty fucking epic! Brian Harper would be the man to talk to on the subject of recording equipment. I think there was some combo of tape and computer. It wasn’t the quietest studio, so there’s some weird background noise in a few quiet spots. Overall, it was fun to make and I was, and am, extremely proud of it.
Two years later in 2010 you all released the Come Forth 12” for Grey Chord Music. Was the recording of the material for that very different than the session(s) for Old World? Who recorded that material? When would that have been? What kind of equipment was used and where was the Come Forth material recorded?
As I mentioned before, this was the “difficult” record as we had to re-record a few things because of my obsessiveness. The two different sessions from different studios just didn’t seem to jive. Them Wranch recorded both of our records at various studios and somehow we made it work, but not for me on this one. We actually used three studios to make Come Forth. We recorded two songs as part of an engineering workshop at Wall to Wall studios. Those two tunes we kept, but the ones from the loft at Thalia Hall were just too sonically different (inferior?) from the Wall to Wall and Engine studio sessions. I’ve recently gone back and listened to the loft sessions and they’re quite good; a little murky, but almost more psychedelic sounding. The first session at Engine was great, but when we went back to re-record the loft stuff we had a different engineer who really didn’t seem to give a shit. Also, the tape machine was broken so we had to go all digital. At the end of the day I was happy with it, but upon a recent listen I was disappointed with the sound. I know Gerdeman and O’Mara were never happy with the sound of that record. Some stuff was buried a bit, while other things were more prominent. The release show was kind of a drag too as I had equipment problems and the sound person kept telling us to turn down to the point where it totally affected the sound that was ours. Brian quit the band soon after, so we didn’t get a lot of time to promote it with him. I don’t blame him, as things seemed stacked against us.
After four years you all have finally released a follow up to Come Forth in the form of the Three Sheets 12”, as always Grey Chord Music. Why an almost four year hiatus in releases? Did you all try anything radically new or different when it came to the songwriting or recording of the material for Three Sheets? What can our readers expect from the new album? When was the Three Sheets material recorded? What kind of equipment was used this time around? Who recorded it and where was that?
Well, it took a while between releases basically because of the shift in the lead guitar position. We taught Freddy some old songs and then I had new ones to teach the band. He was in the band for about a year before the first session for Three Sheets. We also booked sessions far apart because of time and money. Sorry to keep harping on money, but it’s a major factor when it comes to independent and self-produced art. So, we did four days of tracking sessions at Minbal studios in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood. Then Benjamin and I did two and a half day of mixing sessions. The first tracking session was in August of 2012 and the last mixing session was a year later in September of 2013. The recording technically took about a week to make, but it felt like and was a year. It ended up being released in April 2014. Come Forth came out in December 2010, so it wasn’t quite four years apart between releases. I know that we tracked on a two inch Scully 8-track that was once housed at Muscle Shoals in Alabama. This would have been state of the art in the late 60s when a lot of major recording was going on there for Atlantic Records’ artists such as Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett. The Rolling Stones recorded a couple of songs there for their Sticky Fingers album. Actually, my father was born and raised about thirty miles north of there in Loretto, Tennessee. I have roots in this area! How fucking cool is that?! Anyway, there’s a depth and warmth to recording onto tape, especially with an older machine like that. It’s older than me! Benjamin Balcom, owner and chief engineer of Minbal, was a complete and utter joy to work with. He really invested himself in the project and worked his ass off to get good sounds. It’s definitely our best sounding record. There were also some delays with the artwork. Originally, a local artist, whose work I admire very much, was slated to do the artwork. I had a great concept and everything, but it became apparent after several months of delays that he was unable to commit to actually creating the work. The idea for a new concept came to me, as I mentioned before, and that’s where the artwork for the record came from. The photos are ones that I took at House on the Rock in Wisconsin. I then hired graphic designer, Lara Mondae, to do the actual layout and everything. She was amazing and awesome to work with; a true professional. I’m glad it ended up the way it did as the record has a vibrant, more psychedelic look to it than any of our others. It was our first record cover with photos and now I can add album photographer to my resume. If I’ve learned anything from making records over the years, it’s that it always take longer than you expect it to. No record company deadlines gonna hold us down! So it wasn’t out for Black Friday sales, big fuckin’ deal!
You also digitally released Live On WIZRD which is a radio performance and features several new tracks that aren’t on Three Sheets. Is that going to remain a digital only release or are there any plans for releasing that material?
Oh, that won’t be released beyond it just being on our Bandcamp page. I just wanted to get it up there in case people wanted to hear it. It sounds pretty good, but I’m not crazy enough about it to make it an “official” release. Those new ones are still percolating. Aside from the new tunes on there, we got decent recordings of some older tunes that sound significantly different than they do on the older records they came out on. “Old Dark House” is the first song on our first record and we still open with that quite a bit, but it’s completely different now. It’s got this almost country disco thing going on with more percussion and whatnot. It used to be more folky. I love dusting off old songs that Freddy’s never played on. Recently, we’ve been rehearsing “What I Said I Saw” from the first record and “Locust Trees” from the second one. They sound great and I can’t wait to play them live.
Speaking of which, with the release of Three Sheets a while back, are there any other releases in the works or on the horizon for Royal Pines at this point?
We’re going into the studio in early 2015, and beyond, to get really good versions of some of those new songs, along with other new ones we’re working on. We have time booked to record with John Forbes of Tijuana Hercules in January, 2015. Ironically, he’s taken over the old Butcher Shop studio where we recorded our first record. That will be very interesting going back in there. Yes, the hits will keep coming! I’ve actually talked to a local brewery, Begyled, about doing a collaboration, wherein they’d brew a special Royal Pines beer and the bottle (22 oz bomber) would be the artwork for the record and there’d be a download code inside the cap or something like that. Most likely it would only be a couple of songs, like a 45 or EP. Eventually, I’d like to put a fourth LP out. Pray for us! Needless to say, it will improve upon Three Sheets and hopefully it will be a very different beast.
Where’s the best place for our US readers to pick up copies of your stuff at this point?
The easiest way I suppose is either through our Bandcamp page or through CD Baby. It’s available at record stores around Chicago, but unfortunately we don’t have any real physical distribution. If people wanna wait for about ten years it will be available in Salvation Army’s nationwide for around a dollar.
With the insane international shipping rates these days I try and provide our readers with as many possible options for picking up imports as I can. Where’s the best place for our poor international and overseas readers to get your stuff?
Funny you should ask! We’ve actually had more interest internationally because of the four-star review in MOJO’s July issue. Oh, did I not mention that? Yes, the mighty MOJO magazine out of London gave Three Sheets a four-star review in their July 2014 edition. That’s a high point in my musical life, as I’ve been a long time MOJO reader. It was a short, simple review, but very positive. Anyway, because of that review we’ve shipped to Singapore, New Zealand, Australia and Switzerland. It ain’t cheap! These were all purchased through Bandcamp and CD Baby. That’s really the only way at this point.
And where’s the best place for people to keep up with the latest news from Royal Pines like upcoming shows, tours and album releases at?
I suppose our Facebook page is the best way or they can become really good friends with us and we’ll just let them know about shit when we see them. FB might be best. Just remember we’re the band, not the rehab center, not the golf course and not the retirement community. I’d give you the address, but it’s got a bunch of numbers and weird things to distinguish it from the other, afore mentioned Royal Pines pages. Our Bandcamp page has a bit of info and tunes to stream as well.
Are there any major plans or goals that Royal Pines is looking to accomplish in the last of 2014 or in 2015?
Just to stay alive basically. Actually, July 2015 will be our ten year anniversary, so I’m thinking something might be in order for that. We’ll have to wait and see. Oh, and I plan on firing everyone and hiring a bunch of twenty one year old dudes with serious chops. I’ll wait until after the ten year anniversary though.
What, if anything, do you have planned as far as touring goes right now?
We haven’t really done any touring. We play some regional shows, but nothing more than a weekend every great once in a while. I like to go play in Ohio because I still have friends who will come out to see us. We just played Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati (Newport, KY) a few weeks back and that was tons of fun. In fact, it was two tons of fun!
Do you spend a lot of time out on the road? Do you enjoy touring? What’s life like out on the road for Royal Pines?
I’m not sure that I’d want to do extensive touring anymore. It’s really not realistic at this point beyond maybe a week or two here and there… At the most. I used to tour with my old bands and it was always fun for the first week or two and then it got kinda boring. I tend to be a bit of a homebody these days anyway. There’s a romantic notion of the road which doesn’t quite hold up. It’s a lot of driving and sitting around waiting to play. There is a certain “vacation” aspect to it I suppose, but that usually wears off if you’re out there for more than a couple of weeks. You don’t really get to see the cities you’re in anyway. The great thing about touring is the band gets really fucking good by playing every night. Playing every night makes you so tight, yet loose. It’s always fun to play in front of strangers, if there aren’t any strangers to play in front of. It’s fun to see old friends in different cities as well. I miss those things about it and I would enjoy doing it with Royal Pines. Newport was the last show of that long weekend and it was so much fun playing, because we were so relaxed and comfortable with the songs and the stage.
Do you remember what the first song that Royal Pines ever played live was? When and where would that have been?
It was probably “What I Said I Saw” which is a song we’ve recently revived. I’m not certain, but I think that may have been the first song of the set at that Mutiny gig in 2005. It was definitely one of the first songs we ever learned. That one or “Old Dark House”. I might have that set list still somewhere because I’m weird like that. Although, I might have chucked it to avoid any memory of the evening. I was so nervous I don’t remember much about that night, except that we were horrible and that I started my hate affair with electrical equipment like guitars, amps and cables. As Todd Pannent said, “Welcome to the world of electronics, dude!” By the way, I didn’t own an amp at that point. I borrowed someone’s and it crapped out.
Who are some of your personal favorite bands that you’ve had a chance to play with over the past few years?
With Royal Pines we’ve enjoyed playing with locals like The Columbines, Tijuana Hercules and Nonagon. These are bands we’ve played with on several occasions and we go well together. Royal Pines haven’t opened for a lot of touring bands, but a couple of my favorites were The Dexter Romweber Duo, The Greenhornes and Cheater Slicks. Sarah Romweber is Dex’s sister and drummer and she used to be in Let’s Active with Mitch Easter. She was super-nice and had funny stories. She told us about the time Let’s Active went to England to tour and they had a practice space right next to Motorhead. She said they met Lemmy and he was very nice, but Motörhead were so loud Let’s Active practically couldn’t hear themselves while rehearsing. We have a couple of shows coming up opening for Wussy from Cincinnati and Rock*A* Teens from Atlanta. Those should be fun shows. In some of my older bands I’ve had the privilege to open up for quite a few bands. Hairy Patt Band opened for Jesus Lizard, Volcano Suns, Cows, Ed Hall, Crust, and The Didjits. I’m not sure if I mentioned this earlier, but one of the greatest compliments I ever got was from Peter Prescott, drummer of Volcano Suns and former Mission of Burma drummer. I had a small drum kit and he told me I made them sound like cannons. That, coming from an amazing drummer like him, was pretty cool. We actually did a short stint on the road with both Ed Hall and Cows. Ed Hall were much friendlier than Cows, let’s just leave it at that! Them Wranch did a short tour with Country Teasers and we got to know those guys very well. That’s how I got the touring gig with them. We also opened for The Damned, Dead Moon, Fleshtones, Demolition Dollrods, Reigning Sound, Clone Defects and Ghost. I loved all of those bands. We got to know Dead Moon quite a bit because we played with them a couple of times when they came through Columbus. Fred Cole is a genuine garage rock legend and quite a nice fella! Unfortunately, he had to undergo emergency by-pass surgery in the spring. I think he’s ok now.* All the best to him and his wife and musical partner, Toody. DurIng my brief stint in Lonesome Tumblers with Brian Harper and Billy Catfish we opened for Brian Jonestown Massacre a couple of times. They were great, but Anton Newcombe… Well, let’s just say don’t ask him about Greenwich Meantime.
*(Editor’s note: Fred made it through surgery and is recovering at this time – Dead Moon and Pierced Arrows are still alive and well, thank be to the almighty!)
Do you have any funny or interesting stories from live shows or performances that you’d like to share here with our readers?
Every show is usually a hilarious or painful comedy of errors! Royal Pines recently played this thing called “Ride of the Living Dead” in Kenosha, Wisconsin and it was awesome. All of these people, just shy of a hundred, dressed up like zombies and rode their bikes through Kenosha. There were several stops at bars along the way, where they’d stop and there’d be food and drink and live music. We played in the back yard of this great Wisconsin bar and just had a blast playing for all of these zonked out people dressed like zombies on their bikes. They loved it and we loved them! We also loved the drunk old men and women who were propped up at the bar completely nonplussed by the whole situation. Oh my God, there have been many sad and funny stories over the years with the many bands I’ve been in. One of my favorites to tell is when Them Wranch was playing in Morgantown, West Virginia back around 2000. Right before we went on I had an emergency bathroom break because of some awful West Virginia food we’d eaten. I’m sure it was excellent, but maybe I had too much or it simply didn’t agree with me. Anyway, I used the backstage bathroom which was actually upstairs and quite a walk from the stage. I clogged it up and there was no plunger, so it overflowed. This is all happening while I’m hearing the guys in the band impatiently making noise on stage, waiting for me. I run down to the bar and ask for a plunger. They have one and I run back in front of the stage and wave the plunger at the guys telling them I’ll be ready in a minute. I plunge the toilet and clean up the mess and I don’t really remember playing that night. We actually ended up spending the night in that apartment above the bar which was great, but unfortunately some meth head lived next door and he was cranking cassettes of 1970’s Pittsburgh Steelers radio broadcasts all night. We didn’t get much sleep that night! That’s another thing about the road… You don’t get much sleep. “Bradshaw, back in the pocket…” There was another interesting incident that happened in Morgantown the next time we played to, actually. We took our friend Bill Randt with us and he made a comment to someone after the show about them not being able to read, or something. Well, when the guy left he gave Bill a bullet. We were staying in the same apartment above the bar and the guy knew we were staying there. I thought we might get killed that night. There was also a dude there who had come out as gay since the last show we had played a few months earlier. He professed his love to Gerry Morrison, our bass player, and actually left a love not on our van windshield. Speaking of West Virginia, there’s an interesting Hairy Patt Band story about that beautiful state. There were not one, but two times we were supposed to play in Charlottesville with the late, great Hasil Adkins. The first time we went down we were so excited and when we get there the owner says that, “Hasil isn’t playing.” The owner drove into the woods, or wherever, to pick him up and Hasil refused to get in the car to come to the gig. We played and no one paid attention, or liked us very much. The show was rescheduled for some months later, and a few days before we get a call that Hasil isn’t going to be playing. I think we ended up bailing on the gig as well. That’s the only time, ever, that I’ve just not shown up to a gig. Anyway, back to Them Wranch. There was another interesting show we played in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It was a Sunday show and the bar couldn’t serve booze on Sunday, so they didn’t open the bar until midnight, Monday morning. We ended up playing from one to two in the morning and then we got in our van and drove towards Houston. Around seven in the morning we got pulled over in Louisiana and they sicced the drug dogs on us. One or two of the dudes in the band were holding some weed inside and the cop knew it. He was pretty cool and just made us throw it out when the dog found it. That dog didn’t find everything though! “Ya’ll in a band? My brother in law’s in a band. You ever hear of Hot Rod Meat Hook?” “Yeah, we played with ‘em in Athens, Georgia.” Now onto some other Hairy Patt gig stories. One time, when we played somewhere in northern Florida with a one man heavy metal band, John the Baptist, we were hanging out with him and his friend, Jesus Gene and they let us stay at their place, but they weren’t there for some reason. They let us in and left, or gave us the key, or something odd. Maybe it wasn’t even their place. Who knew? Who cared? Anyway, everything was painted black, including the windows. God, what a creepy night! Luckily, we were drunk off our asses and didn’t worry too much about the rats that might nibble on us as we slept or that we might be sacrificed to some cartoon devil. We barely even knew when the morning came, as just a little bit of light crept in while we prepared to head out. We walked out of the apartment and it was the most beautiful, sunny day you could imagine, with palm trees swaying and an azure sky. Basking in this beautiful day, on the front steps, are three or four metal heads completely decked out in black leather and fishnet and white and black makeup. Too fucking much! One more Hairy Patt Band tour story! As you might be able to guess by now, the really weird, funny shit very rarely happens at the actual shows, but in between. We were in Columbia, Missouri. Another Sunday, and the bar was normally closed on Sunday as they couldn’t sell alcohol. What to do? The owner “closes” the bar and has a “private” party at the location. Problem solved! Plenty of hooch to go around! We played and it was s a great show! The twenty or so invitees went nuts and loved us. We were the only band and we exhausted our hour or so long set. It was still early and people wanted to party. The owner was loaded and proceeded to sit in a chair on stage with a single red light on him. The sound guy started playing Willie Nelson over the P.A. and the owner started singing along. By the crowd reaction we got the feeling that this wasn’t unusual. Did I tell you that the owner was from Egypt? Anyway, as a few songs went by he started professing his love for our booking agent as he’s singing along. He started using her name in songs and he went on long monologues about how much he loved her and what he wanted to do with her. He’d never met her; he’d just talked to her on the phone. Pre-internet, kiddies! “Shotgun Willie sits around in his underwear… And then he does other stuff with a certain booking agent and neither of them have underwear on”, etcetera. I might have a tape of some of it somewhere. There was also the dude we stayed with who got up in the middle of the night, opened his window and either pissed or jerked off out of it. He had talked earlier in the night about his girlfriend being out of town and how much he missed her. He said he was “saving up for her.” I think that the girls from Pork, who we were on tour with at the time, were just too much for him. Oh, don’t forget the Royal Pines’ Seattle mud shark story! Details are sketchy on that one. I don’t recall anything as I wasn’t there. You’ll have to ask Freddy, Brendan or Joe G. Wow, life on the road is really fun! Forget what I said earlier.
Do you give a lot of thought to the visual aspects that represent the band to a large extent, stuff like flyers, posters, shirt designs, cover art and that kind of thing? Is there any kind of meaning or message that you’re attempting to convey or get across with the visual aspects of the band?
We’re not a hyper-visual band as far as the shows go, but I’ve always given a great deal of thought to album artwork, flyers, t-shirts, etcetera. There isn’t really a theme or particular aesthetic that goes through the visual work, except that it tends to be on the dark/creepy/humorous side of things. I suppose it reflects the music in that respect; fucked up folk art! The cover of Three Sheets is very bright and colorful, but the back is darker with a photo of a creepy face. However, I think the back is humorous. If you look close enough, you can see that the ominous face is on a giant beer stein. We all need giant flagons of ale to shine light on the dark corners. We don’t really have visuals when it comes to performing live except some yellow and red lights I attach to the bottom of mic stands when there aren’t really lights at a venue. Those lights have ended up looking pretty cool in pictures. Beyond that, it’s enough to worry about the musical equipment working properly. The more shit you have, the more there is to worry about going wrong. We ain’t Pink Floyd or David Bowie! Though, I have been known to don panty hosiery on my head.
Is there anyone that you usually turn to in your times of need when it comes to the visual aspects of the band?
I wish I had a visual guru or guide, but I don’t.
With all of the various methods of release that are available to musicians today I’m always curious why artists choose and prefer the mediums that they do. Do you have a preferred medium of release for your own music? What about when you’re listening to or purchasing music?
Well, I grew up on vinyl, as you know, so that’s one of the reasons I love it. It sounds good and it looks good! So, I definitely prefer vinyl as a release and for purchasing. I have nothing against CDs or MP3s etcetera. When I’m at home I usually listen to records, when I’m in my car I listen to CDs and when I’m walking I listen to my iPod, so I’m not a vinyl snob really, I just like it. I’ll buy a CD and download a record every once in a while, but I mostly buy vinyl. As I mentioned, our first record was only released on CD because it was a lot cheaper and I wasn’t sure how many people would buy an LP. This was 2008, so the vinyl resurgence wasn’t quite what it is today. When we released Come Forth, our second album, we did the vinyl with digital download and no CDs, but people did ask about CDs, so that’s why we did the Three Sheets LP with a CD enclosed. I don’t know what people want or like. I suppose that’s a problem sometime, but I don’t really give a shit. We’ll do what we want to do. If we wanna release a digital record inside a bottle of beer, then we’ll do it, goddamnit!
I grew up around my dad’s enormous collection of music and he always encouraged me to listen to whatever I want, but he would take me out on the weekends and pick me up random stuff from the local shops. I think that’s what left the biggest impression on me growing up, really. I would rush home, snatch up a set of headphones, kick back and read and reread the liner notes again and again, stare at the cover artwork and just let the music carry me off. Having something physically and concretely connected with the music that I’m listening to has always made for a more complete listening experience, and at this point I don’t think I’ll ever fully get over the rush of listening to a great new album! Do you have any such connection with physically released music?
Oh, of course! The best is when you go on a bit of a binge and get several albums at once. You kind of look ‘em over and decide which one you want to play first. That’s a great feeling! I think that’s something people have been missing with digital downloads and it’s why LP sales are back up. CDs aren’t as cool to look at for sure, but some CDs are well packaged and fun to look at. At least it’s something. I know some people don’t really care, but I do. I don’t necessarily need that physical package to enjoy music, but it’s an extension of the music and that’s what I like about it. LPs are a real pain in the ass to move though. I suppose that’s their one downfall. I’m glad to see gatefolds and double albums coming back. Those are the best to look at, but I think a lot of space and opportunity for cool stuff is being wasted on a lot of the contemporary releases. There are a few gatefolds I’ve purchased recently and I’m like, “Cool, let’s see what’s in here!” and it’s kinda boring. I would love to do a gatefold record! That’s been a fantasy of mine for a long time, but it’s much more expensive. Oops, there I go again! Oh, and speaking of headphones! Some of my greatest memories as a child digging on music are of listening on my headphones in my bean bag chair. I’m thinking about trying to find a bean bag chair, ‘cause I still love late nights with the headphones on drifting away. Headphones serve a practical purpose as well if you don’t want to disturb your loved ones or neighbors.
While I think it really depends on how you look at, and deal with, things, digital music is here in a big way these days. Really, that’s just the tip of the iceberg, though. When you combine digital music with the internet, that’s when you’ve really got something on your hands. Together, they’ve exposed people to the literal world of music that they’re surrounded by, facilitated an unparalleled level of communication between bands and their fans and thereby virtually eradicated geographic boundaries that would have crippled bands even a few years ago. On the other hand though, while people are being exposed to all this new music, they’re not necessarily interested in paying for it. Sometimes it feels like people view music more as a soundtrack that they’re entitled to at this point and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. As an artist during the reign of the digital era, what’s your opinion on digital music and distribution?
Well, it’s kind of a weird thing for me that I’m still getting used to. I suppose part of me thinks that I’m never going to make any money playing music, so why should I care? I just want people to hear our music and dig it. I’d rather they paid for it, but at this point I almost feel it’s kind of beyond me. With the newest Royal Pines’ record, Three Sheets, I’ve made much more of a concerted effort to get the music out there and to get some sort of monetary compensation for it. Let’s just say, we’re not giving it away as much as we have in the past. CD Baby and Bandcamp have helped us get paid a little bit more. I finally joined BMI as a songwriter and hopefully that will prove a tiny bit fruitful. As a songwriter I think I could make a little bit of money at some point. Maybe Manfred Mann or The Hollies will record one of my songs! I hear about these bands that have become famous simply because of their Bandcamp or Myspace pages, but I think that’s just like a band becoming famous because some record exec happened to see them live, or any other way it used to happen. The truth of the matter is, is that now there’s too much music at people’s fingertips and I see it tipping the other way, in that it’s almost harder to rise above the fray now. “Look, I’ll pay ya’ ta steal my music.” There’s almost too much shit to choose from, so it’s hard to even get noticed on the internet. I think if we all did like my friend Ben Wallers (aka The Rebel) of Country Teasers sang in his song “Please Ban Music” we’d be a lot better off. There’s too much music. If you banned, it then only the people who were truly committed would continue making it and buying it. On the black market, of course! He’s not saying that it should be banned because he doesn’t like it. He’s saying that he loves it and it should be banned in order for it to be saved.
I try to keep up with as much good music as I can, but these days it’s hard to even know where to start sometimes! Is there anyone from your local scene or area that I should be listening to I might not have heard of before?
Any of the bands I’ve mentioned in this interview are worth checking out. I’m sure you can find stuff you’d enjoy from the numerous Cincinnati, Columbus and Chicago bands I’ve spoken of.
What about nationally and internationally?
Oh geez, I don’t think I can add anything at this point, except that you should check out some of the bands I talked about in the interview. The following is a list of some stuff I’ve been into lately that you may or may not be familiar with. Apache Dropout, Sun Kill Moon, Swans, Crime, Dave Pike Set (psych jazz), UFO (early stuff), Jon Wayne, Obnox, Spray Paint, Suicide, Watter, Chrome Cranks, Chelsea Wolfe, Crystal Stilts, Tuxedo Moon, Popol Vuh (German 70’s Herzog soundtracks), Sensation’s Fix (Italian 70’s prog), Churchills (60’s Israeli psych), Rockfour (90’s - 2000’s Israeli psych).
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me about the band! It was awesome getting a glimpse into your creative processes and history, and I hope it was at least a little fun for you all looking back on everything you’ve managed to accomplish as a band. Since you were so generous with your time, I’d like to open the floor up to you for a second at this point. Is there anything that I could have possibly missed or that you might just want to take this opportunity to talk to me or the readers about?
I need to see my lawyer before I say anything else. But seriously, thank you very much for showing interest in what we do. It makes it worthwhile to have a few people really listening and thinking about the music. Also, thank you for the very insightful and thought provoking questions, some stuff here I really needed to think about. It was fun remembering and talking about things from my musical past that I haven’t thought about for a very long time. Cheers!
(2008) Royal Pines – Old World – Digital, CD – She-He-It Records/Grey Chord Music
(2010) Royal Pines – Come Forth – Digital, 12” – Grey Chord Music
(2014) Royal Pines – Three Sheets – Digital, 12” – Grey Chord Music
(2014) Royal Pines – Live on WZRD – Digital – Self-Released
Interview made by Roman Rathert/2015
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