We have not been shy about our love for Queens-by-way-of-Jersey indie rockers pow wow! since coming across their MySpace page in the good ol’ days of 2009, just in time to include them in that year’s “8 Bands You Need to Hear” issue, on account of their resemblance to a beach-party version of the Velvet Underground, then having them play multiple times during the inaugural Northside Festival a few months later. Things seemed to be going swimmingly for the group, as they landed over 100 gigs in a 12-month span while other local press outlets grew as enamored of their endless hooks as we were. Then life sort of got in the way of things, as life often does, putting their live appearances on hold for nearly all of last year while they reshuffled their lineup and honed their sound. Slowly but surely they’ve been getting back in the swing of things, with a recently launched Kickstarter campaign to raise money for a vinyl pressing of their forthcoming debut LP and playing a smattering of shows, including the Sound Bites free series this Sunday at South Street Seaport. We caught up with singer-guitarist Eddie Nazareno to find out about what’s been going on and what’s to come.
You guys were playing so many shows back in 2009 — at least one or two a week it seemed — and then that stopped, somewhat suddenly. What was the reason for the hiatus?
2009 was bananas! It was hard to keep up with life when almost every night of your week is gobbled up by music. It started to feel like something we had to do rather than wanted to do, and with members moving and others pursuing other projects, we felt early 2010 was the right time to take a break, regroup, and get excited about it all again.
Did you always plan to be up and running again by this summer or did the timing just feel right?
A bit of both. We continued playing and writing and even did some recording during the year that we decided to lay low, waiting for that “itch” to return, and, sure enough, by fall of 2010, we had found Max Tucker (of Dinowalrus and Patrick Cleandenim) as a new drummer and started relearning some of the old jams while writing new ones together.
What would you say is the biggest change between pow wow! in 2009 and pow wow! in 2011? Still rocking the uncapitalized “p” I see…
The biggest change between the pow wow! of old and who we are now is that we’ve become a family. Being in a band is a whole lot more fun when you can take it easy, and you’re not saying yes to just anything that’s thrown at you. I think any band that can make it through almost 100 NYC shows in a year’s time without wanting to kill each other will naturally mature and evolve as a unit. We’ve become a bit more focused and a bit less spaced-out, if you catch my drift. And, yes, we’re still rocking the lowercase “p” although we briefly considered changing our name to Hot Hams.
How did you go about recruiting new members?
We started out by trying to have an Eddie and Jeff look-alike contest to turn pow wow! into more of a Jackson 5 kind of affair, which, sad to say, failed miserably. Then we caught wind of this little website called OkCupid that everyone seemed to raving about, so we put feelers out for prospective members, but, in the end, had our mailbox full of messages from balding lawyers and doctors who live on the Upper West Side and obviously had a thing for Asians… um, not quite what we were looking for. As for our newest members, we serendipitously met Amanda at the Cake Shop’s four-year anniversary show and first caught wind of her chops as a guitarist in her old band Adolescence and her current band Crazy Pills. Max (who will sadly be leaving us after our Sound Bites show as part the River to River Festival), we met through mutual friends in other bands.
I remember you mentioning that a few well-respected New York-based labels had reached out to you guys after the “8 Bands You Need to Hear” issue hit the streets back in ’09. Would you feel comfortable elaborating on that or talking a little bit about what ended up happening?
Haha. Obviously nothing ended up happening! We were a young group with a sound that ran the gamut. We weren’t ready for an LP. Frenchkiss Records and Gigantic both showed interest, which was a shock. But the funniest was when we found a message in our inbox from “the office of Seymour Stein.” We wondered if Sire had even ever heard our music and, if so, what could they possibly want to do with us? It’s too bad though, Jeff was really hoping we would go on tour with Paramore.
Just checked to see how your Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the LP is going. Is the album all ready to go come that September 1 deadline, or are you guys still working on writing and recording?
The album is not yet done. We’re still working on it and are a little over half done with pre-production stuff. There’s going to be a changing of the guard behind the drum kit, with our newest member, Patrick Brennan, in line to inherit the throne. We want our album to reflect this change, so we’re definitely going to have to re-record a number of tracks that we thought were on their way to being done. He’s a talented lad who hits hard and brings some great energy to the group. He will debut with us at Cake Shop, along with Crazy Pills, Weird Children and El Jezel, on September 3.
Will the LP consist of mostly new material or songs culled together from past singles and EPs? Any particular influences at play during the writing/recording process?
It’s a combination of both, but mostly new material. The kitchen recordings of 2009 were a gas, but we hoped for something a bit more, do I dare say, “hi-fi” when it came to making the debut LP. It’s hard to pinpoint references ’cause we’ve still mostly got old 50s and 60s records playing on the table, so combine the best efforts of Alex Chilton (God bless his soul), Lou Reed, Jay Spaceman, Stephen Malkmus and Robyn Hitchcock, with the raving bass of Stax and Motown soul and punky drums not too dissimilar from The Television Personalities, and you’ve got a couple of the ingredients we have stewing in the pot.
Do you have an album title yet?
What are you thoughts on titling it Honey, I Love You to Death, but You Look Like a Fucking Asshole? (We were also thinking of possibly calling it Greatest Hits.)
You’ve got a band made up of brothers, girlfriends, boyfriends, friends… does having so many integrated personal relationships ever cause problems?
No! Never… How could it? When we’re not playing or recording, we actually fill our time by dancing in unison, playing laser tag, strumming harps, smoking watermelon flavored schwag out of hookahs, and laying listlessly on marshmallow clouds while feeding each other rainbows, while all four of our cuddly cats are present.
I heard your Dad was in the audience at one of your Northside shows this year on Father’s Day. What’s the best advice he’s ever given you?
“Use your brain.”