Words By David Natoli
About a month ago a friend of mine sent me an MP3 of a song called "Two French Sisters" by a band he had seen the night before. Normally I counter his enthusiasm with an (unfortunate) ambivalence, but as soon as the song started playing I felt an immediate connection. I knew these sounds. I don't make musical friends that easily these days, but I knew as soon as Andrew Churchman's empathetic vocals kicked in that I was ready to take up the cause of Pants Yell!
The best bands create their own world instead of simply mirroring what's in vogue. I think that what's even more important is whether the world they create seems "true" or not. I have no doubt that the world of "shitty suburban towns from Texas to Tokyo" that Andrew mentions exist and that as much as they are horrible they are also wonderful in a certain way. Stifling yet calming and worn. The empty downtown lacks the crowds of chancers trying too hard to be fashionable, and you always get a seat on the bus back home.
I fired off some questions to Andrew recently In an attempt to find out if I was getting this all correctly or if maybe I was projecting my own strange mix of experience and nostalgia on the music of Pants Yell! His thoughtful responses tell the tale.
D: What compelled you to start Pants Yell! and can you break down the history of the band, including any side projects?
A: Pants Yell started with some pop songs I began to write in high school. The band began in earnest in 2003 when I met Carly and Sterling. We were all students at an art school here in Boston and I was playing house shows by myself. Carly played drums with me a couple of times and then after seeing one of our performances Sterling expressed interest in helping out. After our first show it was apparent we all wanted this to be a proper band.
I have been playing drums in the band Carlisle Sound with Casey our drummer on guitar. I also play percussion with Ponies in the Surf. Casey bashes away in Major Stars. In high school I played guitar in a surf rock band called Boris and the Godfathers (such a hideous name). We put out a split 7" with XBXRX.
D: What impact has Casey from Major Stars joining the band had?
A: Casey has impacted the band in such an important way. I can't say it enough - the dude is an insane drummer. Honestly my favorite drummer. With his input and playing he has been a crucial part of me expanding my songwriting, how we recorded the album and how we perform live. We love him.
D: What bands or scenes, past or present do you feel kinship with?
A: No one in Boston unfortunately.
Alison Statton the name sounds so sweet, so British, so dignified. I try to write songs with that name and those feelings in mind.
I fantasize about early '80s Glasgow and London. Postcard, 53rd and 3rd, early Rough Trade, Subway Organization - the obvious. There's also the other half of me daydreaming about America circa 1994 - Slumberland, SpinArt, the Ropers, Rocketship, Teenbeat.
There's a great group of pop kids in New York City right now, playing in awesome bands, putting on awesome shows, dancing and having fun at said shows. They like us and we like them and I would say they're like second family.
D: What is your favorite mode of urban transport and what city best illustrates this?
A: The good old cross-town bus. Subways in Boston are great but a little too isolating. One of the best parts about riding the bus is the wait at the bus stop -you're outside getting some fresh air, listening to music, reading the paper, maybe making a friend or two. You get a much better view of the scenery around town and you feel a little more in tune with your surroundings. They're usually a lot quieter and generally not as crowded.
D: Can you tell me stuff about my favorite track off of the new record, "For Dee?"
A: "For Dee" is a song written by my friend Ryan Doyle. I altered the lyrics quite a bit and it turned into one of the most autobiographical songs on the album. It was recorded on the last day in the studio and I sang the vocals in one take while playing the guitar simultaneously.
D: Alison Statton is also the name of a member of seminal Cardiff band Young Marble Giants. Explain the connection.
A: Alison Statton the person is one of my heroes - a beautiful Welsh girl with an equally beautiful voice that made some of the greatest recordings of the 1980's, left music and became a chiropractor. Alison Statton the name sounds so sweet, so British, so dignified. I try to write songs with that name and those feelings in mind.
D: Are there still girls that "float around town sipping cups of coffee waiting for buses to take them to museums?" If so where does this happen?
A: I'd like to think they do it in Boston. I image it happens in London and Paris. I'm certain they do it in Stockholm.
D: My friend who saw you guys at Cake Shop recently reported back that there was actual dancing and fun being had right here in New York City. How do you achieve this result? Most gigs in this town are snoozefests riddled with people who hate music that offers up sincerity instead of detached ironic bullshit.
A: You should come to Boston for a show - no one has fun. It's not possible.
We're quite a bit more raucous live. I think that energy carries through to the audience and vice versa.
As I stated before New York City has always been really good to us. I think the fact that we're not from New York makes a difference when we're down there.
D: When listening to your music I am transported to a different time and place - early 90's industrial city, I am driving a rusted out Ford Tempo, all of my friends love MBV, Felt, and Hardcore. I work the late shift at Kinko's where I print all my friends zines. You must hear this all the time right? I this also how YOU would describe your sound?
A: We play our neuroses against our naÃ¯vetÃ©. We are any number of young kids growing up in shitty suburban towns from Texas to Tokyo, falling in love with the wrong person, falling in with the wrong crowd, waiting to move to the city.
D: What are your plans for the future?
A: The album is being released in Australia and New Zealand by Popfrenzy on February 4th. We're going to be part of Slumberland's upcoming split 7" series. No touring at the moment because of new day jobs, but we'll be back out there in some capacity come March. I'm hoping to self record a new album as soon as possible and have it be a limited 12" or something fun like that.
Alison Statton is out now on Soft Abuse Records.