Q+A: Pissed Jeans

December 07, 2007

You can't see Sean McGuiness too well in that photo but, trust, he's playing the drums really really hard. Dude is a beast! And he is also sweaty and he has a tattoo of the DC Metro and reps Antioch Arrow and the suburbs and wrecks shop with los Pissed Jeans. Check dude out on the front cover of their LP Hope For Men (he's the one staring into the camera getting hugged by Mike Petillo) and read his life philosophies when you click that more link DUDES.

When did you move up to Philly from DC?

A little over 2 years ago.

Was it for the band?

That came around the same time. It wasn’t for the band. It was for…. I had to get out of DC. It was getting me down. A lot of people I knew there moved away and it was really expensive. I don’t really have a plan to move to Philadelphia. It just kind of happened and well, it’s cheap. I thought I could get my shit together, which I’m working on doing. And then the band fell in my lap and I was like, “Whoa. Just do this and work on some other stuff, too.”

Pretty sweet move then?

I mean it was cool. It was real convenient.

Do you like Philadelphia?

Not really. Lately it’s been pretty shitty actually. There’s a lot of crime, well, a lot of gun shooting. We had [our] 350[th homicide of the year] yesterday. I feel like there’s not a lot of ambition. People just want to hang out in coffee shops and float by on their three day a week job that they get paid minimum wage for, living in a house with nineteen other people and split the gas bill ten ways. You can totally float by here and not work that hard. I know it’s a blue collar city, but there’s just tons of apathy. It’s easy to get caught up in. I’m trying my best not to get caught up in it. I guess, any city what’s what you make of it.

Are the other dudes in the band in Allentown or Pennsylvania?

One of them lives in Bethlehem and three of us live in Philadelphia. We practice in my basement.

How did you guys meet up?

I was in a band called Navies that played in DC a bunch and went on a couple of tours. We played two or three shows with Pissed Jeans and a couple of those were with a band called Air Conditioning. They had asked me if I would be interested in playing with them. When I moved to Philly, I actually wrote an e-mail to Matt about getting Air Conditioning’s contact info, which he didn’t have, but he was like, “The Jeans are lookin’ for a drummer? You wanna play with us?” And I was like “Sure. I don’t care.” I played with them in Allentown and it actually went really well the first time.

Were they already in contact with Sub Pop?

No, actually. All of that started to go down just as I joined the band. I feel like it was a week. It may have been longer than that. They had already been talking to that PT re-cord label. They had sent us a proposed contract, and we were all talking about it and then Sub Pop just kind of called. I think this guy Andy at Sub Pop had found out about us through a radio show and wrote an e-mail to Matt asking if we would be interested in doing a seven inch. After that, it was just all Sub Pop.

Were you guys pretty certain that it had to be Sub Pop at that point?

It’s not really like, “Ah, this is what we’ve been waiting for.” More like, “Why go anywhere else? You know? Oh, that’s the one. Sure.” PT was cool. They’ve put some good re-cords, but can you really deny Sub Pop.

Not really. I think that was one of the really rad things about the show with Mudhoney the other night: nearly twenty years of Sub Pop jams.

Yeah, it’s got this kind of weird stealth thing going on. You almost forget that they con-tinue and have put out amazing records in the past. Everyone puts out their fair amount of bullshit, but the solid records they’re putting out are extremely solid. They just put out Wooden Shjips seven inch and then there are those first Soundgarden records. I like that band The Thermals a lot. They’re awesome. Even that last Shins record was totally good. Even the funny weirdo comedy stuff like Patton Oswalt and David Cross. In my opinion, that shit is undeniable.

Mark Arm wrote your bio, right? When did you guys meet?

Yeah he wrote a weird bio for the record. We actually didn’t meet him until we went out there. We went out there in March to meet everyone at the label and have meetings. That was when we actually met Mark, but I think Matt and Brad had talked to him over the phone. He had some questions for them about the record. But I think either the label put him up to it because they figured we’d be compared to Mudhoney or he was just genuinely into the record. I’d like to think it was the latter, but who knows.

It must have been really sweet playing with them, then?

We played two shows with them, and whatever the case, those guys are fucking sweet. It was amazing to play with Mudhoney, you know? It’s MUDHONEY. They were so nice and still know how to get down. They do get down, I guess. The way they played, those dudes are total pros. It sounded so loud and huge and really... they sound like mother-fuckers, yo. And effortlessly. They channel this insane sound and it looks like they’re hanging out, just joking with each other like it’s second nature. It’s a pretty amazing thing to see. Mark pulls out these guttural screams just by opening his mouth seemingly. I don’t that dude broke a sweat the entire time.

Yeah, I saw you rocking out in the front.

The night before I was too drunk to even deal with watching anymore rock music, but that night I was definitely front and center. If it’s a band I like, that’s where I want to be. I don’t really like to be in the back. I like to be in front where I can feel it. It’s all good; some people can tolerate watching shows from the back of a room. I don’t really see the point. If you’re going to be there, you might as well be in it.

It seems like there’s been fair mention of Matt’s job, almost as though your sound is a kind of lashing out at what Mark Arm described in your bio as the “Straight World.”

I don’t think anyone’s really lashing out. Matt doesn’t hate his job. It’s not like he’s totally unhappy to work the life of some wage slave or whatever. I think it’s exactly the opposite as a matter of fact. It’s just trying to find acceptance somewhere. Trying to find a spot where you fit in more. Not buying a cool jacket to you look like the rest of the crew, but grasping for some kind of understanding as to why some people do certain things. Like why they have matching tennis outfits or area rugs. Or why they feel the need to have a flashy watch or perfectly white teeth. There is a lot of imagery in Matt’s lyrics that is really subtle and not a lot of people pick up on that. They just hear the words them-selves. He’s creating an image of a place of himself or somewhere he wants to be or someone he’s encountered that a lot of people tend to miss. Which is why I like them so much. I think that’s harder to pull off then whining about some specific problem you had this one time in your bedroom.

It’s interesting because that lyrical flexibility or even ambiguity contrasts pretty seriously with the band’s sound which is very direct. It bruises. Take the album’s title for example: Hope for Men.

I don’t see the title of that record as a very abrasive term, an in-your-face record title. I think that it’s... it feels sort of fuzzy and warm. It doesn’t feel like lashing out. It’s not like Arrest the Youth or New Erections. I don’t know. It just kind of is.

You can see that juxtaposition with the artwork as well. It’s a warhead, but it’s staid in a way as well.

Again with that imagery. I like the contrast between the way the record looks and the way the record sounds. I think they work really well together and it makes a lot of sense. I don’t think that our record looks like it doesn’t sound. I could be totally wrong. We’re not really dressed to impress. We’re just putting it down and people are interested in it. That’s cool. It’s not going to influence us in one way or another. We’re going to do our thing and if you’re into it, cool. If you’re not, that’s cool. too.

Is that sort of your manifesto?

Yeah. Eh, not so much a manifesto. I mean, I guess the entire band is a manifesto, any band is a manifesto. There is some underlying point or underlying theme or one develops over time. Whether you’re the goofy band or... I guess people can come up with any schtick they want for us. I guess our schtick is that we have day jobs and we like to play music. For me, I just want to be in a band in play. Not trying to break new ground or force people to listen to my music because it’s going to change shit. There are a lot of great bands that I admire. I’m just really happy that I’m in a band and that I’m comfortable playing in front of other people. We get pigeonholed a lot as a hardcore band. I don’t really think that’s how I think of our band. I just think of us as a punk band, as a dirty punk band. That’s it. We play loud music. We’re a loud band. We’re not a punk band. We’re just a loud band.

I was reading an interview recently and you had said that the lyrical content from “I Still Got You (Ice Cream)” was meant to be taken almost literally.

I can’t really speak for Matt, they’re his lyrics. Sure, it’s meant to be humorous, Matt’s twisted wit or whatever. But ultimately, you get bummed, you eat ice cream, you feel better. You know? Isn’t that the naive child in all of us? Is that deep enough for you? Se-riously, it’s kind of how Matt lays it out there. He doesn’t over think his writing to a point where he really wants some subtle methods to come across in a goofy phrase. I really just think he’s got a real basic approach and it’s really wide open to interpretation. We’re not trying to write some epic heroism thing about how to get over all of life’s problems or deal with teen angst. I like ice cream.

I love ice cream.

Sure. Who doesn’t?

I used to love ice cream so much I convinced myself I needed a summer job at Baskin-Robbins. The first few weeks were pretty sweet. I’d make a milkshake for myself on the hour every two. After like three or four weeks, I hated myself. That was the worst job I’ve ever had.

Aw man, that’s a bummer. I used to go to Baskin-Robbins all the time. After Little League baseball games. I’d get...what was that shit? Strawberry Cheesecake?

Yeah, Strawberry Cheesecake.

That’s it.

Posted: December 07, 2007
Q+A: Pissed Jeans