Pennsylvanian punks Pissed Jeans have been tearing us all a new a-hole for a decade now and so following the release of their fourth album Honeys last year, the band’s long-time label Sub Pop decided it was high time they reissued Pissed Jean’s immaculate (and long out-of-print) debut album Shallow for our noise-rock delectation. Shaman scribe Tom McKibbin recently conducted an email interview with the band’s very own “super hot and stress-free stud” (his words, not ours), frontman Matt Korvette to discuss Pissed Jean’s slovenly work-rate, the fallout of ATP’s Jabberwocky Festival being cancelled, how they would run a festival and trying to coax drone legends Earth to speed it up a bit. Heeeeeere’s Matt.
How has 2014 been for the band so far?
Pretty good! I don’t think we’ve had a bad year. Trying to remember what happened… played a few shows, some fests, did a little traveling. I think we wrote like 5 new songs, one of which we’ve been playing out. We work slow.
What was behind the decision to reissue your first album Shallow this year?
We like that record, and realized that it had been out of print for years, and that many fans of the band didn’t even seem to know it existed. So why not, right?
When you compare Shallow with your most recent album Honeys, what do you see as the main differences? Do you still tend to play songs from Shallow these days?
I think we’ve gotten a bit tighter, a little more streamlined. I think we already understood what Pissed Jeans are all about by the time we did Honeys, whereas we were still kinda writing the guidelines for Shallow. We still play some songs off Shallow for sure, and always have. The only reason we don’t play them as often is because they’re just much older, and we’ve already played them a bunch. We never really retire anything, just kinda lose interest after a bit.
You guys were recently caught up in the fallout of Jabberwocky festival being cancelled – did that put much of a dampener on your time in the UK?
It was a bummer for sure, but it ended up being our most fun trip to the UK yet. Every show was just a ton of fun, and we met so many great people.
What’s your take on the way the cancellation was handled?
I wish it was cancelled earlier! I don’t know. I am pretty far removed from the inner-workings of what happened. If it were my fest, it would’ve been free, all bands would’ve been paid a flat rate of 500,000 pounds, and there would’ve been a 24-hour dessert bar (and chocolate fountain). That’s the way you do a fest.
You managed to salvage a gig on the night of the festival and ended up playing on a bill with Earth. What was that show like? Did you decide to play some of your slower stuff to keep pace with them?
Nah, we just did what we usually do. Outside factors rarely affect us like that. It was nice playing with Earth, though! They are great. Come to think of it, they should’ve played a searing set of heavy noise-punk to keep pace with us.
You guys seem to go from playing small clubs and DIY shows to being invited to play events like Made In America which, if our readers don’t know, is curated/overseen by Jay-Z. How weird is it going from one kind of gig to the other?
It’s pretty different! Made In America was the most corporate, uncool show we’ve played in a long while, but we still had a really nice time. We’ll play whatever, so long as it isn’t totally humiliating. Slightly humiliating is fine.
Does it feel strange being on the same bill as mainstream artists? How was your set received at Made In America?
The 40 people who watched it were enamoured, and dare I say had their lives changed.
Matt, you manage to mine a lot of humour out of the mundane aspects of everyday life and male neuroses. Are your lyrics generally autobiographical or is there a sort of persona you affect in the band?
I’m actually a super hot stress-free stud in real life, and have managed to elaborately concoct this anxious doofus character, from whose vantage point I write all the lyrics.
There seems to be a consensus that one needs to experience Pissed Jeans live to get the full effect of the band’s energy and sense of humour. Would you agree that playing live is cathartic for the band and the audience? Matt in particular seems to be almost oblivious to his actions when he’s on stage…
Live is a lot of fun! Certainly a different beast than a recording. I would say that our goal with an album is to really craft something special, a meaningful piece of art, whereas a live show is just pure improvised entertainment.
What is life like on the tour bus with Pissed Jeans? Are there any bus/touring rules that you think other bands should adhere to?
Tour jet, you mean. I would say being respectful and courteous to your fellow band members and crew is key.
What’s been the high point of your time as a band so far?
Hmm… there have been so many. We’ve already surpassed whatever goal I had for the band probably years ago, which was to be paid $200 for a single show.
What’s been the low point?
Signing with Sub Pop. Turns out they’re only partially a major label. And to think we passed on Warner Bros, Sire and Arista…
How has it been working with Sub Pop over the years? Were they a label you aspired to be on?
I never imagined I’d be able to afford a Sub Pop release, let alone join their roster! An unfathomable dream. It has been really, really great. We have been on the label a damn long time now too, it oddly feels normal.
Matt, you run a small label called White Denim who recently released the awesome Good Throb album. Can you tell us a little bit about the label? Do you tend to release albums by bands you play with in PJ or are you inundated with demos?
I just release music by artists that I really dig, who I don’t think are being properly represented out there. I just wanna create records I’d like to own. Generally, it’s not bands that play with PJ, although that has happened before. It’s really quite random.
Finally, I have to ask, is there a new PJ album in the works?
Yep! We’re moving as fast as we can, which sadly is really slowly. But it’ll be great.
Interviewed by: Tom McKibbin