Eric Solomon's band, O Pioneers!!!, have been releasing records and playing shows since 2004. Last year the band released their latest full-length, Neon Creeps, on Asian Man Records. The band also rolled their van and after a number of lineup changes, Solomon almost pulled the plug on his project, only to be coaxed into continuing his band with the help from some of his friends in Junior Battles. This year Kiss of Death Records will be releasing a split record with O Pioneers!!! and Junior Battles. Recently, RJ Cresswell interviewed Solomon about his band's history and his hopes for the future.
When and how did O Pioneers!!! become a band?
Pioneers!!! started in like, I want to say August or September of 2004. I had come home from going to college and landed a job helping to open and stock the music section of the local Barnes and Noble. Jeff Johnson, the original drummer, also worked in the music department. He was in a rockabilly band called Zombilly at the time. I can't remember how I found out Jeff played drums, but somehow I did, and it defiantly took me a bit to convince him to start a band with me. After some convincing, I think Jeff was just excited to be a part of a project and even more excited that we were going to tour. I don't think this was really his scene though, which is totally cool. I just think it's eventually why he decided he didn't want to be in it.
What is the story behind the bandâs name?
Originally we were going to call the band "The Scene" because letâs face it; everyone is a fan of bad jokes. But it was too generic and at the time, would have been really hard to get a good MySpace name, so we changed it. I remember really liking the word "pioneers" after hearing it in a pixies lyric, on the Houston date of their reunion tour. So I called Jeff, and we talked about it. Originally, the name was going to be "Oh, Pioneers." like, "man those guys again?" But Jeff didn't like the "H" or the period, so he asked if we could make it more exciting, hence the O Pioneers!!!. Now, I'm over the "O."
Who is playing in the current lineup?
Right now the current lineup consists of 3 of the 4 members of Toronto, Ontario band, Junior Battles. I was pretty sure I was going to call it a day after the last version of the band left. We had just gotten out of a super bad van accident, and it was really stressful trying to deal with expectations and distance, so I had planned to just stop this after Harvest Of Hope and maybe do something new with some local people. Pioneers had a split with Junior Battles due out shortly after, and I emailed Sam, from Junior Battles, and told him we couldn't do the split because we were done. Sam was a little upset and wrote me shortly after, half joking saying he'd play in Pioneers. I jokingly responded sure, and soon enough I was in Toronto writing a song for the split and getting ready to write the new record.
How have the lineup changes affect the band?
It actually really, really sucks. I mean, I hope I'm not a dick - at least I try really hard not to be. I know I have a very unique situation that allows me to be in a touring band, and I feel that can put a strain on people on tour. I think it definitely takes a while to adjust to a dynamic when writing and playing with a new group of people. I feel like a lot of successful bands, or people that are motivated to make music, each have different roles in the group. When you're constantly adjusting, sometimes, I think all of those roles get put on you and that can have weird reactions. Personally, I don't like it, but this lifestyle isn't for everyone, and I guess I just have weird views on how things should work within a group of people. Fuck it, let's face it, I am a dick!
What are the bandâs plans for the future: records, tours, festivals, etc.?
As of now thereâs nothing too crazy. Pioneers and Junior Battles are doing a two week tour to Rad Fest and back. I'm sure both of us are playing The Fest in October, but other than that nothing too crazy. We, as in both bands, are trying to set up a western Canada and US tour for later summer. We might also be doing a short run of Texas shows with My Heart To Joy in July. We'll see what travel arrangements we can make.
Why do you guys choose to release so many split records?
Honestly, it just kind of happened. There were a lot of bands I really liked, and we just kept asking and getting a yes back, so it just happened to work out that way. Plus, I'm a really bad musician, so writing a whole record is a challenge for me. Writing one or two songs to put on a split kind of just works out!
How are things going with the screen printing business?
Awesome. One of my best friends is moving to Houston and becoming a third partner in the print shop, so I'm super stoked for that. Screen printing is an awesome business, especially for three dumb punk rock kids. Also working for your friends and being able to provide a service you are super proud of is awesome.
Does running your own business make managing band affairs easier or more difficult?
Neither really. Sometimes I have to be an adult and back out of things that have been booked for a while because I know it's worth it for the business. I usually try and plan around when the shop is slow, but since we are a service company, I never know when that is. So thatâs always a gamble. The plus side is I can make my schedule as flexible as I want it to.
How are tours going for you these days?
Tours are always awesome. For me it's like a 2 to 3 week vacation, so I could care less if there was 1 person or 1000 people at the show. Most of the time tours are set up to see my family and friends across the country, so regardless tours are usually pretty great for me.
Are there any places in particular that you have yet to tour that you hope to soon visit?
We keep talking about going to Europe and Australia, but we just haven't been able to schedule it. We might do Mexico sometime this year. I'd really like to tour Asia too, but if we can't schedule Europe or Australia, I'm not totally sure how we could do that. Being in a part-time band is hard!
What are the most important lessons you have learned from playing and touring with your band?
Just being a good person. Seriously, be a good dude and don't be a dick, and you'll meet a lot of more people, and you'll have a lot more fun. Sure it gets stressful sometimes playing 30 band shows or playing last in a new town, but it doesn't fucking matter. You're doing something you love or really care for for a night, a month, a year. Also, people with egos fucking suck. You hear me Sam Sutherland?
What most influences your songwriting process?
A lot of my songs are about interactions between myself and other people, so I guess just conversations with people. For the most part, I'm just being self righteous because I can do that.
Do you write songs solo or with your other band members?
I guess it's really been different depending on who is in the band. I generally like to write parts and then flesh them out with other musicians. However, in the past it hasnât always worked that way. I think that's why I really like working with Junior Battles because we actually sit down and go over things and make things work.
What records are you listening to the most right now?
Over the past couple of months, I've been infatuated with bands like Archers of Loaf and Silkworm. I don't really know why, but they've just completely blown me away. Like nothing they do makes any sense, but yet it all makes sense at the same time. It's so bizarre. As of late though, I've really been into the new RVIVR record, as well as the new Bomb the Music Industry EP, White Crosses, and the new Ted Leo record is really great too.
What records are you looking forward to this year?
Honestly, I don't even know what records are coming out anymore. I'm really excited for the new Bridge and Tunnel stuff, the new Small Brown Bike stuff, and the new Kudrow stuff. Also, hopefully New Bruises will stop being so old and record a new record.
What do you do when you are not playing with the band or working with your business?
Nothing really. Lately I've been into finding sweet deals on Craigslist with weird and vintage guitar amps and pedals. I don't know shit about them, but I like to think I will find something awesome someday. Other than that I'm usually working all day, and playing guitar for like 10 minutes at night!
What do you hope to accomplish with O Pioneers!!!?
It would be awesome to have Pioneers be my day job, but I'm realistic. This is a hobby that I enjoy, and I treat it as that. We are never going to be on the radio and in magazines or on tour all the time. As much as I'd like to, I just don't see it in the cards. Right now I'd just like it to be something that I can be proud of, something that challenges me, and currently it does.
What do you think/hope life will be like for you ten years from now?
Hopefully pretty close to what it is now. I would like to have a little bit more security and money, but honestly if my life was the same as it is right now, I don't think I could complain.