Contributed by xanimal, Posted by Interviews

Growth can be a challenging task. It comes with constant self-reflection, the courage to be critical of yourself, and the strength to push yourself even when the challenges seem endless. Pentimento has been progressing since their inception, and with that, they’ve become one of the most well-rounded and strong examples of maturation and sonic integrity. With four releases, they’ve created music that is easily accessible, while also holding onto their integrity and commitment to creating songs that are an extension of who they are as people. They spend a great deal of time writing music that connects with their listeners, without sacrificing their desire to stay true to themselves.

Their releases, which comprise of two EP’s, a split and a full-length, are consistently impressive. A majority of their songs are note-worthy, and they are a band that shouldn’t go under the radar. They’ve found themselves time and time again praised by critics, but are still struggling to be noticed by a large amount of listeners. Yet, this hasn’t deterred them from pushing forward and attempting to become a favorite of the swarm of music fans that have so quickly attached themselves to various underground artists. Pentimento continue to push themselves as a band to gain attention, but also as musicians to write music that is authentic, enjoyable and can be connected to easily by any demographic.

Punknews interviewer Xan Mandell has kept their latest release, Inside The Sea, on repeat and decided to sit them down to understand why they create the music they do, how they look at the songwriting process, and what they are attempting to give to fans.

Being in a small band in our scene seems like a bit of a conundrum, because it’s harder to progress and break into the mainstream quickly like you could in early 2000’s with MTV and various major music publications. Now you have to push yourself on the internet and continually updating your fans. Do you feel that kind of pressure or are you taking it a day at the time.
Michael Hansen: If you feel advantageous enough to start a band at some point, you are going to take your cues from what you see. The same way that we did when we started playing in bands. Everything from the shit we talked about on stage to the songs we were writing, it made sense because there was somebody who did it and showed you how. I’m not necessarily saying copying them. I’m just saying you see that happen and you think, "Oh ok, that’s how you do that part." And the same path exists for the Internet. Finding ways to promote your band has always been the thing to do. You always have to figure out the best way to do it. With the advent of Twitter, where every band is accessible, even if they’re not responsive or whatever the case may be, it’s still one of those things that you see, and you see that this band is updating their fans with pictures of their practices, pictures of them in the studio, or clues what they’re next record is going to be like. Another trend I see too is an announcement about an announcement, because you now have to prime people to be like, "Ok, everybody pay attention the internet at 3 o’clock today, because something is going to happen." And it makes you go, "Ok, if that’s what you have to do to get peoples' attention, then I have to follow suit or I’m going to get lost in the current, because not every band is Brand New and can stay quiet for six years and come back and it’s a huge deal to everybody. It doesn’t work like that, so your best bet is to keep up with the flow of traffic Do you feel like that may get in the way of the music itself, where you’re trying to be a business so to speak? I think these days there is that interesting thing that goes on where you have to be a business as well as a band.
Vinny: There is a push to make this grow and sustain, and that’s what it has been doing. It’s slowly building, but the hope is that it grows. I don’t want to think of everything in dollars and cents, but when it comes down to fixing the van to being able to play the next show to see those kids who want to see our band, it does come down to the dollar and cents.
Jerry: It’s different for every band too. Some bands have different resources. Some bands have a kid in the band where their parents bought them the van and they have the nicest gear ever and they don’t have to worry about money on tour, because they’re going to go home and it’s not going to matter. For us it’s very different. All of us work and we don’t have some magical sum of money. It’s not like if we come home and don’t have enough work to put money in our bank accounts, none of us are going to go homeless, we thankfully have family and friends, and people who take care of us in various ways, but we have to look at it through a financial lens too, because we have to stay afloat as individuals as well.
Hansen: So when you see the band start to grow and sustain itself it’s very exciting, but it’s also like you realize two tours ago, we realized, "Ok, the band has made enough money to make our next merch order, the band has made enough money to make our next van repair," or this that and the other thing. Every time we’ve done this, it’s been, "Ok, well we all have to throw in some of our own money," or one of us will have to withdraw $1000 to buy these T-shirts for this tour and make this money back while I’m on the road, and pay themselves back for that initial investment. And like Jerry said, the financial lens is different for everybody, and we treat the band where we have to be smart about our merch, and our online stuff, records that we sell, where we have to be smart about what we do with the money that comes in and where we put it, because every single cent of it has to be put towards growing the band. We pay for things that are important to the progression of the band. The financial aspects aside, looking at the progression of the band, how would you like to see it? Would you like to be a band that explodes overnight?
Pauly: Shit yeah dude. And everybody who tells you no is a fucking asshole, you know? [laughs]
Hansen: Here’s the thing: Sometimes we have this conversation, because we see it happen in the scene, and that has been a thing that happens to bands since the dawn of time. One band is working super hard and it’s not working out, and other bands around them start to grow at an exponential rate and you’re sitting in the dust thinking, "What the fuck am I doing wrong?" But, you work with what you have, and our band being in the position that we are, we’re hoping that if our band grows it’s because we paved it that way, we put the work in, we put our time in, we did everything that we could do to grow the band. There is nothing wrong when a band takes off all of a sudden. It’s not the bands fault, you know? Sure they might be playing into a trend or jumping on a bandwagon, whatever the case may be, but it’s not the bands fault that so many bands catch on. That just means that they did it right. Every time I’ve played your music to people, they’ve really loved it, and I’m sure you’ve noticed that too within your friend circles, or their friend circles, or extended things like that. Is there a frustration that comes with that? Where everyone who listens to you really likes you, but you’re still only slowly growing?
Ciato: Each band is different, and they all grow differently. There are some bands that have been working for years, and it just so happens that 8-10 years down the line they finally starting to get big. It’s a journey, and sure as much as we’d like to have 100,000 fans tomorrow, if that happens, great, but that’s probably not going to happen and we have to continue to work at it. There are going to be things that frustrate us along the way, but I’m not happy besides this, so we might as well give it a shot. Does that play into the writing process at all where you’re trying to cater to fans? Or do you look at the writing process as an emotional release?
Hansen: There is a super interesting dichotomy that comes along with all that. You’re sitting down to write a song, and you expect it to come from a genuine experience, and it is supposed to be and everyone would like to believe that every song is written from a very real place. But, you start to look at your song a little more objectively and you’re like, "Well I wrote this song that I love and means something to me, but, it’s six and a half minutes long. Who is going to have the attention span for that? I’m writing a song about the street I grew up on and I’m naming the street and certain people, but then I begin to worry if anyone can relate to it, because that is what makes me feel, personally as an artist, the best, when there is a connection with people. While I definitely understand that it’s all been said, the point of the experience is to share it. Of course, there is a level of that sort of thing that ties into it, but we don’t sit down to write a song because of the situation being so special and unique. I would write a song because the experience is universal, and that’s what I want to dig out of it. But, on the other hand, I could not and would not risk my artistic integrity to write a song that somebody else is going to like. I couldn’t sit in my room and think, "Well what are The Wonder Years doing? I’ll just do that." Looking at it from a musical standpoint, I think that there is a need for a band to stay, not in a linear direction, but at least a little within their own sound… but with your music especially, there is always a progression between releases, but there is always one foot in the past release as well. You’re newest EP Inside The Sea does not sound like your debut Wrecked at all, but when you go through them you can see that change.
Hansen: I guess that’s what we cross our fingers and hope to do. We want to have a sound. We want you to be able to tell you’re listening to Pentimento with whatever release we’ve done, no matter how good or how bad it may be. Are there times where you write songs that may be a little more experimental and out there, and let’s say, atmospheric for example, and you say, "We can’t actually put this out,"?
Pauly: Definitely. We’re going through that right now.
Hansen: Maybe not with the same spatial qualities as your saying, it’s not as if it’s too weird or too atmospheric. But, there are times where we’re just like, "This doesn’t sound like our band at all.
Pauly: At our practice space, there is a board that has songs that we have and are jamming constantly, but we also know that some of them actually sound like Pentimento songs, and it’s not just like, "What sounds like Pentimento," but it’s "Which one is a unified idea. What is an actual be a focus of could actually be songs." Sometimes you just have an idea that seems awesome at first, and probably still is awesome, but it might just not fit in the picture of what you’re trying to accomplish. But also, I think that’s the thing too with the progression of the releases. We never thought about things like that until now. So why now?
Pauly: Number one, we’ve definitely taken the grassroots mentality throughout the entire process as the band, just as being dudes. Individually, we never been in a serious band before, and now we’re actually doing it and figuring out that real bands know and take time to realize it.
Hansen: Expanding on that and going back to what we were talking about earlier, it’s not that you want to copy a band. It’s not like when I listen to a Jimmy Eat World record and feel inspired by that, it’s not because I feel inspired because of their chord progressions or melodies, there’s a whole other side of it where you’re like, "Woah, that’s a record dude, front to back. That’s a body of music that I feel connected to somehow." And it’s whole is greater than the some of its parts. I don’t just check out a record because the drums are cool. We started to ask ourselves, what is it that we’re missing.
Pauly: We’ve started to think about what’s the logic, not necessarily what the formula is, but, how come I can listen to a record, like, Stay What You Are because I fucking love Saves The Day, or Tell All Your Friends by Taking Back Sunday, or whatever your favorite record is, listen to it and you’ll realize there is a cohesiveness to it that you may not realize is happening, not because all the songs are in the same key and all the melodies are in the same range, but there is a method to their madness. I found that on the LP
Hansen: See that’s funny.
Pauly: We had no idea.
Hansen: We thought you achieved that by the sequencing of the record. We spent days and days and days going, "No no no dude, song one has to be to this dude, and song seven has to be this." We were firing text messages back and forth about ways we think the record should go to create a flow. I will never forget Jerry and I sitting in the back of the van during one of our tours just talking about the band. We weren’t getting down on ourselves and being pessimistic, but when you look at the LP and what it’s done for our band, it was great. It was a great effort, so it helped the band grow. We are proud of the record, But, after listening back to the LP, I learned what I did wrong as a drummer. I learned what we could’ve done better. Of course every band is going to say that, and that how when they left the studio and listened back to the record, there was always that one thing they wanted to change. That even happens to the biggest bands. But, listening back to that record, I realized I needed to learn certain things about songwriting. Every release we’ve done, it’s always had that quality where it’s made me hungrier to write more music with these guys because the releases are an excellent checkpoint to see where we were up until then. Let’s take what we’ve learned here and apply that science to something else so we keep, feeling at least, that we’re getting better. Inside The Seais an interesting example of the band, because I feel like they’re some of your strongest songs, but it doesn’t seem like a cohesive album. I think each individual song has a uniqueness to it that was not there on songs on the LP. This isn’t a knock to it, but I feel like it’s more of a collection of singles than anything else.
Pauly: That’s exactly it. That is what we learned from that. It was like, "Ok, what’s good about these songs, where are the strengths?" But, also, "What is good about the record," and that’s what it lacked. So we started thing, "Next time we do this, how do we create an actual vision or an entire thing with a feel, with a message." We’ve never thought about it like that.
Hansen: Sometimes I’ll hear b-sides from bands and think, "this is the best song of the career"
Pauly: Yeah, how could it not make the record?
Hansen: Every time in interviews with that band they’ll be like, "We just didn’t feel like it fit," but it’s like, "Fuck you, what do you mean, this is the best song you’ve ever done?" But, I get it, because we have a collection of songs on the LP that we thought were good songs, but that’s what we thought. It was like, "Oh, here’s a good song, let’s record it, and we’ll record 10 or 11 of those songs that we just think are good." We never paid attention of how they fit together until we started thinking about how we were going to sequence the record: fast, slow, medium, fast, slow? We didn’t realize what it has to do with is the music entirely, not with what songs fit. Is there an idea within the band to look at the next record as a concept record?
Pauly: That’s it, and I’m already starting to see that with learning the songs, playing the songs and understanding the lyrical message. There is absolutely a concept. It may not be fully realized yet…
Ciato: But it is developing
Pauly: The whole other aspect we didn’t realize until we started touring is that when you’re on tour, you start playing the songs night in and night out, and you start to learn what songs you love to play, and why you love to play them, and how it translates to a crowd. When writing a song and there’s a part where it drops out and it’s just vocals, we obviously kind of think, "Dude, when we’re on stage, the kids are gonna put their fingers out, and it’s gonna be awesome," but it’s not just that, it’s really more about you’re going to want to want to play these 30 days straight into a seven week tour, and if you can already have that feeling in the practice space while developing the songs, there is no doubt that I will be personally stoked.
Hansen: That’s a part of it we sometimes tend to forget, because we are very much caught up in the rat race, we are very much a part of what’s going on in the punk rock world. We are still trying to stay relevant in that. It’s exciting to even have the chance to be on a platform at all. It’s awesome that people even say we’re their favorite band. That blows my mind… How? How could we be someone’s favorite band? We’re not Brand New. But, because of that, we sometimes forget that at the end of the day, the reason we started all of this was because it was fun for us to do. Now, we’re a lot more critical, we’ve experience some stuff, we’ve played together as Pentimento for three and a half years. We’ve figured out each other, so now we write a song, we jam for a couple of days of practice and if it’s not working, then it’s not working, and we realize we shouldn’t waste time on it. That’s something that happened recently.
Pauly: When we have the time and don’t have to focus on tours, we take the time go to into the practice space and learn new songs and in between those new songs and if someone is doing something cool be like, "Hey, I like that, let’s just play with that and see what happens." We never did that, ever… There are times that we’ve learned songs that Mike had and made them into new things, but there’s never been a time before where we think, "Fuck everything, we should just jam." So what if there’s a song that three of the band members like a song a lot… but the one other member is like, "I just can’t do this… I don’t like it."
Pauly: It’s happened. We’ve come to the point of being comfortable enough to be like, "Alright, why are you saying that? Let me hear you out. Why don’t you like it? Am I just an idiot for liking it?" It used to be like, "Come on man, it’s good." It’s not even a nine times out of 10 thing, it’s a 10 times out of 10 thing, where that person who doesn’t like it is always right.
Hansen: And that’s the other thing we’ve all begun to realize with each other. Before we were in Pentimento, or before we were all in bands, we were all music listeners who could objectively identify things about music that we liked and didn’t like. If I could give advice to any band in the world, it’s remember that you are a music listener and think about what you like to listen to. I get it, playing your double bass pedal as fast as you can for three minutes is super fun, but is that what you want to listen to as well. It’s like, think about if you had to listen to your own band, if you were confined to a desert island, think about if the only thing you had to listen to was your own record, would you want to cut your head off and throw it across the street? Or would you be like, "No this is awesome, I really like it." I really like when bands say they’re their own favorite band, because that means you’re really fucking doing it. Would you say that you’re there or getting there?
Hansen: We’re getting there. Being your own favorite band?
Pauly: Oh that’s a good question. I think that what bums me out that I have personally learned throughout this experience is that there are so many bands that hate their music, but they just know it’s going to work right now, so they cash in and try to be the biggest band. That is a bummer to me, because one thing we’ve always done is since the beginning of the band is not think about trying to have a plan of attack of making music and being a certain band. It was just about being playing chords we really like and we can play and here we go.
Ciato: We started playing music because we felt something when we did it, because that experience was real, and I think the moment when it stops becoming real and you don’t feel it anymore, for me, then stop. If that feeling isn’t there, it’s not something I should be doing. In regards to that, hypothetically you being playing in front a million people all the time, what would you do?
Hansen: I read an interview with Jimmy Eat World where the interviewer said, "Do you ever get tired of playing "The Middle"?" and he said, "Do I get tired of watching a few thousand people sing that song back to me every night? Are you crazy?"
Pauly: That my best friends and I when we were kids.
Hansen: That is one of those things. I can understand why bands are like my favorite, but it probably took me a minute to get there. If Pentimento were to end tomorrow, and I was bitter about it for a while, but a few months later I go, "Holy fuck, this is a perfect representation of what I was going through at a time, that part is so good, Jerry killed that." It always takes time no matter what. It would be few and far between that you hear a band and go, "That’s my favorite." For something like that to happen, it spans time and releases. But, I think we’re getting there.
Ciato: You know for me, making this music feels like a party, and what I want is for other people to feel that. I want our fans to feel like they’re a part of the party.