There is no question that PEARS took the punk scene by surprise with 2014's Go To Prison , and with the Fat Wreck Chords release of the musical behemoth that is Green Star earlier this month, they've made it clear that they're here to stay. But between non-stop touring and trauma Down Under, it is up for debate whether or not they've had a moment to celebrate -- they don't stop for much. Even when confined in a van headed toward Florida to kick off a co- headlining tour with Such Gold, catching up with not only Zach, Brian and Jarret, but manager Dante and brand spankin' new bassist Erich Goodyear, is much like herding conversational cats, if you will. To tackle the task, Punknews editors Stevie Navarre Allen and Ricky Frankel teamed up to check in with PEARS and hear more about the release of Green Star, the insanity that took place before and during their first Australian tour and much more.
Photo Credit: John Paul Allen
Ricky: I know a lot of shit went down before and during your recent Australia tour, can you give us just a blow by blow of what happened? And if there was anything good that happened that we didn't get to hear about on social media?
Zach Quinn: Ok, well two hours before we left for Australia we got a phone call and found out that our bass player at the time was still in Atlanta and had no plans to come to Australia with us. […] The first week and half there was a total nightmare, like I was playing bass some nights and Chris [Aiken] from Strung Out played bass for some songs and David, their sound guy, would play bass on some songs. It was rough. The final total of bass players we had in Australia was six.
ZQ: Yeah. We ended up having six different people play bass with us while we were out there. But it seemed to go okay. I mean, the first week and a half was crazy because there was like three different people per set playing bass. But once we had Pat from The Decline come and jump on the tour he was playing whole sets with us so there some kind of semblance of normalcy. We also had Hayden from Night Gaunts play the final two New Zealand shows and that was great.
Jarret Nathan: Dante and Pat are best friends!
Ricky: What was the show dynamic like with you playing bass?
ZQ: Totally fucked. I can't do anything – I don't know how to play and move around like Brian does. I just had to stand there and try to be good at an instrument I barely ever play. It was totally weird. The shows sounded great, and we made it work, but the presentation certainly wasn't PEARS.
Stevie: …and what about breaking your hand?
ZQ: Yeah, I was about to say, I definitely did that at some point, too.
Ricky: What happened, exactly?
ZQ: I guess I was just frustrated and I was doing things I never do on stage because I was just upset. And I jumped in the air and punched the ground. I've punched a stage before, but never out of a jump and I guess all that momentum was what did it. My hand essentially caved like the front end of a cheap car, like in an accident. I dislocated my pinky knuckle. It was like under my ring finger knuckle. I fractured a bone in my hand and shattered a carpel. And then I had to get surgery in Australia. That was fun. The hospital was one of the most fun parts of the whole tour. They were giving me amazing drugs and it was pretty great.
Stevie: After you broke your hand, did you finish the set?
ZQ: Yeah. I think I broke it during "Framework" and then we played four more songs. Honestly, I couldn't feel a thing because adrenalin was pumping through my body. So I didn't feel anything until much later and then it hurt for sure. But it didn't hurt that moment, it hurt when I tried to move it around. So I finished the set with it dangling at my side.
Stevie: Interesting. So we've heard about Zach, but I think we have a new person here that is the result of the Australia tour – Erich!
ZQ: Yup, we have Erich Goodyear. What is there to say about Erich Goodyear? He's a fantastic cook, which naturally means he's a great bass player for us. We mostly hired him for his cooking experience. You want to say "hi", Erich?
Erich Goodyear: Hi Erich!
Stevie: (laughs) Seems like you fit right in, Erich.
ZQ: He does. He's fitting in very well. I'll answer Eric's questions. (laughs)[…]He's the coolest bass player we've ever had.
BP: Sorry Pat!
Ricky: I did want to ask, how did Erich learn all of the songs so quickly? When you transition to a new bass player, how much work goes into that?
EG: Well, see, in November back when (John) Komar was about to join the band, Zach gave me a head's up that I might be one of the possible bass players. So I started learning Go To Prison then, but not all to the extent of what we play – but trying to get logistics of everything. And then Komar made a bunch of sacrifices like selling all of his guitar equipment, buying bass equipment, sending the guys videos and honestly I wanted to give the guy a chance to fuckin' rock it, ya know? So I was just like, "Alright, that's cool." Then the whole Australia thing happened and at this point I had already had it in my head that I fuckin' wanted to be in the band, so when Zach called me and told me what happened it was what I had to do.
Stevie: So you were relatively stoked on the misfortune?
EG: Yeah. At this point I had only known some of Go To Prison and they sent me a copy of Green Star, which I pretty much listened to and banged my head on the wall because I could not, for the life of me, understand what the fuck what was going on.
Ricky: I don't think most people do.
EG: But Zach, being the really good friend that he is, when he came back to town on Saturday night from Australia -- on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday we did at least, like, 12 hours –just learning each song – whole hour each song and then go to the next song and by the time we were done doing a couple songs we'd go over all of the songs. There was a lot of attention to detail and just really, really trying to get it to where it doesn't even sound like I'm a noobie. I wanted to get as tight as possible, especially with this band, because this is a very tight band.
Ricky: Zach, a couple nights ago I sat and listened to all of Green Star while reading the lyrics from beginning to end and you seem to have this noticeably gigantic vocabulary—I'm just wondering, how did that happen?
ZQ: I don't know. I have a tenth grade education. I'm not supposed to have a big vocabulary and I don't use it when I speak at all. (laughs) Yeah, I don't know how that happened. I think it's just from watching movies – mostly Batman movies.
Stevie: And yet "The Flu" is a song you wrote even before tenth grade—how did it feel to be able to repurpose a song from practically childhood on an album now released on Fat Wreck Chords?
ZQ: Totally weird. And way cool. Brian really wanted to use it—I played it for him the day we were stuck in Marsden while we were bored, waiting for the van to get fixed. That's also where we wrote "Bug Aware". But I played him ["The Flu"], and he was like, "hey, that's really cool—why don't you write songs like that anymore?"
ZQ: And the answer is that I'm FAR too pretentious now to ever do anything like that.
Ricky: Since it was pretty much just you guys recording Go To Prison, what did Mike Supina from A Wilhelm Scream contribute to Green Star?
Brian Pretus: He helped get the guitar tone with me. He set up all of the guitars and basses for us. He did a great job doing the drum edits. He is really awesome at drum editing – like the poor guy, he had to sit there for hours and just slay away at the computer. I think he just sprinkled magic all over it -- mostly because Jarret sucks, too.
Stevie: On the subject of drums and Jarret sucking, this was really the first album you were writing with PEARS, as opposed to just playing their material—how did that influence the dynamic in the writing?
JN: The whole thing was easy. I'm a drummer who really likes recording, which I found is rare. So it was smooth. We really only spent two days on the drums. It wasn't like a very tedious process. I pretty much knew what I was going to do and Brian laid down a good foundation for what the drums should sound like. I did make them my own though. The whole process was really simple. I think the fact that I enjoy recording was a big part as to why the beginning was so smooth.
BP: And I was going to say that it was definitely different from the first time because when we demoed the songs I wrote the drum parts on the computer and John, our first drummer played exactly what I wrote, but Jarret's creative input was better to have than whatever my basic idea of what the drums were supposed to sound like.
Stevie: That's is definitely apparent. I feel like Go To Prison is literally black and white and Green Star is very much so this..involved piece. Why "green star?" Why Dante's Inferno?…Three Wise Men?…Centaurs? Where is this all coming from?
Ricky: Is the music and the art on the physical release connected?
ZQ: Oh man, I don't even know how to being to answer questions like this. I don't know. It is what it is. You know there is like a million different interpretations that I have for it. The record is kind of just a long description of weird like Terry Gilliam- esque cartoons that are in my head. And maybe like, I have never been normal after a certain mushroom trip. Its kind of like I'm always on acid a little. I don't know man. There are definitely a lot of themes, but there are a million different things that the songs could represent to me.
Stevie: Outside of you and obviously having written them, how do the rest of you guys pick up on this? Does that influence you at all? Or is this "mad scientist" scenario, and you are just along for the ride?
EG: Pretty much the way Zach put it. You know, I hear what's going on and I fuckin' love the music and I'm all about the band. It's fuckin awesome.
BP: I don't give a shit about art.
Ricky: You guys upped your game with the Easter eggs in Green Star, like with Go To Prison there were more vocal Easter eggs or nods to the Descendents or Suicidal Tendencies, but this time we hear "Day Tripper," we hear "What's My Age Again?," – were those planned for the songs or were those just kind of thrown together at the last minute?
ZQ: No, those were definitely written in parts of the songs on purpose. I don't know why we think that's as funny as we do, but we really think that's funny.
BP: The only one we didn't plan was the guitar solo for one of the songs ["I Love My Kennel"] that is the guitar solo to "Smells Like Teen Spirit."
ZQ: I don't why nobody has picked up on the "what we do is secret" in "Snowflake." Not many people talk about that, but that's just a Germs reference.
Ricky: I sort of figured that. I was actually wondering if – this might be a long, but I was wondering if the lyrics "I am not a chicken" from "Cumshots" is a Back To The Future reference?
ZQ: No, that is something weird and personal.
Stevie: …that you share with Marty McFly?
ZQ: It was a term of endearment in an old relationship. So I'm basically like, "I am not a sweet boy!" I guess that's what I'm saying there.
Ricky: Eh – another question about lyrics, then I'm done! (laughs) Zach, there are several lines about death throughout the album. I'm curious – you got a death wish? "Anhedonia": Give me death! "Cloverleaf": I wanna, wanna die! Seems to be something there…
ZQ: I think even in that record…it's as torn as I feel in my own head. Often I wanna die, but like – I don't. And that "Cloverleaf" lyric, you have to be careful. Read it again, and let it be phrased as it reads-- "I want to want to die, but I don't". I want to have the desire to die…
Ricky: Oh! Got it!
Stevie: Is that why you kept "Old Glory" [the tour van] around for so long?!
Ricky: …I have another lyrics question…
ZQ: No, good—shoot, Ricky.
Ricky: The "bananas on parade" lyrics in "Cumshots"-- ?
ZQ: Bananas are the opposite of pears. Bananas represent happy people in that instance.
EG: The banana-sphere.
ZQ: The banana-sphere. Free of all pain and fear. Some people say, "go away!"—I say, "come 'ere, come 'ere." Stevie: …"need a hundred 'nanners in the sack"…
ZQ: "get a life before it floats away"—that's a Donkey Kong Country reference.
ZQ: I have a great segment idea: ask Dante what the song lyrics mean.
(laughs) Stevie: Hang on, I had a lyric—"I washed up on purpose / drowning on the surface / in envy of what he became / a dying green star"—Dante?
DG: Yeah, that one means Zach doesn't know how to swim. (laughs) And I have proof that he doesn't know how to swim—I have a picture of him drowning in a kid's pool that I'll send to you… Stevie: If you could change anything about Green Star, would you?
BP: YES. I'd change the gang vocal "Heys!" in "Green Star". The end needs to be chopped off a little—and faded quicker—one of just drags over too long.
ZQ: There was a violin part I'd worked out for "Snowflake" that I forgot…
BP: Other than that, 6 out of 5.
Ricky: Brian, hate to say it, but there's no 6 out of 5…
BP: Well, then—change the [algorithm].
ZQ: Did you hear him just try to say that word?!
ZQ: Ask Dante about Green Star. Stevie: Dante—what was your involvement in Green Star? What are you doing while these dudes are recording?
Dante Graziani: Well, mostly, I just totally blow it on the mail orders…
DG: Bust seriously, we probably had about a year's worth of mail orders that just…hadn't gone out. So I basically set up—they had a vocal booth they weren't using in the studio, so that was kinda my office for the week, and I did mail orders that no one else would take care of. (laughs)
Ricky: Dante—you have a band, Betty White Tit Fuck—any chance of opening for PEARS?
DG: I'm down, but I don't think anyone else is on board. Actually, I'm pretty sure PEARS wants to distance themselves from Betty White Tit Fuck entirely, and for good reason. But really, if anything, Betty White Tit Fuck would headline, you know… Stevie: …now that you've delivered something like Green Star-- what the fuck comes next?
Brian Pretus (laughs): Fuuuuck, Stevie--
ZQ: Ask us again…later.
Stevie (laughs): Fair enough. What's the immediate plan then? – what can we expect?
ZQ: Tour, tour, tour, tour, tour. The rest of the year. There's so much coming up…
ZQ: Yeah, Groezrock is gunna be awesome. We have a single in the pipeline—two new songs. They're half-recorded from the Green Star sessions, actually. They didn't make the record; they would have been the best songs on the record, but I got burned out on writing…words, and didn't bother to finish them. Those will come out at some point this year. And we'll probably record an EP or something at the end of the year as well.
Ricky: Can't wait, man. Speaking of singles, that New Noise Magazine flexi – why, of all bands, Everclear? Why that song ["Chemical Smile"] for you guys?
ZQ: Those first three records, between me and Brian, are some of our favorite records ever written. I love those albums so much - World of Noise, Sparkle and Fade and So Much for the Afterglow.
BP: I don't care about the third one-- World of Noise. I don't give a shit about that one.
ZQ: That's the first one!
BP: I've never even heard that one…
ZQ: Heavy as fuck--
BP: OH. Yeah! I like that one—the one with them on the cover in front of the house. Disregard all of this.
ZQ: But that one ["Chemical Smile"] just seemed right. The most natural, stylistically.
BP: It was actually our first cover idea.
ZQ: Yeah, from before we recorded Go to Prison. It was cool to actually follow through with that idea. Ricky: Things going well with Fat [Wreck Chords], I assume?
ZQ: Most definitely! It's amazing—they're so good to us. And they're so nice to us…about the tremendous amount of debt that we're in.
Erich Goodyear: I'm pretty stoked to play in Canada – that'll be cool.
ZQ: Erich's never been to Canada --
BP: Erich's never been to the…THE BATHROOM.
ZQ: Erich has NEVER been to the bathroom.
JN: FIND MY EAR PLUGS—I know they're at your house somewhere.
ZQ: Stevie—Jarret says, "Find his ear plugs because he knows they're there".
Stevie: We're spiraling out of control, here. Let's end this on a high note: based on your rapidly changing roster, if you had to play "Clue" and guess which one of you will drop next – who would it be?
ZQ: Which one of these guys?—hm, who's out next? Dante.
DG: God, PLEASE.