PEARS have a busy 2020 ahead of themselves: a self-titled release is out today, it's their first LP in four years, and they've got a heavy touring schedule on the horizon. Drummer Jarret Nathan spoke to Punknews' Mike Elfers, taking a deep dive into the group's discography, upcoming album release, and sharing drum gear with his idols.
It looks like the majority of touring in 2019 took place in Europe, at some point do you just start telling strangers that you are from a different country? Or do you have to apologize once again every time you meet a new person? It’s less apologizing and more commiserating. Most people just feel bad for Americans for all the bad shit that’s happening here. It’s nice to have punks in Europe come up to you and say fuck Trump.
That is a refreshing response. What are your thoughts on the sitting president's influence on the current punk genre overall? Is societal corruption good for good writers? I don’t know man, I don’t think that fascism and reactionary punk rock aren’t mutually exclusive. I wouldn’t say that it’s the responsibility of a band to be vocal in their songs about society, because that’s really up to the band. I love Anti-Flag, but not every band has to be that. If that’s what’s in your heart go for it, but if you’re asking me it’s more about accountability, compassion, and awareness. You don’t have to write political songs to be political. It just matters how you treat people, how you promote inclusivity and respectfulness as a band with a platform. And we’re trying to do more! And no, I don’t think societal failures are good for writers. If it’s a choice between really excellent art or poetry or music and a better world, obviously the choice should be community. It shouldn’t have to be binary - this OR that. It’s important to call out hate in the world, but there’s other ways to do that than by writing a song about it.
Could you elaborate on some of the shows? Rippers? Every show is generally a ripper if we make it a ripper. Even if we play to 5 people, we’re pretty good at making it memorable for them and fun for us. It’s nice sometimes to have a *tiny* bit of pressure off us if the crowd is thin so then we can fuck around and play songs we wouldn’t normally play or do more bits. We’ve been lucky enough to play with so many of our favorite bands; it’s hard to narrow down any one great moment. I will say playing a set and seeing Milo watching you is pretty surreal. We love crowd participation, and we love it if you’re stoked. At Pouzza a dude staged dived and landed on his head, and there were a good 60 seconds where everyone thought he was just dead. He wasn’t, though! He got checked out by paramedics and made his way back in for the end of our set. Shout out to that guy.
Happy he was alright! What are some particular "deep cuts" from the discog that you enjoy from behind the kit? I really like playing the Everclear cover of "Chemical Smile" we recorded for a New Noise Magazine Flexi when Green Star was coming out. It’s so much fun to play, but we rarely do it. There are also a couple songs that we just don’t play live. "Doorbell," "St. Stewart." "Cloverleaf" is one of my favorite songs to play - we’ve been playing that live a bit more lately.
For the Everclear cover, that is… an interesting introduction, and a great standard rendition of the song. I don't think enough people remember that particular aesthetic of Everclear's catalog enough. Good for you guys to commemorate it. So who's idea was a "Sparkle and Fade" cover? Everclear rules. Their drummer is in a band with Chris Aiken from Strung Out, he came to see us when we played in Los Angeles a few years ago. Nice dude. Zach loves Everclear and really wanted to do a cover. We all love ‘90s alternative shit. Third Eye Blind, Goo Goo Dolls, we’re often playing that stuff in the van.
Seeing Milo in the flesh is pretty crazy in itself, I can't imagine the thought of him watching you perform. A lot of Fat Wreck bands have shared interesting stories regarding early interactions with the label or roster/bands. Do you have any weird stories? Any Fat bands you feel a close connection to or just recommend in general? I remember being at the Fat 25th anniversary festival in San Francisco was pretty wild. That was the first time being in the same place as all the other Fat bands. It was crazy to just go up to different people and just introduce myself. “Oh hey, Dave Raun, I’m Jarret from PEARS”. “Oh hey, Chicken, nice to meet you”. That was a pretty cool introduction to everyone. And everyone was super cool. I think more than any other band I definitely feel a close connection to Lagwagon. When we toured with them in 2015 it was one of the first Fat tours we did. Lagwagon was one of those early Fat bands for me. I once brought a fucking photo of Joey Cape to a barber and said cut my hair like that. Dave is one of top 3 most influential drummers to me. Hearing encouragement from them while on the road was wild. Hanging with them, remaining friends afterwards, and keeping in touch always makes me feel nice. And it helps that they really like PEARS as a band. We’re pretty close with most Fat bands, everyone’s only a text or dm away. We just did a bunch of shows with Propagandhi and they are the fucking best. We hadn’t done much with them up until this point and it was awesome getting to know them.
I recently hit up Raun while trying to get some info for the "Railer" review. He was incredibly helpful, and it's refreshing to find out our heroes are so fundamentally nice. What are your favorite song(s) from Railer and Victory Lap, and what are your two (or more) "fan-boy-ing on the floor" songs from them both? Yeah, Dave is the best. We were each on tour in Europe a few years ago and I had broken a cymbal. We were both playing Groezrock together (he was with the Gimmes) and he just gave me one of his spare cymbals. It was a flat bell ride. I still have it. Oohh I really like "Jini," "Parable," and "Dangerous Animal." I like that block especially. For Propagandhi I have to say the song "Victory Lap." It’s such a satisfying album opener, and seeing them play that live just fucking pumps you up. The crowd goes nuts, they go nuts. It’s great. For ["Fan boy-ing songs"] Lagwagon I think it’s anything off Blaze. I love that album so much. "Coffee and Cigarettes" one of my favorite songs, and actually I was lucky enough to sit in and play that song with them on tour when we were in Corpus Christi. Definitely a surreal moment for me. "Beer Goggles" and "Mr. Coffee" are great old ones, also it’s always wild to see the crowed get stoked when they play "May 16th." Oh and seeing them play Hoss straight through was fucking rad. Lagwagon makes me so happy. For Propagandhi is anything from How To Clean Everything because the crowd goes ape shit.
What can we expect from the rest of the album? We recorded in Denver at Black In Bluhm Studios with our buddy Chris Fogal. This record is definitely diverse. As PEARS fans may know, we like to throw a lot of different things in our songs, and this one is definitely manic in that sense. We have poppy stuff, hardcore stuff, thrashy stuff. We have bongos on the record. We put a lot of energy in to making a record that we can be proud of, and something that is a progression in our abilities and creativity, I think. All the things that makes PEARS fun for us - we’re better at all those things now. I think we can all agree that this our favorite record we’ve done. It was definitely the most collaborative. Green Star was especially great because it represented an important moment in time, when we were signing to Fat and we were touring non-stop, and really feeling some benefits of our hard work. We put a lot of ourselves into that record. This new one though, I just feel like we’ve grown a lot the last couple years and that growth is evident in how the album came out.
So as a Colorado neighbor and long time fan of the Gamits, I gotta ask about working with Fogal. How did he influence the record, any fun habits or traditions carry through the session? Fogal was amazing. Him and Zach know each other’s tendencies really well from working on other projects, so Chris was definitely vocal and involved when he had an idea for a structural or melodic critique of a part. We wrote a decent amount in the studio, which is new for us, and he was always there to give his two cents if we were stuck on something. When it’s just us 4 in the band we can easily get in our own heads, and we would turn to Chris and ask what he thought, and we’d take his ideas and run with them. It made the decision making process a lot more fluid. It helped save us some time on sessions to have a third party person to be like “just do this”. He was SUPER patient with us too which is always such a luxury in the studio. He let us take as much time as we needed to get everything perfect. He’s also great at time management in the studio, editing on breaks, and really using the most of the time. He’s a champion.
I find one of the most charming elements of your band is the seamless "genre-bending" between melodic punk and hardcore, truly "pretty" vocals, and all the way to the piano driven "Jump the Fucking Ship." It hoists your band far beyond the sea of aggressive hardcore acts out there, and showcases the talent between your lineup. How and when in the process do you decide to flip the switch in the middle of a song? Is it an album production moment or does it happen naturally? We get bored quickly, and we all have diverse musical interests. I can't even begin how to explain how Brian's brain works while writing music, but I've never seen anything like it. He throws in the craziest stuff, and it takes a lot of energy, but it always comes together. We've had to learn over the years to trust ourselves and embrace unorthodox approaches to songwriting. Structurally all that stuff usually happens when Brian and Zach are demoing stuff out. Sonically a lot of that is happening in the studio. After we get the foundational tracks, we usually spend some time fucking around with the weird stuff, throwing in keyboard and auxiliary percussion types of things. Also Zach and Brian’s harmonies are unparalleled. Those two are so good at writing harmonies. And they do em perfect live too. It’s nuts.
Top of your head recommend a song on the new record that sticks out for you and why, perhaps a song on the album that you are particularly proud of, and an additional song that you are really enjoying playing live. I really like "Worm." It’s just non-stop. "Killing Me" is fun because it’s not really like any song we’ve written before. There are also a few songs on the record that we wrote all together, in a room, completely from scratch. We’ve never really done that before, and I love how they came out. I wonder if people will be able to tell which ones. Let us know if you think you know which ones they are! "Pepaw" is fun as fuck to play. I’m really proud of everything man, Zach really put a lot of himself into the lyrics, and I’m insanely impressed not only how quickly he got through them, but how poignant and self-reflective they are.
You weren't fucking around with "Worm." That song is really something special. A lot of good crammed into less than two minutes. "Killing Me" is also dynamite. Fogal's mix is crystal clear and your band sounds more knit than ever. I suppose I would guess maybe that one was prepared as a group, just because of the several parts and tempo variations, though stepping into the album with your mentioning this kind of threw blinders on me right out of the gate. God damn, "Pepaw" is great too. Your band looks like you have a busy fucking year ahead of you. Please touch on the upcoming tour in the United States, and I'm seeing some Australia stuff too? Yeah, we're splitting our US runs in half, we have the west coast coming up first in March and April. We're stoked to do a tour after a proper release again. We haven't put out a full length in four years, so we'll be touring with some momentum from a new record on our backs. We're planning a lot of stuff, but as of now, Australia is the only other tour we have announced. The last time we were in Australia was the month leading up to when "Green Star" came out in 2016. We're lucky to be able to get back there. Hopefully, Zach won't break his hand this time.
Yeah and hopefully you won't need six guest bass guitar players either. Not a chance. As much as we deeply love all our fill in bassists, Erich is 100% definitely truly absolutely not bailing on us the day we fly to Australia.