Monday, December 22, 2008

The Peverett Phile Interviews: Pro Audio

Hello, welcome to the most updated blog on the web, now with interviews, and more posts then ever. This entry's interview is with not one, not two, but three pholks. They are the members of the band Pro Audio. Jason "Fish" Fischer, Bri Dellinger and Paul Withers. So, Phile phans, I bring you... Pro Audio.

Me: First things first, where did you come up with that name, Pro Audio? I typed in a search for the band on Google and got all this recording equipment pages.

Jason: John came up with the name. I don’t know what his inspiration was. It’s not a very savvy name in the Google age, but I liked it when I joined the band, and had no urge to change it. I will say that the name has been a curse at live shows. Lots of equipment failures.

Me: You're based in L.A., but where does the band originally come from?

Jason: I'm from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania originally. I moved to L.A. to go to film school at USC which I just finished paying for after ten years of massive monthly student loan payments. John was a year ahead of me in the film school, but I never met him there. But I think I saw his old ska band One Legged Bob play at a party once and get shut down by the cops. John is from Phoenix, AZ.

Bri: I'm from Stockton, California. Oh, never heard of it? It's a gigantic suburb smack dab in the middle of the state. The kind of place that got giddy when Wal-Mart moved in. I moved to LA to study film production and stuck around to edit reality TV and play in an awesome, yet underrated indie rock band.

Paul: from Houston... and yes...I did own a pair of cowboy boots once. But Houston is far more famous as the expendable city wiped off the map in the movie Independence Day.

Me: How did you all meet each other? And a band with a member named Jason can't be a bad thing, unless you're Seven Mary Three.

Jason: I was trolling through music classifieds and found a website John had with five lo-fi demos on it as well as a funny animated robot thing. I initially didn't think we were quite a match, but those demos got stuck in my head so I responded and we met up. We were both willing to play in a band with two songwriters and singers and liked each other's music. John enlisted a friend he grew up with, Ryan Thomson, to play drums. We played shows, recorded an album called Saturday We're Even… and somewhere in there John went to New Zealand for a year. When he returned, we realized we needed a fourth band member to play all the glockenspiel, banjo, and extra keyboard, and to sing all the girl parts that were on the album so John found Bri who was a friend of a friend and who played oboe and bought a banjo on craigslist. While we started writing new songs for our second album, Ryan decided he didn't want to keep committing time to the band so he left amicably and John found Paul through work. They were both editors on "Big Brother" or something. Paul practiced with us once and then got enlisted to start recording before he realized he was even in the band. And as for the name “Jason,” I’m blanking on any well known bands with a Jason in the group. Oh wait, there’s Jason Schwartzman of Coconut Records/Phantom Planet/Rushmore fame.

Paul: At work, John constantly begged me to join his 'band'. So I finally went to jam with them...thinking it would go nowhere. Well, needless to say, it was a pretty intensely badass, hair-on-fire session. And then I never heard a single peep from these guys for months... so it's true...I really was in the band for months without even knowing it.

Me: Okay, the first thing that got me noticing the band was when I was searching iTunes and I came along your song titles, which are the most creative. Who writes the songs, and I bet you have fun coming up with different titles.

Jason: John and I have been the primary songwriters, splitting things pretty much down the middle. He brings half the songs and I bring the other half. Bri contributed her first song, "F.U. Robot" to our latest album Make the Happiness Stop. All four of us are planning to write material for our future albums. In addition, even if I bring a song, John often ends up writing the bass part, Bri will often write a keyboard, oboe, or banjo part, Paul will write the drum and percussion parts, and we'll work together on harmonies. And I'll often write guitar or keyboard parts for the stuff John brings in. So it's pretty collaborative, though the primary songwriter generally has veto power. I often write songs around a concept, so the titles come out of that. Our latest album seemed to get a bit into Sufjan Stevens territory with the overly verbose song titles.

Paul: These guys are so humble.. if you must know, each song is pretty much a follow along...Jason will play one note, and then John will play one. (or vice versa, depending on who's inspired enough that day to have thought up that first note on the car ride over.) Then Bri or I will jump in, and play the next note. So, basically, each tune is meticulously crafted, note by note.. . some tunes are literally years in the making. This also explains why some of them are only 30 seconds--strangely it has proven to be a pretty tedious why to compose...

Me: "F.U. Robot", ''King of Awkward Conversations" (which could be my them song), and "The Night I Punched Dracula in the Face" are some of my favorite songs. What are the stories behind them?

Jason: Well, "F.U. Robot" is Bri's, so I'll leave it to her. "King of Awkward Conversations" was just a concept that popped into my head due to my lack of social graces, though there are two other people who fit that bill who I based the song on too. Just people who would walk up to me and say hello upon which I would then have to carry the dialogue lest it drop into absolute silence. People who just seem to specialize in awkward dips in conversations. I actually wrote the song pretty quickly, and it helped that I could use lots of regal imagery and stuff in the lyrics. Then I couldn't come up with an ending, so I just made it into a love song. "The Night I Punched Dracula in the Face" has sort of a funny story behind it. Back when Ryan was in the band and John was overseas, I emailed Ryan to ask him how to post MP3's on a website. I'm light years behind Ryan, John, and Bri in terms of computer literacy. Anyway, Ryan sent me the html code I needed to post a song using a=href "draculapunch.mp3" and "The Night I Punched Dracula in the Face" as an example. Even though Ryan had just tossed off the title as a gag, I thought it was an incredible name for a song, so I vowed to write it. Months later when John was back and the three of us met for our first practice, I had only the first two lines of the song written; "Grandpa was looking much, much paler than usual. And I knew something was wrong. Sleeping in the basement all day long." I spent months hammering the song out part by part based around a story about a guy who is dating a girl whose ex-boyfriend is Dracula. I'm not sure if people get that story when they listen (John at one point promoted the song saying that it was about a guy whose grandpa IS Dracula), but I'm pretty proud that the song lived up to its epic title.

Bri: FU Robot came about from this great podcast I used to listen to, named DailySonic. They had an old-timey radio segment called "Fuck You Robot" that was introduced by what is now the chorus to the song. They invited anyone who wanted to, to cover the song and add to it. I finally did it... a year after the podcast had retired itself. Poor timing on my part, but I think it turned out well anyway. I need to note that despite the title of the song, I do love robots and I hope that robot research continues so that someday we may yet have a Robot Army vs. Humans battle for the earth. Or at least a robot can make me breakfast or be my penpal or something.

Me: Why are some of your songs so short?

Jason: Well, we tend to write some epically long songs, so I think it's a reaction to that. In fact I think on our next album, I'm at least trending toward writing songs that top out around three and a half minutes rather than five and a half or seven. It now just hit me that you might be asking about the little interstitials between songs on our new album. If you listen closely, those are bits of the songs played with different instrumentation. We put them in there because we wanted to make a big nerdy prog rock concept album.

Paul: Well, if you must know...This really has to do with the price of hard drive going up in price, inversely to oil I take it. So you pretty much have to pick and choose your verses and choruses when you're at the end of a drive.

Me: Looking at your website,, you have no gigs lined up. Are you going on tour, and do you ever play outside California?

Jason: We have never played outside of California. We have no tour in the works because we can't really afford to at the moment. Beyond that I've developed a case of stage fright that will probably keep us off the stage for the foreseeable future and in the studio. Though if there was a huge demand to see us play, then I might be willing to give it another shot.

Paul: Plus we're waitin on John to get our veggie-powered tour bus off the blocks.

Q: I want a t-shirt, damn it. Who came up with that cool looking robot drawing? I have been working on a Peverett Phile t-shirt for Cafe Press for two years now.

Jason: That's all John. He does lots of cool art stuff. He did most of the art and layout for both our albums which impressed the hell out of me. Bri and her boyfriend Iain also do really good art-related stuff. Bri designed our website and made a flash animation music video for our song “Sean, We Were Uncool.”

Bri: There is more coming from that robot. That's all I'm gonna say. Check back at the new year.

Me: What music does the band listen to? Your music does sound very Beckish.

Jason: Beck is a big favorite of mine (though I think Bri hates him), and people actually used to tell me I looked like Beck when I had long hair in college. Now they tell me I look like Beck's fat uncle or like Mike White. Our musical tastes are all over the board. For me personally I take a lot of Pro Audio inspiration from Quasi, Weezer, Grandaddy, They Might Be Giants, Neutral Milk Hotel, Ben Folds Five, The Rentals, The Decemberists, The Pixies, Radiohead. Though I also listen to lots of folky stuff like The Mountain Goats, Paul Simon, Elliott Smith, Earlimart. Two sort of lesser known bands (though perhaps more well known than us) that have a similar sound are Oucho Sparks and The Clips. For the record, John listens to a variety of stuff some of which is listed above. He likes Damon Albarn, Flaming Lips, Beastie Boys, WeenHe also listens to electronic stuff like Sukpatch and Holland, punk and ska stuff, some old ‘70s rock like Led Zeppelin, and stuff I’m forgetting. Likewise, Paul listens to some of the stuff above and I know he has a soft spot for prog music like Genesis which definitely influenced our latest album. And U2.

Bri: Bri: I don't HATE Beck. I just think he's overrated. The bands that influence my part in Pro Audio are Sufjan Stevens, Rilo Kiley, Weezer, and Grandaddy. Aside from indie rock, I also a lot of electronic music. I'm hoping someday Pro Audio will morph into stadium (French) electronic mega-stars.

Paul: I think it's all about the crooners.

Me: This is a question I ask al l my interviewees... what is the band's favorite Foghat song?

Jason: I'm not as up on my '70s rock as I should be. John or Paul might give a better answer. I guess I'll just be lame and obvious and say "Slow Ride."

Paul: I wish you could ask who my favorite Edgar Winter song is. But if I have to answer... "Fool for the City."

Me: Finally, you read the Phile, in one sentence what do you think?

Jason: I would say The Peverett Phile is a prolific, political, pop-savvy blog that is filled with righteous anger, biting sarcasm, and things that make me laugh.

Me, too. Thanks, guys, for taking time out to do this interview, it was great. The next interview will be posted tomorrow with the legendary Jeff Cameron, then on Wednesday (yes, Christmas Eve) join me for an interview with Tish Meeks, the lead singer of the band 3 Kisses. The Phile is off for Christmas, but will be back on Friday with the usual update and then on Saturday the interview with singer Lindsay Rush. Until then, spread the word, and go to iTunes to check out Pro Audio, and tell them the Peverett Phile sent you. 

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