Ten years is a long time. As the years pass, every now and then certain circumstances combine and give you the chance to take stock and look back at what you’ve achieved. Well, it turns out this is exactly what’s happening to Pennsylvanian agro-rockers Pissed Jeans as their debut album Shallow is being subjected to the reissue treatment, in a release that also includes their inaugural Throbbing Organ 7″, all courtesy of the alternative music mecca that is Sub Pop.
Shallow was released in 2005, hot on the heels of Throbbing Organ the year before and the visceral nature of those releases was nothing short of a statement of intent from a band who seemed like they wanted to give the world a collective kick in the ass. Infused with the spirit of 90s hardcore, Richter scale levels of distortion and a healthy dose of tongue-in-cheek humour courtesy of singer Matt Korvette’s lyrics, covering everything from bad relationships to bodily fluids, Pissed Jeans (as their name suggested) had arrived to rattle the hum-drum out of their hometown’s music scene and have a good time doing it. Four albums down the line, Pissed Jeans are still getting parties started and destroying stages, not just in their home town anymore, but all over the place.
On the eve of the reissue of Shallow/ Throbbing Organ, we caught up with Pissed Jeans ring leader and all round good dude Matt Korvette to look back on how things have changed over the past ten years, and to find out if being in one of the loudest bands around is still any fun.
So, a remastered version of your debut album Shallow is about to be released. How does it feel for your first album to be subjected to the reissue treatment?
I’m pretty pleased! It’s nothing super fancy really, no box set of practice recordings and prank phone calls, just a record we are proud of being available once again. I’m glad it’s happening!
Shallow certainly caught people’s attention when it came out. How do you think it’s going to go down second time around?
I hope people enjoy it! We still play a lot of those songs, and I think it’s a great record. It’s kinda fun to look back a little and see how we’ve matured, or completely not matured, maybe.
What was the recording process like for Shallow back in 2005?
Pretty rudimentary, although not too different from now. We set up in our friend Dan McKinney’s basement studio, filled one tiny little side room with Brad’s amps, and scared the hell out of the community college interns who helped plug in cables.
Any funny stories to tell about the recording and/or touring you did in support of Shallow?
We traveled in Dave’s small bus that he converted to run on vegetable oil, and it broke down like three times. We stayed at some asshole’s house in North Carolina and while I was sleeping inside the bunk (or rather, attempting to sleep), some neighbor was fed up with the insane noise happening at the asshole’s house and threw a rock through the window, narrowly avoiding my limp body. The asshole never apologized. I distinctly remember staying in a hotel the next night, and swimming in the indoor hotel pool, where Brad sang King Diamond songs flawlessly with the insane pool-room acoustics. One night, Robert, from the band Air Conditioning that we were touring with, came in super late to our hotel room, covered in grass clippings from laying on someone’s lawn. I think that was the same night that Dave played without any pants on, his junk swinging in the breeze, and we blew the power out, so he had to just stand there and try to cover up. There are actually a ton of stories from that tour. It was the first time I heard Benny Benassi, which kind of changed my life.
Has the way Pissed Jeans writes and produces an album changed since your debut?
Not at all, except that we have more experience, perhaps. We still usually take two weeks total, bang out the songs, mix, and wrap it up. We don’t have the time, money or intelligence to take things further than that.
How has Pissed Jeans changed as a band in the near decade since Shallow was released?
Both Dave and Tim, in the original lineup, have left the band, both shortly after Shallow. They remain close friends. We’ve also matured from our early 20s to our early 30s, in more ways than I could have imagined. It’s cool, I am way better at life now, but sadly, also closer to death.
Hindsight’s a great thing – would you change anything about Shallow looking back on it?
I would’ve boosted the vocals in the mix, and I don’t say that as an egotistical vocalist (at least I hope not), I say it because they were pretty buried. I think the remastering kinda fixed that, though. Besides that, great record!
Needles to say, Shallow is an intense, visceral listen and comes across a bit harder than your latest album Honeys. How would you compare your first and latest albums today?
I think we were still figuring out what we could do as a band on Shallow, and by now we are pretty aware of where we can go with things sonically. Songwriting-wise, though, I feel like all of our songs could go on any of our albums – it’s all been pretty much the same sort of ideas, just worked differently.
The album includes the 2004 Throbbing Organ single. How did you think the single was gong to be received on it’s release and did you think Pissed Jeans would still be going 10 years later?
I thought it was a cool record, fairly unique for its time, and I was really proud of it. I also really didn’t care about it, like it was more of a lark than anything, which is probably why it ended up being cool. If I was strongly invested in it, we may not be chatting right now.
What’s next for Pissed Jeans?
A new record, more shows, same old same old really. Being in this band is truly a delight, both performing live and writing and recording new music. I don’t think we’ll ever stop, at least until Sub Pop talks to their accountant and realizes what a horrible mistake they’ve been making.
Shallow/Throbbing Organ is released on Sub Pop on 6 October.