Photos by Cheryl Georgette.
Hello all you Alt Citizens. Do you need something new to listen to? We’ve got your back. Meet PILL, that’s with two L’s (not to be confused with Public Image Limited because theses are two different bands). If you are into new wave bands like Shopping, Patti Smith, The Slits and James Chance this one is definitely for you. Hailing from Bushwick this art punk quartet brings out the youthful fire within us all. Between the punching voice of Veronica Torres chanting about millennial youth alongside DIY instruments their vibe encompasses the thirst for creative explosion. Their music is like a road trip with your best buds. There is nothing but pure joy and madness, but by the end of the journey you are just ecstatic to have your friends by your side.
In the case of PILL these musicians bring it out in us all. Veronica has the moxie and lyrical content that challenges ideas of femininity, gender identity and sexuality. With no definitive answer as to how to present ourselves she allows us to decide for ourselves in songs like “Fetish Queen” and “100% Cute.” I applaud them for continuing to challenge what we think is the norm or to imagine what else is possible because a reality check is always in need, #punk. She makes you angry and frustrated but with the dance fueled beats by odd ended instruments you just want to dance off the madness. Their debut LP Convenience is out on Mexican Summer and their latest EP Aggressive Advertising was recently released on Dull Tools. We were lucky enough to get to chat with the band to get the inside scoop on what they think of social media, working with local faves Parquet Courts and their view of the Brooklyn music scene.
Jonathon Campolo: All of those sub-genres only occupy a specific time and are borrowed terms. We love all of them and are none of them. Call us whatever you’d like.
How do you describe what your band sounds like to your parents?
Veronica Torres: Well, my mom says we sound very go go, but I honestly have no idea what she’s talking about. She’s said this even after I’m sweaty and covered in grime after rolling on the floor.
What is your opinion on the use of social media as a marketing tool? Is it a commentary about internet consumption? Is it a push to keep music in the real realm as opposed to a projected self image in the virtual world?
PILL IN UNISON: We don’t dislike internet platforms, we just prefer to be more precise with the content. When we started we did not know how long we would be making music together, so it didn’t make sense to have a page, a twitter, and a t-shirt before we had anything recorded.
What is your opinion of the existence of music in the virtual world versus IRL? How does that develop a “scene” if it helps to develop one at all?
Andrew Spaulding: Scenes can exist anywhere, including the internet. That said, we value a good live performance and any space that facilitates those outlets. The most important thing is that people make and share with their friends and communities.
Talk with me about working with Chris Pickering from Future Punx and Andrew Savage of Parquet Courts? Do you think the Brooklyn DIY scene helped facilitate interaction?
Veronica: Absolutely! We have all grown up around this community or in similar scenes in other cities. For the style of music we are making , performing in an environment where people are supportive of queerer sounds is crucial to the band’s longevity. Chris and Andrew have been buds from the get-go and they’ve helped us navigate a lot of new territory even after we signed to Mexican Summer.
What do you think sets you apart from other bands in Brooklyn. Chris and Andrew saw a spark and placed a bet on you followed later by Mexican Summer. What do you think it is?
Jonathon: There are so many incredible bands and musicians that we are surrounded by. I think there is a rawness that people are attracted to. Even now we still get the question, “Do you guys practice?”, which is simultaneously hilarious and offensive.
Veronica, your voice has that moxie appeal. Your vocals are abrasive but also some how disarming, edgy with a commanding tone and also extremely relaxed and charming. And sure every screaming girl in front of a microphone is going to be characterized as an iron fist feminist and likened to Patti Smith and Kathaleen Hanna whether or not it is intended or not. Why is it still such a shocker to see a woman spitting her truth in front of a crowd? Do you think women still have to fight for their spot in music?
Veronica: I think there are still a lot of expectations of how you ought to sound, despite a history of women paving the road for alternative voices. I scream and I get a small pool of references that are all women, while sometimes I have modeled my yelps and intonations after Ian Svenonious or the Big Bopper. That is not to say that I am not inspired by so many incredible women, but it sometimes feels a bit reductive. I am incredibly humbled by some of the comparisons I have received (i.e. Patty Smith, X-Ray Specs, Kim Gordon, Lydia Lunch), but now I just wish they were all true! I’ve definitely been inspired by all of these women, but it all seems too convenient…
One of the first times I saw you guys, you played at Palisades it was either Jonathon or Andrew who was playing some self made instruments. Can you tell me a little bit about those instruments. How did you get started making your own? Are their any particular circuit bending artists you draw inspiration from?
Veronica: Both Andrew and Jon’s brother, Nick Campolo, have both circuit bent existing instruments and built instruments from scratch.
Andrew: We have two circuit bent Fisher Price toy guitars from the 80’s (named Shiela 1 and Shiela 2, respectively), and Jon uses some pedals made by Nick that became integral to recording the full length record and our evolving sound.
Jonathon: Nick and I are friends with the co-founders of NNA tapes of Burlington, VT. Since 2008 they have broke experimental artists such as Laurel Halo, Julia Holter, Horse Lords, Co La … the list goes on, and all are artists at the forefront of contemporary sound.
Benjamin. You are screaming some mad James Chance and I love it. Can you talk a bit about playing Sax in a post punk band. To me it seem like you are summoning some classic New York No Wave. If it’s not No Wave inspired what is it?
Benjamin Jaffe: James Chance? Well if you you heard that, then it’s in there. That’s the cool thing about music. I may have spent a lot of time practicing with my Sun Ra and Iggy records, but people associate what I do with No Wave. Older listeners often mention Dexter Gordon, and I certainly love his music. I really can’t be as elegant as Dex, but who can?
I think I was already heading in the aggressively creative direction with playing before I heard James Chance, but his music definitely opened my ears and inspired me to keep searching for the rawest edges of my saxophone.
I always thought “Post Punk” was a term to describe my style when I was an office temp years ago. I wore a lot of grey and black. You know, a punk has to grow up, too. All the same, I am excited that my band mates welcomed the use of an amplifier with the saxophone. When other people share your vision, you have to move with it!
You’ve been playing in New York for more than a decade how does the music scene compare from when you started till now?
Benjamin: I think people’s ears are much more open now to new song formats, new sounds derived from found noise, and expressive thoughtful lyrics. This has been going on for a very long time, but now it is our (meaning everyone) turn to use these tools to tell our story. It’s a language that many listeners understand and feel. It does not have to be confined to a college or an art museum!
In terms of press many articles pin you guys as being political addressing gender norms, female sexuality, abortions, queerness and more. Was this projection intentional or just a reflection of contemporary life? Is it a product of the personal being political, meaning the struggle of every day is connected to larger political structures?
Veronica: We are all socially conscious people trying to navigate, reduce harm, and keep ourselves open to continue to learn. I do think our current climate mixed with the internet has allowed for more voices to be heard, which is incredible and important for social change and justice. We have a lot of internal conversations as a band regarding our shifting landscape, but at the end of the day everything is personal. There is so much violence in the world that is sung about beautifully and powerfully by other people. I hope what I am able to contribute helps engage and further conversation.
Jonathon: In terms of press, it’s not something that we can actively control. We would rather be apart of the conversation than be silent. We are political individuals, but that attention in the press is also a sign of the times.
Do you think music plays a role in social awareness? Do you think Convenience plays a role in social awareness?
Jonathon: Of course, music can sway opinion and shift change. Every culture and generation has its own protest music, even if it’s a popular song and not necessarily underground. I’ve had many conversations with people likening our day to Vietnam War era—in that peace is popular again. Political awareness on the mainstream level has been a positive force, and it’s a good thing that it’s cool to care again.
As far as the record is concerned, we hope! It’s only a part of the conversation, and very much up to the listener. The record has a range of metaphors, some blunt and others more coded.
When people walk away from your shows how do you hope they feel?
Veronica: Anything but ambivalence! I would prefer extreme disgust over “hmm”… We hope they have fun, because we always do.
PILL just released a new EP Aggressive Advertising, check it out here. They are playing a tape release show alongside BAMBARA, Olivia Neutron-John and Weeping Icon on Saturday July 15th at Alphaville. Tickets and details here.