Monday, December 28, 2015

Interview with Pawns

Photo from Bexcellent Media
Some afternoon a few months back, while I was no doubt lying on my couch and humming “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now,” I received a text from my friend Jeffrey saying that I needed to hear a new deathrock/punk band called Pawns. A quick Google search returned two self-released seven-inch records, each three songs long. The band had recently finished a United States tour, including the stop in Chicago where Jeff saw them: the unfortunate reality of living dangerously close to mile marker zero is that Miami residents often lose out on touring acts, so I frequently have to rely on friends from more tour-friendly cities.
That said, I’m in a bit of a privileged position as I have the luxury of often traveling for both work and play, which was the case in October when I got to bum around New York for a few days: my label had a day-long CMJ showcase at Palisades, all the reason I needed to jet on over. The same night as our showcase, Destruction Unit played at Alphaville with Snakehole and Horoscope. Much to my delight, Pawns were also on the bill.
Pawns are a fucking joy to watch. Gage Allison writhes and wraiths, incanting darkness while bassist Jenna Rose leers into the audience and Noel Mateus snakes sinister guitar lines through Matt Sullivan’s plodding rhythms. Tight but explosive, Pawns draw their power from theatricality as well as auditory prowess, rather than forsaking one for the other. Totally great band - highly recommended!
Jordan Reyes: I love New York - I've never lived there, though I had a short tenure living on an air mattress in the studio at Heaven Street Records, but I enjoy visiting quite a bit. There's so much going on at all times. Is it ever frustrating or difficult to differentiate yourself there? Does that matter to you?
Gage Allison: I wouldn’t consider it frustrating or difficult. That being said, I don’t think any of us go out of the way to really differentiate ourselves. There is a lot going on but one of the redeemable things about all the oversaturation you’re subjected to is that there is a niche for everything.
Noel Mateus: If you have a good scene or friends supporting you, then that's what sets you apart from most of the people playing music in this city, and that can go a long way in making it less frustrating and more enjoyable.

Jenna Rose: I have a very different problem. I tend to be a loner so I don’t get out much, which makes it difficult for me to affiliate with any particular scene. I have a practice space and a little recording studio where I spend most of my time. I like to hang out with my cat. When I do make it out I experience a lot of overlap and camaraderie between the separate music communities, even though I don’t quite fit the bill in any given scene.

JR: When I think of Pawns, I can't help but think about the nascent L.A. Deathrock scene, coexisting with the punk scene - it sort of mirrors your punk/hardcore background and overlap. There's a co-mingling, which is somewhat inescapable, but did Pawns come from a desire to break away from old habits, so to speak, or to move them forward?
GA: I’d have to say for me personally it’s about moving forward. I’ve been playing in punk/hardcore bands since I was a little kid and never really branched out from that until now. I definitely consider Pawns to be a punk band, though we obviously take more influence from the darker side of the genre, but there’s no doubt that a lot of the same bands that influenced me then still do today.
JR: What relevance do you think "punk" as an ethos has in the modern era? Are D.I.Y. ideals more important now that the creative playing field is more flat, meaning more people have access to making and distributing art?
GA: To answer that you kind of have to define punk as an ethos before you can really touch on its relevance. These days everyone defines it differently and I guess there isn’t really a right answer. For me, punk is a culture that I have been ingrained in since I was very young and it will always have relevance in my life whether I identify as such or not. In a lot of ways it made me who I am today. That being said I couldn’t express more how important DIY ethics are to the punk scene and if punk culture moves away from that I think it would be safe to say that punk finally is dead (haha).
JR: I got to see you all play with Destruction Unit, Snakehole, and Horoscope in October. It was a great show. I was sort of transfixed by the mask you wore - the one with the three faces. It reminded me of Satan's appearance at the bottom of hell in Dante's Inferno. Who made the mask? What's the significance, if there is one to speak of, in wearing it?
GA: I made the mask a few months ago out of papier-mâché and wire. There were a few influences in coming up with the idea but I think it would be boring to really touch on the significance of it. I’d rather have that be up to interpretation.

JRose: I’m happy to hear it be compared to Satan in Dante’s Inferno. He can’t see shit through it. He thinks it’s funny to smash through me on stage while wearing it.

NM: I love it when he stumbles all over my pedals while wearing it...

JR: Let's talk about performance as an imparting of self. I find myself hearing two schools of thought: that performance is an act, a character or story being told, and I've also heard that it's an exorcism, or expulsion of truth. Is either of those applicable to Pawns?
GA: That’s funny that you mention this because Jenna and I discuss this all the time. I really find myself unaware of my actions on stage. It’s hard to tell if whoever I become when performing is a different person or merely an honest exaggeration of self, but every now and then someone will mention something I did while playing a show and I’ll be like “I did that?”
JRose: For me it is most certainly an exorcism. I remember the first time I read Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty and how immediately my life changed. He had given me permission to express that which I am unable to say, and furthermore, with purpose. (I’ve been told it is inappropriate to assault others outside of a theatrical context).
JR: Is truth important in music, art, or performance? Can something be genuine and also fiction?
GA: I don’t think there is such thing as “truth” so elaborating on its importance in art is futile. Everything we believe, say, make or do is molded by our surroundings and those surroundings were built on foundations of the same scenario for generations all the way to the beginning of time. When it comes down to it, being genuine in art and music is bullshit.
JRose: Gage has been reading too much Sartre.
JR: So far you all have released two 7"s - one from about a year ago, if I'm not mistaken, and one from a few months ago, which you toured recently. Do you think that the band has changed in the short but not insignificant interim period?
GA: We have definitely grown a lot between our first self-titled 7” and Eternal Return. I think we’re getting more comfortable with the kind of music we are playing and have more of a shared consensus on the direction we want to take the band.
JR: Do you guys have any desire to make or have you started writing/working on a full-length record?
NM: That's the plan as of now. We're taking a break from shows and trying to focus on writing new material that so far we're very excited about. Some of it has been played live, but a lot is still in the works. In a way the direction we're going in takes us back to our roots; to the more punk/anarcho influences that got us playing this kind of music in the first place.

GA: Yeah we’re planning on recording this Winter and will ideally have our first full length out sometime next year (2016).

JR: I'm a fairly big horror junkie - I pretty much only watch horror, sci-fi, and movies from Japan - do you guys have any favorite horror flicks?
GA: I’m a pretty big zombie nerd myself. Dawn of the Dead and Night of the Living Dead are great. Can’t forget about the classics like The Shining and Rosemary’s Baby too. Have you seen any good contemporary horror movies lately? They’re few and far between but I couldn’t recommend House of the Devil and It Follows more.
NM: Hausu was cool.

JR: What about books? Read anything of note lately?
NM: Gabriela, Cravo e Canela by Jorge Amado. I grew up in Brazil and went to school there up until 6th grade, so every once in a while I like to brush up on my Portuguese and read some. Thanks mom for keeping me cultured.
JRose: Camus is my all-time favorite writer. Lately I’ve been reading some Baudelaire and Anthony Burgess’ M/F, if you’re looking for something funny to read…
JR: What all is in the future for Pawns?
GA: Not exactly sure yet. Like we said, we plan on putting out a full length next year that will pull us in a slightly different direction. Very excited to see where that takes us.
NM: We self-released our first two 7"s and that was cool and all, but we’re hoping to release our full length through a label we like. We're all very happy with how we've done so far, thankful for all the support from friends, and excited for what the future holds.

JR: Anything else you'd like to say?

GA: Black lives matter! Free Palestine! Etc

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