Interview with The Pity Party: Food plus Rock equals Vomit

My first interview for L.A. Record with my favorite band!

The Pity Party, the insanely talented local rock duo comprised of fiery redhead Heisenflei and dapper M, released their debut self-titled EP last year and are currently recording a full-length album hoping for January release. The pair picks up writer Lovely Linda from her apartment, blindfolds her, and carries her off to one of their favorite bars, which was to remain anonymous by any means necessary.

Can I take off the blindfold now?
Heisenflei (drums/keyboards/vocals): Yeah, it’s fine now. Where do you think we are?

I have no idea. Am I only allowed to see this room?
M (guitar/vocals): Yes. If you have to go to the bathroom we have to blindfold you.
H: You’ll have to piss blindfolded, so hold it in.

You blindfolded me with an American Apparel t-shirt. That seems perfectly fitting. This could totally be their next ad campaign.
H: It’s the same shirt I wore today during the photo shoot. Is that gross?

No. It’s actually kinda hot. But moving along… You guys won the best band in L.A. for Detour Fest, which I’ve been saying all along.
H: That’s right! From PullMyDaizy to L.A. Weekly. I screamed on the phone like when you win tickets on the radio. And I jumped up and down.
M: There’ve been a lot of firsts lately.
H: First time we’ve voted best band in L.A., first time we’ve had a full-page color ad in the Weekly, first time we’ve had an L.A. RECORD cover, first time we’ve had a dressing room rider; whether it will be honored remains to be seen…

What’d you put on your rider?
M: Four Styrofoam cups, four bottles of Fiji water, room temperature; ice cubes, one bottle of Jameson, hot water and Lipton tea bags.

No bowl of green peanut M&Ms?
M: No. We can’t be near any food.
H: Food doesn’t go together with rock. Food plus rock equals vomit.
M: But whiskey plus rock equals awesome show.
H: Whiskey plus rock equals transcendence. Whiskey plus anything actually equals transcendence.
M: Whiskey equals transcendence.
H: Especially when you’re like, a professor in your sixties and you’re just drinking whiskey regularly to tune your wife out for the last 30 years. Then it really equals transcendence.

You’ll be playing Detour and the Eagle Rock Music Fest on the same day. You seem to have a penchant for running yourselves ragged.
H: I don’t see it that way. We’re just voracious about opportunities. We are just slutty and ambitious and we love an opportunity and we will fucking take it. It doesn’t seem like extra work to us to take an extra opportunity. Like, who wouldn’t want to play two festivals in the same day? I’m just gonna need basic training time with my iPod listening to Nine Inch Nails or Metric and thinking about kicking ass a lot.

Do you have a routine to psyche yourselves up before going onstage?
M: We have to have a whiskey and a half before we go onstage, and we have to start drinking it an hour before the show.
H: But when we play festivals we don’t drink that much, because for the daytime thing it’s scary.
M: I’d rather save it and get fucking shitfaced at Eagle Rock and have an incredible show.

Your lyrics are really heavy. Who writes them?
H: We have a journal and when we think of ideas, succinct little lines, pairings of lines, concepts…
(Heisenflei is distracted by herpes commercial that flashes on TV.)
H: I’m scared of genital herpes.
M: We’ll start a new song, and then every five or six lines I’ll randomly generate a lyric that gets put in. “Dronebots and peons for eons and eons,” that was my lyric. That was my only lyrical contribution I think in that whole song. Heisenflei’s really into messing with prosody, which is the musical term for the natural accents for words, where they naturally fall. And she likes to make it so that it’s not natural.
H: So that instead of saying matrimony, you say matrimony.
M: It catches the ear… it’s jolting.

Just like your music… it’s jolting. What’s your process for writing the music?
H: He writes the guitar part. Then I bark a bunch of orders at him. He refines the guitar part a little bit. Then I try to write a little drum thingy.
M: It’s very give and take. We’re very open to each other.
H: That’s something that’s different about us than I think a lot of other bands we know. We don’t have a principal songwriter, so it’s like in a weird way a lot of our songs aren’t very personal. Maybe they could be interpreted as being personal, but they’re more conceptual and more a little bit political and kind of critical of life as it is.

There seems to be that common theme of discontent with the current state of politics on your EP. Is this theme continuing over to the new record?
H: Everything we write lyrically is very interpretive. It could apply to the political situation or it could apply to a love relationship. Like, we’ve been really into peak oil. When our country runs out of oil, we’re like, “Fine, we’ll just go get it somewhere else,” instead of thinking we need to deal with this problem at its root. But if you write a lyric like, “If I can’t get it here, I’ll just go get it somewhere else,” everyone’s gonna think that’s about sex.

What made you decide to start a band?
H: My brother’s in Autolux, one of the best bands ever. They’re so good — they’re so amazing. They always break—they break everything apart. You’ll be listening to a song and they’ll just fucking break it and your mind will be blown with where they go with it. And that was totally the approach that the Pity Party had from the beginning. That’s what music should do. It should totally break. It should break people.
M: I remember Greg saying the biggest dream of Autolux is to play a show for the entire world where the music is so horrible and so terrible that everybody simultaneously loses their minds. And I remember being totally inspired by that. I think in many ways that is a dream of the Pity Party.

Do you have a manager?
H: We had the realization: a manager needs to be able to do more for you than you can somehow do for yourself. We’d like to find someone who could do more for us than what we’re already doing.
M: I feel like the Pity Party is the only band that I know of that’s gotten as far as we’ve gotten with as little as we’ve had going for us.
H: It would be so amazing for it to be real. ‘Cause right now it’s just a dream. And the dream is great — it makes me feel good — it’s really rewarding to have worked so hard and have good shit happen.

I read an interview you guys did a while back about making some rules before the band got started: no songs about love or going to parties, no songs where you say “I” or “me,” Heisenflei always singing lower than M… It struck me as a kind of Dogme-esque approach to songwriting.
H: Oh yeah, I never thought of that… Yeah, we totally abandoned that.
M: I do a lot of the backup stuff, so I just try to do what’s gonna meld with whatever she’s doing at that moment. I try not to interfere. But if I’m interfering, she’ll just tell me anyway and make me change it.

Have you ever thrown yourself your own pity party?
H: Oh my God, all the time! Especially…! (points at M) Like today, he was really thirsty and he was having a pity party!
M: It’s really easy for us to have our own mutual pity parties that each of us supports because we’ve known each other since we were 12.
H: The idea of Pity Party is—well, I wouldn’t say America in general because I can’t say I relate to the whole midsection of the country, but I feel like on the coasts it’s a pity party for everyone. That’s the party most people are engaged in. Feeling sorry for themselves instead of being proactive. And that’s how we are, because our music is kind of whining but we’re not really doing anything about it.

So it’s like the Pity Party is an actual political party.
M: We’d originally talked about it being an actual political party.
H: We wanted to have signs. You know the red, white and blue elephant and donkey? We were gonna have the red, white and blue atom bomb explosion. And we were gonna dress as heads of state.
M: I was gonna dress as a senator.
H: I was gonna be the Secretary of Defense—Rumsfeld. That’s when he was kinda hot and he would smolder every time he’d do a press thing…
M: You always talk about Rumsfeld being hot!
H: He was hot! I mean he was fucked up—it fucking sucks—but he was hot, c’mon!
M: I’ve seen in the press they’ve referred to the Democratic Party as the Pity Party.
H: They are the Pity Party. They have no fucking backbone.
M: “Waa-waa, there’s a war in Iraq…”
H: Like do something, dumbasses. This is America. You need to be like John Wayne or George Dubya, ya know?
M: At the same time I think people should be proud of their American desire to feel pity and be pitied all the time and so that way we sort of are taking a ballsy stand at representing—actually representing—what Americans are actually doing, which is to whine and not do anything about it.

Do you have groupies?
H: I think a groupie exchanges some sort of bodily fluid or at least has some sort of forbidden naked skin-on-skin with the band. So no, we don’t have any groupies. Now I feel really sad and depressed! I haven’t hooked up with a fan yet. God, what’s the point?

There’s always Detour and Eagle Rock.
H: Yeah… What’s it like to hook up with a fan? Like, you’re in the middle of having sex and they’re like, “Tell me about ‘Lullaby!’ Break it down!”
M: Like if you’re in bed with that person and all you can think about is how at the next show you don’t want to see them and they’re gonna be there. You’d just keep thinking, “Fuck, they’re gonna be there!”
H: That’s why we need to go on tour.

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