“My Shorts, They’re So Short” – interview #2 w/ the Pity Party

My first interview for the Long Beach District Weekly (thanks Chris!):

My Shorts, They’re So Short

THE PITY PARTY WANNA GIVE IT TO ‘EM
// BY LINDA RAPKA

The Pity Party is an eco-friendly rock duo from Los Angeles comprising fiery redheaded exhibitionist Heisenflei and whiskey-loving M. They just released their second EP with packaging made from recycled trash, and are currently recording their first full-length album and anxiously awaiting their first SXSW experience.

The Pity Party is playing SXSW for the first time this year.
M (guitar): We’re playing two parties. For one of them we’re opening for the Raveonettes.

Do you have anything special planned?
Heisenflei (drums/vocals/keys): My plans are to get up with the sun rising, and I’m going to meditate for seven hours, and then I’m going to pick wildflowers in the area and make bundles and leave them on everyone’s doorstep, and then I’m gonna shake everyone’s hand that I come across. And then maybe I’ll go to some rock shows. And I’ll play a little bit.
M: I’ll be shitfaced the whole time.

What do you expect the SXSW experience to be like?
H: Lots of free shit, lots of drinking, a lot of fucking. Rock ‘n’ roll.
M: Last year we watched a TV show about SXSW and it was totally like Times Square where all the reporters were inside and you saw all these drunken people stumbling past. We were like, “We wanna be there!”
H: I hate how everyone who already went to SXSW wants to tell you about how it’s going to be. It’s like, no it’s not. Shut your mouth, I’m gonna experience SXSW my way.

You just released a new EP, Orgy Porgy.
H: We made it from a billboard for Smirnoff.
M: It was a Smirnoff ad for a sexual, grape-flavored vodka drink.

How did you acquire a huge discarded billboard?
M: Heisenflei got it donated from Clear Channel. She called saying she had an art project.
H: My friend Stephanie told me about how you could buy billboard vinyl—$15 for a 4×4 sheet—and she was like, “You could probably just call a billboard place and they’ll give it to you.” So I called the dude and I hounded him for three months and he finally let me have it.

Your first EP was also handmade from discarded cereal boxes.
M: We always try to use trash. In terms of trash, the billboard was the largest.
H: It was 43 feet by 20 feet.
M: It didn’t even fit in my apartment so we had to roll a little bit out at a time and cut out all these pieces.

You’re halfway done with a Monday-night residency at Spaceland. How’s that going?
H: Last night after I played, this weird old guy asked me if I learned my moves stripping. He bought me a big drink. And then I let him stuff money in my panties.
M: What, were you like pole-dancing around your keyboard?
H: It’s my shorts, they’re so short. When I lean over—to think about what they’re looking at, I don’t even want to think about it. But I still wanna give it to them. I’ve thought about playing nude many, many times. I’m a fucking exhibitionist and I need attention.

You could play nude at SXSW.
H: We would be remembered forever. I was watching this new band MGMT on Letterman and they were all wearing black capes. I was like, “I see, they’re trying to find a way to make people remember.”
M: But it can’t be an obvious choice.
H: Yes, it needs to be. We’re talking about America here.

What makes people remember you?
M: I think our recycling concept. I mean, it’s not an original idea, but it’s that thing for us. It’s capes. But it’s way more sneaky.
H: We could just put trash all over ourselves and trash on the stage.
M: The future of our shows is we’re only gonna perform at dumpsters. Or in a junkyard or a landfill.
H: Playing in the giant floating trash mass that’s in the ocean.
M: That spot where all those plastic bottles get dumped in the middle of the Pacific—the sun beats down on them and breaks them into small little pieces and all the fish think it’s plankton and eat it and then we eat the fish.

Last year you started recording your debut full-legth in Glassell Park at the now-defunct Wetandry Studios, which was known for using recycled analog tape. What’s up with that now?
H: Manny’s totally awesome, but honestly we don’t have the chops to record to tape in that fashion. If we’re just humble about where we’re at, we need a click track, we need ProTools, and we need to be able to fix some shit and get it where we want it. With tape it’s a lot harder. But I think someday we’ll go back to those tracks.

Who’s producing your record now?
H: Stevehimself. I didn’t know him until I moved my store [The Little Knittery, now in Atwater Village] and his studio was right next to it. He was all opinionated, like, “I hate local bands, I hate this, I hate that,” and that’s how we are, too. We’re basically all just sourpusses together.
M: Somebody recently referred to us as a New York-sounding band in L.A. But I think that’s part of it. It’s the ugly thing. People think ugly things come from New York, like that’s where ugly sound comes from.

Los Angeles is known as the land of sunshine pop.
H: It’s the fucking Mamas and the Papas. They ruined it for everyone.

Do you enjoy living on L.A.’s Eastside?
H: We’re all these weirdlings. We don’t bathe that much, everyone looks a little bit scruffy—it’s kind of creepy for some people to come over here. Just like it’s scary to go to West Hollywood and see all those crazy actresses with their perfect bodies and fashion-y outfits and their fucking pedicures and facials.
M: Somehow I think it was good that I got evicted because where we live—that is scary. There is violence breeding in there.
H: It’s hot.
M: There’s a lot of foot traffic, there’s a lot of kids, there’s a lot of adults. There’s the gangsters and the taggers. And it’s all mixing together so it feels very alive. But it also has an element of danger there.

Why did you get evicted?
M: I kept asking for heat and finally I was like, “I’m not gonna pay.” As soon as I didn’t pay she gave me an eviction notice. And she didn’t even fix my heat first.
H: He would like to see harm come to her.
M: I would like to see harm come to that woman. Like, actual harm.

You now live two doors down from each other. That’s convenient. Or maybe inconvenient.
M: There’s no drop-ins.
H: We respect each other’s social life. The thing about that is, we’re always going to have to date musicians because that’s all we’re going to encounter. You just tour all the time, and then you’re in clubs drinking alcohol night after night after night. It’s bound to happen.

So you say with a smile.
M: I suppose eventually if you have a team of people who tour with you, they’ll bring their people—so the potential exists to expand the circle if you get big enough.
H: Oh, dream on. It’s all about isolation and alienation. And the question is, can you continue to process it in a way that you enjoy it? Art is like the digestion system for emotions. You put emotions in, and then they go around, and you take a big crap and that’s the art.

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.

The Pity Party, Eskimohunter @ Spaceland 7/30/07

The Pity Party


Eskimohunter

As published in L.A. Record:

I have what some might describe as an unhealthy obsession with local duo The Pity Party, so when I heard they would be playing one of my favorite venues on my birthday, there was no question where I’d be celebrating my turning a quarter of a century old. After trying for a ridiculous 45 minutes to close out our tab at Red Lion, we rushed over to Spaceland only to be met with an ENORMOUSLY long line at the valet. I had to check my palm pilot to make sure it was indeed a Monday night – I hadn’t seen a line that long since a Cold War Kids show a few months back. Since it was my birthday, I felt it gave me leeway to hop out of the car and leave my friends to deal with the parking madness while I ran in to enjoy the sounds of The Pity Party. Though I’ve seen them probably a dozen times, every single one of their performances still leaves me gaping in awe at their utter amazingness. Drumkit front and center, the lovely Heisenflei pulls triple-duty, playing drums and keys while managing the lead vocals, at some points even taking on percussion duties using a maraca as a drumstick. Alongside her, Maurice-Robert busts out gritty guitar riffs while providing supporting harmonies. Their experimental and refreshingly unique sound evocatively blends the artsy rawness of Nico-era Velvet Underground with surprisingly loud intensity for a two piece. I’m really glad that others are catching on– when they drove into “Dronebots and Peons for Eons and Eons” (my favorite track off their self-titled EP), half the crowd sang along with them. Too awesome. Up next was Eskimohunter, whose heavy fuzzy hooks, shoegazey organs, catchy melodies and amazing stage lighting were the perfect way to mellow out an increasingly intoxicated birthday girl.

Syd Barrett night @ Bordello 4/19/07

As published in L.A. Record:

I discovered Syd at the tender age of 12, having caught the tail-end of “Baby Lemonade” on KXLU. For a long time, I held him to be a treasured unknown, an obscure artist—my secret find. That is, of course, until I learned that he was the founder of Pink freakin’ Floyd. Bordello’s Syd night featured 20 local bands doing one song each; I arrived later than planned and was happy to find the place packed with fellow lovers of the peculiar genius, though unfortunately I had just missed Eleni Mandell (I hear she did a lovely rendition of “Feel” on the ukulele). The DJ blasted classic Syd tunes between bands, and I mean blasted – I needed my earplugs more in-between sets than when the bands were playing. The first band I caught was the hippyish Big Search, which performed a dead-on rendition of “The Scarecrow” off Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Up next were Mezzanine Owls with “No Good Trying.” Kicking off their performance by asking the audience, “So who loves Sid Vicious?!” the funnymen in Kennedy delivered a great disco version of “Gigolo Aunt,” and the cheeky buggers mixed in Dark Side of the Moon’s “Time” in the middle of it all. The Moon Upstairs performed a super-chill version of another Piper track, “Matilda Mother.” The Pity Party was up next, having just raced over from a gig earlier that evening. I didn’t think a Barrett song could get any spookier until I heard their hypnotizing version of “Baby Lemonade.” Hubcaps closed out the evening with a medley of “Lucy Leave,” “Candy and a Currant Bun” and “Interstellar Overdrive.”

The Fold’s 10th Anniversary show w/ Silversun Pickups, The Pity Party, Castledoor 4/17/07

The Pity Party



Silversun Pickups

Photos by Brian Dreisbach

As published in L.A. Record:

The Silverlake Lounge was the hipster – er, rather, hip place to be last night for The Fold’s 10-Year Anniversary show at the Silverlake Lounge. The celebration featured performances by Fold staples The Pity Party, Castledoor, and, though it wasn’t much of a secret, “special guest” Silversun Pickups.

The Pity Party kicked things off the right way with a most awesome set of rawkage. For the uninitiated, Heisenflei and Maurice-Robert make up The Pity Party, or The Best Band in L.A. as I like to call them. With her drumkit set up front and center, the lovely Heisenflei pulled triple duty, furiously pounding the drums and keys while managing the lead vocals. Always in shorts and barefoot, witnessing Heisenflei’s lanky white legs stomp furiously around while her long fiery red curls fly about her face is quite a show in itself. As if this weren’t entertaining enough to watch, Maurice-Robert churned out raw guitar riffs constantly tapping away at the plethora of pedals beneath his feet while providing screaming backing vox. The duo delivers an experimental and refreshingly unique sound to the indie rock milieu, evocatively blending the artsy rawness of Nico-era Velvet Underground with the punky sophistication of early Pixies with the loud intensity of Trail of Dead, featuring smart and inspired lyrics to boot. I always have way too much fun seeing them perform, and their extended 45-minute set was a treat.

Up next was Castledoor, whose six members could barely cram themselves onto the stage. Though Nate was quite the crowd pleaser and the entire band showed great energy and enthusiasm, I just couldn’t get into the band’s brand of hippie pop. With The Pity Party having just revved up the crowd to party mode, my friend Brian and I agreed that the cutesy set delivered by Castledoor should have been reserved for the opening slot.

It was approaching midnight, and by this point the place had completely filled up. I overheard as one unfortunate couple was denied entrance as the place had reached capacity. Ever so hopeful, the guy asked if they could wait outside to see if anybody left. Slowly shaking her head, the door girl replied, “No one’s going to leave.”

By midnight everyone in the crowd had haphazardly compacting themselves into the first three feet from the stage awaiting the Silversun Pickups. It was great to see the band return to the stage where they honed their chops over the years. Frontman Brian Aubert lovingly commented, “It sounds just as shitty as ever up here!” They started their set by plowing into a sonic rendition of “Well Thought Out Twinkles.” This was the first time I saw the band live (and yes, I am fully aware that as an Echo Park native there is no excuse for this, thank you) and I was so glad to catch them at the intimate Silverlake Lounge where I’d missed them about 4,749 times before.

Chris Guanlao attacked his kit so aggressively that the long jet-black mop on his head was entirely soaked by the third song. Man, this guy can fucking PLAY. I still don’t know how he managed to so effortlessly hit his crash hanging a good two feet over his head. Brian flailed about all over the stage all night while Nikki thumped at her bass keeping to her own little space. Sitting at the keys, Joe was hidden from my vantage point, but from the sounds of things he was rocking it hard.

Having just got off tour with Snow Patrol, the band surprised the audience by welcoming Pablo Wilson to the stage. Met with a typically tepid Silver Lake welcome, Brian urged the crowd to show some more love. “Come on guys, he came all the way from Scotland!” eliciting laughs and the appropriate level of applause. Slinging a guitar this eve, the Snow Patrol bassist joined in for a kickass version of “Lazy Eye” complete with heavy extended codas. This was apparently the very favorite song ever of the girl in back of me, as the song’s first few chords triggered her to plow through me and my friend (whose lovely photographs accompany these words) so she could dance in the front row, nearly knocking his pricey SLR to the floor. Luckily, disaster was averted and no ass-kicking was necessitated.

Brian thanked Fold proprietor Scott Sterling and shared the story of why Scott started The Fold a decade ago – sweet, sweet revenge. After a bad breakup, he vowed to establish a venue where his ex-girlfriend would never play. When asked if he’d let her play there today, Scott simply answered: “No.” Here’s to another decade with The Fold (without Scott’s ex-girlfriend).

The Pity Party @ Silverlake Lounge 1/22/07

Ever since seeing them at The Echo in November, I have been thoroughly obsessed with The Pity Party and have been impatiently awaiting their Silverlake Lounge residency this month. I caught them on Jan. 8 and was devastated to have missed them the following week due to having acquired the worst stomach flu in the history of humanity. Luckily I caught this third one. I met up with a few friends, and during the middle of the set was shocked at how many more familiar faces kept pouring in. I must have ran into a dozen of my lovely friends.

Word.

Needless to say, it was just as spectacular as expected. Openers Mere Mortals were spectacular, and everyone there (well, most everyone – damn you, Moe) LOVED The Pity Party and plans on catching them next week. As I didn’t get the chance to last time, I was glad to finally thank Marc and Julie proper for sending me their EP and zine (how sweet are they?!). If you haven’t yet seen them live, don’t miss next Monday!! You will thank me forever. Fo’ reals.

The Pity Party [aka the best band in L.A.] @ the Echo 11/20/06

Having been called a cross between Blonde Redhead and Devo (only darker), experimental-rock duo The Pity Party has been said to achieve a bigger sound than most four-piece acts could hope for.

Needless to say, this piqued my interest, and I caught their free show at The Echo on Nov. 20 in support of Great Northern’s residency.

I quickly reached the conclusion that The Pity Party are the best band in L.A. right now, period. If I hadn’t seen it, I wouldn’t believe that just two people could achieve that level of loudness. With her drumkit set up front and center, the lovely “Heisenflei” pulls triple duty playing drums and keys while managing the lead vocals. As if this weren’t entertaining enough to watch, “Maurice-Robert” churns out raw guitar riffs with a plethora of pedals beneath his busy feet while providing backing harmonies. The pair delivers an experimental and refreshingly unique sound, evocatively blending the artsy rawness of Nico-era Velvet Underground with the loud intensity of Trail of Dead’s live shows, featuring smart and inspired lyrics to boot. This is definitely a band to experience live, and you can come January at the Silverlake Lounge, where the band will have a Monday night residency.

Go check them out on their myspace. Now. You will thank me.