After forming in early 2014, New Orleans’ PEARS wasted little time writing and recording their debut LP, Go to Prison. Soon after, they caught the attention of Off With Their Heads singer/guitarist Ryan Young, who subsequently released the album on vinyl via his label, Anxious and Angry. Extensive touring followed and in July of this year, Fat Wreck Chords re-released Go to Prison. We caught up with guitarist/singer Brian Pretus after the band’s recent performance at Riot Fest Chicago at talked about how PEARS got its start. We also discussed their unique sound, which combines aggressive hardcore/punk, chaotic yet detailed songwriting and a hint of melody. Our conversation also touched on the band’s forthcoming second album, which is due out early next year, and more.
Bill – You guys have only been together for about a year or so. When did you first meet and how exactly did the band form?
Brian – Me and our singer Zach and our bass player Alex were in a band together before this called The Lollies for like four years or something. That was our high school/college band, you know? Our drummer developed cysts in his wrist, so he couldn’t play the drums anymore, so we got bummed out and broke up. Basically all we ever did was play locally and get too drunk all the time. So we started this band and were like, “Alright. Let’s do the complete opposite with this band.” So, we started the band, wrote a record, recorded it and immediately started touring. We did that in like a month or two and are still doing the same thing and now we’re here.
Bill – You touched on this a little bit, but your debut album, Go to Prison, was written and recorded in a very short amount of time. Can you tell me about what that process was like?
Brian – Yeah, basically most of it got written the day me and Zach decided to start the band. We were at a party and were like, “This party sucks. Let’s go to a coffee shop and just hang out and sit.” So we went there and he drank coffee while I drank beer in a coffee shop. We were like, “We should start another band together.” Zach was going to move away to South Carolina or some dumb idea, so I was like “Alright. Let’s start a band right now. Let’s go write the first record right now.” So we did. We just got up and went to a practice space and wrote like three or four hours worth of riffs. Over the next week or two we pieced them together an hour at a time and that’s our first record.
Bill – And you recorded it a couple weeks later, right?
Brian – Yeah, we had to teach it to our bass player Alex and the guy who recorded drums, John. He was the first drummer in our band, short-lived, but good guy. We had to teach it to them, then we played a show, we played our first show Off With Their Heads. Their singer Ryan ended up putting out our record on vinyl for us later on.
Bill – That was actually going to be my next question. Tell me how Fat Wreck Chords ended up re-releasing Go to Prison.
Brian – Yeah, what happened was we met Ryan from Off With Their Heads at the first show we played and he loved our stuff. He put it out on his label on vinyl, which is a really expensive thing for a young band to do. He did that for us and we immediately got exposed to a lot of his fans, which is great. They’re good people. I guess it was just the buzz from that and then he’s the one who sent it to Fat Wreck Chords in the first place, after we toured for a straight year and kind of proved that we weren’t going to breakup. He sent it them, they dug it and hit us up on a random Tuesday. Fat Mike, (label owner) called me on the phone at like midnight. It was crazy.
Bill – Your sound combines old school punk with hardcore tendencies and a fair amount of melody. How would you describe your music?
Brian – There’s not a lot of bands around anymore that really sound like punk bands to me, you know? A lot of them say they are or say that they play punk rock, but it’s all really weird. I think we’re just a punk band. We just do whatever we want to do all the time, not trying to stick to any formula or sound or anything at all. Whatever makes us happy is what we want to do.
Bill – There’s a decent amount of humor found on Go to Prison. Where does that inspiration come from?
Brian – Bands take themselves way too seriously these days. We take ourselves really seriously because this is like our jobs or whatever, but the whole punk concept of being in a band is really like a selfish, funny, douchey kind of thing anyway, you know? Like putting your heart on the table for everybody, it’s ridiculous. You’re getting paid to whine onstage. Anyone that doesn’t think that there’s a humorous side to all this is taking it too seriously. It’s all fun. It’s supposed to be fun in the first place and that’s what we like to do, have fun.
Bill – What’s the music scene like in your hometown of New Orleans?
Brian – Well, mostly the music is jazz and brass music, which is like the touristy stuff people come to town for. Underneath it all, there are probably the best doom metal bands in the whole world that come from New Orleans, Eyehategod and Thou. Thou is amazing. They’re like the most brutal band I’ve ever heard. Just recently in the last couple years there’s been a bunch of good punk bands sprouting up and bands are starting to tour and stuff, which is great. I think we are actually the first punk band from New Orleans to ever really tour at all or get signed to a label or anything. You’ve got to hunt for that stuff for sure, but it’s definitely there.
Bill – How’d your set go today at Riot Fest?
Brian – Me specifically, I have an ear infection and can’t hear anything, so really weird. But I had a blast. I had an absolute blast. It was just as fun as I ever thought it would be. A bunch of people showed up, we had a great turnout and it sounded great. It’s like my fourth year coming to Riot Fest and it was just as cool as any other time. I didn’t have to pay this time, it was awesome.
Bill – You guys have played shows with some long-running bands like The Dwarves, The Queers and Strung Out. What have you learned from playing with those guys?
Brian – Oh man, those are the kind of people that teach you how to be in a touring band and not breakup. It’s really great learning from people like that. Teenage Bottlerocket just walked passed and they taught us how to fix our car and stuff. We’ve watched bands argue and learned shit like not to do to each other. None of the bands we’ve ever toured with have ever fought much, but just watching them work and their day-to-day approach, you don’t learn that anywhere else but on the road. Those bands taught us how to put on a better live show and how to present yourself better. Being a band that’s been together a short amount of time, it’s a real advantage we have with all these people willing to help us and teach us how to not fuck this up. That’s really what it is, it’s great.
Bill – What can you tell me about your new 7” that came out this month?
Brian – Our new 7” is the first two songs we wrote after Go to Prison. We wrote them about a week later, so they’re really old, which is probably why they sound so much different than the rest of the album that’s going to come out. But those songs are both going to be on our new album that gets released on Fat Wreck Chords in February.
Bill – That was my next question. What details can you share about your upcoming album?
Brian – The album is done. It’s getting mixed right now. This one was a totally different process than the first one, because it got written while we’ve been on the road the last year. We wrote three songs on a boat that takes you from mainland Europe to the UK. It was like a three-hour boat ride and we demoed three songs on that boat ride. Then demoed one in a van and the rest just got written in random spurts like that. Whenever we were not doing anything we’d whip out the computer and a guitar and just record demos. It was really hard to write it because it’s really hard to write on the road. There’s not a lot of inspiration when you’re doing the same thing over and over every day, even though it’s crazy. We recorded it in New Orleans at a place called The Living Room with James Whitten, who was the guy that did our first record too. And Mike Supina from A Wilhelm Scream, he plays guitar in that band, he came and helped get guitar tones and did the drum editing. It was really fun. We’re more proud of this record than anything we’ve ever done for sure. It’s amazing. I can’t tell you the name yet, but it’s like eight minutes longer than the last one and there’s a piano on it.