Alas, none of my photos turned out well due to me being short and pinned up against some amps the whole set. So, the very cool Mary Jane Jacobs allowed me to use her pictures from the show, please visit her tumblr blog for more fantastic shots.
I've talked with a number of bands for Take Aim and various other publications, but I only recently realized I've never interviewed a Pennsylvania band and sought to correct it by having a chat with one of my local favourites, Spraynard from West Chester. Two weeks ago, they played a show with fellow PA group Algernon Cadwallader at LAVA Space, a radical non-profit community building that supports charities like Project SAFE (which the concert benefited) and protests such as the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Spraynard gave a short, high-energy show where they were almost engulfed by the crowd who pushed forward to passionately sing along. Despite the excitement, everyone respected the venue and gave cheers for random nostalgia when the band asked whether people remembered the '90s sitcom Hangin' with Mr Cooper.
Known for being a great band comprised of even greater dudes, Spraynard started out with friends who turned into fans and now they befriend most of their fans. "Our main goal is to meet as many people as we can," explains Pat. I talked with the two Pats (Pat Graham, the singer/guitarist and Pat Ware, the drummer also known as Dos) at the end of the night while bassist Mark Dickinson finished loading out. Harris from opening band Sundials was jokingly brought over to be "Mark" until the real one came back. They all pondered my decidedly difficult opening question about their favourite Pokémon (Dos said Snorlax, Pat claimed Ditto and Harris admitted "Pikachu is the only one I know"), followed by the even tougher task of describing what it was like to be hand picked by Kid Dynamite to support them at their recent reunion show.
Pat- "Kid Dynamite is like THE perfect band, that's the safe thing to say. We all met because we liked Kid Dynamite in high school, so to play that show and hear that Dan Yemin likes our band is indescribable."
Dos- "He [Dan Yemin] came up to me and talked about Spraynard for ten minutes and I just thought, 'What are you doing? Your band is all I care about, don't talk to me about my band."
Pat- "I think that show will be the most important one we ever play."
The real Mark finally joins in, laughing as we recall what Harris had answered on his behalf ("I play as Pikachu in 'Super Smash Brothers,' so that works," he says). We exchange more Dan Yemin stories (I saw him in Trader Joes once, that's all I had to contribute) and talk about the First Unitarian Church, home to the infamous Jimmy. "Just playing there was huge..." Pat smiles, "It's our old stomping grounds." Playing FU Church is a big deal, especially for local bands, but Spraynard prefer places like LAVA Space.
Pat- "I love it here... It has so much cool information."
Mark- "Yeah, there's an educational part to it too."
Dos- "A lot of times at shows now, you forget about what we're actually here for. We're not just here to jump around and drink... You gotta be doing something productive."
My first Spraynard gig was several years ago in a mutual friend's garage next to a small chicken coop, a quintessentially Pennsylvania type of show. For Spraynard, it's the bigger shows they find unusual.
Mark- "Any situation we manage to get stuck in is always very humorous to us..."
Dos- "Because we're best friends, no matter what the circumstance or how weird it is, we'd all rather be playing in a basement with friends in front of us."
Pat- "We're all on the same page all the time, which is rare for a lot of bands. Or for a lot of people in general. We don't mind playing bigger shows with a lot of people, it's a cool experience, but we're more comfortable at shows like this. At the end of the day, we just try to be real, to not get ahead of ourselves and forget that we're kids having fun playing shitty pop-punk songs."
One such big festival Spraynard have coming up is the Fest in Gainesville, Florida. The guys agree it's sure to be a good time where they can see a lot of bands they've toured with before in one place, but it's also bound to be a Bro Fest with lots of drinking. Not big on partying (Pat and Mark don't drink, Dos only has the occasional beer), Spraynard are all about having a good time by simply enjoying the company of friends and maybe a copy of 'Mallrats.' The only dangerous incident on tour they can think of was a few days earlier when Mark had to go to the ER because he drank too much soda.
Dos- "One of our first shows, there was a huge fight that broke out and we all ran and went 'AAAAH!' *laughs* We don't have any interest in fighting."
Pat- "You always hear about bands that are like, 'Oh, we jumped off this cliff and went into a dumpster and got food!' We're like, 'We sat in our van, hung out, and talked about movies.'"
At this point, we start discussing our friend Ed, who I know from high school and they currently live with. They insist I include a story where their smoke alarm went off for no reason in the middle of the night and Ed punched it repeatedly, yelling "I was snoozing so hard!" Classic Ed. It's always funny to see how many people you know are inter-connected in the Philadelphia/Philly suburb communities, especially now that Pennsylvania bands like The Wonder Years, Title Fight, and many others are becoming known around the world. Is the Pennsylvania scene going to be the 2010s equivalent of the influence New Jersey's scene had on music in the 2000s?
Mark- "It piggybacks off itself, if you have a bunch of bands, one of them will start a label and eventually that will inspire other bands... Philly and the surrounding area has been swelling for a while."
Pat- "It also helps that Philly is a hub for a lot of places. Scranton had an exodus here... So, you got The Menzingers. Then the Tigers Jaw kids. People just want to be in a city and with all their friends."
Dos- "The coolest part of the PA scene is all the bands are friends. The Menzingers are totally going to be famous, but us and Algernon are never going to be that, we'll be underground. Please mark us down as saying that The Menzingers will be in a movie."
Pat- *laughing* "A World War Two movie!"
Dos- "We didn't grow up here [in Philly], but all our friends moved here... We used to be a bit bitter towards the city, but it's more about the people.The actual town [of West Chester] kind of sucks... but our friends, those 30 or 40 kids we know are what make it special."
Pat- "The atmosphere is unmatched. Philly has so many kids..."
Mark- "Tonight there were four or five shows going on [in Philly], it makes you feel small."
Other than their current tour and The Fest, Spraynard have a lot of plans for the rest of the year and 2012.
Dos- "In January to August, we're going to try to do a month in Europe and the UK. We have a few other festivals, the Stay Sweet Fest in Richmond, which we were just confirmed for. A few on the East Coast, maybe West Coast, we're going to see how far we can go. Any time we're not on tour, we're bummed out and wish we were on tour."
Mark- "We wanna be Black Flag really bad. *laughs* Long hair Henry Rollins era Black Flag."