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February 27, 2008
Interviewing Be Your Own Pet will unquestionably make any write feel older than a Grammy voter. I've only got two years on their eldest, but where's my streaky blond hair, fresh tattoo or wild fro? Still high school misfits when Thurston Moore signed the punky Nashville quartet to his Ecstatic Peace label a few years back, the quartet are just about the only band of the 2000s' garage boom to not try and grow up a bit for album #2. I recently sat down with the band on one of their East Coast tour dates to pose a few questions, and Be Your Own Pet are in fact more obsessed now than ever with Russ Meyer flicks, Robocop and the Nazi conspiracy theories surrounding Walt Disney.
---

BYOP: Young, hot rockers.

LAS: A boring question to get things rolling: what was different about making the new album [Get Awkward] as compared to the last one?

Jonas Stein: We had more experience and uh-

Jemina Pearl: We're older and wiser now.

Stein: And we just had a more vivid... vision.

Pearl: And also, some of the songs weren't completely finished when we started recording. And so we got to form them a little bit more... like, three of the songs.

And when you made the first album [Be Your Own Pet], most of the songs were written already?

Pearl: All of them were written already.

Did you guys feel any pressure to stay with, or break away from, your usual style?

Pearl: Not at all. We just kind of did what came naturally, so I don't know if it's really different or really the same.

Nathan Vasquez: Yeah, it's just like the first one - we were just kind of like, "I got an idea," then the other guys would just go, "Oooh, cool... here are some more ideas!"

[Pearl laughs]

Stein: It wasn't like we heard a David Bowie song and were just like, "let's do that song our own way!"

How does your songwriting process usually work?

Pearl: Mostly... I write all the lyrics, so usually I just write down things... a couple lines, a good idea, or something like that. And then we have band practice and they come up with riffs and I see how things can fit together.

Vasquez: It really doesn't work like, one way. It can work any way, really.

Pearl: Or I'll think I have lyrics that might be really good for a song that's like real fast and... naughty or something, and then we'll try to come up with something that will fit well with that.

BYOP swallowed by the crowd.

Jonas, who are your guitar heroes?

Stein: Shit, putting me on the spot. Um..

Pearl: [whispers] C.C. Deville...

Stein: The first guy I really got into was Jimmy Page, because of his, like... inconsistent consistency, which is really fucked up and uh, not perfect, which I really like a lot. And I really like Tony Iommi from Black Sabbath, with his nine fingers. [laughs] And I don't know which one he is, but whoever the shredder is on Kill 'em All by Metallica, I've got some major props for him.

Kirk Hammett?

Stein: Right.

Do you guys set out to write a few really short things like "Food Fight" and "Let's Get Sandy" per record? Or are they as spontaneously created as they sound?

Pearl: Those ones are really fun to write.

Vasquez: Yeah, it's kind of like that, but you know we're really just big fans of bands that make short songs.

Stein: Sometimes it just sounds better short.

Like any bands in particular?

Vasquez: A lot of the early punk-turning-into-hardcore bands like Redd Kross and Adolescents that just have like, 35-second long songs.

Pearl: Yeah, Redd Kross, definitely.

Yeah, they also make me think of the Minutemen. So are you guys doing a video for this album? The one for "Bicycle, Bicycle, You are My Bicycle" was hysterical.

Pearl: Thanks! Our friend Monty Buckles made that, he's awesome. Actually, we just finished making a video for that song "The Kelly Affair" right before we came up to New York. And I think we're going to make another video for a song that got taken off the album. Three songs actually got taken off the album and we're gonna release them on XL in America, and we're making a video for one of those songs, called "Becky."

Vasquez: XL's our label for the rest of the world, excluding North America.

Stein: They have pussy attorneys that won't let us put out our songs. [laughs]


Does Thurston Moore have much input in your record-making process? It's strange to think of him as a label guy.

In near-unison: No, not at all.

Stein: He's mostly our supporter. He's there to encourage us, and for moral support, really.

Were you big Sonic Youth fans at all?

Stein: Nate is.

Which one's your favorite? I'm an A Thousand Leaves guy.

Vasquez: Really? Interesting, that's the first one I ever heard by them and I was like, this is a bit boring... but then a little bit later I heard Daydream Nation and I was like, I can bug out to this.

Yeah, that's basically how it happened to me, too.

Stein: The first time I met Thurston, I was like, the only one available to go to meet up with them first, and I was gonna pick up Nathan at his home... I called him [and said], "hey we're outside." And he saw that Thurston's there in his yard, from his doorway, and he ran back inside to go turn off his record player, which was playing Sonic Youth.

Vasquez: I'd say that probably Sister's my favorite.

A question for Jemina; when you reference Beyond the Valley of the Dolls or the "bitches, leave" scene from Robocop, is there any conscious feminism behind that, like you're reclaiming these notoriously male-identified works? Or simply poking fun at them?

Pearl: Probably, but I just also really, really love those movies. I mean, the "bitches, leave" scene in Robocop is probably the most hysterical thing in a movie ever, so I just thought it would be kind of funny to take that line. We had "Bitches, Leave" tour t-shirts for a little bit that me and this guy Jeffrey spray-painted and made. And we thought it would be funny to take that line and change into a song about girls who... this idea that girls can only be fans of music rather than participate in it.

You often get compared to Sleater-Kinney and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but you guys aren't nearly so overtly serious. Was the riot grrl/Kill Rock Stars scene in the '90s a big influence on you guys, or is it more the stigma of just having a female singer?

Pearl: Well, Bikini Kill is definitely one of the first bands that I really got into on my own. I've never been a super-big Sleater-Kinney fan, but I would say the riot-grrrl scene definitely influenced me in a positive way when I was a kid, and my older sister turned me onto lots of bands from that.

Do you consider yourself a tomboy?

Pearl: Yeah, I guess. When I was a kid, I liked to play outside... in the dirt, and I've never really had a lot of really close girl friends, not nearly as many as I had closer guy friends. From being in a band I guess. [laughs]

And you're comfortable on the road and everything?

Pearl: Oh, totally. These guys are my brothers.


This wasn't my idea, but my friend wanted me to ask about your Nashville bretheren. So what do you think of Hannah Montana?

Pearl: Hannah Montana? I don't even really... I know me and our old drummer Jamin [Orrall] watched an episode, because there was nothing else to watch on a flight, and we were like... what the fuck is this??

Stein: I know she makes like $20 a head at her shows, and all her merchandise...

Pearl: More power to you I guess!

Stein: My girlfriend actually went to a cheer camp a few years ago - she's a cheerleader - and Hannah Montana was actually at that cheer camp.

Vasquez: Wait, does Hannah Montana have anything to do with Nashville?

Stein: Well, she's from there.

Vasquez: Ohh. Well, I think Disney is racist. [laughs]

That's going to be the big, block quote for this interview, "Be Your Own Pet says 'Disney is racist!'"

Vasquez: Well, wasn't like... wasn't Walt Disney friends with Hitler or something?

Pearl: I'm actually wearing a Disney t-shirt right now.

But Be Your Own Pet won't be opening for the Hannah Montana tour.

Pearl: No, the Jonas Brothers opened for her, and [turns to Jonas], tell him about when the woman thought that your band was the Jonas Brothers.

Stein: This nice, old Southern lady that runs the ice hockey thing I used to do when I was a kid... I went back there, and hadn't been in a few years, and I walked in and this old lady recognized me and was like, "I saw the Jonas Brothers on TV, I thought that was you!" Just to be nice, I was like, "yeah man, that's not me but... they're all right!"

Pearl: You could be the fourth Jonas Brother...

Stein: I'm disappointed that they share the same last name as my first.

Pearl: How old is Hannah Montana? 14, 15?

Fifteen.

Pearl: She looks like a slut to me. Wait, don't put that in the interview!

I don't think too many Hannah Montana fans read Lost at Sea...

Pearl: So they won't be upset that I called Hannah Montana a slut?

Vasquez: Well, you only said that she looks like a slut.

SEE ALSO: www.beyourownpet.net
SEE ALSO: www.xlrecordings.com
SEE ALSO: www.ecstaticpeace.com

--
Dan Weiss
Dan Weiss is the music editor for LAS. Formerly an editorial intern at CMJ and creator of the now defunct What was It Anyway?, his work has appeared in Village Voice, Pitchfork, Philadelphia Inquirer, Stylus and Crawdaddy among others. He resides in Brooklyn where he enjoys questionable lifestyle choices and loud guitars.

See other articles by Dan Weiss.

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