From the post-punk and new wave genres of the late 70's to the metal, hardcore, hip-hop, crunk and punk hybrids of current day, dance rock doesn't sit static. A genre easy to classify (electronics, dance and rock - check!), impossible to pinpoint (not all dance rock bands are solely inspired by Joy Division), and world-spanning (thanks to the universality of techno scenes), you may think you get Innerpartysystem. But let's give them a little more credit, huh?
In this interview with AbsolutePunk.net, Jared - drummer of IPS - explains why growing up in rural Pennsylvania was a good thing, why he'd rather sound better on album than live, and why he's still pinching himself. Very many thanks goes to the band and to Joanna from For the Win Media.
First of all, for the record, can you tell me your name and what you do in Innerpartysystem?
Jared: My name is Jared Piccone, I play drums.
Let's start off with the basics. How did you, your music and your bandmates evolve into Innerpartysystem?
Jared: It began in mid 2005, me and Patrick were in a former band together, and remained friends after the band disbanded. We weren't really trying to start a full-fledged band, just trying to write some songs and put them out there. We wrote what are now the songs on the Download EP, and put them on Myspace. After a few months, and a friend adding program, things started to roll a bit online. Yes, we have the cliche "myspace band" story. After a few months, people started messaging about playing shows, then managers starting messaging, then labels. in some what of a panic to get our shit together, we quickly recruited a long time friend of mine Kris Barman, to play synth/guitar, and Patrick's long time friend Jesse Cronan to play synth as well. We were very lucky in the fact that things clicked RIGHT AWAY. Kris and Jesse came into this with a background in programming electronic music. Jesse was also a lighting director at a club in Philadelphia, and a big fan of the late 90's trance/rave movement. He began to push for a better show, and starting messing with lighting ideas. After a few light show re-incarnations, and the addition of Andrew Nissley as our sound/tech/lighting/all around know-it-all guy, the live show has come to be what it is today. As far as our sound goes, that was pure evolution. We had no plans of becoming what we have become. It's merely a product of the natural progression of four guys playing together over a long period of time. We made some songs, we were happy with some, not happy with others, and changed the ones we didn't like. The band has taken a small turn in the harder direction, but for no other reason that that's just what has come out of our heads since this ball started rolling.
Who are some of your more contemporary influences?
Jared: You would be massively surprised. We listen to so many different styles of music. There's the obvious, harder electronica/crossover bands like NIN, Chemical Bros, Prodigy. But we may pull out anything from Al Green, to Method Man, for inspiration or influence.
What do you do to try and set yourselves apart from the rest of so-called dance-rock bands out there?
Jared: I think with some of us coming from different scenes of music (hardcore, indie rock, etc) we try to bring a lot of energy, as would most of the bands we grew up admiring. I came from the hardcore/punk era: a time when it was totally acceptable to jump on top of people you didn't even know to scream lyrics into the singers mic. It was completely normal to leave a show with a bloody face from getting hit with a guitar. Not saying we do any of that, but we like to think we have an element of energy like hardcore bands do. We play like its the last show of our life. You can tell people notice it sometimes when the shows over, and you have that one random guy in a Hatebreed t-shirt come over to the merch booth and say, "Holy shit, you guys just killlllled it." I sometimes feel bad selling him a CD, knowing hes going to get 3 seconds into "The Way We Move" on the ride home from the show and throw the CD out his car window.
Well, the chocolate vinyl was awesome. A few questions on the subject: First off, did you eat one?
Jared: I didn't get to eat one, unfortunately. I'm not a big sweets guy. I know, that's insanely lame.
Who came up with idea?
Jared: It came about after we were being super bitchy about what we were going to do for a vinyl design. We new we wanted to do something different, but couldn't seem to get anything together that really struck everyone in the band. The head of Fallout Records, our UK label, brought this idea about. I think it was part him being pissed that nothing pleased us, so he found the most ridiculous thing he could, and part it just being AWESOME.
Do you have any other interesting release mediums that you'd like to try to out?
Jared: We have some things in the works, but I'm going to keep them to myself. I can tell you that our next single "Die Tonight, Live Forever" comes out on vinyl on Sept 22nd in the UK, and that has some interesting packaging as well. I feel like this will be an ongoing theme. We are always trying to outdo ourselves. I don't know if we can outdo a chocolate record, but we sure as hell are going to try.
I've lived in Pennsylvania. I've driven through Pennsylvania. It's not exactly a hub of worldly influence. You guys grew up in a typical American small town, and you create music that's fit best into HUGE dance clubs, with tons of lights and thousands of dancing bodies. Being from where you are, do you ever have to pinch yourselves? Any moments of surreal-ness?
Jared: I don't even have a year of touring under my body with this band. Every morning I wake up and pinch myself. Its hard to understand some days. Its even harder for my parents to understand. They don't get it at all. I just called my mom from the road to tell her we are going to be on the Carson Daly show, and she interrupted me halfway through to make sure I brought my tooth brush with me. Afterward she asked me who Carson Daly was.
But as the days pass, touring gets to be a little more routine and a little less novelty. The days that really get you crazy, are the days you do things like playing Lollapolooza, or Projekt Revolution. When I look out over my drums and see 10's of thousands of people, holy shit, I can't even explain it.
But I've also read in other interviews where you say that growing up in the Reading area/small town USA was perfect for working on the band. Can you elaborate on this? What kind of influence did this have on your band?
Jared: You want it more. MUCH more. Don't get me wrong, I love where I'm from, I may end up staying here forever, but only because I have the option to leave for months at a time. When you go out to run errands, or you are standing in line at the grocery store and you see that miserable 50 some year old person, that looks like life has just beat the shit out of them for the last 30 years, you really get a drive to do something more. They work 100 hour weeks, all to lead up to getting drunk on the weekends at the local bar. That's it. Week in. Week out. It's a formula I'm watching half my friends fall into now. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Do what you love. I just don't think very many people end up loving sitting at the same bar for 30 years on end, doing the same shit all day every day. That's just not for me.
Also, living in a place where there's not much else to do as a young person than get fucked up and get into trouble, it gives you more than ample time to geek out on computers/synths/electronic devices. Sometimes we end up building the most ridiculous useless shit, just because there was nothing else to do at the time.
Tell me about this album that's coming out. Self-titled, right? Are you nervous?
Jared: I'm a bit nervous. Its been a huge part of our life. Its taken up every second of our existence for the past few years. We as a band have put everything we have into making this album. We are beyond excited for the world to hear it.
When did you start writing for the album?
Jared: When this band starting as a whole, early 2006.
Can you give us some insight into your recording process?
Jared: Its a bit out of the ordinary to how a rock/pop band might write songs. We usually start with a beat someones been toying with, or a synth line, and build around that. Melodies and lyrics are usually last.
And now onto the live show. What's more important to you - how you sound on record, or how your live show presents itself to an audience?
Jared: Generations ago I would have said the live show, but now I feel its how you sound on record first. Years ago, there was the excuse of not having the funds or know-how to make a quality sounding recording. This day in age, it's to easy now to make music sound good. There's so many tools that are so easily available to everyone to make quality sounding recordings. The Download EP literally cost us nothing. We used software that we pirated from the Internet, and recorded everything in Patrick's apartment.
Generations ago, music distribution wasn't what it is today either, and for the most part people were discovering you for the first time by seeing your live show. So that shit had to slay. This day in age, it's the other way around, most times people hear you on Myspace or download a torrent of your album two years before you make enough money to even buy a plane ticket to tour their country.
I'm not saying I approve of this, I sometimes see bands that have a few tracks that I love, then I see them live and I'm totally disappointed. I think the band that wins is the band that can do both, and do them really well.
Your music is obviously very dance-centered. Or at least I would dance to it. So if you play a show and your audience is hesitant to "get down", is it more difficult for you guys to enjoy yourselves?
Jared: Not really, we are a new band, sometimes we are playing in front of an audience of people that have never heard or wouldn't ever WANT to hear our band. You will have this no matter who you are or where you started out. Take it for what it is, play your face off, and remember at least your not selling used cars.
What bands would you really love to tour with?
Jared: Bands with huge productions. NIN, Daft Punk, the Faint. Bands that obviously put a lot of time and thought into their live show, and keep you completely entertained from first note to last.
What kind of long term goals do you have for IPS?
Jared: Exactly that. To make this long term. To make this my career. I want to live my life surrounded in music.
Any last words?
Jared: I'm writing this from my moms house, I haven't been home in ages, and forgot how much my mom rules at cooking.