By Jonathan Plotkin
Young Pilgrims are an indie punk revival band from Philadelphia. Earlier this summer, they released their debut album Kyoko and a Rocket to the Moon on their Bandcamp, have been playing places such as Don’t Tread On Me, Jolly’s, and North Star Bar, and were recently featured as artist of the month by The Deli Magazine. On September 10th, after their last show, I got the chance to sit down with the band and talk it out for a few minutes.
Jonathan: So you guys are Young Pilgrims, what are your names?
Sean: I’m Sean Brown.
Zack: I’m Zack.
Jonathan: And what instruments do you play?
Sean: I play the guitar and I sing.
Zack: I play the bass guitar and I sing sweet harmonies.
Jonathan: And is there a drummer in the band?
Sean: Nick Boonie. We have two drummers, actually.
Jonathan: Who did you record the album with?
Sean: Jesse Appel.
Jonathan: And they’re both not available right now.
Sean: That’s right, they both died in the accident.
Jonathan: Right, the accident. We’ll get back to that totally true and not made up story later. So how did you guys meet in order to form your band?
Zack: High school. A lot of people went away to college and their band broke up and we made a new band.
Sean: Can I… can I tell that better than you did?
[Nick suddenly arrives]
Jonathan: And we have Nick Boonie, the current drummer with us, would you care to say hello?
Nick: Hi. I’m Nick Boonie! I play drums during the school year while their other drummer is off at college, tam and drums.
Jonathan: Do you ever plan on doing a reunion show with two sets of drums and like eight guitars or something?
Sean: Oh, like “The Arcade Fire.” [laughs]
Nick: I mean, I had a dual drum kit jam session with the other drummer Jesse at his house, but these guys weren’t here. We’ve talked about it, but it’s mostly jokes.
Jonathan: How would you best describe your music? I once saw you, Sean, talking about how you think it’s funny people are calling you pop punk. Let’s set the record straight.
Sean: Um, well like… uh… shit. I never thought I would get this question!
Zack: Death indie rock.
Sean: No. Just no, I’m sorry. Do you want to say it?
Zack: Indie core/scream/free-verse
Sean: Nooooooooooooooo… I would describe us as indie punk revival.
Jonathan: That sounds like a religious movement from the 1920’s.
Sean: I mean, it’s a little twinkly and a little not twinkly. And we have guitar solos, sometimes. But not all the time. But in the song “All The Time” we have guitar solos.
Zack: We listen to a lot of Weezer and then we play music.
Jonathan: So what would you say is your main influence? You just mention Weezer, would you say there are any other bands that have really shaped how you’ve come about?
Zack: Well we also like Built To Spill. [laughs]
Sean: Zack has a boner for The Kinks.
Sean: You have a boner for The Kinks.
Jonathan: Who do you have a boner for, Sean? And Nick?
Sean: I’m particularly fond of Modest Mouse. I’d say Modest Mouse is probably my favorite band. I really like Pavement, I really like Built To Spill, [farting sound from Zack] uh… all those bands, they’re kind of 90s. Death Cab For Cutie, also.
Nick: I’m a National guy, I love The National.
Sean: I fucking love The National.
Nick: Yeah, The National’s fantastic. I also like Modest Mouse. I’m a big fan of The Weakerthans-
Sean: The Weakerthans are fantastic.
Nick: The Weakerthans are very good. And The Frontbottoms are really good, I’ve been getting into them.
Jonathan: I noticed in your drumming tonight that you have a very full-bodied, vibrant style, and I know you’re a fan of prog rock. Would you say that Rush and their drummer have influenced you at all, and Young Pilgrims playing?
Zack: Who hasn’t Rush influenced?
Nick: [laughs] Well I don’t know, it’s weird. I listen to a whole bunch of different kinds of music and to say that I get any one type of fill from any single genre I feel like would be kind of weird. There are definitely some prog fills I really enjoy, I like splitting between drums, things along those lines. But I’d say I have to retain it more to the punk genre, because no one wants fills in quintuplets during that punk song. Let’s not get our head up our asses here.
Jonathan: Do you ever feel you have to rein it in when you’re playing with Young Pilgrims?
Nick: Well yeah. You can take a style that you like but make sure that it’s still in the domain of the music that you’re playing.
Jonathan: You guys are very much ingrained in the Philadelphia indie scene, since you all grew up around here. What would you do if you suddenly found your selves in a different city? What city would you ideally move Young Pilgrims to?
Sean: Ummm…. That’s a really good question.
Zack: New York. No, I’m kidding…
Sean: You can say New York. You’re allowed to. I won’t be a jerk.
Nick: Seattle. There’s just so much stuff, definitely awesome. Definitely Portland. I’d say anywhere in the Midwest, because it’s kind of like the Canada of the USA.
Nick: Yeah, Indianapolis. There’s not a lot to do so you just stay in your room and practice music. So I feel like that would not only help shape the sound but also make us better musicians.
Sean: Seattle, or Portland, Oregon. Or Austin, Texas.
Zack: I mean, I said New York, I don’t know. Somewhere in California? Like, not San Fransisco.
Sean: Like LA?
Zack: Like Oakland.
Sean: Oooh, that’d be cool. Let’s go to Oakland.
Nick: I could see Detroit.
Jonathan: Would you care to elaborate on that?
Nick: Well you know sometimes, once you get better you just got to get yourself into more shit and in Detroit, you know…I just feel that I’d feel really sad there and it would just make my playing better.
Zack: Kansas City
Sean: This just became “Pick Your Favorite City.”
Jonathan: Haha, okay. Back on subject. You recently released your debut album, Kyoko and a Rocket to the Moon. What was the hardest actually part of going from playing with your friends to recording a full album?
Sean: Getting out of bed.
Zack: We just drove around a lot, with this recording equipment, see. Cause we didn’t have anywhere to record, see. So we had to go around to these various kitchens and bedrooms and just wait until these people came home.
Jonathan: How much of the album is recorded out of a studio?
Sean: “All The Time” and “The Suffle” were recorded in my friend Thomsen’s kitchen. Everything was recorded there. And a lot of the guitar. Like the last half of the album was recorded in our friend’s kitchen, in the guy’s apartment. The first half of the album we did in Rhawn Street Studios, which is pretty cool. It’s in the Northeast, it’s by a prison. The guy who runs it is named Lance, he’s like my favorite person on earth. He wears sleeveless t-shirts and he’s got a big mustache. It’s like somebody went back to the 80’s and they’re like “Let me pick the man that best represents this time period” and they threw him back into their box [laughs] and they threw him back into their T.A.R.D.I.S. He once tried to sell us a full rack of uniforms that he found from his dumpster, for like a dollar.
Jonathan: Nick, you didn’t have any experience recording the album, but you’ve now been playing with Young Pilgrims for a while What would you say is the biggest change for playing live versus what you heard on the album?
Nick: [sighs] Man, um…Well the thing is, when you hear something on an album, that’s theoretically the perfect version of that song. Yeah, there are bands that are able to “do it better live.” AC/DC, fantastic live. Dave Matthew Band, fantastic live. That’s like the debatable range, but when I hear this album and I have to drum for it live I just strive to play what’s on this album.
Jonathan: Is that difficult because you didn’t have a hand in composing?
Nick: Not really. I’ve been drumming for a solid six years before I fell into Young Pilgrims. It’s kind of like reading a book. You have to listen to it a few times but you get the general gist and you get the rhythm and you get the flow. Once I was able to say, play “Kyoko” [the album’s opening track] live, perfectly, from the album, I was able to put my own little stuff in there.
Jonathan: So you still do improvise when you’re performing?
Nick: Oh, without a doubt. Otherwise it wouldn’t still be interesting. I don’t mean that to insult any drummer’s fills, they are still fantastic but…
Jonathan: You gotta get that Rush in there though.
Nick: [sarcastically] Oh yeah dude totally. But there are select parts where a prog drummer fills. And once I was able to learn those fills, I feel like I was more able work them into a Young Pilgrims song.
Jonathan: Very detailed answer for not the most coherent of all questions. Anything else you’d like to say, about recording or touring or whatever?
Zack: Two years of recording, broken up on and off, we’re proud of it, glad that people seem to be taking notice of it.
Jonathan: Support is actually quite large for just a couple of kids who only just recently left high school. Does that make you feel weird that you’re….what, number 27 on The Deli’s indie polls, or you just became featured artist of the month on The Deli Magazine? Is that a little bit of strange stardom affecting you?
Sean: We have very zealous parents. I think that’s a big part of it.
Zack: I think our families’ are proud of it, they’re really happy. They enjoy it, they partake in it.
Nick: My sister’s in the same boat.
Sean: She hugged me, even though I smell like an ass.
Nick: My sister came up and said “Nick, what the fuck, why don’t you talk about this to the rest of the family?” And then she turns to this other person and she’s like “He never shares his accomplishments!” She wants me to be more vocal about a lot of the shit that I do. But I feel like she doesn’t realize that I put in a lot of effort so that people are aware of the shit that we’re doing. Even if it’s an awkward fit I feel nothing but love and… I don’t know, comfortable when I’m playing music with these guys.
Jonathan: That’s adorable, Nick. Thank you Young Pilgrims for agreeing to this strange, impromptu, parking lot-pickup truck interview, and have a good night.
Sean: I’m Sean Brown.
Nick: I’m Nick Boonie.
Zack: And I’m Zack. You stay classy.
You can download Young Pilgrims debut LP on Bandcamp at http://youngpilgrimsrock.bandcamp.com/, find them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Young-Pilgrims/176928722335006, or follow them on Twitter @YPilgrims.