Local indie rock band 1,2,3 celebrate the release their new album, Big Weather, at Brillobox next Friday. The band, formed from the ashes of defunct Pittsburgh band Takeover UK, released their first album in 2011. The album some received national buzz, which is rare for any first album, let alone one from Pittsburgh. Pitchfork gave them a favorable review, and so did Consequence of Sound, who memorably said that the band "showcase a shitload of flair and aptitude for producing indie rock." (For the new album, which is some 75 minutes long, that should be rewritten as "showcase a flair and aptitude for producing a shitload of indie rock.")
We talked with lead singer/guitarist/songwriter Nicolas Snyder in anticipation of the new album and their big hometown gig:
Pittsburgh Music Report: Let me start off by mentioning that the new album, Big Weather, is actually a double album. For a band that wasn't even sure if they'd release a second album, this is quite an offering. Can you talk a bit about the decision to keep going with the band, and what it was that ultimately convinced you regroup to put this album together?
Nicolas Snyder: The album is the answer. I just wanted to finish the album with the band. If it was getting back together just to be a band and tour or whatever bands do when they're not in the middle of an album, I probably wouldn't have done it. I'm really good friends with everyone in the band and that never stopped. I just needed the band to stop for a bit. As far as the double album aspect, that was always the intention. Even though all the songs weren't written yet, it was, what I imagine, making the decision to write a big novel is feels like.
PMR: Speaking of the new album, it is definitely a departure from your first, at least in terms of mood and ambiance. At times I felt like I was listening to the soundtrack to True Detective, or some other Southern Gothic. Can you talk about some about the events that inspired this change in sound? I know there was a tornado involved, but it certainly sounds like you're speaking about something much larger than local weather phenomena.
Nic: I don't like to talk politics unless I have something decisive to say, but, with art of any kind, you can obviously voice things that you feel without just blatantly saying "I don't like so and so". It's weird when I get asked this, because I don't want to be like "fuck the natural gas industry, Westmoreland County is like an occupied zone with constant choppers overhead and green wells and crews in every other yard", but, much like a Romero movie, I can say that through a song and have more dimension than just saying that I don't like the way we treat our environment and life is lonely.
As far as any southern mood, I just bought a Gibson Firebird and a Stax Records boxset prior to recording. Maybe that played a rule. Plus, the dank stone cellar we recorded the album in probably mentally and audibly added to the atmosphere.
PMR: Your press release stated that you recorded "entirely on primitive gear, using nothing but creaky old guitars, a bass, and things to bang on" Are you going play live with this vintage equipment?
Nic: Well, I think what it intended to say was that the guitars sounded creaky and the recording equipment was primitive. As in like, way outdated as of 2004 and little more than two inputs and a microphone. We all have fairly new guitars in the scope of guitar chronology. Our drums are obnoxiously trashed, and we used lots of things that weren't drums, so that's kind of what that is saying. Press releases can have a Braveheart style poetic justice sometimes. they shouldn't be taken very literally in my opinion.
PMR: You are releasing Big Weather on your own label, American Hermitage. Why'd you decide to go that route, and what are your plans for it after this release?
Nic: I originally wanted to have a blog about American eccentrics called that, but, it seemed like too much work and my plate was kind of full as it stood. We did everything else ourselves, and from being with several labels in the past we realized what was essential. That and we didn't want to wait a year to be jammed into some record label's schedule for basically a $10,000 loan and a little clout. We actually have a few more releases from other bands and projects lined up, so it's not just a one shot deal. Keep an eye on us.
PMR: I read an interview you did with the Post-Gazette back in 2011 where you said that Pittsburgh is long overdue for a musical renaissance. Three years later, what do you think about the state of the local music scene?
Nic: Ha, oh man. I don't really even know. I mean, we had Wiz, Mac Miller and Girl Talk about that time period, so maybe that was it. As far as what's bubbling below, I really wish I knew, but, I don't. I just work non-stop now, so I don't make it out as much.
PMR: Are there any bands in the city that really impress you with what they're doing right now?
Nic: Shockwave Riderz are doing cool things. Our friends Red Western are a great perpetual live act. I wish there was a good R&B act or something. Maybe there is and I'm unaware.
PMR: What can we expect at the album release show at Brillobox?
Nic: We're trying to figure that out ourselves right now. We don't really do theatrics. You'll just see us play some good stuff we never played before and with authority. Hopefully it'll get all sweaty and rowdy and maybe even sensual at times.
PMR: Last question: "Leave me in the sky with the lawn chair," is that song about Larry Walters?
Nic: Maybe subconsciously I had heard that story somewhere and it inspired it, but, I had to look that up just now, so, no. The lyrics are pretty specific. Larry Walters seems to have his shit way more together than the guy in my song.
Tickets to show are not available in advance. Doors are at 9:30. Opening is The Mhurs, from St. Louis.
-- B. Conway