Philadelphia-via-Allentown four-piece Pissed Jeans kicked off their North American tour last Friday at the Black Cat with a piss to put Linda Blair’s nightgown soiling Exorcist performance to shame. After newly mohawked frontman Matt Korvette promised the crowd he’d have them home safely by midnight, the Jeans launched into a 46 minute set of pure sludge punk—exactly what DC came for. Playing primarily off of 2009’s King of Jeans and their most recent (and best) effort Honeys, Korvette, drummer Sean McGuiness, bassist Randy Huth, and guitarist Bradley Fry ripped through each track seamlessly (I think that’s it for the pants puns, but I can’t promise anything).
Constantly positioned within a nexus of seminal Sub Pop label mates including Mudhoney and Butthole Surfers, the Jeans’ high energy yet simultaneously gutteral set was just as much Gibby Haynes as it was either McKaye, but with a self deprecating snarl all their own. Their Sub Pop bio describes the Jeans’ sound “like hearing yourself being bashed over the head with a snow shovel. Sometimes they sound like that feeling you’d get if you dipped your arm up to the elbow in a vat of boiling grease,” and I wholeheartedly agree—stomped, screamed anthems of the mundane that make me want to rip out all my teeth, in the best possible way.
At times sluggishly pacing, at others lowkey booty poppin, Korvette egged an eager crowd of bottle tossing mosh kids on through “Half Idiot” without even trying. Much to my delight but not to my surprise, the Jeans’ went out with a fucking bang—plunging into Honeys opener “Bathroom Laughter” followed by the hilariously diabolical “Cafeteria Food” in which Korvette expresses a muted diabolical delight over a seething kick drum upon discovering the death of his douchebag project manager: “and inside I’ll be laughing cause you’re dead—you died/ and I’m wishing I had my tap shoes on.” While I thought nothing could top “False Jesii Part 2,” the closing song and King of Jeans’ high point, I was absolutely unprepared for the encore that was about to follow.
After sulking back on stage, McGuiness, Huth, and Fry began improvising the skuzziest riffs of the night. Because Korvette had made his way to the crowd, stopping to scream with Jim and I, the remaining Jeans pulled random audience members on stage, yanked down their pants, and made them finish out the encore. Only McGuiness remained on stage until the end of what might be the most bizarre encore the Black Cat has seen all year, eventually tackling one of the proxy-Jeans back into the crowd.
Jim Walls and I had a chance to sit down backstage with Pissed Jeans before their set to talk about The Melvins, Angry Birds, and Riff Raff while a Dr Who happy hour literally rattled the drywall:
If I’ve got it right, this is the first stop on your tour?
Matt Korvette: Yeah, yup. DC is the first show we’re playing
Have you guys played anything off of Honeys live before? I know you did SXSW—did any of it get played at CMJ?
MK: Yeah, some of it we definitely played at both, and some we’ve had for a while. But it’s obviously the first actual tour we’re getting to play it on.
I think the production on Honeys is a lot cleaner—do you think that’ll effect how you guys do things live?
Sean McGuiness: Wow, see I think some of it is actually a lot muddier—
Yeah I agree, but in a way I think the vocals are a lot cleaner, a lot more emphasized
MK: Yeah I see what you’re saying!
Was that a result of working with Alex Newport?
MK: Kind of. You almost don’t know what you’re doing until the album’s done.
Bradley Fry: And we had a lot more time on this one, you know? We were a lot more focused on finishing up King of Jeans it was almost a rush to get done. This one was a lot more relaxed.
You guys get a lot of comparisons to early Sub Pop; whenever anyone talks about you there’s almost this need to discuss Sub Pop’s history and legacy.
MK: Yeah, people always talk about The Postal Service and Fleet Foxes.
Yeah, they always get brought up! I’m just sort of wondering how you guys feel about that constant dualism.
MK: Honestly, it’s cool with me!
I feel like you guys get a lot of Melvins comparisons too. And Alex Newport having worked with them on Stag, did that influence the sound of Honeys at all?
MK: I don’t really think so.
SMcG: We didn’t really sit down and go AW YEAH! MELVINS! You know?
MK: Yeah, we try to not really think about that type of stuff and just let it happen. What do we think about?
That’s what I really want to know, what do you guys think about?
BF: When I’m writing riffs and stuff, I prefer to not really listen to anything so I’m not regularly influenced by anything.
MK: I guess songs will remind me of stuff, but I’m not the one writing them!
SMcG: Just sounds that make me feel.
I did want to talk to you guys about the “Bathroom Laughter” video
MK: Aw yeah, you like that one?
SMcG: It was all real
SMcG: Absolutely not.
MK (laughing): Yeah, it was really the director. He totally gets our style.
Jim: I feel like your stuff is really humorous like that, but still really sincere. Do you go for humor when you’re writing or making videos?
MK: A little, yeah. I try to amuse myself at least, and hope it works.
BF: I’m very amused by you
SMcG: Oh there are a lotta laughs on this record!
Well “Cafeteria Food” is hilarious! You just want someone to die of a seething cancer
MK: It definitely feels good to have that song.
It’s kind of off topic, but I wanted to ask you guys about this interview you did in Helsinki. It’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen, just feeding this girl chips. Was that the craziest interviewer you’ve had, or has something somehow surpassed her? (see it here!)
BF: The problem was, we flew in the night before and didn’t really sleep. Left the hotel for the show, did the show, and then the interview. So we were up for a solid two days
MK: she was a strange lady but she was cool
BF: we were all just sort of delirious. It took me a while to watch it, I finally just did!
Did she know that you were fucking with her the whole time?
BF: I don’t think we necessarily did the best job of fucking with her!
SMcG: It’s not so much that we were fucking with her, we were desperately trying to amuse ourselves. She was playing along with it.
Oh, she definitely was
MK: She was cool with it, but at the same time, would ask us questions like “Um, what label are you guys on?” Just asking us these questions but didn’t know the most basic shit about us! It was really strange. But she was so polite about the chips eating; like “oh yes, delicious!” Man, video interviews like that are so awkward!
I’ve never been to Helsinki but I can only imagine what the rest of the trip was like on top of that!
MK: Aw it’s such a cool city
Better than Philly?
MK: I guess it isn’t hard to find places that are better than Philly. It probably is better in a lot of ways, but in a lot of ways it still isn’t, for me at least. I found it really remote.
SMcG: Welp, found a place that’s better than Philly guys!
MK: Yeah, later friends and family!
BF: It’s strange—Finland, or I guess Helsinki, is where Angry Birds was created? So the whole city is kind of like that.
MK: Yup, just giant birds on bricks. Huge slingshots setup everywhere.
Jim: Any cities you guys are looking forward to on this tour?
MK: for me maybe Montreal and Toronto. Canada is so beautiful. Or probably Minneapolis—we’ve never played there and it’s always fun to play new towns.
That’s rad! My last question is really for my own personal interests: I think it might have been in Pitchfork, you were talking about 2 $hort?
MK: yeah, they really wanted to talk to me about hip hop for some reason. It was so weird—like “How does hip hop influence Pissed Jeans?” I don’t know—same way pro football influences Pissed Jeans and President Nixon, he had a real big influence on Pissed Jeans, you know? I have trouble following hip hop any more—it’s all “download this sweet Toutube video Soundcloud link.” I like having albums. We’re big Riff Raff fans though, you like him?
MK: He was the only person we actively tried to see at SXSW, the only show we ended up going to, and he was great.
That’s amazing. I wonder how much of it is really him in this weird Harmony Korine sense, and how much of it is put on.
MK: That’s the thing, you never really know. But he’s so funny and so good at it.
He’s got a BET neck tattoo. Like, that’s some real shit.
SMcG: Oh yeah he’s so committed
I heard he’s playing James Franco in something, it’s forever cyclical
MK: No way, I love that. Is it for a TV show or something—like Friends. “Hey, who’s the new guy?” Oh it’s just Riff Raff playing James Franco—he’s Jenny’s roommate! DER DER DER DE DU DERRRR.