Bay Area post-rock band Pastel rolled out of bed early last Saturday to head back up to San Francisco; we invited the band, Nick, Henry, Michael and Matt, to stop by KCPR on their way up to share some art and talk music.
The four-piece has two EP releases on Bandcamp – Eyelids hit the web in August and Secret Demo was released in January of this year. Atmospheric sound sparkles across their tracks with the help of miniaturize post-rock pedal boards, most notably by matching OCD overdrives and Hall of Fame reverbs.
They played some tunes for us, then we grabbed them on their way out to talk about everything from Nick’s creative process as songwriter to what SLODoCo donut personifies them most. Their insight about the local music scene of the Bay Area — as contributors — sparked an important conversation about art at a local level.
The Bay Area, like pretty much every other metropolitan sprawl in the United States, is amidst a wave of gentrification. It’s easy to see why DIY music from Pastel’s haunts might be numbered. Still, I’m left with the impression that the best art is yet to come. Just be sure to create your own, too, and help the cause.
For the sake of clarity, Nick plays guitar and sings; Matt plays guitar; Michael slams bass; Henry’s on the drums.
We just did an awesome in-studio. You guys sounded great and that was super fun. It’s always fun because we get to learn a lot and you guys get to play. So, what’s the story behind the band name? Are you guys big fans of Easter?
Nick: This is a really funny question because we were playing for a bit and we were kind of spit balling names back and forth and then Henry came up with the name “Pastel” and it was kind of something we couldn’t really get over.
Michael: It was originally Henry’s solo project and nothing ever happened with it so we pretty much stole it from him. Too late now, man.
Henry: Shout out to Nate Harvest. It’s a song from them I just stole.
What is your favorite venue in The City?
Matt: I’m gonna say Bottom of the Hill, right off the bat. Best sound ever. All the shows there are sick. There’s an outdoor smoking section. That’s my favorite spot.
Michael: Just San Francisco or Bay Area?
Bay Area is fine.
Nick: We just played The Hole in Oakland. This guy named Adam is booking these awesome shows and we had a Friday show and it was absolutely packed and it was really, really fun. That’s the spot I think.
Michael: A lot of San Francisco is just apartments now — and there’s a lot of noise complaints — and house shows in San Francisco have really gone down. It seems like Oakland is picking up a lot of that and they’re coming into their own. What’s neat is that it’s sort of a really well-guarded community. Every time you play a house, you have to know somebody that’s playing there and it’s nice not to just play in some random backyard.
Yeah, and it makes it that much more rewarding to have the network. So when you guys are playing who do you think has the most fun?
Everyone except Michael: Definitely Michael.
Haha. Okay, why?
Matt: I have the least fun. I’m just very reserved and Michael is the complete opposite. I’m definitely feeling it, but my style of expressing myself is very reserved. Michael is fucking partying, but it’s a good medium. Michael is just ripping and rocking out so hard and it’s great. I look over at Michael with a huge grin on my face. You look over and it’s just like… fuck yeah, Michael is just killing it right now.
Michael: I’m actually always worried because I’m not looking at them when I’m playing so I’m worried I’m the only guy doing it and I’m some weirdo going crazy.
How do you guys finalize a song? Can you walk us through the process?
Nick: I will lock myself in my bedroom and write a bunch of different riffs. Ideas and stuff. Then I’ll come to practice and share it with them and we form it into a song.
It’s really cool to see something start with a locked bedroom door as a very private thing, and then see that everyone has something to say to make it yours. That’s super rad. So what are some of your non-musical influences?
Henry (very promptly and enthusiastically): Will Smith!
You gotta keep going on that one.
Henry: First of all, Will Smith is fucking sick. He’s a Scientologist so you know he’s crazy as all hell. Secondly, “Wild Wild West,” badass movie. “Millennium” was sick. Supported by my mom, “Big Willy Style” was straight up the number one record when I was a little kid growing up. Also, his wife is in a metal band. They play AusFest. The whole story of his life is crazy as shit and Jaden Smith is in the “Karate Kid” revival.
Michael: To piggyback off that though, when “Big Willy Style” came out, my family didn’t have a CD player and they didn’t release it on cassette or vinyl so we couldn’t get it. And I was at the fair and waited in line for 45 minutes and when I got to the front of the line, another ride started playing “Jiggy With It.” I got out of line so that I could listen to the song because I hadn’t heard it. Wait did you say non-musical influences?
I did, but I mean he’s a renaissance man.
Henry: Hey I have a good one! Chandler. Should out to Chandler. He’s my favorite. Chandler is tight.
Nick: My mom. For real, my mom is tight. She’s my hero. Shout out to my mom.
Moms are incredible. What are you going to get her for Christmas?
Nick: I told her I would stop smoking and I’ve been on the path to not smoking.
What is the most important part of your morning routine?
Michael: My morning routine is I have to leave my house. Before I do anything I need to get out of my bedroom, get out of my house get on the street get into my neighborhood and just breathe new air… and not wash any of my body. I need to go walk around first and then go do that.
Nick: Coffee is pretty important too. Or a matte.
Wait, what’s a matte?
Matt: Yerba matte, the tea that makes you feel like insane.
Henry: The can one.
Matt: The glass bottles are good too. And the sparkling ones. I only mess with the pre-made cold teas though. The hot teas have this weird cup and I’m not really about that life.
Michael: We just lost that sponsorship.
Matt: Nah, I used to work at Whole Foods, we got it.
You guys went to SLODoCo this morning, which is kind of a cool local music thing for us San Luis Obispo folk. If you had to be a donut, which donut would you be?
Matt: Vegan Chocolate Oreo. Vegan donuts are my jam. Done. The pumpkin vegan was crucial.
Michael: Which would you recommend though?
Oh man. Crumb Raised when it’s fresh is unbeatable. Strawberry Cream Cheese. I really like the Gluten Free.
Henry: Do you like the Maple Bacon?!
No. Sorry, I’ve just seen them make it and it’s no bueno.
Henry: Well, that’s my donut. Haha.
Nick: I had the Captain Crunch one this morning and that would be me because I grew up eating so much Captain Crunch.
Michael: I had the Matcha Cream Filled and I was impressed.
Matt: The Yoga Donut.
Which two of you guys met at a party?
Henry: Me and Nick.
Was it love at first sight?
Henry: No. He says we met at a house party. I don’t remember.
Nick: I could tell you the whole story. He rolls into my friend’s house who’s having a BBQ. We were like, “Who is this guy?” And we were throwing dice. Henry was like, “Hey man buy me in.” So I put a dollar down for him and of course he instantly lost and I instantly lost and then I bought him in again but he was giving me cigarettes so it was kind of a fair trade. Then we started talking a bit about music.
Henry: I remember meeting you at emo night at The Knock Out and we were singing along to The Get Up Kids.
Nick: No, absolutely not. Saves the Day and don’t you forget it.
Henry: So I just hug him and we start singing along together. After that I was like, “Yo dude, I play guitar, lets jam.”
Nick, you moved to San Francisco from Philadelphia. You’ve been in the Bay for two and a half years. What was the music scene like in Philly?
Nick: The DIY scene there is so strong. House shows upon house shows. Then you move to San Francisco and it’s just bars.
I feel like San Francisco had it’s day with that its huge history of music in the ’60s and ’70s. It’s so gentrified now that stuff like that doesn’t happen anymore.
Nick: Everything in San Francisco is so unaffordable.
Michael: I used to live in North Beach, which was central to the punk scene of the ’70s. Black Flag and Dead Kennedys and a lot of early hardcore bands used to hang there. But now, North Beach is this gorgeous, really expensive area. There’s no way you could not have a very, very good paying job and live in that neighborhood.
The tech industry taking over that entire area.
Michael: It is and it’s sad because there’s really nobody you can point a finger at. It just happens the way it happens.
It is sad but it gives other places the chance to create their own scenes and make a name for themselves. It might not be in San Francisco anymore, but look what’s happening in Oakland right now.
Nick: I still think the San Francisco scene is awesome. The people that are doing it and making it work. There’s a lot of awesome bands still in San Francisco: Blossom, Plush, Pardoner. They all kill it.
Thank you guys so much for playing this was super fun.
Pastel: Thank you for having us.
Kelli Normand conducted this interview and wrote the copy for it. She’s a KCPR DJ and Cal Poly political science senior. If you know what’s good for you, listen to her via 91.3 FM KCPR San Luis Obispo or KCPR.org on Sundays from noon to 2 p.m.