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Pissed Jeans Have No Regrets

Matt Korvette reflects on the band's evolution, tells the story behind the reissue of 'Shallow,' and takes down the posers.

by Joseph Yanick
Oct 26 2014, 3:45pm

2005 may not seem like that long ago but, in terms of the distribution of music, it may have well been a different world. Four years after the downfall of Napster, three years before Spotify was launched (five years before it was a household name), and a few years before mp3 blogging was in full force, it was the transitional period where people knew that they could get away with not paying for music, but didn’t really know how to go about it. This is also the year that Pissed Jeans unveiled their debut LP, Shallow, on Parts Unknown records. After one small repress in 2006, Shallow fell out of focus, and with Pissed Jeans signing to Sub Pop the following year, the record has remained a more obscure part of the their catalog. Now, thanks to Sub Pop, Shallow has been remastered and brought back to life—the reissue even includes a bonus seven-inch of their debut EP, Throbbing Organ. With so much time passed since the record’s latest press, we talked to Pissed Jeans singer Matt Korvette about the reasons behind wanting to reissue the record, and the evolution of both Pissed Jeans and the music world since their formation.

So the record has been repressed before, why do you think that this reissue is important? Why now?
Matt Korvette:
I think it was just encountering a lot of people at shows that just never knew that this record existed. We’ve been around long enough that there are people who are finding out about us in just like the past couple of years and assuming that we just started with Sub Pop. And, it is a record that we are definitely pretty proud of. We still play songs off of it, and it still represents us, I think—it is just a different time of us. It is nothing that we are ashamed of or trying to hide. It was just nice to get it out there, where it can be in stores and people don’t have to go searching for it. They can just have it available like all the rest of the records we have done.

Almost a decade has passed since you’ve written that material. Is there anything about the record that you aren’t happy with?
I am pretty happy to say that the answer is no. I’ve been in a bunch of other bands, a lot of them with the same members as Pissed Jeans, and there are so many records that I’ve done in other bands that I would never want reissued. I am happy with them and I love to listen to them but they’re nothing that I would ever want to force upon the public. With Pissed Jeans, we really lucked out because there is no moment that I look back and wince at.

It also helps that we put out very few records. If we were on an album a year deal, with one or two singles a year, there would probably be some stinkers in there, but we just kind of wait until we are ready and pleased with everything. I am pretty psyched. I mean there are only eight songs on this anyway, and I love the single too that is with it; it is some of my favorite Pissed Jeans music. I am pretty psyched that there is nothing that I would like to guide people away from on this.

From Shallow to Honeys, how do you perceive the Pissed Jeans’ evolution? Was there something that a younger version of the band brought to Shallow that doesn’t exist in you anymore?
When we did Honeys, we already knew what Pissed Jeans sounded like, and I think we were able to just comfortably work within that. We are just really familiar with our vibe and how it works. Whereas with Shallow every song was kind of different and we were just trying out all these ideas that, I think, wrote the guidelines for how Pissed Jeans could be. Everything was wide open and we could just try whatever we wanted; I think it all made sense, and still does.

When I hear the records it seems like you are—and this isn’t a criticism—less angry now; that you shout more than scream. Would you say that is a fair assessment?
I think that I kind of just try and do what the song fits. I’m definitely not getting less angry. I would say that the smarter and older you get, the more specific the anger is. You know, it is not being annoyed that college sucks anymore. I am just trying to always relate to where I am currently at with the band. Now, it is like being an old person is horribly miserable at times, especially when you are more acutely aware of how fucked up things are.

Is that the biggest part of your lyric writing process, connecting with your personal life and feelings?
Yeah. I would feel like such an idiot if I was giving you five albums of, ‘I hate the cops,’ ‘I’m want to kill myself,’ ‘I’m going to explode.’ It is just so generic, I mean, who the fuck cares? If you are the first band to say, ‘I hate the cops, I want to kill myself,’ that’s pretty awesome, but we are like decades into that existing. I’d rather just use the chance to talk about shit that is on my mind. It is funny, because people are always like, ‘Wow, that’s so great.’ I don’t feel like it is all that great, I just feel that the bar is super low.

I think that bands are too afraid to get too personal. In a sense that political music is great, it has also become a sort of easy short hand for bands to subscribe to; almost auto-generated lyrics.
Or, even just like a new band existing in 2014 that will write a song about waiting for you to call on the telephone or something. That just seems like such a pose. I mean, you have your phone with you all the time. The bands in 1977, they had to do that shit; that is why they wrote about it. No one is talking about the internet even though everyone’s fucking on it all the time. It is like you are only supposed to talk about all the things that early punk bands were singing about. It is like, ‘Come on man stop wearing a costume. You are actually on Facebook, admit it.’ You don’t have to write about technology or whatever, but let’s be real about it. I know that you love the song ‘TV Eye,’ and that song kicks ass, but don’t try to just copy it. Give us your version.

That actually leads into a question that I had. A lot has changed since Pissed Jeans formed. Since writing the album in 2005, to re-releasing it now, do you think the record can respond to different aspects of the punk scene now that it did then, or vice-versa?
Nowadays people are buying more reissues than they are buying actual new bands’ shit. I feel like people don’t even care about a current discussion, half the time. You’ll look at new release section and it will be like 500 180-gram reissues of like every possible style of music. So, I don’t worry too much about it making too much sense for 2014, so much as being something that will hopefully always make some bit of sense. Even if it is just like, ‘remember the mid-aughts.’ It is definitely a record of that era, but I also feel like I could just enjoy it now.

Especially because 2005 was kind of the time when things were starting to change in a big way. The interaction between the internet and independent music was growing to the point where, within a few years, it would be inseparable.
That was also like right where people kind of stopped buying music. Only now, are people kind of buying on iTunes and it has changed a little bit, but at the same time everyone is on Spotify. Music is this thing that is always available to you, you don’t have to do anything to get it. It is an interesting place that Pissed Jeans has always been in. I feel like if we existed ten years earlier, people would have actually bought our records, because they would have had to.

I think it is one of those things that have as many positives as it has negatives.
When Shallow was first released it was almost a full year before the vinyl came out that we just had CDs. To do that nowadays seems like the most idiotic thing. You might as well just throw them in the toilet, or sell them for $2.99 a CD; give me break. But, you could actually still do that then, you know, have a CD release that people would actually consider paying twelve bucks for.

So, in support of the reissue, are you going to be focusing more on material off of Shallow for the next tour?
We play shows all the time and we don’t really practice very much. Our set list changes every night, but lately it has been falling into maybe the same fifteen, sixteen different songs. It is weird because everyone seems to have a different opinion on us, which is great. There is no one record that we have done that is unanimously our best one, I feel like. There are people who are like, ‘Shallow is by far the best, everything else sucks,’ or ‘Honeys is the only good one,’ or ‘you started sucking after your first seven-inch.’ It is cool just to have that varied opinion, we are trying to just go off that and mix it up as much as we can.

Pissed Jeans Tour Dates:
SAT, Nov 1- Barboza, Seattle, WA (w/Stickers)
SUN, Nov 2- Doug Fir Lounge, Portland, OR (w/Stickers)
TUE, Nov 4- Slims, San Francisco, CA (w/Stickers)
WED, Nov 5- Jewel's Catch One, Los Angeles, CA (w/Lamps and Stickers)
THU, Nov 6- Casbah, San Diego, CA (w/Stickers)
FRI, Nov 7- Crescent Ballroom, Phoenix, AZ
SUN, Nov 9- Fun Fun Fun Fest, Austin, TX (Black Stage @ 2:45PM)

Joe Yanick is a writer living in Brooklyn. He's on Twitter.