This one has been a long time coming for me. I met Jay, bass player for the band Pent Up! in a Facebook group for Seattle musicians I want to say, eight months or so ago. It was one of those posts where someone posed the whole “drop your link, here’s mine” kind of exchange. Me, being #TWEETCORE minded before even knowing anything about it, had this great idea of “hey, let’s make a playlist of everything here in the thread.” Well, in #TWEETCORE world that is like-minded and welcome collaboration… in a Facebook group…. apparently not. The poster was quite angry with me about it for some reason. Not going to speculate on motivations or any of that, all beside the point, because the overall outcome resulted in me exchanging with Jay who had told me about his newly formed band who had a slew of gigs lined up and had an EP coming out soon called “Pretty Good.” I pre-saved it, gave it a listen, and ironically enough, it was pretty damn good. Now I had a new indie band to follow. And we’ll just cut to the chase to get this important bit of information out before we get into the nuts and bolts of everything:
Pent Up! has a new single that just dropped TODAY (10-10-22) entitled “The End.” It is a pre-cursor for a full album that is to be eventually released. They are playing a show TOMORROW (10-11-22) at the Funhouse (AKA the legendary El Corazon) in Seattle opening up for Tantric.
The new single is a rocking tune with energy bursting out of the seams. They’ve shifted gears in the methods of production for this release and have done a fantastic job of capturing that energy that is translated so well during their live performances, more on that later. There is a B-side to the single, a cover of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” which has been a crowd favorite at their shows. Born of “boredom and isolation” resulting from the heights of COVID-19 the band describes the origins of the project in a pretty straight forward punk rock kind of way:
Songs were written, beers were drunk, an EP was recorded, and the story beganPent Up!
My first impressions upon hearing it was right away to go, “Ooh! a Cow-Punk band!” Which of course, stirred up a multitude of artists for me to compare it to that I enjoy from that sub-genre. Everclear, Social D, Reverend Horton Heat, The Meat Puppets, and yes-controversial hot take that we’ll also get to later- The Gin Blossoms. What stands out to me about Pent Up! that I particularly fancy in comparison to other similarly “genre’d” artists, is that they play with more of a raucous and reckless abandonment than say, the more refined Everclear, but yet still as introspective and melodic. The band consists of:
Brendan Honeycutt: Guitar and vocals
Nate Oelrich: Drums and backing vocals
Jay Barrett: Bass and backing vocals
I had the awesome opportunity to deep dive a bit about some questions that have lingered in my curiosity since following them earlier this year with Brendan, the lead singer and guitar player of the band:
AMS Radio: Hey guys! Here are 3 routine questions I ask every artist, because I feel that no matter who the artist is, these are key points to know about every artist. What inspires you to create music? Who would you say are your biggest influences? Obviously, I got my own takes on that, but I’m curious to know how what I hear matches up with who you could specifically credit for inspiration. Save any “Gin Blossoms” related speculation for the end, I have another question specifically about that one. **laughs**
It’s always challenging to figure out which influence shows up in which song! **laughs**
At one show, someone came up to me after and said “Cool set, reminds me of Social Distortion.” I had to laugh because Social D was probably the band I listened to the most when I was learning to play guitar! We’ve heard comparisons to Gin Blossoms (just to get that out there!), Smoking Popes, and the tiniest of hints of Dinosaur Jr. I think there’s some Foo Fighters in the brew as well as some Bad Religion, but maybe that’s just us! We’re a strange mix as a band in some ways; Nate and Jay both come from heavier backgrounds playing punk and metal, while I’ve played more indie rock with chorus pedals and major 7th chords. It adds a lot of punch and vigor to the overall sound. Working together has been an absolute joy! Nate’s a pulverizing player on the drums that always finds a way to push songs forward with his technique and touch, and Jay adds a skillful, groovy, powerful low-end that helps make our songs so danceable.
If we’re listing influences, a way-too-short-list for me includes The Clash, Neil Young, PUP, Parquet Courts, and the Replacements, but my recent listening pulls more toward R&B, jazz, and funk. I’ve listened to a lot of Steve Lacy (Gemini Rights is an incredible album), I’ve really enjoyed DOMi & JD BECK’s new album and, thanks to the Cocaine and Rhinestones podcast, I’ve been listening to a lot of George Jones classics.
AMS Radio: Oh man. George Jones I could oddly enough probably talk a lot of shop with you about.
Tell me a little bit about your creative/writing process, how does the music make it from concept to final product?
It depends on who starts the process! For songs that originate from me, I try to chase a feeling as the central target of a song. Whether the song is an expression of rage, sadness, wistfulness, or joy, I use that emotional tone as a foundation, and try to find guitar and/or vocal melodies to build the rest of the house. I put a lot of emphasis on lyrics that sound euphonious first, with meaning a close second. Sometimes you just need a phrase to sound good, because you can get lost for hours down a rabbit hole if you chase too much profundity. If I think I have a strong enough idea, I’ll demo it in garageband or make a notes recording, then send it over to Jay and Nate for thoughts and critiques. If they like it, I know it’s going to be a winner.
More fully realized songs are a bit more rare though. Most often, one of us brings in sketches of songs, and we then play the shit out of the pieces until a nugget of something bursts to the surface. From there, we workshop and arrange; Jay builds the bassline, Nate finessess the fills, and I grind out a guitar part or a vocal melody that hopefully ties in! We usually think of the live sound first with the recording process a bit of a distance behind, because it helps us come up with the essential parts that make a song tick. It’s much easier to add an extension on to a house rather than demolish one after the fact. Songs work the same way.
AMS Radio: Great answer, definitely identify with the approach you speak of, “euphonious first, meaning close second” that’s a good way to put it.
Tell me about the music scene out there in Seattle right now. What’s popular, what do you like or dislike about it, and what interesting things are happening?
Things have been steadily opening up over the last year, and a bunch of really cool bands and artists have been breathing life back into the Seattle-area scene. We’ve been adjacent to the punk and indie scenes and they’re vibrant as ever. At the risk of name-dropping a few bands, some of our favorites include Kitty Junk, The Disorderlies, Highest of Heels, Hobo Starseed, and Miss Prince. Since I’ve already risked name-dropping bands…
We love playing at the historic Central Saloon (our “home base” and the site of our music video for “Dream to Dare”), The High Dive (in Fremont, the Center of the Universe), Darrell’s Tavern (in majestic Shoreline), The Kraken Bar (in the U-District), and Lucky Liquor (hidden in Tukwila). The Seattle area scene is full of dope artists, venues, and overall characters, and playing in it always keeps us on our toes as a band!
AMS Radio: Name drop away! That’s really the point of this thing here with the blog, music discovery. I’m familiar with Kitty Junk, I do listen to them and follow them online. Thanks for the others, I’ll make sure to check them out as well.
Okay, fun specific questions for ya. I have had some of these… PENT UP? (**Dr. Evil pinky**) For some time now. Who drinks the most beer in the band?
Nate probably gets the slight edge, with myself right behind. If I recall correctly, Jay’s not a big fan of that beery taste, and he’s been known to jump in on a cider or something harder with us. If we had to pick an “official” beer at this point, it’s probably a toss-up between Rainier (a local classic) and Coors (The Banquet Beer!), while Jay proudly reps Jagermeister.
AMS Radio: Ahh that Jay. I have too much in common with him, and that probably says more about him than me, keep an eye on that one. **laughs**
You guys went from doing the studio thing, to DIY this time around and holy hell, it sounds great. What made you decide to learn to do this all yourself and would you encourage other artists to do the same? If so, what kind of tips or advice would you give an artist who may be thinking of self-production or just getting into it?
I think we dove head-first into it because we wanted our records to reflect our live energy as closely as possible. We recorded our first EP in a single weekend around the time that we were playing our first shows together and, in some ways, you can hear the same initial jitters from our live shows coming out of the speakers when you listen to the EP as a whole. Fast forward 6 months, and those jitters are history; we’ve played a bunch of shows, including our first headline gig at Seattle’s High Dive, and now we’re a well oiled disaster!
We’re confident in how we want to sound and what we want to say, and we decided to self-produce so that we could take our time and try to reach every song’s full potential. Sometimes this means spending weeks experimenting with cymbal sounds, or taking several multi-hour sessions to iron out the timing on a backing vocal, and we were sure that this would cause any engineer to pull their hair out… so of course, Jay volunteered as tribute and became our engineer for this round of recording. **laughs**
Jay gets the credit for masterminding the process. He’s the guy behind the boards for both “The End” and “Just Like Heaven,” and his recording technique and mixing highlights our energy and joie de vivre! We started with drums, then added bass, then added guitars. After some fine-tuning, we spent a couple sessions hitting vocals. As someone that used to record his voice in a closet for demos, having people in the room was mortifying… but particularly rewarding, as we worked out backing vocal parts on the fly and really built the vocal sound into something special. After Nate threw in some extra percussion, we were off to the races.
My advice to artists getting into self-production is this: be patient with yourself, but know what you want to say. Recording yourself can be freeing due to the lack of additional barriers between yourself (or your group) and the sound you want to nail, but it can take extra time to figure out how close you’ve gotten without outside ears. Practice a bunch before you hit the studio so that everyone involved knows what they want the end product to approximate, but give yourself time to fuck up and muddle through a few things. Sometimes the best ideas come out of a blundered take!
AMS Radio: So so true. The record sounds remarkable for a “jump in head first” type of effort. Kudos.
Your bio says that you guys came together amidst during the COVID lockdown, so I have a couple questions for you in that context. First, would you say there’s any kind of underlying subject matter or tone in your lyrics on that first EP due to that? Second, I read that you guys met at an open mic prior to “the world ending,” but what would you say was it about “the world ending” that finally got you to the point where you were like, “ok. Let’s do this” how long of a time period was it between that open mic and the jam that led us to where we are today?
While the pandemic wasn’t a main ingredient in the songs themselves, it definitely led some contextual weight to the songs themselves. Rather unintentionally, the EP is mostly songs about relationships, touching on communication breakdowns (“Self-Titled”), processing resentment (“Everytime”), long gone friendships with even longer vapor trails (“Summersong”), veiled optimism at a connection (“Dream to Dare”), and an open-hearted plea for love (“Don’t”). Everyone knows somebody (friend, family, or even yourself) whose personal relationships changed under the stress and danger that COVID brought into our lives. I think the EP’s emotional weight, such as there is, gets amplified because of the isolation, fear, and introspection that came from that period.
For us, it was a pretty casual decision that led us to where we are now.. Sometime in 2019, Nate and I met at an Open Mic night at Louie G’s Pizza (RIP). We exchanged numbers and added each other on social media, saying we should hang out… and then we didn’t for a while! Cut ahead to 2020, and I post online about wanting to jam to alleviate the boredom of COVID lockdowns. Nate hit me up and we started chatting. I forget the exact details, but the subject shifted to songs, and I passed along the song that would become a mission statement for the band: The End. While we had a song we knew was a winner, something was missing. Pent Up! wasn’t at full power until Jay, a bandmate of Nate’s in a previous project, stepped in to complete our trifecta.
The End is a song about overthinking, so we play it with as much abandon as we can muster. COVID gave us a lot of extremely valid reasons to overthink, so it hits a little bit differently in light of the last two years. It’s a weird little song that took us some time to record right, but I think we nailed it this time!
AMS Radio: Two words. Gin Blossoms. Everyone, myself included, have made that musical connection when we hear your stuff, but as I understand it before everybody started telling you “hey I hear some Gin Blossoms in there” it was a thing that wasn’t even on your radar, right? What do you honestly think about that band? They started off really cow-punk if you listen to those early demos.
I can honestly say I didn’t know the Gin Blossoms very well when Pent Up! got started, but based on the consistency of the comparison, I think I’ve been missing out! “Hey Jealousy,” “Found Out About You,” and “Follow You Down” are incredible songs! They’ve got a nice jangle and the hooks are sharp. In a way, they sound like a cleaned-up Replacements (or simply if the “All Shook Down” era continued past 1991), which only increases the appeal to me. As someone that always appreciates a little twang, I have to say that you’re sweetening the pot for me!
At some point, we’re probably gonna sneak one of their songs into a set and see how quickly the audience notices! **laughs**
AMS Radio: Who is the artist and what does the artwork for the single relate to Pent Up! as a band? Any significant artistic expression with that?
Whenever we talked about The End, the same image entered the conversation: a rickety old truck, blasting down a dirt road while on fire and barely holding on. We wanted the song art to represent calm in the face of chaos. It’s our favorite song to end sets with because there are no encores after it; my voice is shot and we’ve thoroughly sweat ourselves to death, but we’re always beaming and happy at the conclusion of the song’s chaos. With more discussion, we came back to the image of what the driver of that rickety truck: a weathered man with a “bring it on” bearing in the face of an atom bomb.
We liked Yatdzkr’s style (https://www.fiverr.com/yatdzkr) and reached out to them. The first draft they sent back got us in the right direction! With a few tweaks (fun fact: the face is modeled after country great Merle Haggard during his later career), it became this colorful symbol of maintained cool in the face of collapse.
AMS Radio: Indeed, it is a great work, I think it does reflect what was described quite well, and I’m glad we could also give a plug and shout out to another artist.
Well there you go, George Jones and Merle Haggard, honestly didn’t expect to be having those tags on my blog that is primarily punk, metal, and even alt-pop or synthpop, but like I said earlier, oddly enough I am what most people would find to be surprisingly familiar with their repertoire, so it’s a pleasant surprise. THANK YOU Brendan for taking the time to answer these questions for AMS Radio and CONGRATS on the fantastic new record. Cheers.
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