Essay Test is a segment in which we assault a band with question in an essay test format. You remember that shit, right? We let the bands roam, wander, and trail off. We encourage run-on sentences and love fragments. We may or may not take points of for spelling mistakes. Here’s how 1,2,3, did.
1,2,3 is a Pittsburgh-based indie band that’s on the up-and-up. Started as a side project of The Takeover UK, Nic Snyder and Josh Sickels have found themselves touring Europe, signing to Frenchkiss Records, and anxiously awaiting the release of their debut full-length album. Their songs are a mixture of all things..well..awesome. Seriously. “Going Away Party” is blowing my mind right now. Check out what the duo had to say, listen to some new tunes from the band, and catch them live at SXSW. Hopefully, us Pittsburghers will see them this summer.
Educate everyone a bit on how this whole thing worked. It seems to be common knowledge that the two of you have been playing together for a long time, but got quickly snatched up, recording “Confetti” with Oh La La Records and then signing with French Kiss. How did that go down?
Nic Snyder: We have been doing this for a long time, very under the radar. So, though it might seem to the press as if this shit just happened over night. It’s been years building up to this. I think for both of us it was more like this needs to happen now or we’re gonna have to go work in banks like the rest of our friends. It just kind of aligned perfectly with the direction we were heading and what people seem to want to hear. It’s a melting pot kind of thing. As far as the UK, they’ve always been there, taste wise, though the US has really jumped to the foreground in the last few years. They were kind of the first to latch on, however. But, it’s not as if we’re stars over there. We’re still a baby band, but things are heading in a prosperous direction.
Josh Sickels: Yeah, we’ve been playing together for 10 years, and i feel like now, finally, we’re on the right track. The tour in England was great… we had a real blast. We are a bit more known over there; our UK single Going Away Party, was in regular rotation on Radio 1.. so that definitely helped a bit with the shows and press.
You’ve made it known that the two of you are from Pittsburgh. Do you live here currently or have you relocated to work on music? Tell us about your experience with the city and the music scene here. Do you use the word yinz more than you should?
N: Haha, I actually only use the word yinz/yunz in jest. Though, I kind of wish I said it for real from time to time. We’re very proud to say we’re from the Burgh. And yes, we are still here. It’s a super small scene, but, now days the scenes exist online almost more than they do in reality. We could be from Alaska and still have almost as close of a chance to reach people those who live in the flavor spots like Williamsburg. If I were to move somewhere else it’d be for personal reason and not social ones.
J: I am guilty of saying yinz on occasion. Like i’ll walk in a room and say “what yinz guys talking about?” I sometimes try and say it in an overly disgusting Pittsburgh accent. As Far as the scene, we’ve been out of it since 2009… i think that’s the last time either of us have played in Pittsburgh. Wow, that seems a little crazy to type out. A little strange that this band has played London, NYC and LA, and not our home town, but that will change this summer.
New songs have been trickling out on myspace, etc. Are these part of the new album or just singles? Can you talk about the new album and the recording experience with Frenchkiss? Has a release date been set? Is it just the two of you in the studio or have you employed the talents of other musicians/friends/label mates, etc?
N: Anything we released after the Little Cure/Big Beige single, aside from a Joanna Newsom cover I did for our Tumblr, has been from the album. The release date is set for June, 21st. The recording process was very gratifying, just to be where we were (Rare Book Room in Brooklyn) and to be able to do whatever we wanted. Josh might feel slightly differently ’cause there was a lot of chopping and screwing involved. It’d be like OK, play drums for an hour then sit here for three hours while we edit and treat. Haha. But, that’s how we record–for the most part.
J: Yeah, it was both awesome, and tedious, especially with only two of us. Nic would be tracking for hours, and i’d have no one to talk to or hang out with. A lot of magazine reading. As far as the set up, yeah, the band legally, and in the studio, is Nic and I, but we have friends that play with us live. This is actually our second band in less than a year. We had a different group of guys out in LA.
Some shows have been listed on your facebook page. Tell us about these and if there are plans for a major tour? Have you toured extensively in the past at all? Any plans to play in Pittsburgh?
N: We’re doing like 8 shows at SXSW, then a few NY one-offs, but we probably won’t tour until our album is out. We’re definitely gonna do Pittsburgh sometime in early summer, we just want it to be special, so it’s in the works.
J: I think our old band toured the entire US like 4 times, so, yeah, we’re no strangers to road doggin’ it. We will be on tour closer to the time of the album release, and play one offs until then. We learned a lot about what NOT to do in our last band as far as touring goes. Touring is expensive, and I feel there is this pressure for bands to think they always have to tour, but you gotta be smart about it, or it just doesnt make any sense. Also, right now, for whatever reason, there isnt a lot going on tour wise. I dont think this winter/spring has been very big for new releases, so getting on the right tour is something we’re being picky about.
The songs seem to be a melting pot of influences and obsessions. True? Educate us a little bit on the songwriting process between the two of you (and others?).
N: It’s kind of a culmination of everything I’ve listened to for the last 10 years, and the more off-kilter song I’ve written over the last 7 years. The direction was to have good songwriting and be sonically interesting. We try to opt out of any genre, which has been very confusing for certain press folks. It lays somewhere between Roy Orbison, Kate Bush and the Dream.
J: Yeah, the songs on the record are pretty dense, and its hard to pin down what exactly the influence is at times, but that makes it all the more interesting. Nic will typically bring a song in, and we’ll hash it out, or i’ll try and help him rearrange some parts. We’ve had a pretty good formula going for a while now. I kinda filter the stuff he does, and then we decide what works best. Nic is constantly writing songs, so if something doesnt work out, we’re not too bothered by it.
This is a Pittsburgh based question: Favorite PGH bar? Favorite PGH neighborhood? Favorite PGH restaurant? Favorite PGH memory?
N: We may have varying opinions on this. Brillo. Bloomfield. This is more in the sprawl but, Jioio’s. That’s a tough one, first thing that comes is Snowmagedon. It’s interesting to see how everyone gets a little kinder when a city is hit by something like that. Then three weeks later, with the chairs, people were about to get physical if you parked in “their spot”. That’s one of my least favorite.
J: My favorite bar is the Squirrel Cage, when its not too crowded and filled with smoke. My favorite place to eat is Mineo’s or People’s Indian restaurant. My fave neighborhood is Sq. Hill, cause i live here, and it has the best food places. I think my favorite memory is when the Steelers won the superbowl against the Seahawks, and everyone just stormed the streets. It was wild, people were throwing trash cans through store fronts; i saw a car flipped over and on FIRE out in front of the cathedral in Oakland. The funniest thing i saw that night was these kids who were just blocking off a side street, and had a beer bong, and wouldnt let cars pass unless they bonged a beer. So this middle aged dude with his wife and kids drive by, and they try and get him to bong one, and he says no, so they keep egging him on, til finally he goes “aw, fuck it” and then just bongs a beer, right there with his little kids in the backseat. Epic Pittsburgh moment, indeed.