My first introduction to this band was at a concert in Philadelphia when they were opening for Rainer Maria and Bella Lea. They introduced themselves as Pela, from Red Hook, Brooklyn, with their only point of reference being that this was the area where Hubert Selby’s Last Exit to Brooklyn takes place.
Now depending on what kind of books tickle your fancy (if you even read) this crossed you as interesting, inconsequential, or downright meaningless. I, having read the shockingly veracious novel not too long ago, immediately gained a certain amount of respect for the band’s recognition and acknowledgment of this seminal piece of literature. However, not having heard them yet I had yet to be won over. Obviously, since I’ve now gone and written an article on them they were quite succesful in doing so.
Pela sounds like what many first-rate bands would sound like if they hadn’t been corrupted by Ipods (U2) or movie-star marriages (Coldplay). Harsh and unsparing vocals that could be mistaken as Frank Black’s (or Black Francis) of The Pixies and an energetic live performance don’t hurt either. Their lack of theatrics only adds to the bands attraction. No matching outfits or hipster hats are anywhere to be seen, tattoo sleeves are non-existent and over- the- top I-miss-my-girlfriend-let-me-cry-about-it performance techniques don’t appear. In fact as I recall, Billy, the lead singer, ran into the venue surprised and hurried as the rest of the band was already tuning their instruments for their set. A quick and blurry minute later he was ripping into the opening chords of the first song off their recently released ep Exit Columbia Street.
But enough of this palaver for now…A peripheral account of one moment in this band’s young career won’t cut it. Let’s let them tell a bit of their story.
AX: Tell me who’s in the band?
Pela: Billy McCarthy (vocals, guitars), Eric Sanderson (bass), Nate Martinez (guitars, keys), and Tom Zovich (drums).
AX: How did the band come to be?
Pela: Billy met Eric in early 2002 via Billy’s friend Chris down in a subway station. They started playing acoustically. Eric and Nate went to college upstate, and by Summer 2002, Nate joined on. That’s when we were starting to form what eventually became Pela. Tom joined us in 2004, and we’ve been writing, playing, and recording ever since.
AX: You were just out on tour with Rainer Maria. How does being around a band with a little bit more experience help you guys develop in your own right?
Pela: It helps in every way. [For example,] by the way they communicate with their fans through creating a nice community at every show they play; also, just the level of showmanship and pure professional manner in which they conduct themselves on stage and off-stage. These are huge things to learn from. You have to conserve energy on the road. You’re not always sleeping in the best place. You might be drinking a bit much. They’ve actually been going out on tours with the no-drinking rule. And you know what… there’s something there. In addition, we’re learning that exercise is hugely important.
AX: Explain your songwriting process.
Pela: The majority of songs are written by Billy. A few songs are co-written by Billy and Nate. Collaboration is another form. Eric or Nate might bring in a prerecorded idea, and it runs from there. Sometimes songs come in at different stages. You never know; every song is a different adventure and challenge. The more we dive into this, the more interesting it gets.
AX: Any label offers, interest, bites?
Pela: Yes, but talk is cheap. We’ll tell all when we’re bound by a legal contract.
AX: What are your plans in the very near future as far as getting the album out, touring etc.
Pela: We [released] an EP in September. We’re very excited. We’ll be doing regional shows in September and October. In addition, we’re trying to confirm some shows in Europe and the West coast around the same time. Ultimately, we’re planning on releasing the album in January 2007. So we’re just excited to get the music out there, and play as much as possible.
AX: What do you want people to hear in your music?
Pela: Honestly. Feelings. We’re all human, right?
AX: Has being in Brooklyn really influenced your sound and style?
Pela: Absolutely. There’s no way around it. Everyone’s a product of their environment. And we happen to be products of smog, loud noises, the uphill battle, attitude, expensive rent, and a multicultural community. Put that in a pot, and you get some odd balances of creativity and struggle. It’s a blessing and a curse.
Very soon you will have the chance to encounter Pela in their unencumbered full, but for now you can grab their EP’s All in Time or Exit Columbia Street, off of iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon, Insound and Best Buy. Checkout their Myspace page at www.myspace.com/pela or their website www.Pelamusic.com.
And if you’re not a big reader that’s OK, soon enough some other prepubescent band is going to get up on stage somewhere and say, “Hi we’re from Red Hook, Brooklyn, if you haven’t heard of it that’s where Pela got their start.”