Pentimento are no strangers to The Studio at Webster Hall. The Buffalo punk band (who were featured as our “Band of the Week” in November 2013) opened for Reggie and the Full Effect on February 20, marking the third time they’ve played the downtown New York venue since December 2012. The band made the most of their half-hour set in front of the sold-out crowd, tearing through their setlist with a high level of passion and precision. The 8-song set included cuts from their Inside the Sea EP (It’s Okay, Any Minute Now…, Just Friends), their Wrecked EP (The Bridge), and their Self-Titled debut LP (Unless, Circles, The Wind, Almost Atlantic).
After the show, drummer/lyricist Mike Hansen was kind enough to sit down with me for a few minutes to discuss the band’s experience on their current tour, their relationship with their fans, the album that changed his life, and which band he would love to tour with.
Lyrically Addicted: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us. Can you just say your name and what you do in the band?
Mike Hansen: Sure, my name is Mike Hansen and I play drums for Pentimento.
LA: This is the third time I’ve seen Pentimento here in the past year and a half… you guys are originally from Buffalo New York, but do these shows here in New York City kind of feel like a hometown show?
Mike: You know what, New York City is actually a little bit further than most people think from Buffalo, but regardless New York City always treats us very very well, between all the times we’ve been here, especially last time with Real Friends, which was an incredible show. The support we receive in New York City is something that we never expected. It’s such a big place in a small area with a lot going on all the time, so we feel very lucky to have the amount of support that we have while we’re here.
LA: This is the last week of a five-week tour with Reggie and the Full Effect and Dads. Can you tell me a little bit about how you came to be on this tour and what it’s been like touring with a veteran like James DeWees?
Mike: Oh yeah, I mean touring with Reggie has been great because those dudes have been around the block more than a few times, so it’s been awesome to just pick up their insight on the way that things work just from being in a small band to being a band their size. You know, James with the whole My Chemical Romance thing and The Get Up Kids has just offered us so much insight from songwriting to just the ways to present yourself as a band. It’s been an incredible learning experience. We got offered the tour and just took it right away; we were really really excited about it. I didn’t know too much about Reggie and the Full Effect before this tour and now I think we’re all pretty much in love with this dude and these guys and the band and everything. It’s been awesome.
LA: You guys probably have a lot of down time during the tour, what do you guys do to kill some time on the road?
Mike: Killing time on the road… that’s tough. I would say eating. Eating is probably the thing that we do the most.
LA: A little while ago, you guys put out your Inside The Sea EP. Could you tell me a little about how the recording and the process of releasing it differed from your self-titled album?
Mike: For this one, we were a lot less rehearsed than we normally would have been going into a recording session. We got the call about the Real Friends tour and decided it would be smart for us to have a release to support on that run. So we wanted to get it out as soon as we could; we went in there and it was a very urgent feeling, which is kind of exciting. I don’t want to say unprepared but we were unsure of the things that we’re normally sure of like guitar tones, vocal parts, things like that. We tried really hard to do it on the spot and what you hear is the product. It took us a very short amount of time to do these songs but we’re excited about the way they came out and the response has been awesome.
LA: I’ve noticed that a lot of your lyrics reference the elements, the seasons, and especially the sea and the ocean and things like that. Is it a conscious decision and what is it about the elements that drives your lyrics?
Mike: I think that a lot of what happens conceptually, lyric-wise, relates to the idea of water in a few different senses. There’s a lot about that particular feeling I get when I’m thinking about the ocean – we live right by a lake – things like that. I draw a lot of inspiration from that lyrically because the bodies of water I have come across have been a great source of metaphorical inspiration, I guess. I feel like when I’m looking out at it, it gives me the sense that just based on the sheer vastness of a body of water like that; it makes me feel so insignificant. But the fact that you’re there at all is something really special.I don’t know, I just take a lot away from being able to reflect when I’m there. Spending time near a body of water is something I really really enjoy to do, but I find a lot of inspiration there and the metaphors that are relating to that. It’s just the connection I have with that sort of thing, I guess.
LA: One of the first things I noticed about your band is how open and communicative you are with your fans. Do you think that’s important, especially in this scene, to kind of be that open and transparent with your fans?
Mike: Dude, it’s just who we are as people, and it’s very important for us to be as transparent as we can because we’re human beings, and everyone who is kind enough to support our band is also a human being, so we should be able to connect like that. The whole band being on one level and fans being on another level or whatever is just bullshit. Being open and honest and being able to communicate with the people who are kind enough to give a shit about what we’re doing is the very least we could ever possible do.
To me, especially in this day and age where everyone is on the internet, it’s important for us to uphold our rapport there. But I feel like there’s a lot of people who are searching for something real within that. Everything is just so digital, it’s so artificial at that point and it certainly plays its role in the world. It’s a necessary tool at this point. We’re very active on social media, it’s just part of what we do now. But it also translates into the way we treat our live show, standing at the merch table talking to people, meeting people who come to the shows, it’s all part of it. It is really important to develop something that goes beyond the band and the listener relationship because we want to walk away feeling like we actually did something real.
I want this to be more than a band. I want this to be an experience. I want this to be something other than “Oh I saw Pentimento and it was okay” or whatever. I want people to feel like “they are aware of who we are” and we want to know who they are in a very genuine way. It’s not about selling a fucking t-shirt, it’s not about selling a fucking record. It’s about connecting with people because they’re human beings and we’re human beings and the reason that we do this is to pursue that idea. We share what we are with people because we want to know them too. That’s what makes us human beings. Dude, life is so fucking short. Shit comes and goes all the time, and I don’t have time to not be that way. We don’t have time to not be that way with people because if you’re not, then you’re missing out.
LA: It’s definitely interesting you bring up social media because it adds another layer that wasn’t there a few years ago.
Mike: It’s another dimension for sure, and it’s something you have to learn to use to your advantage. Instead of sitting on Twitter or Facebook or Tumblr and acting like that’s all your band is, use that to transcend the barrier between the relationship that you would have with somebody online and what it would be like when they come to a show because that is one of the greatest parts. It becomes a reality when somebody goes “Yo, I hit you guys up on twitter. We joked around about this that or the other thing” or “you guys replied to me and I really appreciated it”. Now they’re at the show, they’re telling this to you face-to-face. That’s a beautiful thing. That is the way you put that idea to work and it’s so important for people to hold onto that because instead of being oversaturated with it or instead of being absorbed and swept away by the idea of social media… you can do something cool with it. You can do something real with it. I just believe in that because it literally takes no fucking time to tell somebody “thank you” or whatever it may be online for giving a shit about what you’re doing.
A lot of bands, when I was growing up, that gave me the time of day when I was a kid really shaped the way I feel about this now. The fact we even have a platform to do this kind of thing is fucking crazy because we’re just dudes and it’s important for us to maintain that. We’re just dudes, and that’s all we ever want to be. No matter how big the band ever grows – whether or not it grows is irrelevant – we’re here right now treating people the way they deserve to be treated.
LA: Is there any band in particular you remember going to see that had that connection with you?
Mike: Yeah dude… I would say that Rise Against was a band that made me feel like I didn’t have to put them on a pedestal. They were just great on their own. I met the singer when they were on a tour with Comeback Kid and From Autumn to Ashes, a long time ago. I went up to the dude after the show and he said “Thanks a lot for being here.” Our bass player was there, he also brought a friend who told the singer “hey man, I’m sorry this is going to sound really shitty but I downloaded your record; I stole it” and Tim from Rise Against just put his hand on his shoulder and said “dude, I don’t give a shit, you got the record… did you like it? Did you enjoy it? Did you have fun at the show? I don’t care, you’re here!” That was the way that Tim from Rise Against, who is now playing to no less than a fucking hundred thousand people every time they do a show, used the internet to his advantage, and all he cared about was getting the music he believed in to the people who believed in that band. It paid off because people came to the shows and people were singing the words.
That’s what he wanted out of it. That’s what I want out of it. I want people to enjoy what’s going on on stage or on the record. Anything else in the middle, I don’t give a fuck about. But yes dude, there was definitely some shit that happened to me when I was younger that made me feel like if I ever have the chance to do this, I want to do it right, I want to do it right the first time. I want to let every single person know that we really appreciate them because, as cliché as it sounds dude, without those people, we’re not shit. We would not be doing anything without the people who support this band. And we’re still a very small band, we don’t have any illusions about that, but we’re trying very hard to push forward to the next level and grow the band, but it’s all contingent on the people supporting the band in the first place.
LA: And I definitely think that can be the difference between a band that goes nowhere and a band that grows is that connection they form with the fans.
Mike: Absolutely, it does make all the difference. When people walk away from our shows, whether it’s a handshake or a picture or a hug or whatever, it’s something else rather than they saw us on stage and then they left. And that’s fine, some bands get away with that, but that’s not us. And in order to find our own identity, it’s important to take that into consideration. These people are spending money to get in, spending money to get to the show, and probably spending money buying merch that’s on the tour so… dude, what the fuck, talk to them, let them know that you give a shit, because unless you do, why are would they bother supporting your band?
LA: Okay I just have a couple personal music-related questions for you if that’s okay. If you were stuck on a deserted island with one album, what would it be?
Mike: Hmm. Crime in Stereo, The Troubled Stateside. It changed my fucking life.
LA: When was the first time you heard that album?
Mike: I was like 17 or 18 and at that point I thought I had music figured out. Like I was a hard-ass 18 year old sitting in a record store like, “dude, I’m never gonna get that band to happen to me again. I already know all my favorite bands, fuck everything else.” I called a friend of mine and said dude, I got some money to burn, what should I buy? And he told me to check out this Crime in Stereo record and I got it. I put it on, I’m driving home in my parents’ Kia Spectra and I pulled over; I could not believe what I was hearing. It connected with me in such a way that no song or band has ever done before. That record changed the way I look at music, it changed the way I felt about writing songs, it changed the way I thought about the world. I needed it at that time. I don’t know if it was right place right time but that’s one of those records where every time I listen to it, I’m transported so far away from this reality that it just makes me feel alive.
LA: Have you ever seen them live?
Mike: Yes, several times. I love that band.
LA: Yeah they put on a great show. If you had to tour with one band that’s currently touring that you’ve never had the chance to play with, who would it be?
Mike: A.F.I. They’re probably my favorite band of all time, but their live show is unrivaled. I love that band with my whole heart. Getting the chance to tour with them… I could probably die happy for sure after that.
LA: Is there any album or EP that you’re really anticipating this year.
Mike: I just found out today that a band from the UK called Apologies, I Have None is releasing a new EP soon; I’m really looking forward to that. They had a record called London that I really enjoyed.
LA: One last question… I know you probably don’t want to spoil anything big, but what can Pentimento fans expect for the rest of 2014?
Mike: 2014 you can see us on the road. We plan to use this tour to try to grow organically. We want to get out as much as we can, do as many support tours as we possibly can, do a lot of festivals this spring and hopefully something awesome in the summer.
LA: Okay thank you so much.
Mike: No problem, thank you so much for being here.