AMERICAN PINUP is a mixture of all the coolest rock subgenres, from folk rock and rockabilly to punk rock and ska. They have recently released a new album called “Change Machine” and served a beautifully written, powerful and sincere party songs, perfect to make your autumn happier :) Taste it below.
To make your meal as enjoyable as possible, I decided to partner with the band and bring you some insightful and entertaining commentary. The band’s frontwoman Lauren West was so kind to take some time with me and answer a couple of questions about the band, their plans and what really gets them going. Check it out!
Hey guys! Finally we meet! Haha :) How are you?
We’re doing great! We just had an amazing record release show earlier this month and it put us in one of those long-lasting good moods.
Being a big fan of classic pinup and Brian Fallon ;) you fit in with “Change Machine” perfectly to my plans! Pity it’s not summer though, haha. The album is a perfect summer companion, you know? :) How do you feel about this record?
We’re really happy with it. It’s more mature than our prior releases. I’m proud of every song and I think it came out better than we all expected. We went into it with a pretty specific vision and we actually ended up fulfilling it. It’s a great sense of achievement.
You’re known from blending punk rock, rockabilly, surf rock, pop, folk, and God knows what else into one hell of a mixture of soulful and heartfelt rock music. Have you tried something new this time? Tell me about the writing process.
We definitely still blend all of those genres together, as we’ve come to be known for, but it’s certainly not an intentional part of the writing process. I think we have pretty eclectic tastes as a band, and I think that has helped us a lot as artists. We all appreciate a good hook, and that’s really what it comes down to. We don’t sit down and say “let’s make this a rockabilly song” or “let’s make this one a little more punk.” We just let the song develop organically and write whatever we think sounds good. The bare bones of our songs are really just pop songs, for the most part. We just take those bones and create an arrangement that feels natural and suits our taste. We think a lot about how things will translate live and how an audience can become part of the performance. And then we think about how the song will be the most potent on a record, what sort of arrangement will have the most impact. I think being music fans is the most important thing we have in our arsenal. I go to shows and study the performance and I listen to records and analyze the structure and melody and lyrics of the songs. All of that stuff stays in my head and informs my own process. It’s a lot of attention to detail.
Was it a struggle to record it and produce properly? How do you remember the recording sessions?
Recording it was actually really fun. We worked with Mike Kalajian at Telegraph Recording in Poughkeepsie, NY and we went into it with a pretty particular vision of what we wanted these tracks to sound like. Tracking was pretty easy. I would say Mike has a pretty “bottom-heavy” style of producing in that we lay down the tracks quickly, in a really raw form, and work on things like tones in post. So mixing was the longest part of that process. There were a lot of little tweaks and decisions to make after tracking. It worked well for us because those little things were really the sort of decisions you can’t make until you hear a playback. Maybe you thought you wanted this kind of tone or backup vocal on a part and then when you hear it played back, something else seems more fitting. But overall the record came together pretty easily.
Nice :) Distribution-wise, have you added some new channels of sales? How would you sum up the recent years spent in Altercation Records’ roster?
Altercation handles our distribution and I wish I knew more about those details, honestly, but the record is pretty much everywhere we want it to be right now. Most of our sales are digital as is typical these days, and I think most of our physical CDs are sold at shows. Since being on Altercation, we’ve had pretty thorough distribution in the US, Canada, and Europe so I can’t complain about that. I mean, in today’s world, global distribution is as simple as uploading your album to your website. Promotion is the trickier part. As far as being on Altercation, it’s very much a close-knit punk rock family. The bands on the roster are allies. We all really support each other and it’s really nice to have that network to rely on. If I’m stuck booking a tour I can text Mike Terry from THE JUKEBOX ROMANTICS and ask if he knows anyone in St. Louis, or wherever. And through all those connections, we find something. It’s like having a little Altercation army out there networking for everyone because we all vouch for each other. For being a small indie, they have done a lot for us. I think they really believe in what we’re doing and that’s always important to have in a relationship with a label.
You’ve released the official video for your first single, “Far Away”. Will there be more clips promoting this new outing?
Yes, we’ll definitely do more videos for the new tracks, but we don’t have solid plans at the moment. I know that whatever we end up doing, I want to get it over with quickly. The video for “Far Away” took so long to make that I think it burnt us out on shooting music videos for a while. It was fun and it turned out great, but it was just a slow, grueling process. So even thinking about doing another one right away was like, “No, no more!” But a new video is definitely coming up in the very near future. I think the trauma has subsided by now, haha.
Haha, cool. Don’t give up on making videos, please ;)
What cool merch items have you produced to support AMERICAN PINUP and this new album? Have you seen the latest board from THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM? :)
A skateboard is definitely an awesome merch idea. We have yet to do anything too out of the ordinary with merch. Just t-shirts, patches, stuff like that. I’ve always wanted to do something unusual, but it’s hard to tell what’s going to end up just collecting dust and what’s going to fly off the merch table. I really like the idea of temporary tattoos. That’s something I’ve wanted to have for sale for a while. I’m also looking into getting a screenprinting press because doing it yourself opens up a lot of possibilities. It would be especially handy if we were doing some kind of giveaway because you can make these limited quantity items for a handful of die-hard fans. I really like that approach to producing merch.
Speaking of tattoos, do you have any tattoos that you got for someone or because of a certain moment?
I have a thistle on my upper arm that I got for my grandmother after she passed away. I had thought about it for a full year beforehand. It takes up half of my left arm so I wanted to be sure about it. I also have a seashell on my ankle that I got totally impulsively and I absolutely love it. It was definitely because of certain moment, kind of a post-breakup celebratory tattoo. That sounds mean, but it wasn’t like “good riddance to that guy,” it was more about me making decisions for myself and committing to them. I really had life by the balls that summer. That’s a cool thing to commemorate.
Alright, let’s discuss what I love the most… touring :)
How was the record release show?!
The record release show was really incredible. We had it at the Captain Lawrence Brewery in Elmsford, NY and people really came out of the woodwork to see the show and support us, which was amazing. It was kind of a cheesy love-fest because our families and friends all came out and then there were the fans who’ve been around supporting us from the beginning, as well as new fans who had literally seen us play locally the week before. It was humbling. Personally speaking, it was a bit of a blur for me. I was kind of a ball of stress that day. I never get nervous, ever, but I wanted to make sure people saw the two opening bands (THE OBVIOUS from Asbury Park, NJ and NIGHTMARES FOR A WEEK from Kingston, NY) because they both drove a long way to play and, more importantly, they rock. I also wanted to make sure our set went well, which it definitely did. You don’t want to disappoint those people who made the effort to show their support. I think the only time I was remotely chilled out that day was during our set. But that’s the way it should be with stuff like that. I’m sad that it’s over, haha.
Tell me about the venue. What cool spots do you frequently haunt in your area?
It’s actually just a local brewery with a tasting room. We set up in the brewery itself and hire a production crew to set up the stage, sound system, lights, etc. I think we’ve played just about everywhere you can play a show in Westchester. There are very few venues around here these days and a lot of them are small bars. That’s something our music scene here is really dying for, just a club that is strictly about putting on shows. We do still make an effort to play a good amount local shows. I think it’s important to build and maintain that home base. Those hometown supporters are the ones who are going to give you the most honest feedback for when you take the show on the road.
You admitted that after the release party you were sad that it was over. Yeah, but it’s not really over, is it? Let’s discuss your future touring plans.
Yeah, I just meant that we had been planning it for so long and then it was over so quickly – it’s like a wedding. We’re probably hitting the road again in March. We want to go to the West Coast and we’ll probably hit SXSW again for a few days. We’re long overdue to go back down South and I know there are parts of the West we’ve never been to that people have been asking us to hit for far too long. We still have a lot of planning to do. If gas was free, I don’t think we’d ever stop touring.
Have you thought about touring Europe someday?
We definitely, definitely want to tour Europe. I’m not sure when we’ll do it. We probably either need to be asked to hop on a tour as an opener or find a booking agent out there who wants to work with us. It’s unexplored territory for us, so it’s tough to just send an email and say, “Hey, please book us from across the ocean, we’ll bring people out.” We don’t really know that. We have been getting some good press in Europe, but we don’t know yet how that translates to bodies in the room when we actually show up to perform, which is why I’d prefer to tour as an opener the first time around. Finding that opportunity can be difficult, especially for a band like us who are kind of in between genres. We have a hard enough time finding local bands we fit on a bill with sometimes. But we already have a few connections, so I think it’s just a matter of persistence. You pretty much have to be a better salesperson than musician to make it in this business.
Great! I think people would love to see you here. What are some of your associations with European rock and punk rock scene?
Really just booking agents from the US who have booked European tours and bands we know who have been over there. We don’t know much about the punk scene out there, but I hope it’s great! But we also share a label with SVETLANAS who live in Milan and tour throughout Europe pretty frequently, from what I understand.
Great! I’ve just interviewed those guys. They are one hell of a punk rock band, I must say :)
Alright, Travis from Altercation would probably kill me if I didn’t mention Upstart Fest, haha :) How was it?
Haha, yeah he would! Upstart was really great. We were only able to do three dates this year and I wish we had done more. Every band on the bill was really killer. I love Upstart Fest because it’s just like one big family of punk bands doing this festival/tour together and by the end of it everyone knows each other’s songs. The last night was great because at the end of the show, all the bands got up on stage and thanked Travis for making it all happen. It was like the gooey center under all that leather and studs was pouring out. Adorable.
Ok Lauren… just to wrap it up. Are you satisfied with this band’s output over the last years? How would you describe your development and compare it to what you imagined while you were starting off?
I’m really proud of the new record and sometimes I’m amazed we pulled it off. I’m lucky to have such gifted band mates. I think what we’ve accomplished so far is more than I expected to accomplish when I first picked up a guitar. I mean, we played Warped Tour this past summer. When I was 15, that was IT. There was nothing cooler. Artistically speaking, I always like to say I’m never satisfied. Your standards always grow with you so it’s hard sometimes to appreciate how far you’ve come. But there’s no question that we’ve come a long way. I just want to keep writing better and better songs and getting stronger as performers. I think if you’re sitting back thinking you’ve mastered your craft, you’re probably not very good to begin with.
Thank you so much for your time and patient answering :) See you in Europe! ;)
Any time! Thanks, Karol! Hopefully we will soon. :)