Badass Band #13
This duo is an absolutely awesome, quirky, fun, off the wall band. I can’t get enough of them! They are a little bit more well known than some of the other bands I have posted about, especially in their regular stomping grounds of Chicago. I actually heard of this band, dug them, then to my own discredit, forgot about them for a while until they popped up on my twitter feed six or seven months ago. The band is called ‘Pinto and the Bean’ and they will expand your musical horizons by leaps and bounds with their psychedelically chill, trippy, fun, raging melodies. I know those don’t sound like they exactly go together, but trust me, it’s the best description of their compilation of tunes.
I was exposed to Pinto and the Bean through a totally random video clip of theirs, I cannot remember where I saw it. The clip showed two dudes wearing suits of foil/foil containers and they were doing all kinds of random shit like running around the forest and playing instruments from the back of a jeep. This randomness definitely caught my attention and the song was great so I looked them up. It turned out to be the video for ‘Robot Wars’. Well after that, I meant to download their music but got sidetracked and didn’t. Eventually, someone on my personal twitter account posted about them and I had a ‘lightbulb’ moment. I immediately went and found their website. There I saw the video for ‘Robot Wars’ again and proceeded to watch ‘Midnight Monsters’ as well as some of their rehearsal videos and that did the trick. The zany qualities of the videos combined with their killer tunes made me a fan.
It blows my mind that this band is only made up of two guys. In this aspect they remind me of The Ferocious Few (another band mentioned on this blog a few posts ago). The fact that two guys, Paul Taneja- guitar/keys/vocals and Ivan Sosa-drums/keys/vocals, can rival the sounds of bands with 4 or 5 members is astonishing. That right there just screams, “Kickass talent!” to me. Their album ‘The Waiting Place’ is so diverse its fucking ridiculous. It spans from songs like ‘Night Rider’ which is a pop culture-ish, raging rock song, to songs like ‘Rebuild Everything’ which is a mellow, more emotionally relatable ballad. There truly is something for everyone on this album. You need it, I promise.
The guys from Pinto & the Bean were cool enough to take some time out of their busy schedule to hook BBB up with an interview, so read on to find out about their crazy video ideas, hilarious pranks, and their take on the Chicago music scene versus NY and LA.
BBB Interview Questions-
1. When and why did each of you start playing?
Ivan: I started making beats with pots from the kitchen. I come from a single mother who never supported me in any artistic way, so I bought my first snare on Christmas when I was 12 or 13; it was a beautiful black REMO snare. I built a hi hat with corcholatas and a kick bass tom with a box, so I started practicing drum beats that way; then one birthday my mom’s lover bought me a beautiful Ludwig Vistalite drum set from a rich guy; I rocked the neighborhood with it. It’s still my baby and I’m still playing it!
Paul: I started playing music when I was 4 years old. My parents bought me this little 80’s Casio keyboard (which still works perfectly fine), and they say I had an ear for simple songs like ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ so they started me on piano lessons. But piano teachers got fed up with me because I never wanted to practice the music they assigned – I started learning songs I felt like learning, and eventually I just stopped piano lessons altogether. There was a period where I just didn’t care about music at all and really never thought I’d do anything with it; then one day at 16, I picked up my brother’s acoustic guitar and started teaching myself to play. It became an obsession soon afterward. When I learned the power of expressing myself through words and music combined, I just knew this was what I needed to do. It was the one thing in the world that made me feel incredibly alive. My parents bought me an acoustic guitar at 17 and it’s probably the greatest gift of my life. I played that thing for 4 – 8 hours a day every day for years, and taught friends to play guitar – we rocked; we rolled. I used to fall asleep with that guitar..but not anymore.
2. When/how did you become Pinto and the Bean?
Ivan: I started as Paul’s drummer with his solo music; then we started another project called ISB. At this point, I was adding some of my creativity into the band beyond just being a drummer. Then in January of 2010 we stared creating music for what would eventually become P&B. We were just 2 people being creative, writing lyrics and making music together.
Paul: Yes, we were in another band together prior to Pinto and the Bean called Incredible Shrinking Boy. There came a point where we realized we wanted to get more serious with the music, and we started this new project. We’re actually known as Pinto and the Bean from a contest we held in the summer of 2010. We got many band name ideas from people we met and wrote them all down. Eventually we chose Pinto and the Bean because we thought it was funny and interesting at the same time.
3. Which famous musicians do you admire? Why?
Ivan: Wow, this is an interesting and a difficult question; the word “admire” is broad to me and can be defined differently depending on the person’s perspective. For example, I admire all the musicians that are working hard because it’s just their true passion, but in regards to bands who are famous and made a career out of their music – bands that are inspirational to me would be
Led Zeppelin, Prince, Janes Addiction, The Smiths…..and many many many more.
Paul: Famous? Well, these days famous and indie feel so blended together it’s hard to nkow what separates the two. But bands that I have always admired and been influenced by are Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, Weezer, Cake, Nada Surf, and The Beatles. A few other bands I currently admire are Explosions in the Sky, Band of Horses, Arcade Fire… I’m drawn to their amazing songwriting abilities and their music’s emotional power.
4. How often and for how long do you practice?
Ivan: It’s sad but true; lately we have not been practicing too much. It seems like we’re tired of playing the same songs again and again; we started writing them over a year and a half ago. Also, we realize that the music industry has changed so much; if we ever dreamed of being rock stars, that dream has changed; the truth is we have to build our own career and that means that we have to spend a good amount of time not necessarily making music.
Paul: We need to get on a better schedule actually and manage our time! When we were writing the songs from our debut album ‘The Waiting Place’, we practiced a minimum of twice a week. We were very inspired then. We’re trying to get into songwriting mode right now, which is hard…but it’s slowly happening. Writing these songs together was not an easy process. We’re both the main songwriters of the band and there are often violent battles between our two brains before each is satisfied enough with a song for it to be recorded or performed. We need to get back on a schedule of writing. Time management is a bitch. Also, we’ve been in a hibernation winter mode and it has not been easy trying to snap out of it.
5. Do you get nervous before a performance?
Ivan: Always – there’s a weird feeling of adrenaline running through my veins, and over the years I’ve learned how to channel that energy in a positive way to make the show explosive
Paul: For me, there’s almost always at least a small amount of nervousness before taking any stage. I was really nervous before our first show, because we hadn’t performed before and we’re a two piece performing with backing tracks as well as the keyboard duties we share and I was afraid of tripping over my own foot or something.
6. Any rituals before a show?
Ivan: Not yet, but it would be awesome to have one, perhaps one where we give thanks; I believe that by being thankful for anything in life, you will get something positive in return somehow.
Paul: We eat a bowl of pinto beans before we perform. They’re fibrous and nutritious…actually, no we have no rituals before a show.
7. Describe what it’s like to perform for a crowd.
Ivan: Well, it’s wonderful to feel accepted, but as an artist I’ve also learned that we are nothing if we don’t share our art with other people, whether it’s going to be accepted by them or not.
Paul: It’s wonderful to play to a crowd of people who really appreciate what you’re doing. For the most part, we’ve been lucky in that department actually. The best places to perform in our opinion so far have been Coles and Cobra Lounge. Both those places had an amazingly energetic crowd of people who really get into the music.
8. How does your creative process typically work? Also, discuss your video concepts, they are pretty unique, how did the ideas for ‘Robot Wars’ and ‘Midnight Monsters’ come to be?
Ivan: There aren’t any rules, sometimes we work in one way and sometimes in another way. I’m very creative so I record melody ideas on my phone, then I take a keyboard and try to find the notes there, or I go to Paul to share the idea with him. Sometimes when I have an idea, I can’t sleep because I’m thinking too much about it, but everything is fine once we start working on it; otherwise it becomes frustration and desperation.
Paul: Our creative process works differently for each song. Sometimes I’ll bring an idea to the table and sometimes Ivan will. Sometimes we’ll just start writing a song together until it materializes into something, such as Robot Wars. It’s hard to remember the exact details on how each song came to be. Ivan often has a vocal melody idea and he’ll ask me to sing it and he’ll play drums; I’ll write a guitar riff over it and we’ll figure out what we want on bass/keys. Other times it works the other way around.
Ah yes… we do love to make music videos. Midnight Monsters was such a complete accident of a video, and it turned out great. We were all just sitting around one day after recording, and thought to ourselves, ‘let’s make a video that’s sort of Halloween themed since it’s almost Halloween!’ then Ivan and I went to the dollar store and bought makeup and props, and Nick our engineer/producer shot the video with my iPhone, and he edited it in Final Cut. Robot wars was shot on two separate days. The robot scenes were all in Michigan near my parents’ beach house and the performance scenes were in Nick’s (our producer) bands’ practice space. We had to build a little house with materials from Home Depot. We spent a full 12 hour day working on just building that thing.
9. What are you working on now, and what can we expect from you in the coming year?
Ivan: We are working on a lot of stuff besides music – as I said before, the music industry has changed a lot so we have to work hard outside of just creating music; but personally I’m really excited about writing new songs. My goal is to not think too much and just have fun making music. Do I have expectations? YEAH! But in the end, the people who hear the music will have the last word.
Paul: We’re working on setting up shows for the new year and also writing new music. We’re also about to make a video for Let’s Make Noise. With writing new music, playing shows, making videos, and promoting our record, we’re trying to find an effective time management system that works for us.
10. Why should people listen to your band? What makes you unique?
Ivan: I don’t know what to say about why people should listen to our our music…perhaps because it’s a piece of our hearts and souls that people might appreciate. What makes us unique? I think everything in music has already been done, but also I can say that the universe gave me a gift and I’m using it to create music with passion.
Paul: We’re a two piece band with a lot of noise going on between the two of us. It’s not exactly what you’d expect. Ivan’s drum set is an acoustic/electronic hybrid set and my acoustic guitar runs through a pedal board of effects. We also share keyboard duties…oh, and our instruments now light up. It’s easier to see in the dark. 🙂
11. How do you think the Chicago music scene compares to that of LA or NY?
Ivan: I have to be honest – I’m very attached to NY’s music scene.. Sometimes I ask myself, why are all the bands I think are the coolest from NY or UK? I’m not very much into the LA music scene; maybe I’m wrong but it seems like nothing touches my soul from that scene except for some bands. To me, it’s very rare to find a band that catches my attention here in Chicago; but aside from just the music, I’m always going to appreciate the kindness and good vibes other bands have given us.
Paul: So, the very first thing that pops into my head when I think of these two scenes: LA makes me think of picture perfect pop rock (not always) and NY makes me think of innovative and eclectic bands but mostly garage rock with personality. Love them or hate them, both scenes seem to have a strong sense of security and identity, but then again, I don’t live there, so I don’t want to come off as being too sure about anything. Chicago’s scene is a bit different to me; it seems to be a bit confused or something. Don’t get me wrong, because I love this city to death and I love being part of the music scene and meeting new bands/artists, but I feel I’m just searching for something real. I go to see lots of bands, but much of what I find doesn’t move me. I’m searching for an authenticity in music but I rarely seem to find it. When I DO find it, I hold on to it tightly because it’s a beautiful thing.
12. Any plans for shows outside of Chicago? A tour?
Ivan: Yeah, our plan is to tour in the spring 2012; we’re working hard on it. It’s a good thing too because somebody told me the end of the world will be in December 2012.
Paul: One of our fans from Kankakee is right now setting up a show for us down there in December and he’s really promoting it hard. Also, we plan to set up a tour with our good friends Bad Bad Meow; they’re a really good Chicago duo. We plan to do that in the spring.
Favorite thing to do when not making music?
Ivan: Watching movies, reading, eating, drinking.
Paul: Yoga, drinking tequila, watching movies, eating junk food on Sundays.
One song you never get tired of.
Ivan: I can’t answer this question, There are many songs that I can listen to again and again; more than a band fan or an artist fan, I’m a SONG fan.
Paul: I never ever ever get tired of ‘Just Like Honey’ by the Jesus and Mary Chain. There are many others as well, but that’s just one.
What is the best live show you have ever gone to?
Ivan: I have many favorite live shows, especially from when I was a teenager….when you’re growing up its all just a dream; everything is great. I’m still a dreamer but I remember one concert that made me break down in tears was NIN at Lollapalozza in 2009.
Paul: Radiohead in Grant Park – 2001 – was simply the most amazing concert I’ve ever seen. There are SO many more amazing concerts I’ve seen but, that one tops the list.
If you could be a fictional character, who would you be?
Ivan: I LOVE cartoons, it’s hard to tell……maybe the Pink Panther, don’t ask me why.
Paul: I’d want to be Holden Caufield from Catcher in the Rye; I admire the way he carelessly walks through life; at the same time, he is so observant of all the little details and recognizes the beauty of the world around him. He’s a very peaceful character and I’d like to find more peace within myself.
What is something no one knows about you but you wish more people did know?
Ivan: Besides the music, I paint. I would love to explore this more often.
Paul: Well, I practice yoga regularly. I also love to make animated cartoons. They look like 5 year old drawings, but animating them is so much fun.
Best prank you have ever pulled?
Ivan: Hmm….i have many memorable pranks from when I was a kid but I have one recently that someone pulled on ME; I remember I was really upset because I had gotten so many parking tickets from the city of Chicago; I was sarcastically saying beautiful things about them because of all the money I had recently paid for tickets; then one of my work partners secretly put a fake ticket on my car; when I saw it I almost had a heart attack.
Paul: I’ve never been much of a prank puller. I do like to sometimes hide in a dark shadow when I know my house mate is coming home from work; then I jump out right in front of him and do a loud and monstrous “ROOOARRRR!!!” It always terrifies him because I plan these out strategically. One time he actually collapsed to the ground. Also, on April Fools once in college, a friend and I tied all the doorknobs of the doors in my dorm together so that no one could get out of their rooms that morning. I can’t remember if it really worked, but I sure thought it was funny.
You can find Pinto and The Bean here: