Interview

w/ Zach Quinn of Pears

                                                                                                                                                                                           (Geiser/2016)
Lisa Sanchez

Pears, a new era punk band from New Orleans are some of the most energetic performers and heartfelt musicians I've seen in a long time. The band is currently on tour with UK punk forefathers Subhumans and I was able to speak with frontman Zach Quinn at their Grog Shop show about the band's constant touring, their recent album Green Star, and having a panic attack on stage.

Pears as a band has been going non-stop since 2014. Do you need a nap?

Quinn: I’ve been run through it physically, spiritually, mentally. But, I love what we do. Though I don’t love the van rides, the 30 minutes a night we get to play kind of makes it all worth it.

Is it surreal to have come so far in such a relatively short amount of time?

Quinn: It is totally bizarre. It’s strange because I have no frame of reference because it’s sort of unprecedented for a band to cover as much ground as we have in two years. This could all be attributed to so many people who have had our backs and just been helping us out from the get go. We’ve worked really hard, but regardless of that it’s still crazy. I can’t believe the records, I can’t believe that we’re playing these festivals, that we’re touring with the bands that we’re touring with. Heroes of mine are now people that I know on a first name basis.

The band has also had some random lineup changes, injuries, and hiccups since Pears started. What keeps you rolling through adversity?

Quinn: The refusal to succumb to defeat. We will not admit defeat, which I’m really proud of us for that. We’re 3 bass players, 3 drummers in. At the same time, I attribute that to the amount of work we’ve done in the last 2 years.
We just kind of condensed 5 years into 2, we’ve done that much touring.

In March, you suffered a wrist injury on stage in Australia, but even that didn't slow down the band.
Quinn: It’s totally nuts. I had surgery and played a show 9 hours later. It feels good to do that. I mean, it feels terrible, but it’s nice to not let anything to stop us.

We didn’t have a regular bass player at the time so our sets were kind of these hodgepodge. With fill in bass players, cover songs, and I played bass some songs. With that, the regular show, the set, goes out the window. So I don’t know how to carry myself half the time on stage. I get used to a set and that’s what we perform each night until we build a new one. Enough curve balls and I’m doing crazy shit like punching the stage from midair.

We finished the set with my arm dangling at my side then watched off the stage and went to the hospital. It wasn’t anything like “Do you think I should go to the hospital?” like my hand looked weird. My pinky knuckle was underneath my ring knuckle. There’s no looking at that and going, “Maybe it’s ok.”

I had a lot of fun in the Australian hospitals. It was like being at the DMV except with painkillers.

Pears fans even donated money to Kickstarter to help you guys out.
The people that like us know that we’re not going to stop playing even though we have these bumps in the road. I like to think that Pears fans know that we give 110 percent and they reciprocate that. Which is amazing, I’m really really proud and honored.

You guys just released Green Star in April. Considering you pumped out Go to Prison in a matter of weeks what was your process with this latest album?

Quinn: This one was the polar opposite, we slaved over it. We spent lots of lots of time writing things and then rewriting things. We took pieces from this song and putting them in this song. It was definitely rewrite after rewrite after rewrite. Lyrically, it was similar to Go to Prison in the way that I wrote half the album lyrics weeks before we recorded just living in coffee shops sitting there with different notebooks and going back to old ideas. It was crazy. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done working on that record.

Green Star incorporates a lot of different elements of alternative music, you have some songs that are straight up rocket fuel hardcore like “Cumshots” but you also have melodics and pop punk in “Hinged by Spine.” Was that intentional or did the album just come out very diverse?

Quinn: It wasn’t intentional, but it also wasn’t inadvertent. It would be difficult for me to say it was inadvertent because we were pulling parts of different songs out and switching places. So there definitely was the element of, ‘we are going to put things where it feels like it doesn’t belong.’ It seems bizarre and it may have been bizarre when we first did it, but the challenge was making sure those transitions make sense.

Where does the name Green Star come from?

Quinn: It’s a couple of different things. A) this imagery I started messing around with in my head. Imagery that speaks for itself. I think of the lyrics of telling stories the way visual arts do. Stories via imagery rather than concrete ideas. There are just lots of abstract lyrics that convey mood more than they do solid ideas. A lot of the time I think that mood can more accurately represent a feeling because ideas are so nuanced. If you can attribute something makes you feel to a picture it can be that much more specific. Green Star also was this thing from my childhood that kind of stuck with me. That clip, from “Christmas 91”is from a Christmas ‘91 video of me and my mother. It was a toy that I had.

Is that the first time you’ve ever recorded in a studio as Pears?

Quinn: Yes. It was freeing in a lot of ways. When you’re recording in a rehearsal studio and you’re just working with what you have...we found ourselves free of a lot of shackles or the confines that we worked within with Go to Prison. We were able to do a lot more. Get a larger variety of sounds and experiment with a lot of things.

By listening to your albums, you can tell that Pears is well-versed in the punk and hardcore grandfathers that came before them. So, who are your biggest musical influences?

Quinn: That’s hard to say. We all like so much different stuff. That’s really difficult to say. I wouldn’t know. We allowed so many different things and we allowed so many different things to be present on the record so I don’t know that there’s one thing that’s much heavier than another. I like punk rock everything from the very beginning to now. Or different things from all different periods. The first record is much easier to pinpoint because it was written in such a short amount of time...For the second record we spent so much time and there’s so many different things we allowed on it it’s harder to say..
                                                                                  (Geiser/2016)
​Pears has made references to punk culture and bands in your previous work and you even did a cover of “Judy is a Punk.” Where do you think the sweet spot is between paying homage to someone’s work instead of simply repeating it?

Quinn: The idea that art is public domain. I think that that might be up to the general audience to decide regardless of what I think. For example, if I make something, what I think of it doesn’t really matter so much as what the consensus is. Whether or not we succeeded at something whether it’s homage or just recycling music. I kind of can’t say because I’m the one who made it. Of course I will say, “I’m paying homage.” That’s up to other people.

When a piece of art is very good then the audience will reflect that. You can’t argue with music that has stood the test of time regardless of whether you personally like it or not.

What’s it like to tour and see the different enclaves of people in different cities?

Quinn: I’ll start off by saying there’s nowhere like New Orleans and the people there. We are definitely as bizarre as the people that come from New Orleans, we’re pretty good specimens. Everywhere people are different and the same in a lot of ways. Even in other countries. There are obvious cultural differences and social differences in the way people regard one another...but at the same time, we’ll be in Germany at a punk show and it’s just as much as a punk show, you know, in Denver. It’s still kind of the same thing.

Now that Pears has made such a splash, how does it feel to possibly influence future artists?

Quinn: That’s an amazing thought. It’s surreal to think that I could make an sort of mark like my heroes made on me. It’s a really amazing thought. It’s an honor to be put in any position even remotely like that. If anybody does, just do it better than us.

Considering you’re currently touring with one of the longest running punk lineups still around, what do you think about the state of the punk scene in 2016?

Quinn: I think that regardless of what anyone might say, I think that it’s extremely strong. In fact, it’s able to network in a way that we were never able to before. Social media, say what you will about it there are obviously pros and cons to its existence, but once upon a time people used to spend hours upon hours flyering for shows. Now that’s a thing of the past. Anyone can be reached for any upcoming event on their own personal device. We have a lot of advantages now. I think that shows.

You started off on a solo tour at the end of May and now you’re with the Subhumans for a few weeks. How’s the week been going for you?

Quinn: It’s been great. I caught the flu...so I’ve been dealing with that, but I think I’m on the upswing. The shows have been fantastic. A couple of them have been sold out...I guess that’s a testament to the state of the punk rock scene. Shows sell out all the time. As someone in a support act who tours with all these big punk bands, we play sold out shows, obviously we’re not selling out shows, but punk bands are.

How do you perform with the flu?

Quinn: Generally using the mike stand as a third leg so I don’t have to support my own weight. It’s dangerous, I have to ride this line between passing out and being conscious. Now I’m just having trouble breathing.

If anybody wants to come see me hurt myself, more than likely I will. Never on purpose, but very often I will. The point is, I can’t seem to protect myself when I try. I might not survive this band and I’m doing my best to do that. I’m still always banged the fuck up.

When I saw Pears in 2014, I was immediately taken with your live performance. It was unlike any performance I’ve seen from a newer band. It was far more evocative of an older essence of music and you made an indelible impression. What’s your secret?

Quinn: Secret? That’s the funny thing. When we first started, and people started making remarks about the live show and about our performance and my performance, my first thought was, “I don’t understand how I’m the only person doing this.” There were a couple of factors, one was that it terrified me being in front of people without an instrument to hide behind. So I want to withdraw and have a total panic attack. So one of the early decisions was,  just have the panic attack, just feel humiliated, feel embarrassed and play on that and act that. In a way letting those things consume me kind of freed me from the fear and that is the bottom line: Fuck fear. Don’t worry about looking silly, that’s what I told myself. Do what you would want to see.

Do you still feel that way? That panic?

Quinn: Oh yeah. More some nights than other nights, but definitely. It’s scary...I think that if you do something and you own it, nobody will ask any questions the self-consciousness, people will eat you alive.

That’s the best reason I’ve ever heard for why someone does anything live. That should be in medical journals. I think it would be great if we came to a point in our society where it’s like, “Are you feeling bad? Just get bigger.” Other people have to be able to recognize that and also roll with it.

Quinn: We’ve shoved the idea down people’s throats that if you feel this, it’s not normal. Not normal is like saying, “You’re not as good as someone who doesn’t feel this.” Maybe you embrace the thing that you fell. There’s nothing wrong with you if you feel anxious or terrified or whatever your massive complexes might be. I’m me and that’s what part of what makes me, me and that shouldn’t be shameful...I’m a weirdo and I’ve made it my prize.

Since the beginning of Pears, whether this be about lyrics or performance, if it makes me nervous or it scares me, I know that’s exactly the thing that I have to do. That’s a good beacon. If something makes you nervous, you’ve got to do it.

Do you want to say anything to our fans or the people who might consider listening to Pears?

Quinn: If you might be interested in listening to Pears please please listen to Pears. Please.