Theres definitely a human feeling in this record. Thats what Piebald guitarist/vocalist Travis Shettel says about his bands latest, Accidental Gentlemen (SideOneDummy Records), and the fact that like most of the Piebald back catalog which dates back to 1995 its an album that was largely tracked to analog tape, foregoing the preferred computer-based methods of recording these days. When you compare it to many other records on the market, they sound like a weird robot machine playing songs that may or may not be good. This album sounds like human beings.
And its that personal nature thats the charm and truth of Accidental Gentlemen, an album title that partially admits to Piebalds admission of a few faults. The recording style was a little more haphazard than our previous albums, but in a way I think it reflects the kind of people we are, says Shettel. Were gentlemen at heart, but a bit sloppy by nature. Were coming from a sort-of losers standpoint, trying to win.
Perennial underdogs of the indie rock scene, the Boston and L.A.-based foursome have been fighting the good fight for well over a decade. The founding members of Piebald Shettel, guitarist/vocalist Aaron Stuart and bassist/vocalist Andrew Bonner cut their teeth while still in high school in the suburbs of Andover, Massachusetts, debuting with the 1995 EP, Sometimes Friends Fight. The band continued to record several well received releases throughout its fruitful career, including When Life Hands You Lemons (1997), If It Weren’t For Venetian Blinds It Would Be Curtains For Us All (1999), The Rock Revolution Will Not Be Televised (2000), We Are The Only Friends We Have (2002) and All Ears, All Eyes, All The Time (2004).
The band has been fighting the good fight environmentally as well. Proponents of living a green life, Piebald tours in a vegetable-oil burning van. On a recent tour with Say Anything and MeWithoutYou (another band that converted its vehicle to bio-diesel), the earth-conscious guys saved thousands of dollars by purchasing very little gasoline, opting to recycle cooking oil from restaurants grease traps instead.
It just pays for itself so quickly, especially if youre in a band, says Shettel of the bands Grease Not Gas philosophy (www.greasenotgas.com). I think bands drive around more than they play, so you might as well drive around for free and feel good about it and have another purpose on the road outside of just playing music. It makes your whole experience on the road a little richer.
Recording Accidental Gentlemen was another interesting experience for Piebald. Spending two weeks in a barn studio at The Opium Den in North Reading, Mass., the bi-coastal band cut the 12-song collection with producer Doug Batchelder, and mixed it in L.A. with Alex Newport (At The Drive-In, The Mars Volta).
The final product features songs that reflect the bands perspectives on nature, human existence, plus social commentary. Accidental Gentlemen starts with the aptly-titled Opener, which Shettel says addresses the power of words and how they can screw up your day or make you feel so good, you cant believe it.
Nature Wins discusses the co-existence of humans with nature, and predicts the eventual victor. Weve created our cities and highways, paved over whatever we want, says Shettel. But you still walk down the streets of L.A. or Boston, and youll see the trees cracking through the pavement or that the ocean is swallowing the land, and you cant really stop it. Even though humans have built everything without giving it a second thought, were still going to be the ones who arent here in the end and nature will still be here.
Getting Mugged and Loving It is Shettels social commentary about getting ambushed at knifepoint while riding his bicycle in Los Angeles. I did as much as I could verbally to fight them off, Shettel says. Having this new experience in life and realizing you walked away from it and all you lost was $100, you still feel like you pulled it off somehow.
Theres Always Something Better To Do points to the routines of a consumer-driven society. The world tells you that you need this and that to be happy, but you dont really need those things you just have to feel it yourself, says Shettel. Happiness does not stem from something thats on a billboard.
As for Accidental Gentlemens execution, Shettel notes that its definitely one of the most rocking albums in Piebalds extensive roster, harking back to the bands melodic punk-based roots. We didnt beat around the bush this time, he says. We wanted it to be a punch in the face, fall down, another punch in the face, fall down, another punch in the face. We made this record like were boxing.
Pulling out all the stops and putting its best foot forward whether its the music or message is always part of the Piebalds persistent agenda. The future is our oyster, Shettel says, and we are going to crack that shit open!