Together Pangea | Summer Tour Q&A
You know it’s a good concert when you leave covered in sweat that isn’t yours. And maybe - being spat out of a storming audience and hurled onto the Regent Theater’s stage, then swan diving off backwards into a thrashing sea of people, as you are limp and open towards God or the strobe light, your body positioned like a crucifix or shipwreck, suspended atop the humid palms and wet foreheads of the crowd beneath, riptides of clammy limbs restless and shoving, with a voice pulsing and thundering, “Don't need these things, these things they fall apart./These things they fall apart.” - can sometimes be better than therapy. This is just to say, Together Pangea’s concerts never disappoint, and are perhaps more of a religious experience than anything. I sacrificed two whole fingernails to the mosh pit Gods, and got baptized with perspiration and spit in return.
Despite the chaos of the fans being catapulted at them, William Keegan (guitar/vocals) and Danny Bengston (bassist/vocals) stay anchored to the stage. Bathed in magenta light, Keegan’s brows furrow as he locks eyes with something in the distance, while Bengston is consumed in a lip-biting focus. The audience swoons over the occasional snicker or boyish smirk from the two. But ultimately, the band is whole-heartedly devoted to their music. If you have never experienced the thrill described above, or Together Pangea’s mastery of surf punk, then you’re definitely missing out.
Together Pangea is made up of Keegan, Bengston, and Erik Jimenez (drums), praised for their gritty lyrics that cut straight to the core, strung out and quivering vocals, and favorite party-rager head bangers. The band just released their newest EP Dispassionate, which stands as a soothing contrast to Non Stop Paranoia which gushes with suspicion and distress.
I sat down with Bengston and Keegan before the show, as Vundabar rehearsed beneath us - the entire room rattled and pulsed as if a train was charging beneath us. We talked about the new sound of Dispassionate, writing when stoned, being too drunk to cum... you know, all the good stuff.
Your most recent EP definitely switched the gears on your sound: Dispassionate is a lot less punk, less reckless. It’s cleaner, softer, but still razor sharp. I was wondering where that direction came from? I mean it’s the kind of music I can listen to in the car with my mom and she wouldn’t be like, Jessica..what the hell turn that off.
William Keegan: I think people know our songs where I talk about my dick, or I talk about being really wasted, or cumming, or whatever. And I think at some point I was like, “Is this just a gimmick?” I don’t want to keep writing songs that are just like, “Oooh, that’s a crazy thing to say” or whatever. I wanted to write stuff that wasn’t gross; I wanted to write something that was sort of pleasant. I tend to write negative lyrics, so I just wanted to write something else.
Danny Bengston: Which is kind of funny because when I met William, the music he was writing then is a lot like the music we are writing now. We kinda decided to make a couple punky, bratty records or whatever, and those are the things that ended up sticking. I feel like if you were to map our song writing career - those two albums with all the vulgar shit is only 10% of the songs we’ve written.
What was it like writing a more tranquil and soothing album, when your music has previously been an outlet for disillusionment, and perhaps the more negative moments in your life?
WK: I think I started smoking weed more too [laughs] and things can sound really harsh when I’m high. I wanted to write stuff that you can listen to high and be like, “Cool… that makes me feel good” or you know how people watch Friends when they’re stoned because it’s just light and happy. Or whatever.
When I’m high I literally can only watch Moana and eat hot cheetos. You’ve grown a lot from some of your older songs, that you still play at every concert. I was wondering what it’s like playing those songs when you’re in a different mindset now?
DB: I think like - playing those songs, at this point, we’ve played them so many times over the span of so many years; Theres not much thought really that goes into playing them.
Is it like an auto pilot thing?
DB: Yeah, totally.
WK: I mean I do feel it sometimes when we play. The point of those songs is, you know, people pay to come watch us play and they want to hear those songs - so I’m happy to play them.
DB: That’s kind of it though. I think if it was completely up to us to play a setlist of songs, that we truly really really wanted to play - we probably wouldn’t play a lot of the songs that we play. But it comes back to - yeah, people are paying $25 dollars for the show tonight, so. And there’s nothing wrong with that. We’re happy to do it, and we just wanna put on a show that people have fun at.
WK: But I think playing those songs for long periods of time actually did probably influence things like the Dispassionate EP, where we were like, “Let’s write songs where we don’t have to scream the whole time.”
With that, how do you think the audience tonight is gonna react to your new sound? When I first started going to your concerts, I knew I was gonna get fucked up, crowd surf and lose my hearing for a couple of days. But this is not a chaotic EP.
WK: I hope that the audience grows with us. We’re in the mood for change, maybe they’re in the mood for change too. I don't know if we are going to continue making softer stuff or not. I think that there’s a lot of people who wish we would just write songs about getting wasted and stuff - and that’s fine if that’s what they like.
I really appreciate Dispassionate - I think it is a seasoned, more refined sound than I have heard from you guys before.
DK: There’s always comments on Youtube videos or something, “Living Dummy was better,” and, “Write songs like that.”
WK: We already wrote that album, so if you like it, listen to it. But I don’t know - we’ll see how people react. It seems like people like it.
I played your new stuff in the car with my mom, and she was like, “Who are you interviewing today,” - and I played it for her and she was like, “I’m totally adding this to my jogging playlist.”
WK: I would love to make albums that people’s moms want to listen to.
DB: Your mom is coming to the concert tonight right?
Do your moms like the concert? I feel like it really isn’t a ‘mom’ setting.
WK: [Laughs] My mom has never been very vocal with me about my music. She just doesn’t really talk to me about it. I mean she came to our show at the El Rey two years ago, that was the first show she had been to - and she liked it a lot .
DK: Your dad loves it. My parent’s and your dad all have the same feelings like about it.
Sorry but I have to ask - is “Too Drunk to Cum” based off a real story, or a constant experience… I mean, we’ve all been in that position so -
WK: [Laughs] no no nothing specific, it was literally like, you know, a Jerry Seinfeld joke, “You know how when you’re too lazy, and you can’t….” and I thought it was something that people would find in common... I think it’s disaffection in general. But also in a fun way.
Okay so question: you’re in the car and you get the aux, what is a song on your newest playlist that you’re hesitant to play?
WK: Hmmm - I’d have to think about that for a second. I weirdly don’t listen to music - if I listen to stuff, it’ll be like Clair de Lune or piano music or something.
Really!? Wait, that’s epic - this is literally so unexpected.
WK: I think because we are around it so much, like bands and band stuff, sometimes it can be a little too much. So I don’t know - I’d say [Claude] Debussy.
DB: I listen to a lot of Franz Liszt, like Liszt is my guy, and Debussy, Erik Satie. But yeah I’m not really ashamed…. Maybe some new country music?
WK: Oh yeah, like what?
DB: Like Brad Paisley or something
WK: I like that “Old Town Road” song. Do you think it’s country?
DB: Completely - I think them taking it down as the opposite of the Eminem effect. It’s like Eminem being able to be on KROQ, like back when Eminem was on KROQ and POWER 106. But it’s not a two way street.
WK: I guess once the beat drops in that song, I’m like, “Wait…. Is this country?”
DB: But there’s so much new country like that - they call it “snap country” and it literally just sounds like top 40 R&B influenced country twang… there’s a whole genre of that stuff.
So the boys that began Together Pangea- tenish years ago- if they could see what your career as a musician has transformed into today, and the person you have become - how do you think they would feel?
DB: I mean…. Stoked! We’re playing the Regent, which is a pretty good sized room and it’s gonna be a good show. It’s basically what I wanted to do since I was 13 or 14 so. I mean - 14 year old me would think it’s a lot cooler than current me thinks it is.
WK: I think my younger self would be a little disappointed in some of the stuff that we did, throughout our career, like weird - we did that thing with GAP, for like no money. I don’t know why -
DB: [Laughs] It disappeared though - luckily it didn’t stick around that long. We got pretty lucky with that one -
WK: But as far as the music we make - I think I would have been like, “Oh shit!” I would probably really like my own band.