The evolution of O Pioneers!!! from a scrappy two man punk band to the rotating line up of thunderous post punk fronted by Eric Solomon and whatever mini-supergroup he’s culled together for their latest tour and slit is fascinating. It is not uncommon to see line ups changing from record to record in the punk scene, but when the only constant between records is often just one person the records can start to sound the same regardless of who is playing on them. Not so with O Pioneers!!! While the supporting players might only show up for a short period of time they each leave their mark on the band’s sound, leaving the O Pioneers!!! discography as a place where ideas flourish and everything from blindingly rage filled hardcore to sweet pop punk gets a moment to shine. The 1st Five’s Patrick McEachnie recently got a chance to sit down with Eric Solomon to discuss the possibility of breaking up, a possible new split with Tigers Jaw, Canadian food choices, and what it’s like being in a long distance relationship with your band. Enjoy.
Eric Solomon (O Pioneers!!!) Interview by Patrick McEachnie on January 31st, 2011. Sneaky Dee’s, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. All Photos by Patrick McEachnie.
PM: Why do you hate John-Michael Bond (our editor)?
Eric Solomon: I don’t hate him, I actually like him a lot. His wife is awesome and she’s a really good tattoo artist! I don’t get to see him as often as I’d like to, because he lives in the middle of fucking nowhere. There are certain cities that we tend to hit when we tour, and sometimes Chattanooga makes it, and sometimes it doesn’t! Sometimes we’ll have a travel day and we’ll stop there to see some friends, which is nice. So yeah, I don’t hate him, but I sure do hate his website.
PM: There’ve been some rumblings about O Pioneers!!! breaking up after The Fest this year. Is there any truth to that?
ES: It’s one of those things that I’ve been struggling with for a couple of years now. Essentially O Pioneers!!! is my band at this point, and it’s just kind of weird having a new set of people on every single tour. It changes the dynamic a bit, and some people don’t know all the songs. You have to keep on getting used to everyone’s quirks and how they play, and how they react to certain situations. It’s kind of up in the air. We’ve certainly been talking about it a lot on this tour. I was really happy when I was touring with Junior Battles, and I’m really happy with the current line up because everyone is a really good friend of mine.
PM: Just to clarify, New Bruises is you backing band now, right?
ES: It’s 3 members of New Bruises, their guitar isn’t playing with us, Cam from Senders, he works at No Idea, and then Sam from Junior Battles. It’s really awesome, and we all get along really well, it’s just one of the things where we’re all really busy. As much as I want to continue doing this, whenever we get offered a tour, or we book a show, or start writing a record, it just takes so much more planning that sometimes it becomes more of a headache and a hassle than anything else.
If you think about it, if I were to go to Florida to record with New Bruises, I would have to fly myself and most of my gear to Tampa, and stay there for two or three weeks. We’d have to work out the kinks are try and write stuff in that time. It’s just a lot of time to do something that’s super fun, but there’s a chance that nothing with happen with it.
PM: Would you ever consider a complete uproot and relocation of the band?
ES: Yeah, I’ve thought about that before. It’s kind of hard because my fiancé and I own our own print shop called Night Owls. We have a lot of stuff with that. We just recently moved to a new warehouse in Houston, about 20 minutes away from our original space, and it took almost two months and $20,000 just to do that. We’re fortunate enough where we’ve been able to grow our business to a point where it’s not just a garage operation anymore – we can actually live off of it at this point. If Night Owls didn’t exist I would move in a heartbeat. It’s no secret to anyone I’ve ever talked to that I fucking hate Houston. But it’s where I live and it’s what’s good for business right now.
PM: If you were to move, would it be to Florida to continue playing with New Bruises?
ES: I’ve thought about this a lot, and there are a couple places that are serious contenders. Tampa is one of them because of all our friends there. Philadelphia is an awesome city too, plus they have a million great bands. I would love to move to Brooklyn because of the same thing – lots of friends there, but it’s way too expensive. Toronto would be awesome but dual citizenship is pretty hard to obtain.
PM: Toronto’s a great city, but considering how Night Owls is a post-based industry it wouldn’t be worth it. Shipping in Canada is 10 times what shipping in the US is.
ES: Yeah, definitely. I’d also consider Chicago or Cleveland. Mostly anyplace that the band has friends that make us feel comfortable.
– Enter Murray
Murry: Oh shit. What’s this?
ES: Oh hey Murray, we’re just doing an interview here.
Murray: Shit, sorry. I just wanted a beer. I won’t say a thing, I promise.
PM: Go for it, say something.
Murray: I wouldn’t dare.
PM: Fine. What’s your favorite record of 2010?
ES: He likes the Senders record.
Murray: I fucking love the Senders record! I can’t remember the title, but it has a fall scene on the cover. [Interviewers note: Recovery 7” on Kiss Of Death Records]
ES: It sounds like Hum and weed.
Murray: Yeah, I love Hum and weed. Wait, what?
[Eric erupts into laughter, at Murray’s expense]
Murray: No really. It’s awesome.
ES & PM (simultaneously): Sorry about that.
PM: Well that was weird. Canadian thing, we apologize for everything. I didn’t even do anything. Which reminds me! When I first emailed you to ask about an interview you asked if I knew Sam from Junior Battles. I do, so I went ahead and emailed him about it. Little did I know I was furthering the Canadian stereotype that everyone –
ES: Knows each other! It’s a little different, because Sam is essentially Wayne Campbell from Wayne’s World
in Canada. That guy knows everyone.
PM: Wow. He’s going to love that when I tell him.
ES: Oh, I’ve told him many, many times. But yeah, Sam, Justin, and Ashley are the nicest people in the world. I’m really glad that I hooked up with them and that they’re as successful as they are at doing what they do.
PM: So it’s pretty clear that O Pioneers!!! have had their fair share of members. To what degree does constant change is musicians alter the direction of the band?
ES: It’s hard to say. Whenever I get together with people we write new songs. The newest stuff that I’ve written was with Junior Battles and I really made an effort to not change styles, but change directions. Having Junior Battles, and even my current band adds a whole lot more depth than I’m able to do on my own. I tell people all the time that I’m not a very good guitar player, or musician rather. Technically I can play it, but I have no idea what I’m doing half the time, or even how to convey what I’m doing to people. Sometimes I send demos to band members, and they write me back saying, “I have no idea what the hell you’re playing. Send a video.”
I don’t know if it changes the direction, but it definitely fleshes out the process. Every bunch of people that come my way – I mean tonight we’re playing with two drummers and three guitarists! It just makes it more sonically solid. I have a really hard time finishing songs without fleshing it out with people. Whenever someone new comes in it obviously changes their perspective. They can bring in their own style to the song. Each band can change very little or drastically.
PM: Well for an example on Black Mambas, your first record, the band was a two piece – guitar and drums. Tonight you played with three guitarists, a bassist, and two drummers.
ES: Exactly. We’ve been talking about – if the band doesn’t break up – how we want to do the next record. We talked about keeping that lineup of two drummers, three guitars, and a bass, and then adding keyboards on top of that. It might not stay that way for a tour, but that way the record has more texture to it. We’re going off in this weird distance that I suppose questions what O Pioneers!!! is. It feels the same to me though; it’s all O Pioneers!!! regardless.
PM: Will we see another album before 2011 ends?
ES: We’re trying to. If not a full length then at least an EP. I think we’re going to do a split with Tigers Jaw. We just did some shows with them a couple of days ago. I’m a huge fan of that band, and we’ve bugged them about doing a split before but after those last shows it looks like it might happen. I think Kiss Of Death is going to put it out, but it’s still really up in the air. It was one of those things where we talked about it, and everyone is totally for it, but we haven’t written songs for it yet. I expect it to be out in 2011, but you never know.
PM: Say O Pioneers!!! are broken up. Could the moniker become a studio project for you?
ES: I don’t think so, to be honest with you. Again, all the people I’d want on recordings are far away. At that point I would just start something new, which again, isn’t going to happen.
PM: Will you ever move back towards a more stripped down sound?
ES: Probably not, no. I really do like playing in a full band. It’s nice having other people on stage when you fuck up; it’s like a safety net. They can laugh with you, and then help make up for it. That was a big deal when we played as a two-piece; if you break a string or your guitar cuts out, that’s it, half of the band is gone.
PM: What’s your favorite story involving Four Loko?
ES: Uh… I really don’t have any. The guys in my band definitely enjoy the stuff, but I don’t drink. I think the craziest thing is that when the tour was coming up here Sam kept getting emails from friends asking him to bring some up. The guy ended up buying a whole case of the stuff. They love it up here.
PM: Back in September when I interviewed Lemuria, Sheena mentioned how much she liked Ruffles All Dressed chips, which I guess you can’t buy in the US.
ES: Yeah, Cam is a vegan, and those All Dressed chips are completely vegan. Those subtleties are funny. Even something like ketchup chips, we don’t have those either.
PM: Ketchup chips were a staple of my childhood.
ES: The more that I come to Canada I realize how much of a good mix of culture it is. It’s like Europe meets The US. It has the work backbone of the US but all the food and displays are very European. Oddly enough, cereal is boxed weirdly here. It’s very subtle, but if you spend enough time around cereal boxes, it’s there.
PM: Quiz time. How many 7”s have you put out under the O Pioneers!!! moniker?
ES: Uh…. I’m going to have to count. I think 7? Maybe 8.
PM: I counted 9. Bonus question. Can you name every band that O Pioneers!!! have done a split with?
ES: I think so! The Announcements, The Measure [SA], Junior Battles, Bomb The Music Industry!, The Anchor, Andrew Jackson Jihad comes out soon! Let’s see here… New Bruises! There was a split CD we did a long time ago… There was the Saw Wheel split, and then a CD with a bunch of bands from Birmingham.
PM: We’re going to exempt that last one. I didn’t even know that existed!
ES: Yeah, neither does anyone else. (Editor’s Note: I did and it’s awesome)
PM: You’re missing two bands now.
ES: Oh! By The End Of Tonight! Shit, who else?
PM: You give up?
ES: Yeah, I give up.
PM: Mike Park.
ES: Ohhhhhh, yeah! When we’re not selling the records on tour it’s hard to keep up with sometimes.
PM: What’s the best release, O Pioneers the book, the musical, the movie, or the band?
ES: Probably the band.
PM: You’re the best, eh?
ES: Oh, you meant me. I thought you meant the other O Pioneers!!! from New York.
PM: I didn’t even know there was another band with the name.
ES: It’s a girl from New York City who does folk music. Not folk punk, but indie folk. I’m not sure if she still makes music, but we have the name first. We always secretly hoped she sued us so we could change the name.
PM: How about an O Pioneers/O Pioneers!!! split?
ES: I wrote to her about doing a split once, but they never got back to me. The book, movie, and the play were all pretty dry. But there is actually also a Walt Whitman poem by the same name too. But I’d say we’re the least dry.