Once upon a time, way back in July (well it feels like forever ago, anyway), I caught a rare live show performed by Philadelphia’s The Bye Byes. Since that night, front man Pete Shauger and I have been playing interview tag. Over the course of a three month long conversation, we talked about our respective histories with the saxophone, the MySpace/Facebook revolution, and the band’s vacancy for an agent. Enjoy!
Jessica, PopWreckoning: I haven’t been able to find much in the way of a biography on The Bye Byes. Would you please explain how you four joined together to create the band?
Pete Shauger: Well, Steven [Binnig, bass] and Erik [Schmidt, drums] have played in bands together since their teens, most recently and notably in The Alkali Flats. Steven also knew Joel from a short-lived band they played in together. I didn’t know anybody…
But they (Steven and Erik) found me, and basically decided to form a band around me – well, around my songs. I’ve been writing for years, but with no grand plan. I always wanted to put a band together and thought, well, if it’s meant to happen, then one of these days, the right band will come along… and it did!
Pete Shauger, Photo: Jessica McGinley
PW: You certainly lucked out with Steven and Erik finding you! So many people search for band mates for ages, but it basically just fell right in your lap — how does it feel to be so lucky? [laughs]
PS: It feels great. They’re great musicians AND swell fellas to boot. I really feel like I lucked out in every possible way with them. Technically I did wait for ages, though…I just didn’t search for ages.
PW: Fair enough. When did you beginning playing music and what/who are/were the influences and motivational forces behind it?
PS: Let’s see, earliest influences… AM radio of the early, mid, and late 1970s is one. You know, the Little River Band, Paul McCartney, Dionne Warwick, Pilot (oh oh oh it’s magic!) … There was also a Beatles cassette (the Red album, 1962-1966) that we nearly wore out (but didn’t! I still have it, actually) playing on one of those old portable tape recorders. There was a Beach Boys compilation album (“High Tide” – part live, part not live) that we used to wear the grooves out of too. And then over the years I would soak in whatever my elder siblings were listening to.
Then there’s my family. My dad played the accordion, my mom and all my siblings took piano lessons. My brother played saxophone, and later guitar. My grandpa was a mean whistler and harmonica player…and my grandma (who also knew how to carry a tune) had this awesome double-decker organ we always loved to play when we visited. When she died I inherited it, and still have it. I took piano and saxophone lessons in grade school. Near the end of high school I discovered the acoustic guitar.
Erik Schmidt, Photo: Jessica McGinley
PW: I played the saxophone in grade school, too!
PS: No WAY! Did you also attempt to play “The Andy Griffith” theme song, and Men At Work’s “Who Can It Be Now” on it? I never had a problem with the instrument itself, I just hated the lessons. Same with piano. Um, same with swimming too.
PW: Totally feel you on the lessons and practicing thing. I was always last chair because I preferred playing soccer outside or something than sitting at home practicing my sax. The band director did not like that, but then in middle school I dropped band all together in favor of art classes.
PS: Good for you, way to stick it to the MAN. I usually preferred anything else over practicing. Which is funny to me because I love sitting down at the piano now, and I wish I still had a saxophone (and saxophone skills!). I think it was the structure of the lessons, the regiment of the practice, and just the pressure of it that turned me off. I’ve always been an “at-my-own-pace” kind of person. Some people really excel in that environment, but it just makes me want to shut down. Same reason I quit the bowling team at work! Stopped being fun, you know? Did you stick with art? Do you still wish you played saxomaphone?
PW: I did stick with art. Took a ton of art classes in high school and loved every second of it while my friends in band hated their lives. Or band class anyway. I’m no longer as active with art, but I’ve come full circle back to music, obviously, though not on the performing side.
I’m not too sad about not playing the sax anymore. I actually still have the one I played in elementary school. From memory, the only thing I would probably be able to play is “Mary Had A Little Lamb,” haha. I have no problem reading music, though. Let’s start a two man sax band! I bet we can find you a sweet little alto in a random pawn or vintage shop in this city of ours. [laughs] But back to your influences…
PS: It wasn’t until college in the early 90s that I discovered the late 70s early 80s new wave scene. In particular: Squeeze, Nick Lowe, Split Enz, and Elvis Costello. That was the last awakening for me. Like, oh…THIS is what I like. So when Nirvana and Pearl Jam were in every other dorm room, I was learning “Cruel To Be Kind” and “Pulling Mussels from the Shells.”
PW: You didn’t really miss much in the early 90s — I was at the age where New Kids On The Block and Paula Abdul were just the greatest musical acts of our time (I’ve since seriously reconsidered that position) but aside from Nirvana, nothing spectacular happened. Except for Radiohead, but they started in the late 80s and first found some fame in the early 90s. But anyway, the new wave-y, retro pop sounds totally works for you guys. It’s refreshing in a scene where most stuff sounds the same because a lot of bands now all have the same influences from the 90s.
Steven Binnig, Photo: Jessica McGinley
PW: How did you become involved with Home Tone Records?
PS: Well, one day while traipsing around on myspace.com, I found this band called Stingrays from Columbia, Missouri, and we began trading the occasional message. But I didn’t realize that the head Stingray, Wes Wingate, also co-ran a small label called Home Tone Records. One day, out of the blue, Wes sent me a message to say, “Hey, if there’s anything I can do to help you get your album out, let me know.” That’s it really. He offered and I accepted.
PW: For as much flack as MySpace gets, it really is servicey! I hear from so many musicians these days that all these incredible things have happened to them because of MySpace.
PS: I agree. And with Facebook now, it’s like a one-two punch. I really love what the online revolution has done, at least for artists like me. I finish a song, post it to MySpace, then almost instantaneously, fans all the way out in Australia can hear it. I think that’s awesome. Still don’t know how that translates to making a living out of it, but I can’t worry about that right now. Right now I’m just trying to make the best songs I know how.
PW: When we talked at the show, you mentioned that you’re 4 songs away from completing your debut album. What’s the process of creating the record been like? When do you expect/hope to have it completed and released by?
PS: The process is slow but thoroughly enjoyable. I hope to have all the recording done by the close of 2008, and maybe a release in the spring of 2009? We all have day jobs, three of us are married and one of us, I won’t mention names, might as well be…, and I have kiddies, so finding the time to squeeze in a recording session, let alone rehearsals and gigs, is tough.
We record a track here and there. Usually in my basement or Erik’s. I would like to record in a “real” studio someday but I also like the home-spun feel of doing it ourselves, in our homes, on our equipment. Can’t beat the price either…
PW: I can 100% sympathize with the busy lives of day jobs and, well, not so much wives or kids, but yeah, life is busy. I’m glad to process has been enjoyable, though. Taking your time is better anyway — stretch it out and make sure you’re happy with the final product. Whenever it’s completed, I look forward to hearing it.
PW: Hailing from the City of Brotherly Love, how have you found the Philadelphia music scene in terms of both other musicians and audiences?
PS: Well the bands / musicians I’ve met so far (at the shows we’ve played) seem nice. I know that sounds generic but it’s true. And the audiences have been sweet. Which is to say, they seem to like us. The scene is hard for me to gauge since I live outside the city walls. I don’t really feel part of it…which has its pros and cons. At times I like being an outsider, but other times I feel like we’d get more shows if we were insiders. Whatever that means.
Or maybe we just need an agent. Wanna be our agent?
PW: Well I do live inside the city, so I’ve got that going for me. And I’m fairly entrenched in the local musician scene. We did just talk about how both of us don’t have time for anything, but yeah. I’m in. I can be agent-y, no problem. Done.
Joel Rose, Photo: Jessica McGinley
PW: You guys have played a handful of shows in the area with some great acts, but if you could put together your dream tour, who would you want to share the stage with? Just totally run with it, it can be any band/musician ever, living, dead, broken up, whatever!
PS: Well there was a tour in 1980 that had Squeeze / Elvis Costello on the bill. That would have been an amazing tour to open for. I also would have loved to share a stage with Beulah before they split up.
PW: Oh, Beulah! I can’t even remember the last time I heard that name. Well, actually, I just read a book in which a woman gave the fake name of Beulah to someone, but it was in no way related to the band. They were great.
Costello has his own television show now. It films at the Apollo Theater in New York. As your agent, I will book you on the show and demand that Elvis jam with you guys. I just went from being completely inexperienced to being the best agent in the business. Stick with me, kid, you’ll go far. [laughs]
PW: So back to reality, what are you currently listening to? Anything you’d like to recommend?
PS: Why I’d love to. I hereby recommend the new CD by a band called Fugu. It’s been out for a while but just recently became available stateside. Just some great 70s-style sunny-day pop.
Oh and I also really like this band from Columbus Ohio called Paper Airplane. And a band from Baltimore called Gary B and the Notions. Again, more great stuff I’ve found,or they found me!, on MySpace.
PW: Awesome, thanks so much! It’s been a pleasure, Pete!
Philly loves, you can catch The Bye Byes at The M Room on Thursday, November 6th with Arizona and The Shackletons. Since no one should wait that long to check out their delightful pop sound, head over to the Bye Byes’ MySpace page to download a bunch of free songs!
The Bye Byes: myspace | live review
Filed under: interview with | Tagged: andy griffith, cover whore, dionne warwick, elvis costello, erik schmidt, fugu, gary b and the notions, home tone records, little river band, men at work, new kids on the block, nick lowe, nirvana, paper airplane, paul mccartney, paula abdul, pearl jam, pete shauger, philadelphia, radiohead, split enz, squeeze, steven binnig, stingrays, the beach boys, the beatles, the bye byes, wes wingate | 1 Comment »