Q&A with Paul Garcia and James Barone of Pacific Pride

Recalling the frayed pop sounds of New Zealand indie-rock bands of the '80s and the angular, contorted psychedelia of Pavement, Pacific Pride has always focused more on quality over quantity. Beginning in 2004 after the dissolution of the original lineup of the May Riots, Pacific Pride played few shows and went inactive for two years before getting back together to open for one of singer Paul Garcia's main musical heroes, David Kilgour of the Clean, when he played a rare small-club show in Denver.
Since then, the band has become a far more active unit, touring the West Coast this fall up to Garcia's home town of Seattle. The Pride's latest album, a self-titled endeavor, is filled with inside jokes, sly turns of phrase, and deft hooks that blur the line between garage rock, mod and lo-fi pop. We had a chance to sit down with Garcia and drummer James Barone to talk about some of the band's songwriting and their own role as sidemen on the 2008 Dressy Bessy tour.

Westword (Tom Murphy): Can you tell me a bit about the history of Pacific Pride?

James Barone: When you started the band it was you [Paul], Karl [Zickrick] and your friend Heather.

Paul Garcia: Originally, it was five years ago, it was a default band based on the May Riots breaking up, and I wasn't really super close with those guys that ended up playing in Pacific Pride. I just had some songs. So it was still kind of a band in flux. I used to live in Hipster Youth Halfway House and ran it with Moses Montalvo for a couple of years.

At the time, I didn't realize what good a deal I had with that warehouses because there were so many warehouses going on at that time in Denver. Looking back, I realize how cool it was. [Pacific Pride] was always a revolving cast of people, and we never played very much. Ever since James came into the fold and Rob [Ballentyne] came into the fold, it became more of a band. It wasn't really just about my songs anymore.

WW: I remember running into you one day, James, and you told me that the band was kind of inactive or didn't play many shows but that you were pulling things together to open for David Kilgour. Why was that show so important to play?

JB: That was the nature of the band. If a show came by that Paul really wanted to play, he'd call us up.

PG: We hadn't played in two years. We wanted to play that show because it was David Kilgour of the Clean and we cover a couple of their songs. Their music was that lo-fi, New Wave, odd sort of [New Zealand] thing. I like the minimal pop sensibilities of it. It's kind of rough around the edges and really catchy and there are nice little sonic hooks -- things to keep you curious about it.

JB: For that show it was Paul, me and Chris Adolf [Bad Weather California] on bass. He was great. He sang a little bit.

PG: We covered "Getting Older," and for that show, we played "Point That Thing Somewhere Else." Before the show, I asked him if we could play it because we didn't want to step on his turf, and he said, "Yeah." It was cool because after the show, the band had watched us play it, he said, "You guys were so great and you pulled it off!" Someone had requested it a couple of nights before and they felt they were pretty rusty with it, because they hadn't practiced it for the tour.

JB: After that, we started getting together slightly more often. Two months after that show, we started the recording of the new album. Part of the idea of the band is barely having it together but showing up because it's fun.

WW: In recording the album, since you went to school for sound engineering, did you do the production, James?

JB: Yeah, I just recorded it on my computer. I recorded it in my last three houses, with the last track being recorded in the current house. The only other stuff I've worked on that has made it on to a CD is that last Pseudo Dates album and the upcoming Tjutjuna split 7-inch. It's so fresh, it isn't even in the mind yet. I didn't really want to release the old songs. Maybe in my weird way I wanted each thing to be its own little EP, but then we put it all together. I was mainly concerned with the flow of it but it seems to work pretty nicely.

WW: Is Fire Talk your own label?

JB: That's Trevor from Woodsman. He just started that up, and we just thought it would be nice to have something, some other place that it could be besides sitting in our basement. Maybe it could be in his basement, too.

WW: The cover art is really weird. Can you tell me about it?

JB: [That guy in the bear suit] is Brian Marcus. He forgot to shave.

PG: The other guy on the front cover is Mike Moran. Chris Adolf has a song lyric that mentions him.

JB: All those are just candid photos of this goofy music video we shot this summer for "Mario Mondays." When we wrote that song, we used to poke jokes at it when we were done playing it, because it sounded like a beer commercial to us. So we thought we'd make kind of a joke beer commercial to us. I told Paul it kind of looked like a Sebadoh album cover.

WW: What was the song "Wolfie (Let Him In)" about?

PG: Those song titles I think we decided on the day before it went to print.

JB: Because it was called "Yep Yep." It was a reference to how the backup vocals sounded.

PG: It was basically onomatopoeia at first. That song title, though, is a line from a Jan Terri song. She makes kind of goofy, outsider, naive music. It's kind of cheesy, but when you listen to it more, there's some endearing qualities to it. It's hard to appreciate. It's from her Halloween song called "Get Down Goblin."

WW: So, "Summer of Femoral Love" -- is that a nonsensical title?

PG: "Femoral love" is apparently like weird sex, the dry sex the Romans would have. Not coital sex. I always had that title in the back of my mind. I don't know how much it applies to the song. We used to call it "New Odor" because it has that New Order drum beat.

JB: I think that really came out when we were recording it. You had that higher octave vocal line. It wasn't working, but when we did that lower range, it had that kind of Bernard Sumner sound.

WW: What's "Mario Mondays" about?

PG: Something about someone who is usually in your bed and what they're doing out late--late night anxiety.

WW: How did you come up with the name Pacific Pride?

JB: It's not about West Coast loyalties by any means, even though I'm from the West Coast. There's this gas station, this commercial fuel station, called Pacific Pride. Whenever I was driving, I would see it. When I was driving on the road late by myself I would see those signs and wonder and think, "Pacific Pride...Pacifist's Pride..." It's open-ended.

WW: Both of you were touring members of Dressy Bessy. How did that come about, and how did it go?

PG: I'd been friends with John Hill and Tammy Ealom for a while. They wanted to incorporate a fifth member for the tour on guitar and keyboards. Then they saw us play, and they saw James. Craig was involved in some business and other things that would make it difficult for him to commit to a tour.

JB: The tour lasted three months, all together. It was September and October, a couple of days off, November, a couple of weeks off, December. It was all of the U.S. It was strange for me playing in a band so immediately and touring immediately. It felt like a sit-in kind of thing.

PG: I was kind of the Bob Nastanovich [of Pavement] for that tour. I had a cowbell stand and I did a lot of backup harmonies with Tammy. We did Daytrotter in Rock Island, Illinois.

WW: Did you get asked for autographs?

JB: Yeah, that did happen a lot. It was kind of weird.

PG: And there was that girl in D.C. who had a Dressy Bessy tattoo. There are some fans out there who are more than a little into it.

Pacific Pride, CD-release show, with Green Typewriters and Weed Diamond, 9 p.m., Friday, November 27, hi-dive, 7 South Broadway, $6, 720-570-4500.

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.