Sometimes we dig deep to find out why a band formed, what mission drives its members. Occasionally, it's simple: A group of buddies just wanted to make music together. That’s the case with the L.A. band Together Pangea.
The alt-garage-rockers started playing together in 2009, when friends William Keegan (guitar/vocals) and Danny Bengston (bass) met Erik Jimenez (drums) in art school. Initially, they just wanted to play parties at the school, to hang out. But as other people started to actually care about their music, so did they.
Initially, the three men were heavily influenced by the roster of K Records, the Olympia, Washington, indie punk label that has had the Melvins, Shonen Knife, Beck,and Pansy Division under its wings; Together Pangea was particularly inspired by Little Wings, Mirah, and the Microphones, says Bengston.
“Then we heard a record called Power Drowning, by Audacity, and I got obsessed with that record," he adds. "There was a band called the Moonhearts, also. The singer, Michael Cronin, went to college with me, and now he’s got his own solo career. He showed me that he had a tape out, and Audacity had a tape out, on this label Burger Records. I sort of dove into that, and before we knew it, Burger had emailed us, like, ‘Hey, we want to put out tapes of you guys.’ But that Audacity record was the first big thing for us where we were like, ‘Whoa, this is cool. We should make music like this.’”
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Bengston says the band used to play a lot more punk and garage rock, and the sound was a little harsher, more caustic, when Together Pangea put out its debut, Jelly Jam, in 2010, and then Living Dummy, on Burger, in 2011. But the gloriously garage approach combined with infectious melodies that hark back to the Nuggets bands is all still there.
“There’s always been William’s core songwriting there, and it’s just like we’ve taken it different ways this time around,” Bengston says. “We decided to strip the songs down and not really produce them as much, and try to make it more like a classic rock-and-roll record than something that’s in the moment, like garage rock — more about a production style or a vibe. We’ve always had the songs. Let’s just do what we can to serve the songs as much as we can. Less distortion on the guitar, clear vocals, things like that.”
The most recent album is this year’s Bulls and Roosters, which dropped in August, the followup to 2014’s Badillac. While Bengston says that there were no overt concepts, there were clear themes.
“I wrote some songs on it for the first time, and I wrote some of them when I got out of rehab,” he says. “One of them I wrote in rehab, so there’s that aspect to it. But then aside from that, a lot of it is the common theme of getting older but still perpetually being teenage, and having to negotiate the emotions and feelings that come with increased responsibility and stuff like that. We’re just not as crazy as we used to be. We don’t party or drink as hard as we used to. There’s a little bit of that in there, but not too much.”
When it comes to melodic, garage-influenced punk-and-roll, the Replacements pretty much sit on the top rung, and the men of Together Pangea were able to make acquaintances when bassist Tommy Stinson (also of Guns N' Roses) produced the 2015 EP The Phage.
“That was a once-in-a-lifetime, surreal dream experience,” Bengston says. “Really cool. We were all very big Replacements fans and, on their reunion tour, we got to open up the L.A. show. That was insane. We got to play a sold-out show at the Hollywood Palladium, which is a legendary venue. There were a lot of people there who already know us. It’s our home town, and there was bound to be a couple of hundred out of 5,000 that were familiar with us. We went down well, or at least as good as we could hope for at a show like that.”
It speaks volumes that the band can expect a decent turnout for an opening spot at a venue as vast and iconic as the Hollywood Palladium. Clearly, they have momentum in their home town.
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“There’s always stuff going on in L.A.,” Bengston says. “It just goes through changes. There was a minute when the Burger/garage thing was hot, and that sort of died down. I feel like L.A. really has a big psych thing happening, which we’re not really a part of, but that’s cool. Also, everyone everywhere is moving to L.A. all the time. Even if there’s not the people there now, there will be people doing something new and different, or doing the same thing that’s been happening. You can always go out any night of the week and go to any show of your choosing of any genre.”
All of that said, Bengston is looking forward to returning to Denver this week, a place where he says the band always gets a good crowd and has a lot of fun.
“The only drag with Denver is the altitude and being thrown right into it,” he says. “Going from playing a regular-altitude show and then getting up there and, four songs in, feeling like you’ve already played a full set. Still, expect the same thing, the same rock show, that we’ve always done. Just new songs, and some new-old songs, too. We’ll play all of the songs that you kinda expect us to play, but then we’ll play some that you don’t expect.”
Together Pangea, with Tall Juan and Daddy Issues, 9 p.m. Friday, October 13, Larimer Lounge, 2721 Larimer Street, 303-291-1007.