Pissed Jeans, Philly’s Crustiest Punk Foursome, Grows Up

By Jennifer Kelly
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Feb. 13, 2013

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Boys to men: Pissed Jeans has come a long way since meeting up in their teens. They’re all dads now, and their new music reflects it.

"It’s not that you have to get into a frame of mind. It’s more a chance to get it out,” says Pissed Jeans’ Matt Korvette, when asked how a young father and insurance claims adjuster transforms himself on stage into one of rock ‘n’ roll’s least inhibited, fullest-throated channelers of rage. “It’s like things are always brewing around and floating around in my brain, but I can’t, at Dunkin’ Donuts, just start screaming.”

Korvette and his bandmates have come a long way since meeting up in their mid-teens in Allentown, making a sloppy, funny, fully-amplified racket that sat at the intersection of hardcore punk, garage and straight-ahead rock. Now entering their 30s—and all of them with young children at home—the band hasn’t turned down the volume or tamped down the distortion. Their latest album, Honeys, includes a short, all-feedback track called “Something About Mrs. Johnson,” which was recorded by bassist Randy Huth and guitarist Brad Fry when the two were barely teenagers. It fits in remarkably well with tracks laid down decades later, ragers like “You’re Different (In Person)” and “Cathouse.” 

But just having that much history in common, Korvette says, makes it challenging to create new material. “We tried on this album to find new ways to be Pissed Jeans,” he says. “Pissed Jeans, from a musical standpoint, means memorable songs that have their own character, that are negative or sarcastic or biting, with a lot of focus on the guitars. It’s a matter of writing more songs that aren’t [like] songs we’ve already written. I think it’s just a matter of finding a different tempo or beat or riff, while having it still make sense for us.”

Honeys’ songs are about whatever happens to be on Korvette’s mind at the moment, which tends not, at this stage of life, to be standard teenage angst. “Cathouse,” for instance, is at least partly about a pet hair allergy, “Health Plan” about choosing a benefits package, and “Cafeteria Food” is a raw and funny look at middle-aged, middle-class adulthood, right down to worrying about which schools your kids attend. It’s not exactly the usual rock ‘n’ roll subject matter, but it’s where Korvette’s at and what he’s thinking about. “Wouldn’t it be weirder,” he asks, “if I were still writing about the hot girl in school?”

If Pissed Jeans’ lyrics are adult, they are all couched in brutally distorted, aggressive punk idiom, with guitars that scream and chug and clang. “That’s Brad [Fry]’s thing,” says Korvette when asked about the ferocious sound of guitars that seem to have been ripped in half. “He had seven or eight amps in the studio that were being recorded continuously, and like he was playing through them all at once. There was an old-timey, crusty amp and a big two-trunk Fender and this Peavey that he cranks up and cabinets. It was all mic’d separately so that in the studio, he could go between amps and it would sound like entirely different guitars being played. And we’d, for each song, decide what mix works best, what the song demands—whether it’s super heavy, low-end stuff or a more hot surfy sound.” 

It’s been five years since the last Pissed Jeans record, and because of work and family obligations, the band no longer heads out for extended, multiple-month tours. But they do play out, and now, Korvette says, their time on the road is special, because they don’t get together as often. “Whenever we’re together, we’re all so psyched to be seeing each other,” he says. “It’s funny because we’ll go play a couple of shows or whatever, and my throat will get hoarse. It’s not from the singing. It’s from talking so much. We’ll just be having such a good time talking.” 

And when they arrive, they play to a surprisingly diverse audience. Here’s the unexpected part: Pissed Jeans is sort of a chick band. “There’s always a pretty good number of women, which is great,” says Korvette. “I really want to appeal to more than 18- to 22-year-old white guys. If you can play and entertain a bunch of women, there’s really nothing better. Having a bunch of sweaty guys crawl all over you—it’s not nearly as 

Fri., Feb. 15, 9pm. $12. With Leather + Lantern. Underground Arts at the Wolf Building, 
1200 Callowhill St. 215.629.5765. 

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