Stop Stroking That Poodle - Be Your Own Pet
Jemina Pearl (vocals)
Jamin Orrall (drums)
Nathan Vasquez (bass)
Jonas Stein (guitar)
“We’re not punk, as we’re not really changing anything.” So spoke Nathan Vasquez, commencing our banter with Nashville’s finest in a cold, dark recess of the hallowed halls of the Manchester’s Roadhouse. I, for one, beg to differ with that view. In BYOP, you have a singer who performs with the captivating strut & spunk of John Lydon in his heyday crossed with Anna Kournikova if she’d just won Wimbledon for the first time. Add to that a drummer with the power and intensity to shake such immovable objects as a Starbucks coffee shop from its foundations, a bassist whose heart-throbbing nature puts George Clooney to shame - and a guitarist who is tighter than Gordon Brown at Budget time.
It seemed only natural to begin with a question about BOYP’s influences: I needed to understand their inspiration. The ardent musical cohesion and intense passion displayed on potent pearls like “Bicycle Bicycle, You Are My Bicycle” and “Hillmont Avenue” must have come from somewhere pretty special?
Jemina: “We all have different musical tastes - and that helps. Our sound is a mutation of punk.”
“We listen to a lot of punk!” Adds Jamin.
BYOP’s searing sound is definitely not symptomatic of the place they are indigenous to - so how easy was it for them to get established in Nashville?
“We’re established in Nashville?” Exclaims Jonas with bewilderment.
Jemina clarifies the situation: “We’re not really established in Nashville, we’re just a band that goes away and plays. We have a bunch of fans there, but it is not really a good place for Rock’N’’Roll and hardcore acts.”
However, as is often the case, you don’t realise the power and pull of something until it has gone away (or, you don’t miss your water ‘til your well runs dry – Allegories Ed). I can almost hear the aggrieved Nashvillians sat in Dino’s Diner slamming down their glasses of Jim Beam and exclaiming:
“Damnation we let them get away. I knew we should have put them on a “Damn Damn Leash.”
With the importance of cutting it live increasing all the time - it’s becoming difficult to forgive lacklustre groups who sometimes give the impression that playing a gig is like doing a 9-5 slot at the office. However, BYOP are as natural to the stage as Al Pacino - they put so much gusto, passion and fun into each and every show. How do they want people to feel at the end of one of their sets?
Jemina takes the lead: “Just to feel that they saw something exciting – that it wasn’t a waste of money!”
“We want them to feel a part of it - for people to dance and have a really good time.” Elaborates Nathan.
It’s a refreshing standpoint, sometimes it seems like people feel disinclined to let themselves go in true R&R fashion for fear that the ‘too cool for school’ onlookers will be marking their performance like Strictly Come Dancing judges:
“We are not like that!”
I manage to repress myself from punning that you feel like you have been let off the leash at one of their gigs, & instead proceeded to delve into the dynamic process of their song writing.
Jonas: “It varies, sometimes the guitars take the lead and the process builds from there. Some bands just have a singer who does all the song writing - but we are all equal.”
“The money gets split four ways!!!” Adds Nathan, urgently.
Jonas continues: “We have no leader - so that is probably why we sound the way we do.”
True punk spirit always comes to the fore: I noticed out of the corner of my bad eye an agitated tour manager looking on. She was only doing her job when she signalled that I would have to start winding matters up. My plea for three more questions received a stern response: one more!
A masterful Jemina interjects: “No, he can have as many as he likes.”
Some BYOP numbers – “Threshers Fall” and “Fire Department” for example - seem to be driven and lifted to another floor by Jamin Orral’s pelting, crushing percussion. With some groups, drummers are merely an accessory, but not with BYOP. Jonas provocatively puts me right:
“Hey dude, he’s calling you an accessory! Are you gonna stand for that?”
No, no, no - I said he drives the group.
Jemina the mediator comes to the rescue: “He is very good - he’s been doing it since he was seven.”
“It is an important element - and I enjoying playing a part in the group - but we all make equal contributions overall.” Adds Jamin.
Has he any intention to diversify?
“I am working on it. I am playing bass in my spare time at the moment!”
BYOP come across as broadband music lovers with a wide-screen a range of interests. I ask about the last gig they attended personally:
“The Black Tulips.”
“Mudboy - they got a 7.5 rating on Picthford Media you know”
Nathan breaks down what he gets from watching the competition: “I detail things - and pay more attention nowadays - we’re constantly looking at how other groups perform live.”
Jemina: “I always wish I was up onstage when I go a gig. The last band I saw was Deluxin - Nathan’s other band.”
Those genuinely interested in what drives Be Your Own Pet - and their origins - would do well to delve into the frenetic, empirical and boisterous leanings of Deluxin. Their debut album is as hard to get hold of as a Kyoto Agreement signed by George Bush. However, your intrepid reporter has managed to find a place where there are 33 copies left:
Well, 32 – as soon as I’ve finished this article.
BYOP have already gotten themselves a burgeoning bad reputation in some areas of the mainstream press.
Jemima: “Some of the stuff the media write is daft - like their obsession with me puking.”
What’s all that about then?
“At the Reading Festival I had been drinking Red Bull and water all day. We had a t-shirt that had a few stains on and we were planning to throw into the crowd. So, when I was accidentally sick on it, I just decided to throw it into the crowd anyway. Now people demand me to puke all the time.”
Interview over, the night’s musical proceedings kicked off with BYOP’s buddy - and thudding one man band, Jeff - and his unique brand of raucous, yelping punk. Among the shimmying gyrators at the front was Jemina herself.
Gritty and captivating Yorkshire outfit, Harrisons, followed - delivering a set of The Cribs fused with Maximo Park - including the haunting and emotive “Cry Through The Night” and culminating with the group’s bitingly snappy new 45, “Bluenote”.
A set of stammering rock with just a hint of disco followed from Good Shoes - with the thrusting “Small Time Girl” standing out for its heart and soul. It was not all smiles for one exuberant larrikin, however - who constantly berated them throughout their set.
The above-mentioned hoodlum received a refreshing comeuppance moments later when BYOP entered the fray. A Batman eye-mask clad Jonas Stein stood right in front of him and verbally castigated him with force and conviction. It’s funny, but the guy had little to say in reply!
A thrusting, piercing set ensued. “Threshers Flail” exploded into a fireball of gutsy vocals and rampaging riffs. Jemina’s hearty screech reached a high point on the bold, insurrection inciting “Damn Damn Leash” and the harrowing “Fire Department”. Standout offering was the 59-second free-for-all of new 45, “Let’s Get Sandy”. Shuddering genius.
Onlookers strained every sinew to ensure that they didn’t miss a moment of a thudding and compelling set. The group constantly made sure everyone was involved and, at one point, filled the room with love by making everyone in the crowd hold hands.
Many a pint of beer has been devoured whilst debating the authenticity and vibe given off at Stadium gigs. Granted, they can feel false: a reward earned by a group through endeavour and ingenuity. I prefer the analogy of a ‘team’ making it to the FA Cup final. Tonight, Be Your Own Pet emphatically completed a seamless third round victory – and with that in mind – I’ll see you at the MEN Arena in three years time for a raucous celebration. Mine’s a pint of Guinness!
Dave Adair – tMx 23 – 01/06