Having fun is fun: an interview with Playoff Beard

I met up with pop punk trio Playoff Beard to talk about their new album, the origin of the band (and its name), tour stories, and their picks for Pittsburgh’s best. Don’t miss the “Fun is Fun” record release show this Saturday, October 7th at Howlers, with support from Latecomer and the Scratch ‘n’ Sniffs. I guarantee it will be fun! 

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They even had fun during this interview (maybe)

So, you’re releasing your first full length record “Fun is Fun” on October 7th. How do you feel this record differs from your previous releases?

Thom: Well it’s the first record that the three of us have written together. So they’re all songs that this lineup has written together. Whereas the past couple years, we’ve had a couple different lineup configurations, and this is the first that feels really cohesive.

Pat: Tim’s really involved in the songwriting process.

Tim: That’s not true.

Thom: Tim, if you could say one thing during this interview, it’d be really helpful. Just go ahead, at any point, all right?

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What was the recording process like?

Thom: It was really easy. It was great. We were recording at Tim’s workplace, which is an old church that’s now a drum warehouse. So it had a really cool sound. High ceilings, built for acoustics. Our friend Zach from Latecomer came in and set up his recording gear. It was a really chill and relaxed vibe. We were able to put out the songs and have fun while doing it, so we hope that that fun translates to the recording. And for vocals, we were just in Tim’s basement. We did a group vocal session with a bunch of friends who came over. People from the Scratch ‘n’ Sniffs, Thanks Dad, Nightmarathons, the Red Western, and Bryan McQuaid. So it was cool.

[to Pat] You know, you can add things, too.

Tim: Take that, Pat!

What’s your favorite song off the new record? I think you should all list your favorite song.

Pat: I haven’t listened to it. Uh, I think probably “It’s Not a Trick, Michael. It’s an Illusion.” It’s a fun song to play.

Tim: “Well Seasoned” is my personal favorite.

Pat: Now that you know it?

Tim: Yeah. It was like “Whoa! This song’s cool!”

Thom: I’m really proud of “It’s Not a Trick,” but “Fun’s Not Dead” just makes me smile every time, so…

Any reason why?

Thom: I like the outro.

The Better Than Ezra?

Thom: Yeah. It was just built on our love of 90s alt-rock and what we mess around with at practice. One day we were like, “Hey, it’s the same chords as that, and it’s better than covering it, let’s just make it part of the song.” It’s fun.

Shocker.

Thom: So, yeah.

Pat: I think I want to change my answer to “Josephine Walker.” That song’s really fun to play. I’m just going by what’s fun to play.

Well, you did say that “It’s Not a Trick” is also fun to play, so…

Pat: Yeah, we like fun.

So, speaking about that, your band seems obsessed with fun. Where did that come from?

Thom: I think for years there was a misconception that Pat hates fun, that he doesn’t like fun, and Pat’s not a fun guy…

Pat: Why are you laughing, Tim?

Tim: [still laughing] Because it’s true.

Thom: Yeah, it’s not. You have to understand where Pat’s coming from when he is vocal about the things that he dislikes. And he is very vocal about the things that he dislikes.

Which seems to be a lot.

Thom: And he’s unapologetic about it, too. But, in between all that, if you read between the lines, there’s a really fun atmosphere that comes with hanging out with Pat. If you get him into his fun zone, he’s a whole lot of fun.

Tim: LP 2: The Fun Zone.

I was just going to say, that’s a record name.

Thom: I was going to call it New Miserable Experiments. We were just going to play a bunch of different styles of music. So, when Pat came back to Playoff Beard as our bass player, we had a conversation, we were talking about the vibe of some of the songs, and we had this political slant that was going for a while that was in the songs that just kept the whole vibe of the set from being completely fun. So, Pat and I had a conversation about that, and we’ve had a lot of great conversations about several things, but that was one of the things that I think was the beginning, the genesis of the new Playoff Beard sort of ethos. That if music is the one fun thing that keeps you afloat during this world of shit, then I suppose why not just celebrate that more and more?

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What is the band’s origin story and where did the name Playoff Beard come from?

Thom: Shit.

Tim: This is great. They’re all questions for Thom.

Thom: Yeah, yeah. Thanks, guys. Thanks, Lauren. The name Playoff Beard came, well, being a hockey fan, knowledgeable about playoff beards, that was one thing, but in 2009 when both the Steelers had won the Super Bowl and the Penguins won the Stanley Cup I was talking with a good friend of mine, Bill, and we were talking about how, just the concept of the playoff beard brings the whole city involved in the whole sports scene here and a lot of the city’s pride and notoriety is based on the success of the sports teams. And so, how people would grow this proverbial playoff beard or be so supportive or so friendly during these championship runs is just this weird, awesome thing that happens in Pittsburgh. But wouldn’t it be great if we had playoff beards for what our friends were doing in life? This was about the period where friends were getting married and having kids and really trying to focus on careers and what not. So, it’s like, why not be supportive of that and have a playoff beard that’s just about, you know, friendship, and what else is going on and be supportive of that? That was kind of the genesis of the name for that. It was a drunken conversation with Bill.

And how did Playoff Beard start? I started writing these songs as one of my old bands was breaking up, I guess. Or going on hiatus. And so, like, Rickety Old Schwinn was probably written in like, 2008. It’s probably the song we’ve been playing the longest. Yeah, started writing songs. Played them acoustically at first. Met a drummer in Dom Sorace, he played with the band for, I dunno, 3 or 4 years. A friend of mine, Doug Hite, wanted to be involved in the band, so he was playing bass. Dom quit the band, Pat started being our drummer, Dom got jealous that Pat was the drummer and wanted to come back in the band, so we thought why not have Pat play guitar? And so, Pat, Dom, Doug, and myself was the lineup for a while. Pat left the band, Dom moved to New York. I asked Tim to play drums, so it was Tim, Doug, and myself for a while. And then Pat was probably going to come back, but Doug was going to move to Portland, so Pat just came back as the bass player. And here we are.

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How do you think your sound has evolved over that time?

Thom: It’s gotten better. Better musicians. Hi Doug and Dom! Better musicians to play with, um, it’s gotten more mature, I suppose, in nuanced ways.

In what sense?

Thom: Taking our time with songwriting, working on parts, objective input about how things should go. I think there’s been, on Fun is Fun, there’s two or three songs that had original drafts that after playing them at practice a couple times, we were like “This isn’t working out” or “this needs to be rewritten,” so after doing that, the songs came back much stronger. And I don’t think that’s something that Playoff Beard would have done 5 or 6 years ago.

Pat: Yeah, it’s definitely, it’s like the most actually collaborative band I’ve been in, I think. A lot of bands I’ve been in, their idea of collaboration was basically not writing parts for each other, where it’s just like, here’s the bones of a song, you know, do what you want with it. But we’re able to have that back and forth in the songwriting process and it’s actually more of a process, and I think that the songs end up better for it.

Thom: I think there’s a feeling, too, you know a lot of songs were being played at a time when Pat and Tim weren’t both in the band together, but they were playing those songs at some point in their early tenure in Playoff Beards, er, Playoff Beard..

Pat: The Playoff Beards

Thom: that I think now, we’ve adapted all of those song styles to what the three of us would play, not that we play a lot of those songs anymore. But we now read off each other in the songwriting thing. Little details that we’re now reading off each other and we’re able to kind of nail parts instinctively.

Pat: It helps that we rip off a bunch of 90s stuff on this record, too.

Thom: That is true. Yeah. We had a lot of bad ideas and we just went with them.

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What were some of these other bad ideas?

Pat: That would be a good song title.

Thom: Yeah. That song, I’d imagine it’d be about bad ideas. What was the question?

The bad ideas for this record. That you went with.

Pat: All of them.

Thom: Um, ripping off Green Day, the Ramones, Better Than Ezra.

Tim: That might have been the worst.

Pat: Or the best.

Thom: A song built around a Kurt Vonnegut quote. I dunno. What else is there?

Pat: What he’s saying is we have no original ideas.

Thom: Yeah, we don’t. A lot of references to other bands or people. Just whatever came out, we went with.

That’s fun.

Thom: It is fun.

Pat: Having fun is fun.

So you guys are going on a short tour in October to support the album. What have your past tour experiences been like? You’ve been on tour, Tim!

Tim: I’m sleepy.

Pat: I think, overall, our last tour was really good. But, um, we were driving through Iowa, Thom was driving, and Tim and I really wanted to stop at the world’s largest truck stop, and Thom would not stop. And it was really, it was kinda like the low point on the tour.

Doesn’t sound like fun.

Thom: We did stop at the world’s largest frying pan.

Pat: It was just Iowa’s largest frying pan.

Thom: Sorry. Iowa’s largest frying pan. In Brandon, Iowa. You should check it out. They’ve got a cast iron skillet factory there, for all your cast iron skillet needs. There’s a really nice general store that sells magnets and postcards. Overpriced Gatorade.

Pat: And koozies. I have a koozie.

Thom: But we visited the world’s, er, Iowa’s largest frying pan. That was, that was fun.

Pat: It was an older husband and wife who called each other Ma and Pa. It’s a real thing that happens in the Midwest, I guess.

Thom: Pa was sleeping in the back of the store on a chair, and Ma yelled “Hey, Pa. Pa. How much are the postcards?” Or something. And Pa goes “Ma, they’re 60 cents.” I don’t know.

So what are your plans for the future?

Thom: Can I tell my other tour story?

Oh, yeah, yeah. Go for it. My bad.

Thom: I don’t know if I wanna talk about Minnesota or Chicago. No, Chicago is probably better. We played a house in Chicago called the Room of Requirement and Tim was having so much fun, that he kept leaving his wallet, wide open, on top of the merch table, and the record distro and everything and he’d walk away and his wallet was just sitting there several times. And Pat and I would discover it and have to give it back to him. But Tim was just really, really messed up and really having a lot of fun. And it was in Minnesota where he had a whole lot of fun, too. You were talking about the ska show that we were going to play in Iowa.

Pat: No. He was taking delight in making me miserable.

Thom: He was.

Tim: It’s true.

Thom: Tim said “I am going to pick everything up. I am going to skank the shit out of tomorrow.”

Did that happen?

Thom: No. I don’t think he picked a single item up.

Tim: No. I felt really shitty the next day.

Pat: Yeah. Because we were at “skanksgiving.”

Thom: Other than that, touring for Playoff Beard is going to a whole lot of record stores. Spending a whole lot of money there, and arguing over Sheetz or Denny’s.

Seems like a tough choice.

Thom: And trying to not go to Subway.

Pat: That’s kinda how I live my life. Trying to not go to Subway.

Thom: I bought camp mats for this tour too, so when we sleep on the floor…

Tim: I went to Subway that day, too. When you were like “Oh, I went to Subway.”

Pat: Yeah, it sucked.

Tim: True.

All right, so what are your plans for the future?

Tim: Tours.

Thom: Tours. Um, we talked about a month in Europe.

Tim: Australia.

Thom: Australia. Japan while we’re over there. There’s a small village in Brazil that asked us to be at the dedication of a footbridge they’re building.

Because you’re from Pittsburgh and you know bridges?

Thom: We know bridges, yeah. Rick Sebak’s going to do a special on us, and then I think from there we’re just gonna let it go were it goes. I dunno.

Enjoy the ride?

Thom: Enjoy the ride.

What are your thoughts about the local scene?

Thom: It’s awesome.

Pat: I think Thanks Dad should start playing again.

Thom: Did they? That’s great!

Pat: No, they should.

Thom: Oh, they should. They should.

Anything else?

Thom: Pittsburgh has solid bands, and we’re guilty of it too, we need to play with bands that we don’t play with all the time. And that’s just a thing that happens. Everybody just stays in their little circle and we’re extremely guilty of that. We need to say it. Anybody that’s reading this right now–is this a readable thing?

Yeah, I transcribe it.

Thom: It’s a readable thing. So, literate people, who are reading this right now that are in other bands that we never play with, if you listen to our record and you like it, let’s party. Let’s have fun together. Because we love all the bands we play with, but let’s play with some other people in Pittsburgh. Let’s make it happen.

Tim, any comments?

Tim: No.

Thom: He’s just shaking his head in affirmation.

Pat: It’s really hard to play with other bands because Tim’s in all of them.

Thom: This is true.

All right, so I’d like all of you guys to comment on this. What’s your favorite venue to play at?

Tim: Active venue?

Thom: Ormsby.

Active venue!

Tim: In Pittsburgh?

Yeah.

Thom: I like Ruggers. It’s fun. But Howlers is the easiest because they have a sound system set up, so you don’t have to do too much.

Pat: Yeah, I’d probably say Howlers.

Tim: I can’t decide. I like playing at The Shop. I never get to.

Pat: Yeah, I’ve only played The Shop once. And the bass amp didn’t work.

Tim: Yeah, I’ll go with that. That works.

Thom: But if Kopec’s and the Inn Termission Lounge and Ormsby could all come back.

Tim: Yeah.

Thom: And the Pub, I suppose.

Tim: Meh.

Pat: I remember one of our first shows as a four piece, we played Ormsby. It was the middle of summer. It was so gross in there. And there’s pictures from that show where, like, I think Dom and Doug are in their underwear, and you’re, like…

Thom: I’m barefoot. Barefoot and a bandana.

Pat: And I’m still… jeans and black t-shirt because…

You’re a weirdo.

Pat: …you people are disgusting.

Thom: See, that’s what Pat gets accused of not being fun for. It’s comments like that.

Pat: For not playing shows in my underwear? Tim, would you do that?

Tim: No.

Pat: See?

Tim: I would’ve been right there with you. But I’ll still judge you from over here.

What are some local businesses that deserve recognition?

Tim: Ruggers?

Thom: Yeah, Ruggers. We’re here.

Tim: Inn Termission.

Thom: Kopec’s. Ormsby. The original Roboto.

How about active local businesses?

Thom: The Brass Factory. Graffiti. Laga. The Upstage.

We’re done with venues!

Pat: I miss Laga.

Goddammit!

Tim: Bovvers in Oakland. That shoe store.

Thom: Oh, Bovvers. Yeah.

You people are the worst.

Tim: Local businesses. Ruggers.

Thom: There’s a drum warehouse… What’s the drum warehouse actually called? They deserve some credit for this.

Pat: Ink Division. Those dudes are all really rad. Between the Days Records.

Thom: Yeah. Up those punx.

Tim: Cruel Noise.

Thom: Cruel Noise, yeah. Looking for Group.

Tim: Attic Records.

Pat: You do?

Tim: Wait, what? Attic Records?

Pat: Oh, I thought you said you like records.

Thom: I like eating food from Spak and Onion Maiden. Oh, Black Forge is pretty sweet, too. That’s a decent place for a show. It’s just the stage is really small for us to have the fun that we like to have.

Pat: Yeah, I think we both almost fell off that stage.

Thom: We did. It was a dangerous show.

Tim: It was a little too early, too. It’s hard to be done with a show at 9:00.

Pat: You complain about bar shows because they’re too late and you’re complaining about those shows because they’re too early?!

Tim: Yeah.

Pat: You just don’t wanna play shows.

Tim’s just cranky.

Tim: Yeah, the thing to take away from this is that I just like to complain.

Thom: I’m drinking a Full Pint beer right now. That’s local.

Pat: Yeah, that’s local.

How about some of your favorite local bands?

Thom: We talked about Weapons of Choice a second ago. I really enjoy listening to them when I’m in a hardcore mood. But, Latecomer, Bottle Rat, Thanks Dad, edhoculi, the Scratch ‘n’ Sniffs, Bernies, One If By Land.

Let’s leave some for Tim and Pat.

Thom: I just wanna keep talking about Pittsburgh bands.

No, Tim. I wanna hear your thoughts.

Tim: He said them all already.

Goddammit!

Thom: The Shutouts.

Tim: Uhhh…

Thom: Let it be known that Tim whispered…

Let’s move on to Pat to give you time to think.

Pat: Bottle Rat, the Scratch ‘n’ Sniffs, Submachine. I think it’s really cool that those guys are still playing. Thanks Dad should start playing more often. All of Tim’s bands. I just like to watch Tim play drums. I don’t get to do it as much when I’m in the bands with him. That’s why I miss Remainders.

[Tim laughs uncomfortably]

So you’ve had a chance to think, Tim.

Tim: Yeah, everything that’s been mentioned. Killer of Sheep.

Let’s get an actual woman in here.

Thom: We played with the Park Plan once. I like them. Yeah. Surf rock. Oh! I need to see Garter Shake.

Pat: They’re really good.

Thom: Yeah, Becki’s an old friend of mine. I haven’t seen them yet. Her old band was a lot fun.

Pat: I forgot about that show, when we played with the Park Plan. That was only like, my third show, I think. But I met Jenn and Adam from the Park Plan when I saw Garter Shake and they recognized the name. I’d love to play with them again.

Thom: Yeah, I’d be down for that.

And how about, what’s your favorite local pizza?

Thom: I mean, uh, Spak kills it, but I’ve got a little spot up on Brownsville called Aprimo Pizza. It’s a dirty little joint, but it tastes good.

Pat: A’pizza Badamo. There’s not even a second place, I don’t think.

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Tim, what’s your favorite local vegan food?

Pat: Probably the nine pickle chips he just shoved in his mouth before you asked him that question.

Tim: Zenith.

I love Zenith.

Tim: That’s my favorite local place. Yeah.

Thom: Packs and Dogs has an underrated veggie dog. When I’m in the mood, that’s where I wanna go.

What’s your favorite vegan food in the city, Pat?

Pat: I don’t really seek it out. All India’s good. I think I’ve had some vegan stuff at All India.

So, Tim. What are your final words?

Pat: What are your first words?

Tim: Um, no comment?

Anything else you want to add?

Thom: Thank you, Lauren. We really appreciate it. You run a really good blog.

Thanks.

Thom: It’s fun.

Doesn’t seem like Tim really appreciates it.

Tim: I do!

The grumpy looks I’m getting.

Tim: Sorry. I don’t feel well.

I’m just being an asshole. All right. Cool. Last words?

Pat: Thanks.

Go get me a cider now.

 

You can check out Playoff Beard’s music on their Bandcamp page or Spotify. Make sure you stop by the “Fun is Fun” record release show this Saturday, October 7th at Howlers, with support from Latecomer and the Scratch ‘n’ Sniffs. If you can’t make it, you can order the record from Between the Days Records.

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