Cop City/Chill Pillars on Creep Rock, Sexual Frustration, and Getting Hosed
For the second time in a row, the hands-up-and-down best rock 'n' roll record released in the United States of America was brewed in ... Palm Beach County?
Despite (or maybe as a direct result of) its blandly Floridian origins, Cop City/Chill Pillars -- a PBC band always comprised of guitarist Chris Jankow Jr., drummer Jordan Pettingill, and bassist Jimmy Bradshaw, along with a gang of revolving collaborators and contributors, including members of Weird Wives, The Jameses, and Universal Expansion -- prances on the cutting edge of blues-based composition like a daredevil tightrope walker who doesn't care about slipping off a cliff, and even kinda wants to take the dive.
With the release of Hosed -- both the group's second full-length and second release for Orlando label Florida's Dying -- the Pillars have transitioned out of its already-impressive primate-punk-shimmy mode and plunged -- face first, sans bungee -- into the realm of (brace yourself) hardcore psychedelia.
County Grind spoke with the band via conference call to gain further insight into the best new rock music being made in 2012.
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County Grind: What does it mean to be "hosed"?
(Beavis and Butthead-esque chuckling)
Jimmy Bradshaw (Bass): It's, like, bad luck.
Jordan Pettingill (Drums): Those situations in life where you're like, "Man...I got hosed."
Can you give an example?
Jimmy: Being born.
Most, if not all of your vocals are in a gang/chant style. Who writes the lyrics?
C.J., are you the primary songwriter?
C.J. (Guitar): More so on the first album. On this album, they were written kinda fast. So we have one idea, usually, and then we plan to fit words into the rhythms we want to sing. The lyrics serve a purpose, but they're also kind of arbitrary.
The first time I saw you perform "Steady Wild," the "Just stand there/Don't do anything" chorus was really striking, especially when viewed as an address to the crowd. Were you inspired by immobile audiences when you wrote that song?
C.J.: I wasn't thinking about that at all. I thought it was a creepy way of talking to someone when you are being intimate with them and not getting, uh ...
Jordan: ... any feedback.
Live at Propaganda in Lake Worth.
Photo by Ian Witlen
Your music has always been edgy, but there's a teeth-gritting quality to Hosed. Would you say there is more frustration in this record?
C.J.: Yeah, kind of. There's a lot of similarities to Held Hostage on Planet Chill. That one was frustrated too. But it was more insular. It kind of had an inside joke thing going on. I definitely play guitar a little different on this one, and the bass is a little more busy.
It seems like there's a lot more sexual alienation. I'm thinking of the line, "You never saw the back of the house."
Jimmy: It's always been a consistent theme, but I would agree that it's more prevalent on Hosed.
C.J.: "The back of the house" is trying to be a little creepy. Not like shock rock, but in a way that would really creep someone out if you said it. Same with, "Just stand there." We don't really have set parameters for anything. The new songs we're working on now, we're tightening up and trying to write the lyrics, which we've got pretty much together. I brought a little bit of a skeleton as far as rhyme schemes, or even one word that gets used a lot. But then it's like, "Hey, can you guys think of anything to fit in here?" It's pretty collaborative, more than ever.
When we first started we didn't all sing the way we do now. The idea of a lead singer is weird, so it's become less and less of a thing as we've gotten more comfortable singing with each other. The rhythm of the singing is more important than what we're singing. Although, I think we do make an effort to have ongoing ambiguity. Sometimes, I do feel like I'm telling people: "Just stand there." I can get in a mood where I feel like I'm saying that to someone in the dark. You're never saying it the same way.
You have pretty consistent thematics and turns of phrase. Is there a character psycholoigy that goes into these lyrics? You've mentioned being "creepy" a few times.
They come really fast. I always want to sit down and write more and just have a pile of words and cut them out. We try to avoid a lot of unnecessary pronouns. And it's not necessarily from the first person, but it could be. I think we try to encompass something very plainspoken turned into poetry without trying to be profound or highbrow.
You tour the garage rock circuit, but I actually think you guys are a little more experimental than most of the bills you end up on. At the end of the day, is it all just rock 'n' roll? Or do you consider Cop City to be more of an avant-garde exercise?
Jimmy: I definitely lean toward the second one.
Jordan: A lot of stuff has already happened, ya know? Might as well do our own thing. We hang out with each other all the time and it just comes pretty natural. I kind of forget that we sound weird.
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