The traditional 10 year anniversary gift is tin or aluminum. We bring you rock. Straight up, pure and unadulterated rock. Township celebrate an impressive milestone as a band – 10 full years post-Rumble victory. Many thanks to the band for indulging me with this celebratory idea. Many more thanks to Township founder and leader, Marc Pinansky, for sharing the ups and downs and in-betweens of the band’s first 10 years. Enjoy Part One.
Rock & Roll Rumble Finals Friday 4/21 [event link here] with Special guests, Township + Carissa Johnson, The Rupert Selection, Hey Zeus – ONCE Ballroom, 156 Highland Ave, Somerville.
Alejandro Necochea – Guitar
Marc Pinansky – Vocals, Guitar
John Sheeran – Bass
Xena – Warrior Princess
Peter MacLean – Drums
James Rohr – Keys
10 Questions With Township
1) This is the band’s 10 year Rumble anniversary. Let’s go back there, tell us about baby Township?
To get cosmic, Township’s inception kind of feels like a bunch of particles orbiting around something that eventually coalesces into a planet (insert “rock” pun here). Three of the four of us were coming into the yet-to-be-named project from defunct bands. After I pulled the plug on Runner & The Thermodynamics in April 2005, it was only a couple of months before I hit a new writing streak that would make up our first EP and live sets (i.e. Gunnin’ Thru The Nite, Lady Ann, etc.). Although I didn’t have any plan to start a new band, when I heard that Greg Beadle had relocated to Somerville following the breakup of Cancer Conspiracy, I reached out without even thinking about it – we barely even knew each other, but I always look for unique, exceptional drummers, so I was curious. After one night of trading war stories at Sligo Pub and playing him my new demos, we decided to immediately start playing together. Throughout that summer I had been sporadically helping Jason Gillis in the final days of his band, Radar Eyes, and he offered in return to help me work out some of my new stuff, with him switching over to guitar from bass. It was Jason who suggested his guitarist friend John Sheeran, who I knew of, but had never officially met (I was intimidated by his fantastic hair). Thankfully, John heard what we were doing and liked it enough to pick up the bass, which he hadn’t played since high school. Although in the beginning days we were largely following the parts I laid out, I think it was each player’s different approach to their instrument that gave it the sound. We were all together by late 2005 and got right to work. It was decided that we would spring forth fully formed, which meant not playing our first show (4/12/06) until we had an EP & T-shirt ready for the merch table. We struggled with a name for a while, still clinging to the idea that one-word band names were cooler and had a better shot to make it. Yes, we often thought in those terms, unfortunately. Despite the late 60’s band of the same name, I wanted to be The Family, as a nod to the necessary, symbiotic relationship between band and fan. Greg wanted Arrow – a strong one-word name without a “the.” Jason took a trip to India in the last months of 2005 and was struck by the idea of Townships and suggested the name Township. I liked the idea of a Township, as it sort of fit in with my “Family” idea – a small, self-governing group, but part of something larger. However, I was still stuck on the Family idea, so we sort of compromised (to confusing results) by naming the band TOWNSHIP, but having all our URL’s be THE FAMILY TOWNSHIP. Our latest record (Light Years from 2016) actually lists us as The Family Township in a full circle, full confusing way.
2) Tell us about modern day Township. Don’t hold back. We want details, nicknames, strange habits.
Modern day Township is a clubhouse. While it’s a cool compliment, I always feel a little uncomfortable when people praise us for being tight because we practice so little! We are all incredibly busy with our many other bands – Pete is touring almost non-stop with Maceo Parker, James leads The Blue Ribbons, Alex has 2016 Rumble Champions Worshipper who are heading out on the road forever, John is in Tom Baker & The Snakes and Gymnasium, I have The Bored of Health and play with my wife, Andrea Gillis, as much as I can. We have played together long enough that the music is in our blood and we become this Voltron-like unit. It’s amazing to have such a musical bond. I guess it takes 12 years! So, modern day Township is like this awesome clubhouse we have. As most members get their live kicks (and dough) from other outlets, Township have morphed into almost a supremely creative outfit. Our goals have shifted over the last few years to focus much more on writing and creating (and eventually recording) and taking the focus off the grind of playing live. As much as we love playing live, it can wear a band down as the years add up and things don’t change a whole lot. As opposed to killing our love for the band and music, we distilled it to the best elements – hanging out with one another and being creative. We may only get together a couple of times a month to work on stuff, but we’re always sending ideas around and working on them individually. Township are still the band front and center on everyone’s mind, even if you don’t see us out there a whole lot.
I guess that’s not a particularly salacious response. I think the strange stuff would freak people out. A couple of these dudes (I’ll let people guess which ones) are particularly insane. And we have enough stories to rival the greats. Someday we’ll put them all down in an NC-17 rated book.
3) I love genre games – how would the band best describe your sound?
Now is a tough time to ask that, because the new album we are working on seeks to actively change people’s perception of us, I hope. For a long time I felt that we were a classic rock band, despite writing our own material. There was a party, booze, blues, slightly metal edge to what we did for so long, that it’s been a slow shift to grow the sound with our advancing, uh, maturity? We tried to hint at it on our last record by increasing the sonic palate, structures, styles, to free us up to keep changing. I greatly respect bands that don’t stay rooted to one “sound.” That takes guts to follow your inspiration and keep pushing yourself creatively, because you risk alienating your fans. I think that last record saw us go a little more big, atmospheric rock and this new one leans more on a raw New Wave vibe, but also continues on with the bigger soundscapes from the previous album.
4) How’s the curse doing?
I totally forgot about the curse! Perhaps that’s a good sign. While we never inked any major record deal, we also never broke up and we found ways to make records on our own (or with small labels), so I say we beat the curse.
5) Best band advice you’ve received and immediately ignored?
I don’t really remember much in the way of advice. I’m a know-nothing know-it-all who generally prefers to make his own mistakes. If I could offer any advice at this point, or an observation, really; bad personality mixes kill bands. Let me clarify that, play in a band with people you would want to hang out with even if you weren’t in a band. You should be just as excited to see your mates at rehearsal because you want to have a laugh or share a tough situation, than show them a new song. To be honest, you should be more excited to see your band mates than play. I’m not saying don’t get any work done, I’m saying you need people you can be honest with and aren’t going to poison the well. A band has to be something you love, and that requires you love the people in the band.
Actually, now that I think of it, I’ve got some good advice for people not to ignore. When someone kindly told me to be aware that the checks I was receiving (from some commercial musical work) would eventually stop coming, I decided that would not apply to me, for I would now be able to more easily find this type of work given my new found success. It did not work out that way. While I don’t regret spending every penny of that money, I sure do miss those magic checks arriving every week…
Similarly, I think there’s really something there to the old adage opportunity only knocks once. Sure, there are always exceptions, but rarely. Perhaps it’s the psychological byproduct of gaining some success, but you feel that it is easy to recreate. The only key to survival through that minefield is to shift your definition of success before you drive yourself (and everyone around you) crazy. Ain’t nothing wrong with lowering the bar from what you used to be able to reach. Cuz guess what, it’s not the same bar.
6) How long has Xena (warrior princess) been in the band?
From the beginning! Original member! She was in American Car, a friend’s band we shared our first rehearsal space with. When we got separate spaces, she decided to come with us. She lives in John’s basement. Not sure if she needs help.
7) What makes for a compelling live performance?
That perfect mix of a band that is well-rehearsed (but has not sucked all the soul out of the songs) and absolutely needs to be playing on an emotional level. I wouldn’t straight-up emote all over the audience, that can be annoying and come across as self-centered, I’m just saying that it helps if you really want to play these songs for people and your band is tight enough that you can be confident to just let go and be in the moment. Don’t have any agenda other than feeling that you made the best of your 45 minutes.
8) If you win again, do you have your acceptance speech planned? What does it say?
I think you mean when we win. I’d read a long, rambling, incoherent piece addressed to my 2007 self, concluding with me telling everyone to follow me to the Dunkin Donuts next door to keep the party going. Then I’d take a taxi one door over to the DD, because that’s what winners do.
(We kid. Township cannot win twice…)
9) What is rock & roll’s best work? I understand this is a can of worms question for a band.
I can only answer this through my lens, and there are probably a hundred bands I’d like to mention for their various contributions. Assuming you mean what bands or songs, I think Thin Lizzy really distills the essence of rock and roll. (I suppose we’re referencing the “classic” mid-late 70’s albums here). The music is undeniably rock and roll, but it always maintains its most endearing elements – a little humor, sex, self-awareness, and you can still see the traces of original rock and roll spirit woven through it all. The band always focused on melody over flash (although there are plenty of musical heroics) and subsequently served up more hooks and riffs per album than most bands do in a lifetime. They made guitarmony a word worthy of the dictionary, and Phil wrote heartfelt lyrics, great stories, and kept the words and phrasing simple enough to reach everyone without being stupid (most of the time). They embodied the “band as gang” mentality 100% and seemed like the coolest dudes around.
10) What’s Township’s best work?
It sounds cliché, but the one we’re working on now. Everything is coming together in the best possible way. We largely work collaboratively, and with each album since Alex has been with us (One More Summer, Light Years) we (Alex, John, & I) have continued to fine-tune how we best contribute to one another’s ideas. This new album sees a lot of our best writing and collaborative efforts, with Pete and James adding more arrangement help and further melodic avenues. We are finally forming our own language. Similarly, the band has finally found our sound together. Swapping out and adding new players takes a long time to transition naturally between just executing the parts, to putting your own voice in and learning how we all work best together. We’ve clocked enough miles together and have written enough to finally feel that we have become something new. Thankfully, we were aware that this process, to work properly, would take a long, undetermined amount of time. I love where we’re at.
11) Bonus – Harper’s Ferry. WBCN Rumble. What do you remember about it, and that time in the Boston music scene? How new was the band?
It’s interesting. The music scene I remember from 2007 was not one that was represented at the Rumble that year. Perhaps the bands were asked, but I’m not sure if they were rock enough, and if they were asked, I’m sure they refused – happy to keep their collective underground. There was a very cool scene in those days that centered on PA’s Lounge, ZuZu/Middle East Upstairs, Great Scott & The Otherside Café. Some of these bands even went on to even have national success. I was lucky enough to have my feet in both this world and the rock world that Township seemed to inhabit, although we (Township) were largely alone – our fellow rock bands like Sidewalk Driver & Mellow Bravo weren’t around yet. Maybe The Lights Out had just started? For the first couple years of Township, until the band got too busy, I played bass in Apppletown Gun Shop and keys and guitars for Tulsa. Carter Tanton of Tulsa was also the guitar player in Township (the one that slept in the Orpheum after the BMAs to see the next night’s Neil Young show) for our Rumble winning year and the Coming Home album. Appletown and Tulsa were part of that other low-fi, melody-driven, fuzzy, underground rock scene in Boston, with bands like Drug Rug (which Carter produced), Chris Warren’s Dirty Holiday, The Beat Awfuls, Mad Man Films, The Carlisle Sound, Indian Style… One of my favorite memories of that Rumble and a good example of my two musical worlds was playing our semi-final set, catching one song of Eli “Paper Boy” Reed, and then carrying my amp down Harvard Ave over to Great Scott where Carter and I had a Tulsa gig. After our set I walked back to Harper’s to delightedly find out that we had won (Eli was the heavy favorite).
Township had only been around for a little over a year and we didn’t fit in this particular scene. I think we were too on-the-nose rock and roll. Furthermore, we were trying hard to get a deal and out on the road, so much of our first few years were spent hunting down touring national bands to support when they came to town.
I remember there being some very vocal grumblings when we won (which seems to be par for the course for the winners, so be ready new champs) because we were such a new band. Only having been around for a year seemed almost like a disqualifier the way people talked. However, the real source of their frustration was a band they’d never heard of came out of nowhere and kicked their ass.