INTERVIEW: The Penny Serfs Reflect on "Politics in the Time of Heroin" & Discuss Future Plans
For The Penny Serfs, music is everything. When they’re not at home writing and recording new music, the band can be found playing shows and and touring in support of their latest release Politics in the Time of Heroin or even working out on the road with The National. Because of this, it comes as no surprise that the band found themselves nitpicking and constantly reworking Politics in the Time of Heroin before it dropped earlier this year.
Now that Politics in the Time of Heroin has been out for nearly a year and The Penny Serfs have had the chance to play it live on the road, we caught up with the band to chat about their busy year, the new album and more. Read what the band had to say any listen to the album for yourself now below.
Interview with Dom Vigil
You guys have had an exciting year following the release of your new album, Politics in the Time of Heroin! What has been the highlight of your 2018 so far?
I would say as a band the best part of 2018 has been the string of shows we have played with artist LANZ. Lanz is actually Ben Lanz from The National. LANZ is one of his projects and we LOVE it! He’s by far one of the most creative and talented musicians any of us have ever met. Ben asked The Penny Serfs to support his shows this past April across the mid-west following the release of his new record. The small tour kicked off in Davenport, IA just down the road from our hometown. Since then we have joined LANZ on a couple more strings of shows including LA and San Fransisco. It’s been a blast!
Now that it has been out for a while, what are some of your favorite things about Politics in the Time of Heroin?
Since last January we have received a ton of positive feed back from fans that have shown up to shows and also talented musicians in our “line of work” (if you don’t yet know, each member of our band is a crew member for much larger well established rock bands. We actually all currently work for indie rock band The National). All of this feedback has been reassuring to us as to why we do this and why we made this record.
Each member of our band has gone through their waves of “demo-itis” or over listening to the record demos and becoming sick of it. But the love for this record has come back full swing for us all, especially after we released it.
Did you have any major goals in mind when you first started working on the album? Any stories you wanted to tell?
I mostly went into this project with further hopes in developing the band. It was really important to me that the 4 of us fed off of each others energy in the writing process. It was another step in learning each others “vibes”. I think that this record shows more musicianship between us with each song. Especially with following up our EP “Like Eating Glass”. More of our personalities shine throughout “Politics in the Time of Heroin”, and that was a major goal for me!
How do you feel you’ve grown or evolved with the writing and recording of the album?
A similar response to the previous question but this record really pushed us to the edge and forced us into more and more of a musicianship between all band members. When the actual recording process took place gave ourselves a short window to put this all together (about a week in studio) so it was very important for us to put our heads together and keep an open mind with each others ideas. I can’t wait to take that back into the studio in the near future.
Were there any challenges you came across when working on Politics in the Time of Heroin?
To be honest, some of the songs were only basic ideas with not much structure when we arrived to the studio in Atlanta. Again, we only gave ourselves a week to finish writing and recording so structuring a few new songs in such a short window was definitely challenging! (Try coming up with a drum part for a 3 1/2 min long song basically on the spot with a click in one ear and the studio engineer/producer in your other ear expecting solid gold in 2 takes haha! Yikes!) We all pushed through and by the end of our week I feel that each member was very satisfied and excited about what we had just pulled off!
What was the most rewarding part of working on the album?
Once we finished the recording process there was darn near a full year of multiple email chains, phone calls, texts back and forth about the mix. Clearly that’s why we all ended up with “demo-itis” and I’m sure that’s why the back and forth continued for so long before we all agreed upon a mix for Politics. When you listen to the same song over and over that you’ve recorded, you end up picking it apart in ways that most of the time are not necessary. Especially your own instrumental parts. I feel it was a miracle when all of us Serfs finally said “OK, this is it, we’re done” and where happy with the mix of the record. THAT was the most rewarding part for me.
Now that Politics in the Time of Heroin is out and the year is coming to an end, do you have any big plans coming up? Any shows in the works?
We do! We actually just wrapped up a week long writing and demo session in Davenport last week. All members of The Penny Serfs are on a bit of a break from work as our employers (The National) take a break from touring themselves. We are going to take this opportunity and really focus on our own band. More and more writing sessions, demos, shows, and back in the studio soon! Keep an eye out for future shows. We are planning on hitting the mid-west this winter and might even plop ourselves in Austin near SXSW. More to come on that!
Do you have anything else you’d like to add?
I just want to thank any ears that are willing to listen, and for all the support we’ve had so far. It’s so important to support your local musicians. There’s so many talented humans out there that wouldn’t have a chance if it wasn’t for people like all of you. Stay positive, and be nice to one another! Thanks! -Kyle (drums)