Asbury Park, New Jersey’s Laetwaves, phenomena forged in friendship and late-night beach walks, and comprised of vocalist and guitarist Mikey Pellegrino, bass-ace Howie Cohen, and drummer Shawna Grabowski, just dropped their debut LP Hell to Pay via Know Hope Records.
The record is everything fans have come to expect from this dashing and passionate DIY threesome, and all the reason you’ll need to become their next biggest fan. Monster hooks and crucial observations about life, propelled from their amps and into your ears with an urgency of a hare ducking into a hovel to escape the bloody fate of a fox’s mow.
Latewaves really do sound like they are playing like their life depends on it. Like they are attempting to defuse a time bomb of emotions in their chests with the tools that music and songwriting lay at their disposal. by following stray colored wires around their brain to their connection point, pulling them out at their base, and hoping to live long enough to exhale and try the next one.
The impulse to cheer them on and shout along with each chorus is nearly irresistible. Almost as irresistible as the urge to pet your friend’s cats when you visit their apartment. Yes, listening to Latewaves is as cathartic and soul-warming as scratching a cat on the top of its head and between its ears, and about 90 percent less like to cause you to have either an allergic reaction or bug your friend about an antibiotic cream for the claw marks now running across the back of your palm.
To celebrate the release of Latewaves’s fantastic new record, we caught up with Mikey Pellegrino to talk about Hell to Pay, the inspiration behind the band’s sound, and the state of Asbury scene.
You buy and stream Latewaves’s LP Hell To Pay below via Bandcamp, and then keep scrolling to read our interview with Mike:
Interview was conducted via email on May 21, 2021. It has been edited slightly for the sake of clarity.
What is the best part, and the worst part, of releasing an album during a global pandemic?
Hmm, best part could also be one of the worst parts – time alone with our thoughts. *nervous laugh* – we had a good amount of time to brainstorm which lead to creating some fun music videos for the record and time to get creative with all the promo materials. But the caveat was that all that extra time was consumed with a lot of nervous energy and hopelessness.
How did you end up sitting on Hell to Pay for a year?
Well, we got the first round of mixes in April of 2020. So there was this overwhelming sense of joy along with this overwhelming sense of dread. On one hand, we couldn’t believe we were listening to the first cut of our first ever full length, and on the other, we had this voice in the back of our heads saying, “What the hell are we gonna do with this now.”
So basically, we kind of crossed our fingers and said we’d try to wait it out. Once it was clear we were in this thing for the long haul we got our ducks in a row and that was a fortunate thing that came out of this chaos- we ended up hooking up with DIMM for management and Know Hope for a label to get the record out properly and with care.
Did you get the urge to go back into the studio and tinker with the recordings over the past year? I feel like that would be a constant temptation.
Oh god yes. We have a hard time in the demo to actual recording transition. So now we’re stuck here with this beautiful record and our self-sabotaging minds just start creating all these problems – mostly with our performances. Shawna started feeling like she could have played a part better, I’d feel the same about a riff or vocal, Howie with bass and so on. The funny thing is, looking back at the record, we can’t even remember the minutia we would fixate on. Luckily we all took a deep breath and accepted that we busted our asses and performed the best we possibly could.
Where did the photo for the cover of Hell To Pay come from and how did you come around to deciding that it should be the face of the album?
The photo is in Lake George in upstate New York. I’ve been going up there since I was pretty much born. It’s my zen, it’s the place where my mind can just totally let go. There was a photo from the previous summer that was just a candid shot of my wife fishing off the dock. The vibe of it was so chill and kind of brought a sense of calm. Most of the record is about seeking that sense of calm and about the chaotic nature of mental anguish, so I really wanted to use the picture. But it wasn’t really framed for an album cover and it just didn’t seem to fit the template. So we went up and tried to recreate it.
Our friend Judy is an amazing photographer and she just started shooting Ashley (ma-wife) and it just wasn’t clicking. All of the sudden there was a flash storm and it started pouring. Like biblical rain, I was holding an umbrella over Judy’s head while she was shooting Ashley drinking a bottle of wine in a flash storm. I don’t know, everything about it was just so serendipitous and I don’t think there’s too much mental gymnastics involved to match the record to the vibe of the photo so we totally went with it. Then of course due to the pandemic, we just sat on it and changed our minds a million times but this one stuck it out and made the cut.
How did you end up funding Hell to Pay? You did a car wash once upon a time, but have you considered upgrading to boats? Or making a horizontal move to dogs? Just some thoughts.
Hahaha, yes, all these ideas will be taken into consideration, I think a dog wash party/ show would be the event to bring us back to life. But we funded it by doing it in 3 sessions, basically just hustling in between. Every band wants to “tour smart not hard” but all of that is impossible to predict on the lower level our band is at so we just tried our best. We had to pull a little bit from our own pockets but it was absolutely worth it to do it at Barber Shop and do it with Vinnie and Brett. Best experience ever.
My favorite source of income in that period had to be the show we played at a ski lodge at Stratton in Vermont. Whoever booked us had NO idea what kind of band we were. I saw The Nerds and The Benjamins (two super popular cover bands) on the lineup for the other weekends and had a feeling someone screwed up.
They asked us to play for 3 hours. At the time we had 2 EP’s and could maybe fill a 40-minute set if we talked enough. So we printed a bunch of chords and lyrics off of the internet and made a binder full of cover songs. The paycheck was too good to not do it so we picked the strangest covers to play on a Saturday at a lodge. The vibe was like an 80’s ski party movie, bunch of drunks just hooting at us the whole time while we played stuff like “If It Makes you Happy” by Sheryl Crow and “How’s it Gonna Be” by Third Eye Blind. We were DYING trying not to laugh.
My favorite was the cover of “My Girl” – you know, the super dark song Kurt Cobain played at his Unplugged session where he just screams the ending and looks into the camera with despair. That song in a ski lodge party session. Absolutely hilarious. Also, they gave us FOUR ski condos because we said we had four people in our crew. So yes, FOUR CONDOS – not rooms! Anyway, one of us lost the keys and we all had to share one. Thanks, Stratton for paying for a couple of tracks off the record. We’ll come back any time.
You have a very big, fun sound. Do you think of yourselves as a party band? What is the best setting to enjoy your music in your opinion?
Absolutely, and I think party bands get a bad rap (Wrap?). A lot of times they’re shredders, look at one of Andrew W.K.’s 18 guitarists he plays with I’m sure they can all rip, and look at AC/DC. Hate them all you want but I’m sure they’re crying while their songs have been in every action movie since the ’70s. We love having fun with our music. We like having fun when we play it. There’s plenty of chill and sophisticated bands out there, ours is fun.
Shawna is the only actual athlete in the band but we like feeling like our music is physically challenging to be played. We love banging our heads. Also, for how fun the music is, some of the lyrics tend to get very dark so I think the combination makes for a happy medium. It’s hard to say where I think our record should be played. I’ve driven down to Sandy Hook on Ocean Ave (no DUI’s) many times blasting the record and it just feels good. I like the idea of it being super loud and being played in a party/energetic setting. Maybe a late-night drunk sing-along in a basement or ratty dump of an apartment full of kids having fun. But also would like to hear it over the speakers at a CVS or something.
You’ve mentioned that your very inspired by the big pop emo acts of the ’00s, but you also seem to have some elements of ’90s alternative rock and ’80s arena rock in your sound that don’t get many mentions. Are these elements in there intentionally, and if so, how do they piece together with your overall sound?
Oh yeah absolutely. I think when you have an influence, there are many facets of what you can take away from that influence. With us, it’s usually the most fun aspect of the artist or song we’re influenced by. We all love the quirkiness of the ’90s alternative. Purposefully playing the “wrong” chord at the very end of the hook, in turn making it a hook itself? Genius. And 80’s arena rock – the big choruses and the feeling that the people singing them think they’re gonna live forever, that’s the memorable stuff.
If you take the shtick away from those eras, like the big hair and chokers, some of those songs are incredible. I love tying in the tension of some of those ’90s classics (See, “Sucked Out” by Superdrag) and anthemic choruses (See, “Why Can’t This be Love” by Van Ha(gar)len) and tying it into whatever song we’re trying to build in the modern day we’re living in.
How is being in a band like building a pillow fort in your living room? Are there any other imaginatively rich structures you can think to compare the experience to?
I love this. To be cliche yet correct; you have to work together, and if someone makes a shitty part of the fort, it doesn’t matter how good your part is, the forts gonna fall down. Or on the other end, if you try to get too fancy with your part of the fort, it’s gonna pull focus from the rest of the fort and it’s not gonna look cohesive and it’ll make for an embarrassing fort in the long run. And most importantly, don’t fart in the fort, it’ll stink up the fort quickly and ruin the experience. In that simile, the fart is your ego.
Your video for “Extra Pale” has a pretty amusing twist at the end. How did the concept for that video come together and how does it blend with the themes of the song?
Thank you! So Judy, who took our album cover/the star of the video, does a lot of fun shoots at no-tell motels in the area. Like the ones, you can rent for like a half-hour with heart-shaped beds and stripper poles in the room. This video was shot early on before we even finished the record and we didn’t really have a team or anything behind us yet and the budget was going towards the record so I was gonna shoot it myself. So since it was going low to no budget, the concept had to be strong.
Speaking of loving the ’90s I loved the music videos that were just like mini-movies where we have a character, arc, and sometimes a twist ending. So we were thinking of having the storyline play out in one of the naughty hotel rooms and Judy and I were just bouncing ideas for the twist ending back and forth and we remembered Shawna’s Uncle knows how to do caricatures and everything clicked from there.
You’re often praised as a bit of an “IT” band in your local scene (well deserved in my opinion), but you still somehow manage to stay humble. I’d like to know how you keep praise of your band from going to your head?
Hey, thank you again! I do believe in taking what you do seriously, but not yourself. I’ve never been a fan of the artist with the shroud of mystique. Like, get over yourself. We’re all just a bunch of dorks with a childhood dream that we’re latching on to, and if anyone gets success, it of course takes extremely hard work, but it also takes luck.
So in that sense, just realize you’re lucky, be thankful, and try your best to make amazing music. Music, and all art for that matter, is subjective, so no matter what you do, someone is gonna think it sucks right? So who cares, have fun, if you’re into being glamorous and eccentric hell yea! I love stuff like that, I love Bowie, I love Gaga, I love Tyler the Creator. But for how eclectic they are, they are also authentic and genuine.
Whenever I hear of an artist thinking they’re hot shit, it’s an immediate turn-off to the point where I have a distaste for their music. So by that nature, we’re just really chill. Because we actually are. We’re chill, we’re goofy, we’re honest, and we’re fun. So that’s what you get from us! And to each their own, as I said music is subjective, everyone can be into whatever they want.
How has the Asbury scene weathered the pandemic? Were there any venue casualties?
I think it’s not as bad as it feels. I think when things start moving again there will be a collective effort on the DIY front to make it happen again. There are too many musicians and music fans in this town to let it go away. Like Ghost Harbor. A new spot on Bangs- I’m excited to check that place out. I know our Comrades in America Part Two have played there and I’m looking forward to getting into it. Unfortunately, we lost our home, The Brewery. We loved it so much that Howie got married there. Funny enough, Shear Revival, the business who we rented a practice space in their warehouse, has moved to the brewery. So as of June, the backstage area at The Brewery is our new rehearsal space. Can’t get any more cliché than that and I love it. If we weren’t already the band that played the most shows there, we will be now.
Who are some of the bands you miss playing within Asbury? What about around the country?
We truly do love and admire all the bands in this town, everyone is actually amazing at what they do. I’d say some of our fondest and most repetitive lineups have been with Halogens, Have a Good Season, and Well Wisher. I feel like we all compliment each other so much when we play and the energy levels of those shows are always at 11. And we’re all genuine fans of those bands. We miss West Means Home from Alabama, our first tour buddies. And also, from a few towns over this one band called Can’t Swim, we’ve actually shared a good amount of bills with them, I think you’d like them. But seriously, we always have a great time when we’ve played with them and we always appreciate it when they look out for us. When we did Beerfest in AC we loaded out our gear to “Easy Lover” by Phil Collins on repeat and chugged free beer that came in shot glasses.
What were you all binge-watching during quarantine (full disclosure, I went through a bit of an X-Files phase in 2020)?
That’s awesome, I want to watch more of that. I’m actually obsessed with aliens. Funny thing is, leading up to the pandemic we had all watched Mr. Robot, which left a mark on me and is now my all-time favorite show. But the show is about dishonest megalomaniac corporations, espionage, and political corruption – so it felt like I manifested what happened shortly after finishing it (Nervous laugh). But honestly, to calm my mind, I tend to rewatch stuff I love. Always Sunny, yes we’re absolutely basic and love The Office, That ’70s Show (there’s a reference on the record). But more importantly movies. Everyone’s been stepping up with their movies on the streaming services. Last rainy day I watched Thirteen, SLC Punk, Idle Hands, and Garden State. The wave of emotions I felt that day was unbelievable.
Any final thoughts to leave our readers with?
We just really hope you love the record. We truly loved making it. Working with Vinnie Caruana and Brett Romnes was such a legendary experience, and the fact that it was at a place like Barber Shop, where so many of our favorite bands have recorded, just made it such an insanely special accomplishment for us. We talk a lot about mental health on there. I want everyone to know that it’s ok to not be ok, you’re not alone, and you’re worth it. If you’re trying to get better, you’re already doing a lot, so pick your head up, you’re amazing. Also, don’t take yourself so seriously, have fun, be a good friend, be there for each other, it’s been a crazy time to be alive. Thank you so much for interviewing us, these questions were so fun and I had a blast doing this.