PEARS vocalist Zach Quinn and Direct Hit! frontman Nick Woods go hard chatting about their lives, their music, their feels, and their upcoming split LP, Human Movement, out Nov. 3 via Fat Wreck Chords. Read their brilliant conversation between themselves and listen to Direct Hit! Cover PEARS’ song “You’re Boring” while PEARS cover Direct Hit!’s “The World Is Ending (Sorta)” exclusively via New Noise Magazine.
NW: Hey Zach, it’s Nick. What’s up?
ZQ: Hi Nick! Not much, I just got a Wii U and “Yoshi’s Woolly World,” and I’ve never felt more personally addressed by a video game in my life, so I’ve been sleeping very little and crying a little too. How are you?
NW: I’m pretty good! Direct Hit! leaves for Australia on Monday, and I’ve never been there before, so I’m excited about that. You still excited about this split we’re doing together? That’s assuming you have been excited about it, right?
ZQ: Hell yeah. I get excited whenever we get to do stuff together. There aren’t too many bands I actually like, and I like you guys a lot.
NW: Yeah dude! I don’t think we would’ve put this record together if we didn’t like each other. The “split record” as a concept gets a bad rap as a manufactured product from some people, so we’re already kinda working uphill anyway. Like, there have been a lot of bands who’ve made them with cast-off garbage material just to make a quick $40 or something. Is ours gonna be any different?
ZQ: Totally know what you’re talking about. I guess it’s typically more of a marketing tool than an actual piece, but ours is definitely different. Having experienced the writing process for the PEARS side firsthand, and corresponding with you guys as y’all worked yours out, I think we approached this as a singular piece. I actually think it’s super interesting the way we sort of met in the middle in terms of writing. Like, we took it as seriously as we would’ve taken our own individual band’s records, but on top of that, we also knew we were writing material to coexist with the other band’s, so I think this led to more pop on PEARS’ part and more hardcore on the part of Direct Hit!—but it’s subtle, I don’t think there’s any pandering. Lyrically, I feel like you get stylistically more and more eloquent and less brash as time goes on, for example, though it’s still decidedly you, Nick. Am I imagining this shift?
NW: Nah, I don’t think so. I think we’ve just gotten a lot more practice writing songs. All the tunes on Domesplitter, for example, I just wrote for fun or ‘cause I was bored, so there wasn’t a lot of reviewing or reworking. Now, six or seven years later, there’s a much better sense of what makes for a compelling story when you’re reading a booklet or insert that still works in the context of a catchy arrangement. I feel like that’s what you’re hearing.
ZQ: That must be what I’m hearing. I forget that not every band is just three years old. I kinda cut my teeth on stuff before PEARS that will never see the light of day. I’m pretty appreciative that my growth has, thus far, largely been private. If we stay together long enough, I’m sure I’ll experience it myself, but spoil it for me: what has it been like to grow up as a writer in front of an audience? Pros/cons?
NW: I mean, we didn’t have an audience for a long time, so I don’t feel like the bulk of our growth has come in public. And that was because I wasn’t a very good writer when we started. It took [drummer] Danny [Walkowiak] to make Direct Hit! sound like a not-shitty band in 2009. And it took [guitarist] Devon [Kay] to make us a good band in 2011, and [bassist] Steve [Maury] to make us a great band in 2013. That’s my own opinion—if you think we suck at all stages, that’s fine too. Regardless, I don’t really feel like I’ve ever had to face a lot of harsh judgment of my writing as Direct Hit has continued to exist. We had friends who dug our band when Domesplitter came out and a handful of people on the internet, but we didn’t really feel like there were people watching us until Brainless God came out, and at that point, I feel like we’d shed a lot of our most embarrassing qualities.
I would say that I got a lot better at cutting bullshit and recognizing who and what was a waste of my time over that period, though. So, if there’s a pro to growth as just a member of a functioning group, that’s one of them. But it’s also been stressful admitting to myself that I give a shit about playing in a good band and that I have a point of view that I want people to hear. That’s been almost embarrassing. You know, why should people give a shit about my ideas? That’s the con, for me, of having any audience at all, that it causes some anxiety to ask for someone’s attention. You have to justify it somehow.
Anyway, I guess I’ll ask the same of you. It’s not like you guys jumped straight out of nothing onto Fat—there was Little Bags and The Lollies, right? Probably more I’m not hip to. But like you said, PEARS exploded in a way few bands have in our clique. Do you feel like that’s put pressure on you at all? Has that been helpful or harmful as a creative person?
ZQ: Oh, dude, I have definitely felt the pressure. It was mega-fast, and Green Star was the first thing I’d ever worked on in my life that I knew more than my friends would listen to. That’s fucked up. I had to fight that notion all the while writing for it. I’d trusted my gut before, and I’ll continue to trust my gut. I will say, I have a really hard time reconciling why I market music. I know that I make music for me, and I know that I like connecting with people via the music I help make—it feels like the most honest iteration of myself, even if it leans heavily on abstraction, thus giving me the kind of social boner a party absolutely can’t—but why market music? If I wanted to, I could make music purely for pleasure and never have to go to Germany again. Did you find any recurring themes on this record, however personal or disguised?
NW: I definitely feel like the general environment after the election had a lot to do with our side, at least, since that’s when we started working on these tunes in earnest. We try to not be a political band, but I definitely found myself writing much, much angrier, more anxious material about people I know and the state of the world. I made a point in the past to say “we” a lot in our songs. On this record, I speak a lot more about “you.” “You Got What You Asked For” I think is obviously one of our more negative songs, written to expressly call out apathetic people. “Open Your Mind” is about the anxiety behind privacy and feeling like you’re constantly being watched. These are topics I don’t think I would have touched on before our government began openly enabling racism and classism and nationalism in the general public. So, if there’s a theme, that’s it. It’s definitely the most “personal” batch of material I’ve worked on. How about you guys? What’d you try to write about this time around?
ZQ: Frankly, a lot of the material on this record is about being in a touring band. It’s basically the only thing I’ve done in the last couple years, really, and I think when it comes to the songwriting machine and experience, you get out what you put in. There’s also a song on the record about the transformation of New Orleans over the last decade or so. I think that a lot of people are talking about white privilege and gentrification now, which is great, but a lot of hip white radicals who move to low-income neighborhoods full of people of color and longstanding culture engage the neighborhoods with a sort of covert colonialism, then speak up about gentrification and such as if they didn’t pave the way for the yuppies. Let’s face it Nick, what’s worse than a poser?
NW: You’re talking to poser number one, duder.
ZQ: Are you still bummed that [PEARS drummer] Jarret [Nathan] wouldn’t wear a diaper for the back-sleeve photo?
NW: Yeah, a li’l bit. I mean, the record’s called Human Movement. If you read into that, it can easily be construed to be about shitting. We still photoshopped a diaper onto him in that photo anyway. Are you bummed we weren’t allowed to call it A Journey Through Diaperspace as we originally envisioned it?
ZQ: The damn thing should’ve been called that. Fat Wreck Chords is creatively oppressive—or much smarter than us.
Photo by Alan Snodgrass
Direct Hit! On Tour
10/25/17 Tampa, FL The Orpheum @ 9:30 PM Pre-Fest in Ybor
10/27/17 Gainesville, FL 8 Seconds @ 5:50 PM The Fest
11/25/17 Chicago, IL Metro w/ Tiger Army
PEARS Tour w/ Rise Against in Europe
10/25/17 Oslo, Norway Sentrum Scene w/ Rise Against
10/27/17 Stockholm, Sweden FRYSHUSET w/ Rise Against
10/29/17 Copenhagen, Denmark VEGA w/ Rise Against
11/01/17 Birmingham, UK O2 Academy Birmingham w/ Rise Against
11/02/17 Manchester, UK O2 Apollo w/ Rise Against
11/04/17 Leeds, UK O2 Academy Leeds w/ Rise Against
11/05/17 London, UK O2 Academy Brixton w/ Rise Against
11/07/17 Glasgow, UK 13th Note
11/08/17 Newcastle, UK O2 Academy Newcastle w/ Rise Against
11/09/17 Namur, Belgium Le Temple
11/10/17 Luxembourg , Luxembourg Rockhal w/ Rise Against
11/11/17 Paris, France Bataclan w/ Rise Against
11/12/17 Amsterdam, Netherlands AFAS Live w/ Rise Against
11/14/17 Munich, Germany Zenith – Die Kulturhalle w/ Rise Against
11/15/17 Frankfurt, Germany Festhalle Frankfurt w/ Rise Against
11/17/17 Dusseldorf, Germany Mitsubishi Electric HALLE w/ Rise Against
11/18/17 Hamburg, Germany Sporthalle w/ Rise Against
11/19/17 Berlin, Germany Velodrom Berlin w/ Rise Against
11/21/17 Zurich, Switzerland Halle 622 w/ Rise Against