In mid-March La Dispute, Pianos Become the Teeth, and Mansions hit the road on a tour in support of La Dispute’s new album Rooms of the House. On day 11 of the tour while in Los Angeles, we caught up with Mike York, guitarist of Baltimore-based band Pianos Become the Teeth, to discuss topics ranging from their friendship with La Dispute, to rumors of a new album and a new label.
Substream Magazine: What was the driving force of the band in the beginning in terms of getting started, touring, and turning it into something to make a living off of?
Mike York: We started off as a bunch of friends from old bands and we were all still quite young at the time. I was 18 when the band started, and I’ll be 27 this year. I think we never initially thought it would be the way it is today – we would pretty much go to the ends of the earth to do what it is we do today. We were 18, we didn’t have anyone to answer to, and being on tour all the time was awesome. Initially it started as a project that we all enjoyed doing as friends. The more touring that we did the more people were excited about doing it. So we all thought this could be something bigger and over the years we could tour with less financial strain on ourselves, so we were able to continue to do the band. And now at this point in the band, I’m engaged, our other guitar player is engaged, and one of us is married. We got to be able to take care of that part of our lives. But this band is something that we would die for, it’s our favorite thing to do in the world, and we’re very lucky to be able to do it.
SM: Congrats on your engagement, as well as your bandmate.
MY: Thank you so much!
SM: What were your goals as a band starting off, verses now that your touring with La Dispute and going into a new full length album?
MY: Before we put out Old Pride we were playing old songs with new members, so initially our goal was to put out a record and go on tour, because that’s what bands do. So we wrote the record, and we were pretty stoked on the way it turned out. And honestly, I think the goal was just to see California for once, we had never been out West.
MY: On our second full US tour we had someone hit us up about going to Europe and we said, “cool, we’ve never been to Europe.” So we went to Europe, and then we came home and recorded a record, it was our second full length called The Lack Long After, then we ended up getting some decent reviews on that record that got us on more tours, so it ended up being a snow-ball effect. We’ve always been a kind of “slow grower” of a band, and everything was always on the up-and-up, so it was always exciting to see what could be next. Our goal now is just to make a great third record, and hopefully continue doing it and to keep doing as long as possible – as long as it makes sense.
SM: It’s been almost three years since your last album, you’ve done a few tours here and there with some really great bands, and your audience keeps growing. Can you speak to how it’s worked out that way?
MY: I guess it’s just that you’re constantly in peoples’ faces while on tour. After The Lack Long After came out I think we were on tour for the span of that cycle just in 2012. I mean, we did seven weeks with Touché [Amoré] in 2011 when the record first came out, then we did a short Canadian tour, a full Europe and UK tour – another US tour with Title Fight, and then we did a tour with Coheed and Cambria. The following year we did a co-headlining tour with Tiger’s Jaw – all the opportunities lend itself to being that we should always be on the road and constantly be in peoples’ faces about stuff. It ended up making sense, and I feel like when one kid heard about you in a crowd of 30, now 30 people have heard about you in a crowd of 60, it just kind of grew from there. It was an organic growth, which is great. We wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
SM: You’ve previously toured with La Dispute, which is great when friends get to go on the road together. When did that friendship start and how did it flourish into what it is now?
MY: We’ve known [La Dispute] since they were playing house shows. We met them when they were on a full US tour with Native — they played a house show in College Park, which is where we would practice. I had heard of La Dispute from our guitar player Chad, so we got to see them from when they got their first grounding and we started seeing them do the same things we’re doing, and the same things Touché is doing – we were all doing the same things around the same time so it was like we were all growing together. So the friendship was like, we would see each other at fests, or in each others’ home towns, and we would promote each other. Like, “hey, this band just put out an incredible record, you should check it out.” They would do the same thing for us. It started as any other friendship – and they’ve gotten a whole bunch of recognition and through that we’ve been able to meet new people that enjoy our band. It’s been an organic growth.
SM: There are so many tours where bands are not happy about who they’re touring with and it shows. For younger bands starting up, and even bands that are grandfathers to the road, how would you advise them to make and maintain those friendships on tour?
MY: I think it’s tough because I feel like we’ve been really lucky – we’ve gotten along with pretty much every band we’ve gone on tour with. We’re pretty easy-going guys, it doesn’t take a lot to be friends with us. We enjoy just hanging out, we just enjoy what we do. You go to remember that it’s your friends who kind of got you where you’re at, and you have to remember why you started playing music. I don’t think you’re always going to enjoy every tour that you’re on, especially if you’re touring eight months out of the year. It’s not realized that you don’t handpick tours. Sometimes you look at a tour as the best thing for your band at that time, and it may not be the most comfortable tour to be on, but if you know that it’s the best thing for your band then you have to find a way to make it fun. There have been tours we’ve been on where we are out of our comfort zones, but in the long run if it’s a great learning experience for our band then you just find ways to have a blast with your band mates because you are always inevitably going to have to be together. You have to find ways to have fun on tour with your band because you are doing the same things every day — loading in and loading out, selling the same merch, and talking to the same promoters. You are doing the same stuff with each other and sharing that bond good or bad.
SM: We were at the show last night it was cool to see how all of the bands grow together and there is a connection and legitimacy the audience gets from that. Your first album Old Pride touched on subjects like loss, death, and suffering. That seemed to carry into your second full-length Lack Long After, but with more positive messages such as moving on and finding hope within suffering. How would these stories and themes carry into the next full-length album?
MY: The themes with our band change with time, as we get older. I think that everyone feels the same thing we feel. I think everyone has felt what Kyle (whom writes the lyrics) has felt. Nobody is a stranger to loosing a family member or a friend; everyone has had that happen at some point. I think the next record will carry some of the same things. But I think every record has represented a spike in the road of where we are at that point. We can look at The Lack Long After and be like “Hey this is what was going on at that point.” And the next record will be what Kyle is feeling now. He will be 30 this year. Old Pride came out in 2009, which would have been when he was 24 or 25. So you know time passes and you ultimately start to think about things differently — you just kind of see things wherever you are at in that time. I think there will be some of the same themes [on the next album] but it will just be more evident to where he is at now.
SM: There has not been any significant line-up changes within the last few years since the band has taken off is that due to a certain loyalty within the band?
MY: Yeah, it’s us five or nothing. We went through a line-up change and it ended up being only me and Kyle being the original members, but we have met some people that were interested in making the band a whole. It was a long time ago now, but we have just grown so much together that I don’t think anyone of us could imagine doing the band without one another. It has gotten to the point with just us five that I really couldn’t imagine doing anything else with anyone else.
SM: Last night y’all played a song from your new album, which was fantastic!
MY: Awesome, thank you.
SM: You are anticipated to put out a new album sometime this fall. So where are you currently in the process with the album? Are you writing or have you started recording and how are you going about it while on the road?
MY: We are about 80% done writing the album. We are pretty stoked about everything we have. It has taken us awhile to culminate how many songs we have for the album, but we are excited about it. We go into the studio late spring. We don’t have any other finite details yet. BUT WE ARE EXCITED about everything that’s come up so far. This will be our favorite album so far. I think this is going to be an album that, for us at least, will be our favorite stuff that we released as a band. So hopefully other people feel the same way.
SM: Last night you played a song of the new album, and I personally have never seen an audience move so much to a song they’ve never heard before.
MY: Yeah it’s very cool!
SM: Are you guys going on another tour or are you going straight into recording the new album?
MY: We are playing Skate and Surf in New Jersey, which will be late May. But other than that, we are just going to take the time when we get home to make the album as complete as possible before getting into the recording studio. We will probably have everything ready to be mixed and mastered by summer.
SM: Can we anticipate a split between you and La Dispute in the near future?
MY: (Laughing) It has taken almost two years to write this album. We are not gonna go right into putting together a split right now, but we are never going to throw anything out the door either. I mean I love those dudes and I would hope we could do something like that in the future.
Mike went on to say that “the album will not be released on TopShelf but we love them and we would not be where we are without them. However it was mutually agreed that as a band it was time to move on.” The album is set to be released sometime in the fall, with a label not yet known. They will be finishing their current tour in mid April followed by playing Skate and Surf in May.
Interview by Chad Carlstone and Ashley Marroquin