The Band That Wasn’t There: explaining Pet Symmetry’s unexpected existence

Photo: Ryan Russell

Pet Symmetry first formed in the winter of 2012 when Evan Weiss, the emo superhero already responsible for a handful of other bands, approached Erik Czaja about collaborating in a power-pop band. The decision to work with Czaja’s bandmate at the time, Marcus Nuccio, naturally followed. With Weiss on bass and vocals, Czaja on guitar and Nuccio on drums, Pet Symmetry immediately got to work.

Quickly writing enough songs to fill an album, the group recorded what they could afford and released a split with Dikembe and a two-song EP before summer had even begun. A month of touring earned Pet Symmetry enough funds to record their debut, but their fast pace came to a halt after the initial recording sessions. Nuccio was asked to leave Dowsing, his band with Czaja, leading to uncertainty about Pet Symmetry’s future. The following months became a turbulent time for a band that hadn’t gotten a chance to firmly set its footing.

“I wasn’t sure if Pet Symmetry was still going to be a band, and it kind of seemed like everything was a little up in the air,” Weiss admits. “There was Into It. Over It.—the Intersections cycle started—and then the Dowsing cycle started, and there was all this stuff kind of stacked up on top of each other so the Pet Symmetry record kind of got pushed to the side, and it wasn’t really a priority.”

With an album only partially recorded and a pile of other commitments to focus on, Pet Symmetry rested in the back of the members’ minds. A year later, things started to realign themselves in the band’s favor. “Erik and Marcus patched things up and the Into It. Over It. touring cycle kind of came to a close and it seemed like Pet Symmetry could actually continue being a band,” Weiss explains.

Back on track, the three picked up where they left off. Having completed most of the instrumentals in the previous recording, Weiss began recording vocals and the finishing touches. Nearly two years after the recording process began, their debut, Pets Hounds, finally saw the light of day.

Though it seems safe to say the elongated process came in part due to Pet Symmetry being a secondary priority, no one in the group minded. The slower recording didn’t inhibit the group, who were already well-aware that prior commitments would limit their future plans regardless.

“We weren’t desperate to finish it because we knew that once we did we wouldn’t be able to play a lot of shows anyways,” says Weiss. “When you finish something and you have something to promote and something to talk about, you want to have something to perform at the same time. So the timing’s actually perfect that it’s coming out now because now we all have the time to put to playing shows and doing a couple tours and kind of giving it the respect that it deserves.”

Even though the group exist as a side project, there’s something clearly unique about Pet Symmetry from the band members’ other outlets. Their music blends together the styles of their other projects in a more pop-friendly setting. Additionally, the lighter commitment allows for a lighter approach to the band. Their band name plays off a Stephen King novel while their album name distorts the iconic Beach Boys album title. Their song titles include puns off song titles by the Beastie Boys and Guns N’ Roses. The band even included Pet Symmetry dog bowls as part of a pre-order package for Pets Hounds. The trio’s lighthearted approach is no coincidence and actually owes its existence to the fact that the band aren’t a main priority.

“It’s probably the lowest priority for anyone—for me, Marcus, or Erik—of the bands that we’re in. So because of that we don’t really look at it as a stressful thing at all. It’s just this fun thing that we get to do and enjoy and not have to think too hard about,” says the vocalist/bassist. “Any of the normal stuff that I think anybody who’s in a serious, full-time band would worry about, we don’t have to worry about at all. So because of that it just winds up becoming this carefree, awesome, fun thing to do.”

It’s an interesting dynamic: by putting the band lower in importance, the band gain a personal purpose. Rather than being another project with all the expectations of another project, Pet Symmetry are just something that the members get to do. No pressure to follow a certain direction, no pressure to write certain kinds of songs—no pressure in general. Between touring, writing, recording, maintaining an image and everything in between, being in bands can become pretty stressful. Pet Symmetry avoid those typical concerns and let the bandmates continue to enjoy making music.

Weiss is quick to clarify that the playful attitude doesn’t mean Pet Symmetry aren’t serious about their music, though. “I don’t think it’s a joke band, and the songs aren’t meant to be stupid. The songs are about real stuff and they’re just as serious as I take any of the other bands I’m in. But the underlying current is that of having a good time, and I think that kind of plays into the the subtle shtick that we have,” he explains.

Still, the overall approach differs from the bandmates’ other groups. Each band the members are involved in has a different style and calls for something different. Beyond being more carefree, Pet Symmetry serve as an alternative to the styles of their other projects. While the members may find themselves involved with more complex, personal or aggressive music usually, Pet Symmetry allow them to take a more pop-friendly approach. Weiss explains that this alternate approach allows them to avoid over-thinking and perfectionism as well.

“Personally speaking, I don’t hold Pet Symmetry to the same standards that I hold Into It. Over It. to, but I also think that kind of is part of what Pet Symmetry is about,” he explains. “I feel like if the band was too perfect it wouldn’t be what it is and I think that’s kind of what makes it fun is that it is a little sloppy and it is a little loud. Just like everything else, it isn’t totally serious, and I think that kind of makes it awesome. It’s like a different outlet for all of us.”

Naturally, the three band members are thrilled to finally be getting Pet Symmetry back into the world. “Now that it’s finally done, we’ve barely played any shows but it’s this thing that we’re all kind of excited to revisit, and I’m glad that people are finally going to get to hear the songs recorded because we’ve played them at shows for, you know, literally every show we’ve played since the band began,” Weiss concludes. “I’m glad it’s done and I’m glad that people are going to get to hear it—and I’m glad that the band is still a band.”