The key to good songwriting is good storytelling and the key to good storytelling is possessing a willingness to be completely open and allow people to know and feel the things that have shaped you. Zech Pluister sings in one of the best new bands in pop-punk, Sleep On It, and has figuratively torn himself open to allow listeners a firm grasp of the events that have made him into the artist he is. A visual representation of his willingness to share is born of a recently picked up hobby: collecting enamel pins. He’s adorned two separate jackets with enough pins that he’s guaranteed to not run of stories to tell, and I’m excited to dig into some of this with y’all in today’s interview.

The conversation with Zech just after he arrived in Milwaukee, and started with the two us laughing at the slight bit of absurdity surrounding the idea of talking about the pins that he’s adorned his jacket(s) in. In jest, he mentions that people are starting to recognize him almost as much for the jacket as they do for singing in Sleep On It and mentions that collecting enamel pins wasn’t something that he consciously decided to pursue. Rather, this hobby turned trademark is something that practically chose him — and it’s something that people have started to take notice of.

Growing up, Zech was never much of a collector. He says that “I never really collected anything like baseball or Pokemon cards, but I’ve always been very sentimental.” Before enamel pins, he had only ever “collected” vinyl records much in the same way that we all do. It’s cool to have a physical manifestation of something that we love and exists as a way to show support for the artists that we’ve come to love and respect. Enamel pins made their way into his life in the form of a comp that he received after Sleep On It signed to Equal Vision Records, but eventually grew into something that he was looking for everywhere.

When asked about the moment that he decided to really pursue collecting pins, he says “I bought a denim jacket off of Joe from Knucklepuck, and the rest is history.” The pins he currently boasts encompass the spectrum of Zech’s interests and places that he’s been, ranging from bands that he grew up loving to the best gas station to grace the open roads of Texas.

On the jacket pictured above, we can see pins that focus on Pokemon, Harry Potter, Set Your Goals (and at the same time, Stranger Things), Knuckle Puck and one his favorite childhood bands, Valencia. When the band reunited two years ago, Zech says that he would have been remiss if he didn’t try to make it out to a show. He drove for two hours to be able to see the band and has since kept the Believe pin on the jacket as a way to keep a cherished memory close to him. The Set Your Goals pin is an obvious rip of the runaway smash, Stranger Things, that was released as part of a merch run that was made for a tour that saw Sleep On It opening for the once legendary kings of easy-core.

The jacket below is the one that I believe we’re both partial to. Each of these pins shines a light on a different part of Zech’s personality. The Buc-ee’s beaver pin is practically a celebration of life on the road. For the unfamiliar, Buc-ee’s is basically Texas’best-keptt secret; a gas station that is big enough to be a Wal-Mart and basically exists as a mecca for tourists and touring bands alike. There’s not one, but two pins on this jacket that pay homage to Fall Out Boy. When asked about the pins, Pluister says that Patrick Stump is his favorite vocalist — and the impact that Fall Out Boy has had on him is abundant throughout his body of work. Above all else, there’s a pin in celebration of the best show to ever grace cable television, and arguably one of the best shows that Michael Schur has ever had a hand in creating: NBC’s Parks & Recreation.

When we do get to talk about the Ron Swanson pin, he mentions that he got it as a Christmas present because he’s a huge fan of the show. As a fellow Pawneean, I can’t help but get a little excited and immediately ask him about everybody’s favorite butt-rock band that never was, Mouserat. When asked about his favorite song, he laughs and says “Oh, man, it’s gotta be 5,000 Candles in the Wind” and then mentions that there’s a recording of “A New Way Home” (one of my personal favorite tracks from Overexposed) that has the chorus to “5,000 Candles” as an Easter egg that was recorded, but never formally released. A video of the recording does exist and can be seen below — and if that doesn’t win you over, I don’t know what will.

Songwriters are the kind of people that love to tell stories. They have no problem wearing their heart on their sleeves and allowing complete to strangers to get such an up close and personal view of their lives and the events that have made them into the storytellers they are today. For Zech, collecting enamel pins is a way for him to further exercise an innate desire to connect with people. There’s no shred of his personality that isn’t accounted for on this jacket — and as more find their way into his life, the more opportunities he has to connect with his audience.

Sleep On It recently released their incredible debut album, Overexposed, on Equal Vision Records. Molly Hudelson reviewed the record for us when it dropped last November and James Shotwell wrote about the band’s slow-climb towards becoming one of the biggest and most exciting bands in pop-punk. Keep your eyes glued to Substream for more about Sleep On It!