DETROIT BAND PUPILS PLAY THE L.E.S. AND BOERUM HILL TONIGHT
By way of their rust belt tour, Detroit-based band, Pupils is performing in New York this Saturday October 13th. Their first stop of the evening is at The Delancey in the Lower East Side at 5pm, then to Hank’s Rootin’ Tootin’ Saloon in Boerum Hill- Set time is 10pm.
Self-described as “Yes Wave,” frontman Steven Puwalski is known for interactive, experimental and deliriously fun shows that sometimes feel more like dance parties than traditional ‘come see my band play’ shows. Whether it’s building his own sets, rearranging the furniture in a room, or directly confronting an audience member during his shows, Puwalski sets out to completely envelop his audience in his far out world. We sat down to speak with him about his new band Pupils, his thoughts about New York and his work in Detroit.
PD: What are your first impressions of Brooklyn?
Being here a very short amount of time… I was reading this Italo Calvino story and he talks about a Medusa Pond. It might be wrong, but I get the idea it’s where water collects from several different ponds and I sort of thing of New York as this crazy Medusa Pond where all the streams of the world are meeting and swirling. It feels like everything is coming here. Being here I feel the gravity of this place. I’m hit hard with it just being here one day.
We had kind of a down experience in Philadelphia. We were supposed to play a show that fell through, then we were supposed to go to Binghamton and we were just trudging through this part of Philadelphia called Fish Town… I don’t know why. It’s called Fish Town so you have an idea of what you’re getting into. We thought it was going to be cool but it wasn’t, so we were perfectly downtrodden drudging through Fish Town, so we decided we couldn’t go to Binghamton and had to go to New York right now. I thought maybe New York would kick our asses too but I feel like we need something that could invigorate us and I feel like within 5 minutes of being in New York we were all back to our old selves.
I think that there are less rules in Detroit. I feel like if you’re in New York you have to be so concerned with being competitive that you have to try to put some perspective to something in terms of being marketable. You have to be more utilitarian, I guess. Or that’s the idea I have in my head—that a New York mind might have a much more survivalist bent. I think the Detroit mindset can maybe be more esoteric. Or that’s what I’m trying to bring to New York. We’re maybe trying to bring a bit of cognitive dissonance. Detroit’s almost a counterintuitive place. Because things aren’t always an obvious approach and there aren’t always established systems for doing what you want to do all the time.
In Detroit, I feel like you’re always trying to make your own thing and in New York you’re doing to join that thing and merge in that stream. I feel like New York and Detroit run the gamut of what cities can be.
What do you want to bring back from Brooklyn to Detroit?
I think there’s literally so much here that I can’t help being inspired and invigorated by it. I just keep thinking there’s so much of everything. I even can’t write anything right now because I’m overwhelmed by it but I feel ideas and words surging into me every minute. It’s like all of the black and all of the white happening at the same time swirling around you. Someone just told me about iowaska… I don’t know but I feel like New York is going to be like that—the first time, I’m not going to understand anything that happened to me. It’s gonna take awhile to understand what happened. Because there’s just so much. I’m going to have to go back home and repair myself before I understand what I’m bringing back. But other than that, I’ll definitely bring back an I <3 NY tshirt.
Tell us about the work you’re supporting with your tour?
We have a vinyl EP that was the first thing we recorded as a band and we have a full length that we just did with Chris Colte. That’s called the Myth of Nonexistocles. Right now I’ve made a temporary release for a tour. It’s a zine I’ve made that illustrates some of the songs and it comes in a kind of hand-painted envelope with a non-activity card and a stone associated with each other. I wanted to make an artifact. I like vinyl because it has a physical kind of artifact quality to it. It’s tactile. So I almost didn’t want to burn cds because everyone has fucking blank cds in their house or floor of their car. But you can get a download code and stamp it onto anything and make it a record. So there are things I’ve considered and we’ll probably release more music in unconventional ways but for this tour I made these zines, and the zine is the record now.
Can you tell us more about your record?
I guess the Myth of Nonexistocles, the whole record is about the struggles of not existing. It comes from what we do as creative people is to take things that don’t exist and by taking action in the world, we let them exist. So it’s about that world of possible futures and where they live before they exist and the feelings around that. We all have that feeling anyway. Sometimes you feel like you’re in a place where you hardly exist, so it’s a kind of solipsistic thing too. That’s what I wrote about… a lot about ideas not getting where they need to be. I feel like that’s where was coming from with what I was doing before. By the way—this is all me figuring this out afterwards. It was like “oh shit, that’s what it was.” Through theme, I was writing about the same thing every time and it wasn’t necessarily intentional at all. They were all just woven together that way and it was this wonderfully, unintentionally cathartic thing. We [in the band] worked together like a musical Ouija board, like “you’re moving it!” I think music is a little bit spooky.
You more than most musicians I know have a confrontational performing style. What’s the impetuous behind that?
I’d look at people who perform on stage the whole time and think “why are they doing that?” It’s counterintuitive to me as a frontman/singer dude to stay on the stage away from the audience. I like to see what’s going on out there and hear my band the way they hear it. I like to see from different angles and change the way the room is shaped as far as even moving a table or chair somewhere. Because wherever you move you’re changing the energy in the room. Besides all that I have this need for catharsis. It’s part of why I make art. It’s part of my therapy to get it out there and the microphone and cable need to be taut. The tension is there and to release it is not to say NO. John Lennon looked up at that telescope on the ceiling and it said YES. Say yes.
YOU CAN CATCH PUPILS OCTOBER 13TH AT THE DELANCEY ON THE LOWER EAST SIDE AT 5PM
HANK’S ROOTIN’ TOOTIN’ SALOON IN BOERUM HILL AT 10PM.
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