For the past couple of years, the young underground rock scene has been as active as it has ever been in Nashville and Murfreesboro, and the Infinity Cat crew in particular has followed the “DIY or die” ethos to the maximum. Intense touring and record release schedules have been the rule and not the exception, especially for label standout Daniel Pujol. Since MEEMAW has been on hiatus, his solo output has been set on “high”, and he’s got another 7″ of raw, melodic, punk-inflected rock n’ roll hitting the streets soon. We recently spoke with Mr. Pujol.
WOTT: What’s the story, Daniel? How’d you get into this whole rock-music thing, and how did you end up where you are now? How was your 2009, and what are your plans for 2010?
My mom had all the Beatles records. Once I figured out “Ticket to Ride” wasn’t about a roller coaster, I knew there was much rocking in need of doing hard. I played contrabass clarinet on a phone book in middle school, and I was in a Saigon Baby-esque “speed metal rock opera” band called Knifehead throughout high school in Tullahoma, TN. After that, I lived in Murfreesboro for a whole year in Murfreesboro. In 2006, I moved to Nashville with visual artist Josh Bright and full-time badass Chris Daley in a big blue house that has a Macey’s star on it now. One night after, I played a house show in Murfreesboro with Johno Roberts and Mikey Owen. I met Wez that night and we both wanted to make new music that wasn’t so defeatist and “anti-whatever I don’t like.”
Jessica was a mutual friend of me and the Wez, plus we all loved chips. I met Jessica while she was fronting a metal band called AIDS around 2005. The Wez, the Jez, and I learned how to play music together like one big instrument. We celebrated our desire to grow as people without fear of reprisal and called it MEEMAW. We started doing house shows because we didn’t have the money or equipment to tour. Meemawhouse’s basement served as the contextual background for the presentation of MEEMAW. We tried to make it as easy to understand aesthetically and as socially inclusive as possible. We figured we were all human beings and that “power by association” or made-up social hierarchies were something we had a problem with, so we avoided them because they only serve the needs of Little Hitlers Everywhere. (And why would anyone want to create something like that, anyway? To be a Puppet Master Sales Associate?)
I sent JEFF an e-mail asking how to put a 7″ out, so then we put one out together through Infinity Cat called Glass Elevator. Afterwards, Jake and I blacked out and awoke inside a bus that ran on vegetable oil named Bad Bus to tour in. MEEMAW toured with JEFF and played on the reg until we decided to delve deeper into our own wormholes and crack some cans called separate projects. We just do whatever we want. MEEMAW isn’t really a “band” like KISS, it’s just people who aren’t scared to be scared and thus do and feel whatever they want like KISS. We developed a creative foundation and language for one another. I am very lucky to have that in my life, both MEEMAW and JEFF, and our beautiful sons KISS.
In September 2008, I floated from Hillside apartments to a house with Nathan Vasquez from Deluxin’ and Reid Barber from Reid & Wright and No Compassion, we are all Libras. I lived there until I graduated college and recorded a split tape with Nathan called Timbre Shades of Great in the same basement with the same equipment.
After I graduated college in December 2008, I went to Richmond for a while and co-authored the book Meta Motor Speedway: The Bristol Sessions and the zine series POWERDAD with visual artist Katherine Duckworth. We also got to see the inauguration in DC. I returned from Richmond to Nashville in April of 2009 to play drums for Denney and the Jets and for Chris Denney to play drums for me, with Joey Scala on bass, in PUJOL & Some Beaus. We toured all summer, I started an online grad program in the fall and organized a couple of different line-ups such as ASDFGH, with the lovely Greg, Joey, and Sean, whom I currently play with locally. I am also lucky to have Denney, Katherine, and Joey in my life because they’ve never done me wrong in the Age of Apocalypse. Currently, I’m trying to find a touring drummer so I can do all that full time touring I need to do. I put out a demo tape called Ringo, Where Art Thou? trying to find that touring drummer. I start recording final versions of those demos plus new songs pretty soon. Now, I’m inside your computer. I spent my 2009 starting with the man in the mirror. 2009 made me realize one thing: that 2010 is all about World Peace.
WOTT: What are the best and worst shows you’ve ever played, and why?
A possible best is probably this basement show I played in New Brunswick in October as PUJOL and as the drummer in Denney and the Jets (Denney and I played drums for each other on tour all summer into October with Joey on bass). We were on it and in it for both sets in a room of witnesses. It was like Lady Chablis covering “Gettin’ By High And Strange”.
The worst shows I’ve played were probably something where the crowd stood there, watched each other with crippling awareness, dressed like whatever genre they were supposed to, compared, evaluated, and justified themselves, and by the time they were done, the show was long past over and everything continued until the break of dawn as the Amerindian from those litter commercials sheds a single tear. Or some kind of bizarre, envy riddled, show at the Weakened Warrior Country Club’s Annual Social Tyranny Seminar. Know what I mean, Vern?
The best and worst show at the same time was Saigon Baby at the Empty Bottle in Chicago. When we got done playing, no one in the 100+ crowd would make eye contact with us. It was great, and it’s on YouTube: Wizardz Empty Bottle.
WOTT: What is in your cassette / turntable / iPod / CD / eight-track player right now, and why does that particular music hit you right now?
Well, I just moved, so all I have is my computer, but I’ve been randomly listening to Jimmy Cliff, Leon Redbone, Jonathan Richman, The Band, and all of Help!. It’s funny, but I don’t really listen to a lot of music. I just listen to what’s given to me, what’s played for me, or what I find. So, I guess “why” is a pretty good question. I suppose it could be because of what it is not.
None of the songs are about hating your ex-girlfriend, the government, AND voting, or how hard it is to feel in Godpod headphone hyper-reality, or how that “tragic flaw” has gotten them yet again, or how “we” know the real truth and “they” push the fake truth, or some commercial for a Turd Eye to open my mind with: the usual frustrations of daily life. The music I’m listening to now seems less about taking a side and more about developing a perspective. Perspective comes before choice.
Everyone has a different perspective and it doesn’t have to be a bummer. I mean, we’re recognized as individuals, so why not use it instead of just feeling isolated? It makes that whole “only alive once” thing less myopic and lonely. Why not just deal with reality because you can’t control other peoples’ perspectives? I like music that helps me remember that. I don’t want to gnash my teeth just yet.
All that social deviant pariah stuff has been bourgeoisied out: cops with mohawks! It’s a totally acceptable dead narrative approach. It’s almost like complaining. It really doesn’t push any envelope aside from one containing a paycheck. It almost seems purposely disposable so you have to buy more. You can’t grow on that, just past it. What comes after that?
So, I’m listening to this particular music because it communicates a perspective, and I have one of those too! I’m not looking to Rock Against Reality, which can be substituted for Isolation 101: Contemporary Mass Opiates.
I think Mr. Denney says it best, “Oh, how you ease my pain, but oh, how you’re deadly to my brain.”
WOTT: What are your favorite and least favorite things about Nashville, and why?
My favorite thing about Nashville is the arts and crafts. Sure the rent’s cheap, but I’d rather spend that time at shows than on a DVD collection. I think the words are great. The bands in my immediate circle that I am currently familiar with like Natural Child, Heavy Cream, JEFF the brotherhood, So Jazzy, Denney and the Jets, MARJ!, Deluxin’, The Lake, Looks Like A Snake!, and Skunkape blow my mind as writers when I really get to watch and listen to them. My least favorite thing about Nashville is that Southern Hospitality gets really passive aggressive when it drinks too much and freaks everybody out.
WOTT: The younger Nashville music scene in general seems to be directly opposed to the traditional way of getting music out there (you know, pursuing record deals, music business ass-kissing, etc.). Can you just talk about this a little bit, give a little bit of your philosophy behind making music and getting it out there?
Well, first off, I don’t think anyone is against getting a record deal, at least not me. As far as I know, the younger music scene in Nashville is less directly opposed to the “traditional way” and considers it more of a bizarre toolbox. There isn’t really any hostility towards it. “They” aren’t “them.” I like the younger /Infinity Cat music scene because it isn’t polarized or reactive. A lot of people get hung up on that stuff and spend years as a frustrated opposite. Personally, I’m not scared or superstitious in regards to money or institutions. Money is fine if you use it right. Its just time converted. Superstitions about the “Institution of Whatever” are why talented young minds marginalize themselves from society and never actually change the system they are “oppressed by.” Luke Skywalker had to blow up the Death Star from the inside, and get his hands dirty.
Making music to me boils down to ensuring that I can sustain the opportunity to make more in the future. In terms of the actual music, I try not to insult anyone’s intelligence. I don’t believe people are stupid, and I don’t want to contribute to the minefield. I also don’t think I’m “right.” So if there is a method or a reason for the music getting out it’s probably that. Basically, I’m in online grad school, I already graduated college, I like my job, I can tour, and I can pay my own rent without dancing for a meal ticket, so I just do whatever I want and try to communicate with other human beings because I’m alive and I can’t think of anything better to do than be alive. That’s my philosophy until I change my mind.
Interview conducted by Ryan Ervin