Ohio’s got a long history of punk, especially heavier punk/hardcore. Ohio is also home to a lot of weirdo punk bands. Bands like Devo, sure, but also the Waitresses and Jane Aire & the Belvederes.
Cleveland’s PAL capture art rock/weirdo punk/whatever the kids are calling it these days, on their new EP, PALS, and they do it real well.
I sat down with Maureen to pick her brain on these 7 tracks that would fit an adult oriented revival of The Adventures of Pete and Pete.
What’s the origin of PAL as a band? When did you start working on this project?
I didn’t take a stab at writing my own music until late 2019, before that I had only been a drummer in other projects. I initially wrote “Burger Boy” and “Professor Forehead” under the band name “scary anus,” but I didn’t know what to do with them. I hadn’t been introduced to the world of punk yet, let alone art or egg punk, so the songs didn’t really feel like they fit anywhere.
It wasn’t until late 2022 when I wrote “Garbage Man.” I shared that with a few friends—Jake Schott included. The original GM didn’t have any guitar on it—I didn’t know how to play it at the time, so it was just drums, keys, and bass.
Without me asking, Jake sent me it back with some guitar on top, and I am not exaggerating when I say my jaw hit the floor… and thus, PAL was born. We started sending each other riffs and ideas, getting together to work out the parts.
I convinced a former bandmate, Adam Atkinson, to come out of retirement and join us. We taught him the bass parts, he recorded with us… and thus, PALS was born.
Can you give us a bit of background on each song? I am fascinated with “Garbage Man” and “Safety Corridor” specifically.
Sure, I’ll go in order. “Burger Boy” is about a character I made up of a picky eater who eats burgers for every single meal. As he grows up, he goes through the challenges of “puburgerty” to become “Burger Man.”
I wrote “Garbage Man” after a rough breakup with someone I had a lot in common with. I remember sitting in my room, looking around, and getting pissed off at how much of my stuff reminded me of him. There were a few brief moments where I wanted to throw it all away, but I’d reminded myself that these things were a part of my life before he was. Those thoughts were cycling through my head on repeat. That song was super therapeutic for me to write.
“Safety Corridor” honestly almost got cut because of how nervous I was for my parents to hear that song. Ohio has stretches of their highways called the Safety Corridor where there is “zero tolerance” for distracted driving and speeding. Everything just feels riskier (and hotter).
I also think it’s funny that there are signs letting you know when you’re leaving the safety corridor—“great, I can go back to my distracted driving now.” I had the idea of someone feeling ambitious and wanting to give road dome where there is a zero tolerance policy for “distracted driving,” but they stall until they see the sign letting them know it’s not as risky (or hot). I wrote the lyrics on a drive home from Columbus through the safety corridor.
“Perfect Person” was the first song Jake and I wrote collaboratively. I came up with the concept for this song after knowing someone who genuinely thought they could do no wrong, ever. This character I created in my head has never made any of the common mistakes people make - sending a typo in an email, forgetting to return a book someone let you borrow, etc. My favorite line in the whole EP is the last line of this song: “always when I speak do I articulate.” No articulate person would ever say a sentence so clunky. So was everything else a lie too?
“Short Circuit” was written about my executive dysfunction I experience as part of my ADHD. There are times when I have so many things I need to get done, but I can’t choose where to start. In those moments, my brain feels like it’s short circuiting.
“Professor Forehead” is about a neuroscience professor who refuses to get out of bed to go teach. I went through a really rough depression when I was a teacher. It’s me. I’m Professor Forehead.
“Alphabetter” was actually supposed to be an instrumental song, but I came up with the lyrics on the spot as I remembered an old belief I had in high school about Q’s placement in the alphabet. I had a lot of stupid beliefs in high school, but I stand by that one.
What inspired your outfits of jumpsuits and gas station nametags? Where can we buy the sick sunglasses?
Choosing an outfit for a show has always been a difficult task for me. If I don’t end up feeling good in what I’m wearing, I’m not going to play well. So the idea of a uniform was really appealing to me to get rid of that anxiety to find a perfect outfit before a show. I’ve always loved jumpsuits, so that was an easy choice, and the name tags add to the uniform feel. Also, a bit Devo inspired, of course.
To answer your question about the sunglasses, I’m currently trying to figure out the same thing. My dad’s an HVAC technician, so these safety sunglasses have been a part of his wardrobe my whole life. He gets them from his work. They don’t have a brand on them. If you find a dealer, let me know, but my dad’s hooking me up for now.
What’s next for you as a band? More music being written? A tour of all the great lakes?
We’ve got a few local shows coming up, and we’re planning to do a couple weekend runs this fall. I’d love to get started on an LP ASAP. An early spring release could be cool, with some singles here and there in the meantime.
A tour of all the great lakes would be sweet. Definitely going to get around to that eventually, but for now, we’ve got a great view of Lake Erie.
Each member of PAL plays in other bands, you want to shout the other projects of this supergroup out?
Jake is a part of one of my all-time favorite local bands, Roid Rage. We also play together live in a 9-piece psych-rock project called Rubber Band. Adam was in a punk band called Shinnr; they were tight.
I drum and sing in a psych-punk project called Language, and I do the same for my very talented friend Matt Kurtz’s project. I also recently started drumming for a bizarro rock group called King Buu.
What was it like working with John Finley and the Electric Company?
It’s always a treat! I’ve been working with those guys for a couple years now. We actually recorded these songs in Jake’s apartment using an electric drum kit. The Electric Company and John both came in and helped out with mixing, and John handled the mastering. Those guys are quick and very knowledgeable. I’m always very happy with their work.
Tell us about the art layout you whipped up for this
Jake sent me the back of a puzzle called “Le Puzz” that had a wordsearch in a grid; I had never seen that before. I love grids, and always doodled on graph paper back in the day. The initial art was a wordsearch too, but it looked a bit chaotic, and I was paranoid there would be a hidden word in there that would ruin our reputation (even though I checked a million times). So I got rid of the extra letters, but then it looked too simple. I doubled the words, and here we are.
What other bands would you like to shout out?
All of the other bands that I haven’t mentioned yet that are a part of the Electric Company—Cut Up, The Moms, and Actual Form. Extra Spooky, Alphabet, Boy Future Guitars, Brood X, Piss Me Off, and Show Pink are some of my favorite Cleveland and Akron acts.
Columbus has a great scene too with Brian Damage, Hydrone, Tetnis, Six Flags Guy, and D.O.T.S. being some of my favs. I’d also like to give a shout out to John Cohill (Extra Spooky) specifically for being a huge supporter of this project from the very beginning back in 2019.