Try The Pie work against the tides

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A conversation with Bean Tupou.

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Victoria Ruiz | May 5, 2015

“He’s the rebel on the underground / She’s the rebel of the modern town / Warrior in Woolworth’s / her roots are in today.” —”Warrior in Woolworth’s” by X-Ray Spex

I first met Bean on the internet and then in person at a Spark City show when they were playing drums in Bay Area love-punk band, Crabapple. We immediately started getting real about our shared hometown, San Jose, CA. Since meeting Bean, I have had the honor of being able to spend time with them and Try the Pie bass player, Rich Gutierrez, every time I have visited San Jose in the past year. They have shown me a room in my house that has made it an even more special home.

What Bean does with and for the culture in San Jose and the Bay Area is both extreme and beautiful. Their bands always say something. Their shows always do something. Their work always leaves something on the heart and minds of anyone who ever believed in a dream.

Bean is apart of a collective called Think and Die Thinking that brings together bands and artists annually to raise money for the Billy DeFrank Center. Years before I met Bean, when I was an angsty, fat, smart, Chicana teen, I would hear about the Billy DeFrank Center from my Auntie Laurie, a working class Chicana lesbian (self-identifying) activist who sat on the center’s founding board. Cosmic collision has made it so that one of my childhood memories is very intricately connected to one of the most important present partnerships I have, that being with Bean. They work against the tides to make our dream anything but deferred.

Can you tell us more about why you decided to call your album Domestication?

I wanted to call it domestication because it has a lot to do with private life. The decisions that we make with ourselves, our instincts, and our subconscious desires create expectations of how we should act and how other people should act. We have three dogs at the house and I one of my closest companion is a dog, so I think a lot about domestication and how we act as human being. I think that one word encompasses a lot of how I was feeling. I use a lot of words, but that one word made a lot of sense for a lot of songs.

Where do you live right now and what do you do there?

I live in San Jose, CA. I work at a coffee shop most of the time that’s how I pay bills. I also play a lot of music, I do those things with most of my time. I organize shows and help with a fest called Think and Die Thinking.

Why did you decide to add a bass player and drummer to your band?

I wanted to integrate more dynamics into the music. I had been playing instruments and contributing to other people’s bands for so long and I wanted to have more instruments and people that I trust to make my songs more dynamic. Also, sonically, I wanted to be louder, there is a lot to be said sometimes for having a more sonic presence, it can resonate in people a different way.

What is your most memorable recent show? What made it special?

We played a show at a place in Fresno called Cafe Info Shop. It was with a band called Sci Fi Caper and Fatty Cakes and the Puff Pastries, it was a really special show. I like Fresno a lot. That show resonated in me a lot because they organized they Catacomb Fest, it is a completely free festival in Fresno. I had never played a show in Fresno.

Wow, Fresno. As someone from California, I have to ask you, what do you think about Fresno?

Fresno is a pretty far out there, forgotten, and isolated place, I don’t know much about the history, but I think I enjoyed the people and the feeling that I got from what the young people were doing with music there. It was an appreciation that is inexplicable.

You work at a coffee shop in a strip mall in San Jose, California called Chromatic Coffee. You help organize people and events there. What motivates you to do this work?

It is something that I have been doing for the past few years. Currently, I am seeing a change in the scenery in San Jose. A lot of younger people are flooding into the scene in San Jose. They are participating. This really motivates me. More people have started booking shows at Chromatic Cafe, particularly younger people, I also like integrating what I am passionate about in my work place. If we didn’t have this space at Chromatic, I would view my job differently. Everyone at Chromatic has helped make that space.

What does it mean to be both a worker and cultural organizer in the space?

It helps me feel more fulfilled at job in ways that other people can’t when they have to compartmentalize their job to make money and other things. There is less self- denial involved in things. I hope this is something I can do as long as I can. It can really mess with your brain if you have to separate money and your art.

How does it impact your future as an artist?

I feel more sustainable as an artist and people need to find this space. I encounter people who are trying to make their art sustainable and this really excites me. It reminds me of that X-Ray Spex song, “Warrior in Woolworth’s”. “Humble he may seem/ Behind his servile innocence/ He plots and he schemes.” Ever since I worked in the service industry, I have been inspired by that song. To me she is talking about how you’re a warrior of the underground and are also working this hourly service job. It’s also about protest, and refers to four students who started a sit-in at a “Whites Only” lunch counters at Woolworth’s stores on February 1, 1960.

You have to be honest and think of things where you don’t feel powerful but then find places when you are powerful. I remember in Olympia, there is a friend who works at a coffee shop and is in a band, she is talking about how it is okay if she has to be a one dimensional person at work it is ok because there are other things in her life that gives her power. If there are moments where we have to be in a one dimensional position, it is really important to have something outside of it. This is survival for a lot of people. I have heard a lot of people describe punk as survival, but this survival can be lots of things. For some of my ancestors or like my dad, it was faith that gave him a multi-dimensional viewpoint of himself in a world that makes him want to be one dimensional. It is important to find ways to pull ourselves and each other out of this one dimensionality, especially if we are being pressured into one dimensional interactions with people, I need to very consciously fight the way that we have been programmed to tried people one dimensionally.

What is inspiring your work right now?

Right now, it is still a lot of pain that is inspiring it. It might be that way forever, I’m not sure. It is a lot of pain and observation. My own pain and observation of the world and trying to put everything together. Also, the art of other people. Poetry, writing, other people’s music. I am lucky enough that everything is really inspiring right now. I don’t feel a lack of that. Everyone in my life is pretty inspirational. Whether it’s music or other things.

You are a core member of the Think and Die Thinking collective, a festival “working toward evoking a trend of DIY, all ages, youth-affordable and youth-accessible events within an accountable community … to acknowledge that all of these components are important and valid to a successful, radical community.” Can you share with Impose a little more information about the festival?

Initially there were four of us, me, Rich Gutierrez, Nicole Muñoz, and Mander Farrell. We all started it based on bands that we found inspiring, we wanted to create a space for all these bands from around the country and bring them to San Jose. The intention was to build a safer space for people who have marginalized identities. It has been really good to have the mission statement to refer back to and remind us who we are making space for and why. It is a radically safe space, and it is really special hat we can make a space. It has been great to have this concentrated pocket. This year it’s Billy Defrank Center. A couple of us grew up going there kinda. It’s been amazing that they are such a long standing community space.

What is it like to be a femme of color in San Jose? 

I consider myself more in gender-flux, but I do love presenting as femme. There are many strong femmes in San Jose, especially at my work, that make me feel empowered to present any way I want and that’s been a huge step in really loving myself—seeing other people learn to love and care for themselves.

I think there is a strong community of queer/ POC/ feminist folks here who I feel supported by and that is so important, I feel lucky. I do often find and have often found myself subjected to assumptions about my gender and my identity but I think that’s something many people deal with– my goal is trying to figure out how to communicate what’s happening inside of me, gracefully navigate through those assumptions and come out the other end a more experienced individual.

Thank you for helping me learn and unlearn about what “femme,” means to being in gender-flux. I imagine I would ask this question differently go forward and am very grateful for your answer. 

You have a song on your new album called, “Inevitabilities”. What is this song about?

It’s the last song on the album. I wanted it to be the last song. I think it is about how sometimes I have these expectations and high hopes. When I was a younger person there were all these amazing things I thought would happen. But time and reality show that there are also traumatic things that happen. There are tough things that happen. I read this book, The Year of Magical Thinking, and one of the characters really got me. I learned how time and experience are about the brain, the heart, everything.

It’s about readjusting to time. I could really relate to this idea in the book of a vortex and the journey that we are taken on. The most mundane things can remind of the traumas that happen. This song is about trying to remember that pain and time is inevitable, there is not way around it, you can’t avoid it. Avoiding it might be more detrimental that actually facing it. That is a theme in the entire album.

I was in San Jose when you were recording your new album and noticed that you were inviting various peers and friends in to contribute to parts of the album. Can you tell us about that?

It was really nice to think about the songs and who came to mind, so it was really great to ask people that were on my mind and related to the songs. They helped create a memory and in many ways a time capsule during the recording process. I like it when recordings can integrate people and ideas into the songs. It was kind of an experiment.

You do so many amazing things. What made music one of them?

It has always been in my life and has always made me feel better more than anything else. It is very intertwined with my emotional processes. I do music to really bring that into my emotional process. A lot of the stuff that I have learned about music has come from the friends that I met and became close to along the way.

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