I was late to meet Pop.180 at their practice space, and started to freak out a little. “Better bring beers to make up for it”, instructed Chris Butt, half kidding but I did what I was told. And no, that is not a misprint. The artist formerly referred to as Chris Bug informed me that he would like to be addressed as Chris Butt for the purposes of this interview, another order that I will gladly abide.
Finally at my destination, we all sat on the floor, popped open some semi cold ones and got to it. They had already consumed “approximately 40” beers during their practice and it was hard to boil the conversation to anything too serious, but that’s okay. As it turns out, they think people take them too seriously as it is.
Joking aside, their latest album Imps of Perversion is their most powerful and confident work to date. The churning tracks prove that Pop.1280 have finally fully realized their sound. Maybe this is because the line-up has settled upon, as Chris says later “the most satisfactory group of people” that Chris “has ever worked with”. After they were done taking selfies on my phone, I had a chat with the 1280’s about Anglerfishes’ mating habits and what a bastard New York City can be. Afterwards we made way our to a local bar for an inspired nightcap consisting of White Russians in a public bathroom.
Well, after witnessing your live performance, listening to your records and reading other interviews it seems pretty certain that you guys flaunt your playfulness- even if it is an impish mischievous playfulness. And yet it seems like people want to stick you in a black box. Many choose to only acknowledge the ‘darker’ sides of the project. Do you think that people take you too seriously?
Andy: If you could hear the internal conversations, I think you would understand. There are a lot of baseball jokes. That sort of thing…
Well, tell us more about the other side of Pop.1280. What about the day jobs? Does Allegra like to knit and play badminton?
Chris: Wow, that is an incredibly sexist question!
Allegra: Well, I don’t do either. In fact, I don’t do anything a typical female would do. In fact, last year when we went on tour, I didn’t bring any beauty products besides lipstick. A certain band member required something to put in his hair and I had no moisturizer. I totally let them down. I’m a horrible, horrible woman.
I play the cello, in my other life, but not really lately.
Isn’t the cello supposed to be the instrument closet to the human voice?
Allegra: It is, thank you for that. But you can also do some really fucked up shit with it. It’s a dark instrument.
Have you played cello with any other bands?
Allegra: Yes, a very Portland band. Which I will not name. Too embarrassing.
Ivan: We made her sign a non-disclosure.
Andy: Mr. Lip here likes to go for runs.
Oh! Are you a runner?
Ivan: I’ve seen him. He wears denim cut offs and high top basketball shoes. And he’s actually on a bike the whole time.
Allegra: He has cross-country skiing poles. I’ve seen it.
Andy: And ankle weights.
This is a wonderful image.
Ivan: My drug dealer made fun of me for it.
Wait, why were you running with your drug dealer?
Chris: Drug dealers are people too; they go outside in the daytime.
Ivan: He’s always out walking his Chihuahua.
So it has not been all doom and gloom for you guys since joining Pop 1280?
Ivan: Well, we had to shoot them up with heroin. It is part of the initiation. We beat all new members with wiffle ball bats filled with urine, and we tape ice cubes to their nipples. This is all a joke! The band is a joke! The whole thing is a joke! I don’t care that people don’t understand that, but it’s pathetic that they don’t. We are called Pop 1280, that’s a really dumb name.
Andy: It’s a skateboard trick for Christ’s’ sake!
Well, moving right along, if ‘Do the Anglerfish’ is poking fun at 50’s-60’s era dance oriented rock-n-roll, how would one do the Anglerfish? How can we do it at shows?
Ivan: It’s like an Elvis song, ‘Baby, let’s play house’ or something like that.
Well all the lyrics are about biting and …
Chris: Well, that is how Anglerfish mate. The females absorb the males.
Ivan: It’s about a co-dependant relationship. But some of the stuff that happened was based on this one time. I went to this dudes house and he had written ‘prophylactic’ on his bathroom door. I don’t know why, he wasn’t doing very well. There is a line about it in the song, and I don’t think anybody ever notices. I always thought it was Poignant. A prophylactic is supposed to protect you. And he had scrawled it across his bathroom door.
Andy: In terms of the dance, I was not there for the writing of the song but I always imagined it as only dancing with your shoulder blades, on your heels.
Ivan: Is this a Miley Cyrus reference?
I have heard that you guys have said ‘New York sucks as much as anywhere else’.
Ivan: That is because every time we are interviewed we are asked ‘do you feel like a New York band?’
Well, I was going to ask how you align yourself in this non-existent ‘New York Scene’ that is actually too big to actually exist. Aside from that, apart from what everyone else is doing; do you guys think that New York is a good place for artists or for you in general? I feel like there is a newfound sterileness, and often spoken about high cost of living… The Subway, practice spaces… I just think, in the end, that is kind of sucks being in a band in New York. Do you think that Patti Smith was right, and that this city is no longer a place for artists?
Chris: I hate that quote. Maybe if she had not said it I would have thought it, but since she said it I think it sucks and that she is wrong. I think that the struggle of New York is part of what makes you a band in New York. Of course you are surrounded by dumb rich kids who also start stupid bands and it makes it really annoying to struggle while they are not.
Chris: But nothing good is made of comfort.
Ivan: Sometimes, I have definitely thought ‘what if I could convince these three other people to move to some town where you can get rent for like three hundred dollars and work part-time and focus on the band’ but I don’t know… It would probably be fine. But I like having New York as the villain in my life. It is important to have an enemy.
Chris: In New York, the enemy is clear.
Ivan: They are everywhere.
Allegra: Too many to count.
Ivan: I don’t know who I would get mad at in Portland. Maybe people who wear raincoats when it isn’t raining. People who have bikes with those weird saddlebags on them?
Allegra: You would get mad at everyone because they are so god damn happy. Ivan: And getting mad at people because they are happy doesn’t give you the fire that you need. Well, we don’t think of ourselves as a New York band and I don’t really think about New York’s history. I’m here, absorbing that I am here; I am not thinking about history.
Chris: I still find it inspiring to be here.
Ivan: I am constantly freaking out. I came from a town with 6,000 people. I get mad at people who walk too fast; I get mad at people who walk too slowly. I want to punch people in the back of the head for no reason. It definitely influences me. If I didn’t live in a town with a million idiots hovering around, I am sure I would make slightly different art. When there is that one meathead, taking ten minutes to swipe his metro card…
Chris: Well the thing that bothers me about the Patti Smith quote is that she assumes that we are all trying to have this “Just Kids” life and that memoir is not too appealing to me.
Ivan: I think Patti Smith ruined New York. I’m serious. She ruined it for artists. She is the reason why the rent is high. She is. Maybe I am not the one who needs to be on trial. Let’s go to Soho and see what she has to say.
What question would you never, ever liked to be asked again?
Ivan: ‘can you please turn down’? But seriously ‘are you M.I.A.’s neighbor- I get that a lot.
Chris: ‘Were you Grimes’ limo driver to the VMAs?’
Ivan: ‘Where were you during 9/11?’
Chris: ‘Where was Patti Smith during 9/11?
I know you guys love Jello shots. But if an attractive person at a bar wants to buy you a drink, what is your drink of choice?
Chris: Well, the last time I was in Boston, I was trying to find a dive bar on the north end and I met an old Irish man who made me sip some of his white Russian. I asked him why he drinks white Russians, and he told me that it coats your liver, in a thick Boston accent. So the moral of the story was that I put my mouth on the same glass as an 80- year-old man who could barely stand at 7pm outside Quincy market. And I felt very comfortable about that.
Pop 1280 are currently on tour, supporting their new record Imps of Perversion out now on Sacred Bones Records.
25 Toronto, ON, The Shop
26 Ottawa, ON, 614 Gladstone
27 Montreal, ON, Pop Montreal
28 Poughkeepsie, NY, Vassar College (w/ Sewn Leather)
07 Austin, TX @ FFF Nites
08 Dallas, TX @ Club Dada w/ Melt Banana, Retox
09 Oklahoma City, OK @ The Conservatory
10 Denver, CO @ Lion’s Lair
12 Boise, ID @ Neurolux w/ Screaming Females – Broadcast live via Radio Boise
13 Seattle, WA @ Chop Suey w/ Crypts, Haunted Horses, Clayface
15 Portland, OR @ The Know
17 SF, CA @ Hemlock Tavern
19 Glendale, CA @ The Complex w/ Liable, Ssleaze