“I’ve never had faith in a Pentimento record like I have in this one.” – Mike Hansen
We had the opportunity to chat with Mike Hansen, the drummer of Pentimento, in their van at the Middle East, in Cambridge on the Boston date of their first headliner tour with Better Off and A Will Away. We talk about pizza, tour, and their new full-length album. Check it out below!
The Daily Slice: What’s your name, what do you do in the band, and where’s the best place to get pizza in your hometown?
Mike Hansen: My name’s Mike, I play drums in Pentimento and the best place to get pizza in my hometown is a little shop in the neighborhood I grew up in called Metro Pizza. It does have the best pizza on the planet. I’ve been some places, not everywhere, but a lot of places and I’ve tried pizza in each of those places at some point and it doesn’t get any better than Metro Pizza. So there it is.
TDS: Favorite type?
MH: I just need a cheese. A plain cheese pizza is good for me. There’s something about how simple it is. They’ve perfected the pizza slice.
TDS: How’s the tour been so far?
MH: Tour’s been awesome it’s our first proper headlining tour and we’re still a small band so were not doing crazy numbers every night. The shows have been very good; it’s been cool to see a response to the new record. I did fill in on bass for Better Off for a few shots. Unfortunately, Luke, the lead singer of Better Off decided to put the kibosh on the whole thing. He’s going through some mental health stuff that he needs to be home to deal with. I totally respect it and he’s gotta do what he’s gotta do. He had all fill-ins from the start of the tour and it just wasn’t meshing so I was asked to help out. So we rode it out for a few shows but Luke decided that he needed to deal with some stuff at home. But it’s been awesome having A Will Away and Caleb and Carolyn, both bands are definitely filling their spots well. It’s still a lot of fun and successful in our eyes.
TDS: Obviously your new album is much more complex. What was different about your recording process this time around?
MH: Everything. We we’re in Baltimore for this record and we’ve never traveled anywhere than our studio back home, GCR. Just the change of scenery alone definitely influenced the record in a sense. We were locked in the studio 24/7 for over a month. Part of the cost of recording included lodging in the studio. We had a 10’ by 8’ bedroom with two bunk beds and one lamp. Baltimore isn’t always the safest city to hang around in so we pretty much had a square mile we hung out in. There wasn’t much to do; we didn’t have friends there, we weren’t working, our families, girlfriends just weren’t part of the mix like it was back home. We were definitely going through some shit and being locked in the small of a space together didn’t make it any better, but it did make us concentrate on making the record because at the end of the day that was our only escape from whatever the pressures of being in Baltimore was on any given day.
We also had the Pro Tools session running the whole time we were there. If we woke up and had a thought or an idea it was very easy to fully realize it because not only could we jam in the same room together and work stuff out but we could record it, play it back, and talk about it. We’ve just never had that sort of playground. At GCR in Buffalo we prepared the songs before the studio, got in there and recorded the best we could and then left. Not to say we didn’t have time to experiment or be creative but it just wasn’t as thorough as this was. We literally didn’t do anything else but eat food at 711 and play instruments all day. That was great although it was stressful and there was a lot of pressure involved from a lot of different angles I think we’re happy with the end result enough to call that experience worth it.
TDS: Did who have an idea of what you wanted this record to sound like, or did the different recording process create something unexpected?
MH: I’d been demoing songs about a year before going into the studio and things started taking a different shape for sure. We started looking at our old material and started thinking about the things that we didn’t like and the things we thought we could do better. I know this record comes off as a little slower and more melodic but I really just wanted to develop the song writing. I wanted Jerry to be the star of the show because the melody is the star of the show. When I think about the greatest aspects of the music I listen to it often times comes back to the melody and concentrating on that was something we had never done before the way we did this time around. Between the demoing process taking a year and us showing up to the studio with 25 songs and cutting it down from their and also being able to work on things and write while we were in the studio. For example, “Stuck Forever” was the last song we did before leaving the studio and it was totally organic. We were in a room and I had a riff, then somebody else had a riff, then I jumped on a drum kit, and we started throwing ideas around and it just kind of happened. While I can’t see us moving to Baltimore again I can say the experience of being extracted from real life and just being put in the studio to just work almost drove us insane but I’ve never had faith in a Pentimento record like I have in this one. I always appreciate what we do and of course we write the music we write but I feel like it’s much more developed now than it was then. We learned a hard lesson going into this record. I think next time we’ll be more prepared, mentally, but it was a very good thing for our band to. Looking back, we all feel like we got the shit kicked out of us it took a toll on everybody.
TDS: How has the audience reaction been to your I, No Longer?
MH: I don’t think we’ve seen a negative review. I don’t know if that’s me being totally naïve to what’s on the internet but people are just excited about the record. Kids are coming out to shows and singing the words to the new songs and not the old ones so that tells me this material is resonating with a new audience we haven’t reached before and of course the people who have been with us the whole time are still coming out to shows and singing along. I don’t want to say it’s overwhelming, it’s just crazy in a sense that this record is doing what it’s doing. We have our fingers crossed that it brings us to the next level and we don’t know what brings a band to that level besides the strength of their album. Hopefully people continue to talk about it and spread the word. That’s all we can hope for because that’s all we have. It has to be on the strength of the record and we would feel that best as quote unquote artists go if any success we see is based on the integrity of the music.
TDS: Obviously this was a big leap for you guys stylistically. Where would you like to see Pentimento go next?
MH: I think about that a lot because that’s the curse of every musician. As soon as you get out of the studio there’s a thought about “well, now what?” I think about that every time we release something. We’ve been on the road and doing a lot in between so we haven’t really sat down to write anything in a while. I don’t even have a guitar anymore, I had to sell it to pay rent. It’s definitely a thought that creeps into my head a lot. I wish I knew how to write the best song of all time, and be the biggest band of all time, and just share all of our money with everyone, and end poverty and stuff like that would be sick. But it’s hard to say where I see our band going. There are things in this record I hope we continue to capitalize on. In our heads this record is a year old, we got out of the studio this time last year, now it’s just over a week old. I’m learning things about our band through this new record and I will continue to as we play the songs live and see what the response is like. If I, No Longer is our best effort what can we do better, where are the weak spots, being on honest with ourselves. We went in the studio and gave it a real fucking shot, we came out with a record were super proud of but that’s not to say we don’t have room for improvement and who knows what would happen if we were working with a different producer or under different circumstances. I just want to make rock and roll man, I don’t want to lose that. I certainly have a soft spot for the melodic stuff and I do enjoy writing pretty music but we’re all just punk kids. That’s the only thing that has ever really mattered to me musically so there will always be some of that. But I just turned 27 and I think about music completely different now. 10 years ago when I was playing drums in hardcore bands back home it was just, go as fast as you can, be as flashy as you can, I overplayed everything and now I think it’s awesome to sit in the pocket for 3 and a half minutes and just grove. I don’t know why all of a sudden but I’m sure that influences the writing process down the line. We’ll just have to see, I don’t think we’ll ever lose the edge because that were we feel at home, but who knows.
TDS: What should fans be on the lookout for when this tour is over?
MH: We’re putting out a music video for “My Solution is in the Lake” (check), I’m stoked on that. Taylor Rambo shot it and our friend, Brett is the subject of the video and this record. On our first record we had a friend of ours named Olivia be the subject of it. We did a music video with her in it, we had T-shirts, tour flyers, also the record cover with her image on it. Now we’re onto the next LP so we’re onto the next person. We just found it’s easier to keep our work consistent and cohesive like that and it’s kind of fun to involve someone outside the band. If they needed to get in the mood for the shot, all we asked them to do was listen to the record and act however it made them feel. I never want to give someone more direction than that because it should be natural for them, the same way the songs come out. The art comes from the feeling and the same deal for people like Brett and Olivia. It’s an extension of the art we feel proud to have a hand in but also to involve these other individuals who really care about the music.