MUSIC: Delicious Pastries Talk About Their Luscious, Zany Sound and Upcoming Show at Thunderbird Cafe

Hungry for some tunes guaranteed to get you dancin' and feelin groovy? Help yourself to a large serving of the zany, retro-pop sounds of Delicious Pastries! Their sound is refreshing and somewhat nostalgic with a twist of rock. Guitarist Burr Settles described it as " If the Beatles and The Beach Boys grew up listening to Weezer and the Pixies." I was able to listen in on one of their practices and get an exclusive performance of one of their newest songs!  These guys ooze enthusiasm and fun, yet are some of the hardest working musicians I've ever met. After their practice, we talked about their band history, the evolution of their music, and the meaning behind their funny name. Be sure to check out  Delicious Pastries this Friday at 10pm, July 20th at the Thunderbird Cafe along with Satin Gum and Kid Brother. 

PGH Look:  So how long has the band been around?  How did you guys come to start playing with each other?

Jesse Ley:  That's a short question with a long answer!  Jonathan and I start playing - well, he was living in Chicago at the time - he came to visit in May of 2008 with the intention of trying to write some songs.  He was gonna be here for two weeks and we wanted to just write a bunch of songs and we never worked together in sort of like a collaborative or artistic kind of environment..

Jonathan Chamberlain: We wanted to feel it out..

Jesse: Yeah and just see what happens! So he came to town and we wrote a bunch of songs and then he went back to Chicago - and then when was it...In August that you moved here?

Jonathan: Yeah in August after a whole bunch of shaky circumstances.  I moved back to Pittsburgh and we started the band! And Jesse and I lived together in the same house and we had written ten songs in the fourteen days that I had been here in May.  (laughing) So we decided that that was a good sign that we worked well together!  So then we started off the band and we had initially six people just all practicing in our living room.  And then our living room became a studio space, and then we lost a whole bunch of members to either other projects or you know, life.  So then it was back to Jesse and I and we were like a Captain & Tenille-type project!

Jesse: There was just two captains!!  (laughing)

Jonathan: We were like an Admiral's Feast! (laughing) So, Jesse and I were playing as two captains and then Burr and Natalie moved to town and I was like "Man, I've known Burr since when I was in school in Madison!"

Lead Vocalist Jonathan Chamberlain belts out a tune with Guitarist  Burr Settles 

Burr Settles: Yeah, we knew each other from when we lived in Wisconsin.

Jonathan: Yeah so I was doing my Master's there and he did his Masters and PhD.  

Burr: And we had made music together..

Johnathan: But never in a band.  We played music for each other, but then 2 weeks before a show, Burr said "I have this friend who played bass and we went to him and said 'Are you any good at bass?" (laughing)

Burr: No actually, I ran into you [Jonathan] on the street and said "Oh I heard you guys have a show in a couple of weeks, I'm planning to go to that," and he [Jonathan] said "Oh. About that..."

Jonathan: "Wanna play!?"  And Burr said "Yeah and I know this guy who plays bass," and we asked Jacob "Do you play bass?" and he said "Well, yes." (laughing) And we said "Ok you're in the band!" And two weeks later we had our show it was a four-piece, it was Jacob, Jesse, Burr, and I for a couple of years!

Bassist Corry Drake 

Burr: Two and half years..

Jonathan: Yeah, and then when we started recording an album, we started to want to have more members and we lost Jacob but gained three people.

Jesse: And Dan, made his first appearance with us at our record release party in December at the Thunderbird, so that was at the time when we said "we have such a full sound on the record, there's so many intricacies and songs, and stuff we couldn't do with four people," so we said "let's just get some more people!"  So Dan started playing with us then and he's been with us ever since!

Jonathan: And Dan, Corry and Jesse work together..

Jesse: At a music store!

Jonathan: So yeah, we've been together for about four years now and plan to record our second album this year.

PGH Look:  Nice!  So how would you guys describe your sound?  Like if you put yourself into a genre, or describe your music to someone who knows nothing about your band, what would you say?

Jesse: Either speed metal or death metal!  (laughing)

Dan Styslinger: I believe its actually thrash metal!!

Jesse:  Yes thrash metal!! (laughing)  Um, it's a tough question, I think we were all sort of raised on 60's pop music like Beatles, Beach Boys kind of stuff, and a lot of that stuff comes through in our song writing.  But we have a lot of contemporary influences as well, but I think the songs are just sorta like whimsical pop songs that we just try to make as interesting as possible....

Jonathan: I would say zany, lush, retro pop.

Jesse: The Zany-Lush-Retro Pop genre is where we are (laughing)....specifically!!

Dustin Walsh and Jesse Ley
Jonathan: But you know, I think of us more as a pop band in the mode of the 60's rather than an indie-rock band.  I mean, we're just an indie rock band because no ones noticed us! (laughing)

Jesse: It's by default!! (laughing)

Dan: There's a lot of different musical lines happening all at once that you don't really hear a lot in and there's all these different modes and different scales and things going on all at once that aren't really too present in popular music today. So I guess we're cutting edge!!

Burr: You know we try not to crowd out like just the simplicity, the melody and the craft of the song.

Dan: Yeah I think that's what's so cool about it, it's really intricate and simple but at the same time it makes you just want to dance.

Jonathan: Just pop songs about writing pop songs!

PGH Look:  So you guys are Delicious Pastries...

Jonathan: No we're actually real people but the band's name is Delicious Pastries (laughing)...

PGH Look: So let's hear about this name...

Burr: We used to be the Savory Scones... (laughing)

Jesse: Here's the thing, there is any number of reasons why the band is called Delicious Pastries, but that's the name we have right now, I guess the objective now is to see how seriously we can be taken with a name like Delicious Pastries..(laughing) and I think if the Arctic Monkeys can do it, anyone can do it!  But I dunno, I guess it was sort of a reaction to a lot of stuff we were experiencing at the time, there were like...

Dan: Eatin' a lot of really good pastries (laughing)

Jesse: Not food related!  There's just all kinds of bands really trying to be liked or trying really hard to have an image or kind of like an edge, and I dunno we just wanted to have something that deliberately kind of went against that mentality.

Jonathan: So kind of like a whimsical, deflation of all of the pomp and pretension of like what indie rock was becoming.  So I mean, we're living in a post-Napster era right now and like MySpace - when it was blowing up a decade ago - Jesse and I started a fictional band called Delicious Pastries and when we actually started making music we said "Ok, we were dumb then and we're still kinda dumb now, so let's just keep this name."

Jesse: Just roll with the punches.  So yeah, we were posting fake songs and Jonathan would play like "I Wasn't Made for These Times" by the Beach Boys and record it and then record over top of it, him just going "Yeah right!" "Gimme a break!" and then post it online and that would be our songs. And it was just really kinda like to entertain ourselves, it was completely self-indulgent and we never had intentions on anyone hearing anything or doing anything, but when we decided that "Yeah, it's time to be a real band now," it was like well, we already have the MySpace account might as well roll with that!

Jonathan: I think it suits our mood.  I mean if you can make it with that name, you can make it anywhere!

PGH Look: So we're kinda talking about the scene and the image you wanna have.  Do you guys feel like you have a certain look to you - a certain look that you like to convey when you're performing? Does how you dress ever coincide with how you want the music to be interpreted?

Jesse: Yeah, I think they're kinda the same in the way we view fashion, art and music, they're kinda like all under the same umbrella. And what I like about our performances, is they're just an extension of our personalities, so the way we look on stage is pretty similar to the way we look off stage typically. I remember Ben from Action Camp, he does sound at Howler's, one time we were just there one night just hanging out, he said "You guys are the most colorful people in town! You guys are the best band.  Always so bright!"  And I feel like the way we present ourselves on stage is just sort of an extension of that, so a lot of people I think, they deliberately try to craft personas or characters or whatever, then go up on stage and have a big production and for us it's more of kinda like "Oh we're gonna play these songs that we like, and wear these clothes that we like," but if feels less put-on.  So it feels really natural.

Jonathan: But yeah we do bright colors, we do kinda like a flare of the 60's - striped pants, we like heavily patterned things and florals.  But you know, when I met Jesse, we were all drinking apple juice and wearing cardigans too.  So you know, we also like 90's slacker stuff.

PGH Look: How do you feel that music has evolved since you all have started playing with each other - from the time you guys began til now, has your music changed at all? 

Jesse: Well I think we're better than ever and that's a fact! You can print that!  Because right now, Dan is such an amazing multi-instrumentalist; he plays guitar, he plays the keyboard, he plays the trumpet, and he and Corry both kinda bring this professionalism to the group - at least musically! The way they play is so great.  And Burr and Jon are so proficient with the guitar. When we started originally, John and I were just like "Man we need to get a group together," so we just got a bunch of our friends and Dustin kinda played the bass, other people played other instruments, but nobody really had a lot of experience, so we were just kinda feeling it out, and now I feel like more than ever we just really kinda have a cohesive vibe going.  I feel like the performances are just getting stronger and stronger which is really encouraging.  But I would say that the sound has remained the same, it's just gotten better.

Keyboardist Dan Styslinger

Dan: I feel like when I first started playing, I was almost like a little bit out of my element. We had the record release show, and they had recorded this whole record and I really didn't have anything to do with it, but now we've been playing longer and I've been more of a part in the process of writing songs. There's a comfort level there now, for me at least.

Jesse: Yeah, you feel like you're not playing someone else's part, you're actually creating something.

Jonathan: I was trying to lead the band in a more keyboard and melodica way when we first started, and now I'm mostly playing guitar so that makes it easier, there's less instrument switching. And I think our song writing was good before it's just better now.

Burr: I think the dynamics within the band are part in parcel with the evolution of the sound too. So when I first joined the band a couple years ago, I had always been the frontman of the bands that I had been in beforehand, and I was kinda tired of that, so it was a relief actually to not be singing and at that point I hadn't written any of the songs. But, I was so comfortable - like we'd be playing a song and by the time we got to the third verse it was boring to me, but I was confident enough with you guys to say "Hey you know, the third verse is boring we should switch it up," and Jesse would say "Oh yea, well I have this whole other bit, but let's just drop the third verse and put this part in and see what happens."  I mean if someone doesn't feel like they wanna be part of making the music, then it's not gonna gel.  So yeah, even though there's a kind of consistency, and most of the songs are written by Jon and Jesse, what people end up hearing is a product of everybody.

PGH Look: You guys were saying how this year you wanted to start working on a second album and that you guys are getting better now, so with that what do you want to see happen with the future of Delicious Pastries? Is there a certain direction you want to go into musically?

Jesse: I mean I guess the objective is to make music, play music as often as possible and to as broad of an audience as possible. But yeah, how to accomplish that, I mean all we really know how to do is kinda what we can do which is write, record, perform, we get out of town when we can.  I guess that's kind of the objective is to keep moving forward.  And I feel like the way we recorded this last album was really such a convoluted process; we were in different studios, there were a lot of hang ups, and I feel like now going into it, we would be more prepared and it would be a much more efficient process.  I dunno I guess the reason why everybody plays music is because that's what they wanna do, ultimately that's sort of the goal is to perform music full-time, it's like whether that happens or not is kinda irrelevant, but at least the objective is to move in that direction.

Jonathan: I think we surpassed my expectations a long time ago!

Jesse: (Laughing) You set an incredibly low bar!

Jonathan: But you know it's like if you set a low bar and you don't have any expectations, you're always pleasantly surprised when anything happens.  So I feel like every record that's sold, to someone who's actually going to listen to it, blows my mind!  And every time we open for someone who we listened to when we were younger, it makes me feel like a million dollars.  I think regarding the second album, we wanted to be as lush and clever as the first, but maybe have a few more instrumental parts in there and maybe be a hair longer.  And we already have a huge arsenal of about three dozen songs.  So we just need to get them recorded.

PGH Look: How do you guys feel about the scene you're in right now, locally, how do you feel about the scene of people that come to your shows?  Basically, how do you feel about the Pittsburgh music scene? 

Jesse: It's interesting, what I like about the Pittsburgh music scene, is that it's relatively easy to get your foot in the door, at least in our experience and some other bands that I've played in, we've been really successful without really putting in a whole lot of effort. Which has been nice, a lot of groups are like " Big gig tonight! Timmy's Birthday at the VFW! We're really excited about the show!"  And it's like, we've been able to just kinda transition right into playing club shows, playing bigger shows, and you know I feel like it's always a goal to perform with national groups that are coming into town but locally, there's a lot of interesting bands, and some we like quite a bit.  The response is always hit or miss, I feel like for as straightforward as our music is sometimes, I feel like it's really polarizing, there's a lot of people who immediately get it and who love it, but there's a lot of people who are just completely indifferent to it.  So I feel like when we play, you always want as many people there as possible, and I think the turnouts are consistent and good, but I wonder whether people are just there because that's what's happening or if they really enjoy the music.  So I dunno, I know when there's a group that's playing and if it's a group I really like, I wanna go because I wanna hear the songs, not just be there because like that's where everyone is gonna be that night.  So the music scene is kinda interesting.

PGH Look:  Tell us about the show this weekend!

Jonathan: We're playing with Satin Gum, they're a really amped up rock n' roll band, I mean they have some really strong guitars, they like to play loud, they've covered ground as zany as Ted Nugent, and as kind of straight ahead melodically as like Superdrag.  They're just really really amped up and they shred, and you're never sure what you're going to get, someone doing a guitar solo behind their head because they can or someone playing guitar between their legs or you know, just a couple of guys smiling at each other, drinking beer on stage.  So, I think they're a really fun band.  And then we're also playing with this guy who goes under the name Kid Brother, he's a musician from the band, Ursa Major, who plays in town and they're another great act.  The band couldn't play the show, but Ben (who goes as Kid Brother) can.  I'm not exactly sure how to describe him, but he's a good vocalist and a very literate pop song writer.  He usually plays acoustic.

Jesse: He does some far-out, psychedelic, acoustic stuff, it's pretty trippy, so it should be an interesting mix anyway!  I'm really excited we haven't played since May, so it's been almost two months.

Jonathan: And we have that new song and I'm really jazzed about it..

PGH Look: What was that song called?

Jonathan:  It's called, tentatively, "From Red to Black."

PGH Look: That was my favorite song you guys played, that was awesome!

Jonathan: Yeah it's two weeks old.

Jesse: Yeah so we're smoothing out the rough edges but we're getting closer. So we're really excited to play.

Jonathan: Yeah I feel like the show this weekend is gonna be top-notch and we like to play at the Thunderbird because it's really unassuming and they do pretty decent sound, and they don't take any cut of your door money! And I think it's also fun to play some zanier pop music in a venue that  doesn't really offer those types of musical offerings.


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