Small Black | July 12, 2010 | The Summit | Columbus, OH
Photos by John Danner
I couldn’t believe how hot it was. Even with the fresh rain, I felt as if I was inhaling steam and exhaling a rainforest. I could feel my hair growing bigger with the increasing humidity. I cringed at the thought of stepping inside the greenroom at The Summit. It had been a bit ripe back there for the last interview.
A few moments after being sweetly greeted by Josh Kolenik and Ryan Heyner of Small Black, we stepped into the greenroom, freshly painted black. The dark walls couldn’t distract from the wretched stench of (what I assume was) a dead animal or mold or maybe both. The Summit is in a transitional phase, and Small Black even commented on how “raw” the venue seemed to keep things. We joked around for a bit before I was introduced to band members Juan Pieczanski and Jeff Curtin as they entered the room. The boys had chosen to watch D2: The Mighty Ducks before I arrived, and it provided a silly soundtrack to our interview….
KP: Do you guys wanna talk about Mighty Ducks in the interview?
Ryan: We should.
Josh: I never have seen Mighty Ducks, I’m gonna be honest. There’s all this nostalgia for D1 and D2, I don’t think I’ve seen them. I know about Goldberg.
Juan: D1 is sick.
Josh: I once did a keg stand with Joshua Jackson. Yeah, at a party in Chelsea.
Juan: That’s a good story, you should open with that.
KP: So yeah, tell me about how you did a keg stand with Joshua Jackson.
Josh: I was walking around Chelsea, in New York, and I saw this big party. There was some crazy rockabilly band, and I had just gotten off work so I just crashed the party by myself. I was feeling kinda weird cause I didn’t know anyone. I was eating a bunch of bar-b-que and drinking beers. I went to get a beer and Joshua Jackson is like, “Bro, can you help me?” [laughter] So I held his leg while he did a keg stand. I felt like, you can’t pass up a chance—
Juan: Did he hold your leg?
Josh: Yeah, yeah.
Juan: Wow, you got to touch him. That’s pretty awesome.
Josh: Yeah he was very handsome.
Jeff (enters): You guys talking Ducks?
Josh: Talking Joshua Jackson.
Josh: Which is like talking Ducks.
ALL: Quack, quack quack.
KP: So you guys are based in Brooklyn right?
KP: Did you grow up in the city or did you end up moving there from somewhere else?
Josh: I grew up on Long Island, which is the suburbs.
Ryan: Juan and Jeff are from DC, and they went to school in New York.
KP: Where’d you guys go to school at?
Juan: Columbia. Me and Jeff did.
Josh: I went upstate.
KP: Where at in upstate?
Josh: Colgate University.
KP: In your opinion, what’s the best thing about being a band in Brooklyn? Or the worst thing, whichever you prefer.
Josh: I think it’s pretty amazing to be a band in Brooklyn. There’s so many places to play. There’s so many other cool bands to play with, and you meet and kind of be inspired by. I don’t know, you can’t beat it. It’s not competitive at all, it’s really positive.
KP: I've kind of heard it can be competitive. Well I've heard from different people, I guess it's how you take it, isn't it?
Juan: Yeah, it doesn’t feel competitive at all. We’re just friends with all the bands.
Josh: I don’t feel any sort of competition.
KP: That’s good. So, what was your creative process like for the EP that just came out?
Josh: Ryan and I, we did most of it at my uncle’s house on Long Island, just in an attic. We spent a lot of last winter there. Juan and Jeff joined the band and we’ve been working on stuff with them.
KP: Is this the Uncle Matt that’s infamous?
Josh: Yeah, that’s him.
photo via Small Black’s Myspace
KP: So speaking of Uncle Matt, what’s your favorite Uncle Matt story? Isn’t he in the video for Despicable Dogs?
Josh: Yeah it’s just all him. My favorite story about him? I could get really deep right now…
KP: He looks like an interesting character. Like he looks pretty rad.
Josh: Yeah he’s kind of a legend on Long Island. Like when you go to- the story I’ll tell is kind of in regards to that Long Beach is kind of like his turf where he hangs out. Whenever I go with him to the beach everybody’s like, “What’s up Matt?” We went for the video, and he ran into four or ﬁve people he knew in the winter on the boardwalk.
Ryan: Yeah he’s kind of like a celeb. Yeah, in Long Beach.
Josh: So, many years ago, he’s like this very gentle, nice guy on top of that. There are a couple senior citizens homes on the boardwalk down there and my uncle just randomly helped this old woman with something, I forget exactly what it was. She said to him, she was like, “You’re so nice. I’ve watched you on this boardwalk for 20 years.” Cause he’s been there his whole life. She’s like, “And I always thought you were this very nice guy and everybody knew you and I’m very excited to meet you.” And she told him she remembered the car he had exactly when he was like 25.
Josh: Yeah, it’s amazing when someone’s been in a place for so long and been that deeply engrained into the culture there.
Ryan: Or just sort of the impression that he made on her, having not even talked to her. That’s something. He has that effect on people.
Juan: I think a good story too is when we were shooting the video and that surfer—
Josh: Oh, that was amazing.
Juan: We were just shooting on the beach and this guy—
Josh: You’ll see there’s a guy in the video surﬁng and he comes out and shakes my uncle’s hand.
Juan: And he was just like, “I made that board.”
Josh: Yeah and so the board he was surﬁng was a board that my uncle made. We went there and shot for like a half hour.
Juan: He makes really awesome surf boards. He designs them.
KP: Yeah I saw those in the video. So he’s in New York?
Josh: Yeah, yeah.
KP: I don’t connect surfers with New York that much.
Ryan: Long Island is like huge surf community. Yeah it’s like the whole southern part of Long Island is all beaches. Rockaway Beach. And they’re beautiful beaches.
Josh: There’s like a total surfer culture at Rockaway Beach. There’s a new taco stand there that’s really really good.
Ryan: Oh really? Like on the side of the road?
Josh: Oh, it’s the best. It makes you really want to go to that beach.
KP: For the tacos?
Josh: Yeah, and they’re within walking distance, so you just sit down and when you get hungry you walk and go back to the beach.
Ryan: What’s the best place to eat out here?
KP: Hounddog’s Pizza, that’s what I recommend everybody.
Ryan: So good pizza?
KP: This is a common theme in all my interviews. Everybody asks about the food and I always end up talking about Hounddog’s. But you have to get it with the smokin’ joe’s crust cause they pour garlic butter all around the crust.
Juan: We had some garlic butter today. Have you heard of Papa John’s?
Juan: Yeah we had some of his garlic butter today.
Josh: (laughs) Yeah have you of, uh, Papa John’s? We had some of his garlic butter today. Very, very fancy.
KP: Well I must say, Hounddog’s garlic butter is leagues above.
KP: How supportive have your families been about your creative endeavors?
KP: That’s good. I’ve heard different stories from different bands.
KP: Parents don’t believe in them until they get in some medium that they’re familiar with, like New York Times or something like that.
Juan: Yeah I think all our families are real supportive. They’re super stoked. My mom came to our show in DC and she was standing on a chair in the back going, “Yeaaahh!!” We were playing with Washed Out.
Josh: I deﬁnitely did a shoutout to your mom.
Juan: Yeah, she was ﬂipping out.
KP: Weren’t you guys the backing band for Washed Out for awhile?
Juan: Yeah. We toured with him. So we would play, and then he would go on and do some songs by himself, and then we would join him.
KP: That’s cool.
Juan: Backing band, we don’t know how we feel about that term.
KP: Well, that’s how I read it online.
Josh: We were helping a friend out and it was good for both bands.
Ryan: It was fun, and his tour was really amazing.
[D2 gets loud in the background]
Juan: Sorry, we didn’t turn down Mighty Ducks 2.
KP: It’s getting pretty rowdy. Tell me about your South by Southwest experience.
Ryan: It was hell.
Josh: It was pretty rough.
Josh: We played fourteen shows in four days. I was really sick the entire time. By the last night I was just a total wreck.
KP: And the weather was pretty bad for the last day right?
Ryan: It was freezing. It was the coldest day they had seen in like ever. It was also shitty because of the fact that our van died on our way into Austin so we were without a van the entire time.
Josh: We were just a burden to every person.
Juan: We had to get Uhauls and stuff.
Josh: We had to arrange 14 separate shows in four days without having a car to do it.
Ryan: Yeah it was bad. But it was a lot of fun.
KP: It was fun but, brutal?
Juan: Beach Fossils beat us on the shows.
Josh: I think they played 16 times.
Ryan: Yeah we thought we’d played the most shows of any of our friends but I guess Beach Fossils played more.
KP: And how many days is SXSW?
Josh: Four. Wednesday through Saturday.
KP: That’s a lot. As a band I don’t know if I could do that. As a person I could definitely do that.
Josh: It was pretty fun. If I didn’t get sick I think I wouldn’t have thought it was so brutal.
KP: How much impact has press from Pitchfork, Spinner, and other prominent music outlets had you guys?
Josh: I mean we’re here ya know? We got signed to a record label and it’s all just very lucky.
KP: When did you sign?
Josh: February or March.
Ryan: Beginning of the year.
Josh: Then they re-released our original EP and we’ll put a full length out within the fall.
KP: Do you know the release date for that yet?
Josh: Kind of, but it could change.
KP: What was it like integrating the two new band members? How did you guys meet these guys?
Jeff: We met a few years before.
Josh: Yeah we played in another band. Jeff used to record with our friend Shane, produced our Old Man stuff, and we met him through that. Then he played on one of our records. Juan and Jeff were playing projects for years.
Juan: We’ve all been working on a lot of music together, and this project started doing really well so we thought, let’s focus on this. Which is how I think a lot of stuff happens these days. Like with all the internet stuff, it’s so quick, everyone’s friends and playing and something just starts to take off.
Josh: Yeah like the Real Estate guys.
Juan: Yeah, exactly, they’re all in other bands. And everyone has heard all their other stuff too.
KP: What are you guys listening to now? Bands that you guys are excited about.
Josh: The Dream.
Juan: OneOhTrix Point Never.
KP: Where are they from?
Josh: He’s in New York now. It’s like drone electronic music.
Juan: Some people call it “O-ne-Oh Trix Point Never,” it’s all spelled out. You should check it out.
KP: Yeah, deﬁnitely.
Josh: I’m really into the new Plies single. (laughs) You know that guy? He’s a rapper. It’s really absurd. It’s called “Hey Bra.”
KP: Hey Brad?
Ryan: Hey Bra. (laughs) Is it “bra” or is it “bro?”
Josh: Bra. Yeah it’s kind of the most annoying and also most amazing song.
Juan: You should embed the youtube video right into the interview.
(I would have embedded a video, but I couldn’t find one for Hey Bra)
KP: Maybe I should. But I also heard you guys like the Miley Cirus “Party in the USA.”
Ryan: Oh yeah, that’s a classic.
Josh: I DJ that every time I play. I didn’t put it on my playlist but you reminded me.
KP: I heard Wild Nothing on there.
Josh: Yeah that record’s really good.
KP: I saw them open up for Neon Indian and it was really amazing.
Josh: Nice. They did that tour in New York too.
KP: Touring in a band you get pretty familiar with each other pretty quickly.
Juan: Oh yeah.
KP: So what’s your favorite band van activity?
Juan: Oh wow. We can’t reveal that stuff.
Josh: Basically we just make really offensive jokes the entire time.
Ryan: For hours, it’s pretty bad.
Josh: We all try to be Eddie Murphy.
Juan: Not specifically offensive in any particular way, more generally offensive. We kind of tackle everything.
Jeff: We just like pretending that we were on the set of all the movies that we’ve ever seen and just talking about how great all the people were to work with.
Juan: Oh yeah that’s another great one. We have a lot of bits. Just how great of a work experience it’s been being on set with these people.
Jeff: We spend a fair amount of time doing this. Like, just the level of commitment these guys have to the roles.
KP: Well what’s your favorite movie that you like to do bits for?
Josh: The Room.
Ryan: Oh, The Room!
Josh: It’s a fantastic ﬁlm. It’s kind of universally regarded as one of the worst movies ever made, but it’s hysterical.
Juan: It’s so entertaining, though, and lively, that you just- I’ve seen it like 10 times, he bought it.
Josh: I got it on my computer. In the ﬁrst 20 minutes there’s just like three completely extraneous sex scenes with the same characters and it’s always this really bad Boyz II Men rip off behind it.
Juan: And the director is the star. The director funded it, directed it, produced it, made the whole movie, and he’s in all these sex scenes where he’s like—
Josh: There’s one scene of his butt thrusting that’ll scar you.
Juan: He’s super ripped too. It’s really very creepy.
KP: Maybe I should ﬁnd a YouTube clip of that too.
Josh: You should put in the famous roof sequence.
KP: The roof sequence?
Josh: Yeah. When he says hello to his friend Mark.
KP: I’m gonna have to watch this movie to fully understand what you guys are talking about.
Ryan: It’s hard to explain but it’s just, if you like to watch bad movies just for them being bad this is in the top three.
Juan: “Oh, hi Mark.” (impersonating the ﬁlm)
Ryan: It’s really really really awful.
Juanan: “I did not hit her, I didn’t hit her. I did not hit her.” (again)
(See youtube video of The Room here)
Josh: I wish you could convey that in text how funny that is.
KP: Maybe I’ll sound clip that for you.
Juan: Oh no, please don’t. (laughs)
Ryan: Do it, do it.
KP: I got Bear in Heaven talking about, it was actually in relation to Hounddog’s pizza, and their tour manager had apparently been “offered felatio” in exchange for a slice of his pizza. [laughter] So, John from Bear in Heaven was like, “What’s felatio?” And then that ended up turning into falsetto, and that went up into them going, “Felatiooo,” singing it.
KP: Yeah it was pretty great. So that might have to be a sound clip for the interview.
Jeff: Taken out of context, bassist Juan Pieczanski says, “I did not hit her, I didn’t hit her.”
KP: Well, I’ll put the clip from YouTube in there to justify it.
Juan: Oh, you’re killin’ me, please don’t put it in. I didn’t sign anything.
KP: If you have time to kill in a city, what do you like to do? If you’re wandering around.
Josh: We just like to go to thrift stores.
Jeff: Record stores.
Juan: Craft stores, yeah.
Josh: Hang out on the corner. See what happens. Go race some hot rods.
Juan: We break into pools.
Ryan: We did that in Bloomington, that was fun.
Juan: That’s always a good one.
KP: Breaking into pools is always a great time.
Josh: One time there was a hot tub at the pool and it felt like the Exxon Valdez had spilled in it. It was super slimy.
Juan: The coating in it would stay on you for awhile.
Ryan: It stung your skin.
KP: Like body oil. Probably some bodily ﬂuids in there as well.
Josh: It’s actually a hippie pool and it’s all patchouli.
Ryan: It’s a pure patchouli pool. .
KP: A patchouli pool? I actually spent a weekend at a hippie fest last weekend and it was just like patchouli everywhere.
Juan: How’d that go?
KP: It wasn’t bad cause I was with a good group of friends and we had a campsite way in the back of the woods away from everybody.
Ryan: Which festival?
KP: Blue Heron Festival in Sherman, New York and Rusted Root was the headliner.
Josh: We were just talking about them today.
Juan: Did Disco Biscuits play?
Juan: Have you been to Camp Bisco?
KP: Should you explain?
Juan: Oh Camp Bisco is this like yearly festival that’s kind of organized around Disco Biscuits. It’s just a gathering of Bisco-heads. The gathering of the Bisco-heads. Bisco-heads you know, jam-heads, jam band.
KP: Yeah that’s pretty much what it was. There was a drum circle. They had two main stages, they have a main stage and then they have a dance stage and then they have the drum circle and I remember the ﬁrst night that I was there completely off my mind, we’re walking back through all the campsites and we just come upon this drum circle and people are like beating the drums like banshees, and this huge bonﬁre and it looked like some kind of sacriﬁcial ceremony.
Juan: That’s some Burning Man shit right there.
KP: Yeah it was crazy, and I was out of my mind too. I was just like, “Let’s just go back to the campsite.”
Juan: I can deﬁnitely see Travis at Burning Man.
Josh: Travis from Pictureplane.
KP: Oh! I thought you meant like, Travis the band.
Juan: Oh no, although we can talk about them also. I admit I really like some of their stuff, and I got made fun of for a while. I like it.
KP: They got some good tunes. Do you guys have any crazy stories from this tour at all? Other than breaking into pools and getting covered in ﬁlm.
Juan: That night was one of the craziest nights. We hung out with our label people who were really fun and stayed up really late.
Jeff: Mainly we’ve just been listening to the Grateful Dead in the car a lot.
Josh: That’s really all we do in the car. We have Sirius radio and we just listen to the Grateful Dead.
KP: They have a pure Grateful Dead station?
Ryan: Yeah, 24 hours.
Josh: I never listened to it until our last tour.
Juan: So you haven’t listened to the Grateful Dead?
KP: Not, I mean just singles—
Juan: You haven’t gotten like, 10 hour sessions.
KP: I’m thinking I should. Probably just get weirder.
Josh (about D2 where the kids are dancing in hockey masks): This scene is just outrageous right now.
Jeff: You know what I just realized? Danny from the Sandlot is in this movie. I had no idea. I did not remember that.
Juan: They’re having a really good time.
Jeff: Yeah, I mean Emilio was just so good with those kids. He was really great on the ice too.
Josh: I think what’s crazy is that there’s a real hockey team called Mighty Ducks.
Juan: That came out of this.
Josh: It emerged from the D2 movement.
Juan: Where they good at all though? You know about sports.
Josh: I think they were good.
Small Black are embarking on a national tour this October. Their first full length, New Chain, is being released on October 26th through Jagjaguwar. Want a hint of the new stuff? Take a listen to "Photojournalist" here.
10-22 Baltimore, MD - Golden West
10-23 Washington, DC - DC9
10-24 Raleigh, NC - Kings Barricade
10-26 Atlanta, GA - Drunken Unicorn
10-27 Tallahassee, FL - Club Downunder
10-28 New Orleans, LA - The Saint
10-29 Austin, TX - Emo’s Jr.
10-30 Dallas, TX - The Cavern
11-01 El Paso, TX - TBA
11-02 Phoenix, AZ - Trunk Space
11-03 San Diego, CA - Casbah #
11-05 Los Angeles, CA - The Echo #
11-06 San Francisco, CA - The Independent #
11-08 Portland, OR - Holocene #!
11-09 Seattle, WA - Vera Project #
11-10 Vancouver, British Columbia - Media Club #
11-12 Salt Lake City, UT - Kilby Court
11-13 Denver, CO - Rhinoceropolis
11-15 Chicago, IL - Empty Bottle
11-16 Detroit, MI - Magic Stick
11-17 Cleveland, OH - Grog Shop
11-18 Toronto, Ontario - Mod Club ~%
11-19 Montreal, Quebec - Le Belmont ~%
11-21 Boston, MA - Great Scott
# with Young Prisms
! with Matthew Dear
~ with Delorean
% with Lemonade