“Truth is, people nowadays are ruthless
Rather see you fail than prove shit can be done
While they’re the ones who make excuses
I worked hard, found hope, lost weight, smoked dope
While the others got paid I stayed broke, what a joke
No one could say that they are living better than me”
– Lyrics for “Full Speed” by Mike Pinto Band.
The Mike Pinto Band is full speed ahead as they release a new EP and get ready to head out on the road for the “West is Still Wild” Fall Tour. Even with everything going on, Mike took a few moments out of his Sunday to sit down and talk to us at Listen Up Denver!
Listen Up Denver!: I wanted to start out by telling you that my husband and I have been listening to you for a long time, so this is really exciting! The first time that I heard you was on an old bootleg from the Sammy Snead show on college radio station WPTC.
Mike Pinto: Oh my God, dude…(laughs) that’s great!
LUD: Yeah, how many years ago was that?
MP: That had to be 2005 because I moved to California in ’06. It’s amazing how that all came to pass. That guy invited me out-actually he lived close to my hometown, and I didn’t know it at first- and he invited me to Central PA for a radio show. It’s like a tech college, you know? And my mom is yelling at me, “What are you doing driving three hours to go do an interview on the radio?” And I’m like, “I don’t know.” And I end up becoming good friends with the guy and he’s one of the people that helped me move out to California. People still talk about that radio interview. He’d never heard me and I sing this lyric in the song “Addictions” and he kind of goes, “Ohhhhh!” and people still do it during shows. It cracks me up! Sometimes you wonder why you do some of these things and then…
LUD: You realize it was worth the three hour drive, by the sounds of it. So what’s changed since then?
MP: It’s all changed, really. As far as the business goes. I used to be an acoustic guy, traveling around, playing a lot of solo shows with anybody who would come with me. Now I have the full band, an agent, a manager, a publicist and now we have a horn section. Seven years and, I guess, eight more people involved.
LUD: How is it different for you, being with a band now, versus being solo?
MP: It’s much more fun to be in this game with other people with you. It loses its luster when you’re solo acoustic after a while. With music, you want to share it with a band. It’s like family on the road.
LUD: Yeah, for sure. So, for people that might not be familiar with you, can you describe the sound of the Mike Pinto Band?
MP: Um…yeah…I will try.
LUD: (laughing) Don’t pigeonhole yourself either!
MP: Yeah, that’s what I’m worried about. I think it’s a fresh take, not a fresher take, but a different take on some of what Bradley Nowell and Sublime were doing. That’s what I was shooting for in the first place, anyway. I like to bring a little more surf music into some of my songs, where he was punk and ska and Spanish, which is a lot of stuff that I’ve still also hung onto that I really enjoyed as a kid and as a listener and as a fan of them. But, I listen to different people, whether it be the Beatles or Dylan or the Meters. I’ve been listening to this band Menahan Street Band and they’re really horn heavy. They’re from Brooklyn. They’re all instrumental, kind of like The Meters were. I’m really enjoying that sound, and I just saw them at a venue called Belly Up around the corner from my house. It’s a great venue…they have one in Aspen actually.
LUD: Yeah, they do! It sounds like you started to answer my next question which is, “what are your major influences?”
MP: Yeah, I would say all of those that I just mentioned, plus soul music and old Motown. My parents listened to a lot of Motown and Doo-Wop and all of that stuff. They’re from South Philly so that all rubbed off on me. I really like the soul behind Marin Gay e and the Temptations. They listened to Sinatra too and Dean Martin . Growing up, Billy Joel was another guy that-at a young age-I really liked. His stories are great.
LUD: So it sounds like your parents were an influence on your love for music too. How long have you been playing music? I know that you really started promoting yourself back in 2005, but when did you pick up a guitar? When did you first start writing?
MP: The second I picked it up I started writing songs. I used to like to write stories when I was a kid. I wish I kept up with the stories too, but I guess I do it all with music now. I was 15 I got a guitar for Christmas from my Mom and Dad. In the beginning I got some lessons to learn the basic chords, but I probably only hung with that for about nine months to a year. Then I just taught myself, learning through other songs and stuff.
LUD: Let’s go back to what you were saying about being a story writer and a story teller. That’s one of the things that I notice about your music compared to your contemporaries. You do have that more introspective view towards your lyrics. Can you describe for me your songwriting process?
MP: Yeah, I can definitely do that. I usually have the music and I have the lyrics separate. Usually I start – kind of like a brainstorm like they teach you in English class – I think of an idea, a topic, a hook, a line, that catches my attention as far as lyrics go, and then I have that and I keep it kind of separate. Then I’ll mess around on guitar until I find a riff…usually it’s a riff, whether it’s something I make into a horn line, or into a solo, or just the melody of what the I want the lyrics to be. Then I see what I can fit, and what works…so the topic and the mood. You know, major and minor and whatever subject or topic I want to pick. I really do like minor keys, especially if I’m talking about serious topics. I have a song that’s in minor about a guy going to a therapist and it should be in minor…it’s not necessarily a happy thing for someone to be going to a therapist.
LUD: That’s for sure! So, let’s talk about your band again. How did you, Matt (Brein) and Todd (Elrod) start playing together? They’re originally from Bargain Music, right?
MP: Yeah, they’re from Long Beach. I met Todd a long time ago and he had tried out jamming with me but it was funny, ’cause he didn’t really know the songs. He didn’t learn the songs that I had and that’s what I was expecting him to do. He lived in Long Beach and I was like, “Man, I want the guy to be living around the corner from me and to be able to jam every day.” At the time I didn’t really know any better. But I learned that as nice as that sounds, it’s usually not how it works out. You find whoever fits. So I ended up working with another drummer from Long Beach and another bass player and it didn’t really work out with him and he actually recommended Todd and I was like, “Yeah, okay…that’s a good idea.” So I hit up Todd and he recommended Matt as a bass player and Matt was into it. I was pretty happy to have them both on board and get a back up duo that was comfortable with each other and has been on the road together for like five years. I got lucky.
Mike and I start talking about the last time that I saw him and his band in Denver . I tell him about a visit my husband and I took to California years ago and how we drove an hour and a half from where we were visiting a friend to see him at a tiny pub in Huntington Beach. He’s surprised that I’m not joking when I say that I’m a long time fan.
MP: Wow, that’s cool. I didn’t know you guys had known me for so long!
LUD: Yeah, we’ve been following you for a long time. In fact, the last time you came out I asked you to play “Thousand Years Ago.” I know that there are songs that you wrote when you were really young, that you just don’t play anymore, like that.
MP: Oh yeah? I’m starting to play it again though. Remind me when we get there [The Bluebird] and I’ll be happy to do it. My drummer even likes that one. I wrote it when I was 20, so I’ve been playing the damn song for nine years.
LUD: I imagine that it gets tiring to do the same thing.
MP: I guess there’s that, and you want to make sure that it’s fresh to the listener that’s been coming out to shows for so long. I do think about that too, but now I’m at the point where I haven’t played it in so long it’s actually coming back in style, I guess. It’s fresh again and I’ve been breaking down and doing one or two acoustic songs for our sets now. It’s a little more of a challenge to keep the crowd going when you’re playing acoustic. You really got to expend a lot more energy. It’s kind of fun, it takes me back to when I was new at it, trying to get people’s attention.
LUD: I bet, and for people that have been listening for a long time it’s really appreciated too. For my family, that’s the original sound that we knew.
MP: Yeah, and I don’t want to change too much. I do want to grow, but I’ve been there too. You listen to a couple of albums from an artist and you think, “this is great,” and then they totally change their sound. If I were to decide to do that, I wouldn’t call it Mike Pinto. I’d have a side project and call it something different. I don’t know why people don’t do that.
LUD: Let’s talk about your fresh stuff. I know you have the new EP coming out. What can people expect from “The West Is Still Wild”?
MP: The EP is six tracks. It’s got an acoustic track in there, so I’m still hanging onto the roots of that. Besides the track, “The West Is Still Wild,” it’s definitely rock. Hard Rock and Ska. Think about hard, I guess like Date Rape from Sublime. But then it kind of has this rock riff to it that I think fits and works well. I kind of put it up to “full fpeed” but not punk. It’s got the angst, but it’s a good interpretation of the West Coast I think. I tried to make it the best it could be.
LUD: How can our readers get a copy of it?
MP: You can get it from our website in the next week. In a couple weeks it’s going to be released on iTunes. You’re not going to be able to get a physical copy on CD Baby. You have to go to the show to get a physical copy.
LUD: There’s an incentive.
MP: Exactly! I really like our artwork on this EP, it’s really great. It’s the same guy that did my self- titled one, and he’s a really talented artist. His name is Paul Carpenter. The cover is just awesome. On the left side is the old west and on the right side is the new west and in the center are a couple of the venues from Long Beach and Ocean Beach, like di Piazza’s which is where I got started. It’s got a lot of sentimental meaning and I love it.
LUD: Sounds great. So, you’re coming back to Colorado soon. I know that you’ve played here several times in the last couple of years and I’m wondering what you enjoy most about our state?
MP: Aw man, I really love the people. They are so down to earth and friendly. I have some really good friends that I’ve made from Denver, especially. Other than that, the Rockies are incredible. We always zigzag across Colorado, so we are constantly driving across the Rockies. And if that doesn’t bring any emotion out of you, then I don’t know what will.
LUD: You’re right, they’re stunning. Looks like you’ll be headed towards The Blockey Pourhouse in Philadelphia too. Tell me what you’re most looking forward to when you go home.
MP: Ah, my family. I have a cool family and we always feast when I get home. Everyone comes home and my mom and dad will cook something up real nice and we’ll drink wine all day and night. I got a couple really good friends there too and I’ll catch up with them. And there’s the city, Philly is just a fun time. Hopefully the Phillies will be in the playoffs too. I’m a big fan.
Mike is a big fan of the Phillies, and we’re big fans of Mike and the band. Come on out, Colorado, and catch this bands’ live show, and you’ll see why they continue to gain fans at every stop along the tour. The Mike Pinto Band plays The Black Sheep in Colorado Springs on 9/13, The Fox Theatre in Boulder on 9/14, and The Bluebird Theater in Denver on 9/15