The Soft Pack

TAS Interview: The Soft Pack

The Soft Pack, who began life with the moniker The Muslims, wrap up the last of a three night stand in the New York area on Saturday night at Music Hall of Williamsburg playing with support acts Male Bonding and Nodzzz. The spiky, wryly exuberant pop punk quartet, from San Diego but based in Los Angeles, is supporting their self-titled debut album which dropped in February.

The band continues their headlining North American tour through April 15 and will wrap up this leg of their road trip with a stop at the Coachella Festival on April 18.

Last month in Austin, The Alternate Side caught up with singer/guitarist Matt Lamkin, guitarist Matty McLoughlin, bassist David Lantzman and drummer Brian Hill and the guys told us about that tricky name change to The Soft Pack, the perils of pizza delivery and why they miss having Warren Zevon and Alex Chilton around.

TAS: You were garnering a lot of attention and buzz as The Muslims and then you changed your name to The Soft Pack. Did the band suffer any setback by doing that?

Matty McLoughlin: I think a little bit. A lot of people didn't know that we had changed our name. I remember that we were playing with Wire, because we're huge Wire fans, and someone came up to us and said 'do you guys know The Muslims? Those guys are great.' And I'm like, 'We are The Muslims. We're the same band.'

TAS: I assume that the band name The Muslims was tricky for you?

Matty: We tried to change it for about a year. And we basically changed our name at the worst possible time because a lot of people thought we were signing to Mountain Dew records or something like that or we were doing it for financial reasons. We a pop band, we're not political flag holders or trying to shake the system. Now I think everyone knows, but when we initially changed it everyone thought we changed it for sellout reasons. I think everything is cool now, but it basically took a year to prove to people that we're the same band.

TAS: You're out of San Diego which has a good music scene?

Matty: That's not true!

Matt Lamkin: That isn't true!

Matty: The city has a great music tradition, like Drive Like Jehu, the Hot Snakes, The Black Heart Procession - we grew up on bands like that.

Matt: Boilermaker, Three Mile Pilot.

David Lantzman: The Locust.

Matty: The Rolling Stones are from San Diego (all laugh).

Brian Hill: Tom Waits is from San Diego. Frank Zappa.

Matt: Frank Zappa went to middle school in San Diego.

Matty: You know who is is from San Diego but moved to L.A. like us? Ratt.

(Brian begins to sing "Round and Round")

TAS: There's a great pop-rock dynamic to what you do and Alex Chilton just passed away. You seem the sort of band that would have loved his power pop aesthetic.

Matty: Brian and I love Big Star.

Matt: I respect Big Star.

Matty: You respect Big Star, but we get into drunken fights over Big Star (all laugh). Brian and I are huge, huge fans.

Matt: [indicating Matty] He'll play [Big Star] on his iPhone and he'll be drunk, almost crying.

Dave: And he'll be going, 'you guys are idiots.'

Matty: There's a good song there. The Replacements are my favorite band and they were so hugely inspired by Big Star. I like Midwestern, big guitar rock with good, generic lyrics.

TAS: What about you, Matt, as lead vocalist? How are you coping with SXSW? The festival is tough on singers.

Matt: I'm kind of losing my voice because I've been more irresponsible with it. We've been playing wild, more punkish shows this trip for some reason. Maybe it's because the long drive or whatever. But last month we played ten shows in one day so it's just about pacing yourself.

TAS: Where did you play ten shows?

Matt: When our album came out, it was like a promo, fun thing. We basically did a tour of the greater Los Angeles area in one day.

Brian: It was a lot of fun.

TAS: Of those ten shows, did anything bizarre happen?

Matt: Well, first of it it was organized by Sean Carlson who puts together the F Yeah Fest, he had it all set up. He booked us shows at kids' houses, record stores and a warehouse at the end which was a big show to close it all off. But one of the experiences that stands out, we had this contest [for fans] to write us in fifty words or less about why we should play your house. And this kid was really cool and sincere and I think he wanted to have his band play and open for us so they were playing. We were on this schedule where we had the gear leapfrogging - we'd play and then it would be torn down and we would start driving and getting stuff and [the gear would be taken over and set up at the next venue]. So the kid's band was playing while we were driving over and the cops came. So the party got broken up before played, but then the cops left and we played two songs really fast and threw out a bunch of t-shirts and left. And then it all culminated at this big warehouse show where we played for 45 minutes, completely exhausted, but it was really high energy because we were so pumped up.

TAS: You did a great video for "Answer to Yourself" in a pizza place.

Matty: Yeah, Matt and I used to work there! When Matt and I started the band we used to work there and we had different shifts. We were the worst employees of Del Mar Pizza. We drove drunk all the time. We were rude, we show up at a minimum of twenty minutes late ....

Matt: You delivered a pizza to someone upside down.

Matty: Yep, upside down. There was this lady who'd order the same thing every day and one guy - what was his name?

Matt: 229. This guy was a grinch. And we didn't start delivering until five, that's when we'd start taking orders. And this guy would call and demand that he had his exact pizza at 430 p.m. and the delivery guys weren't even there yet.

Matty: Ted Kaczynski vibe, big time.

Matt: Anyway he was a nightmare. If the pizza was $17.75 he'd tip you a quarter just to round it off to $18. Long story short, the guy was a total jerk and he'd ask us to take out his trash. Bring his trashcans in from the street.

Matty: One of my first deliveries was to him and I dropped his salad by mistake and he started screaming at me. I didn't know what to do and just said, 'f**k you, man.'

Matt: And the guy was kind of like a hermit so the salad was just on the doorstep for three weeks. He just left it. (they laugh).

TAS: You recently played "The Late Show With David Letterman." Now that must have been cool.

Brian: It was amazing. It was one of the most fun, surreal and bizarre things we've ever done.

TAS: Did Dave talk to you?

Matty: Yeah, he said 'I'm a huge fan' - no, he didn't say that (all laugh). We're really big Warren Zevon fans and Warren had so many great moments on that show. And we didn't tell anyone we were doing it, but Matt said 'this one goes out to Warren Zevon' and it freaked everyone out. After we played [Dave's staff] said 'what's your connection to Warren Zevon? Is there something wrong?' And we said, 'no, we're just trying to rip him off!'

Matt: Yeah, [Dave's] staff bum rushed us and said, 'is there something we should know about? Is it a specific date?' and we're like, 'no, no, he's just a good songwriter and we like his music!' And Dave said 'I'm sure Warren would be proud.'

Matty: Which is like the highest compliment we've ever had. I grew up watching [Letterman] every night with my parents. So that was one of those moments ... when you start a band everyone thinks you're a moron and they're kind of half right. But once you play Letterman ... we made it. People are like 'yeah, that whole time you were smoking pot and being a jerk, we KNEW you had it in you.' (all laugh).

TAS: What bands have you seen at SXSW that impressed you?

David: We saw this band last night - actually they're friends of ours - named Pearl Harbor. That was a highlight.

Matt: Darker My Love who absolutely smoked it for me, they played one of the best sets I've seen in my life.

Matty: I didn't see this band, but I'm a huge fan - So Cow. This dude from Ireland, I think he's one of the best modern songwriters.

Brian: Last night I saw Tamryn play and that was incredible. Her whole backing band is from this old hardcore band I was obsessed with.

TAS: If you could ask anyone, living or dead, to cover one of your songs, who would it be and what song would you choose?

Brian: Alex Chilton and I'd like to hear him do "Bright Side."

Matty: I would love to hear Megadeth do "Extinction."

Matt: I'd love to hear Zevon do "Extinction."

David: I think I'd like to hear Sade do "Mexico."

Matty: Yeah Dave!



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