Interview: Paulie Pesh

At times comprised of anywhere from 9 to 14 members, the folk group Paulie Pesh take the stage at Continental Room in Fullerton one last time for their March residency. I’ve made it out to a couple of their shows so far and every time I’m in awe of how they can all fit on the cozy, Chuck E. Cheese-like stage without some sort of domino effect happening from one person who sneezes or bumps elbows with another, only to make everyone lose their shit. And despite that worry and any sort of discomfort, they all keep their heads high and show no sign of awkwardness to provide the audience with an inspiring set.

I caught up with singer-songwriter Paulie Peshkepia on new music, remembering the birthdays of his 14 band members and of course, vinyl.

Ash: First, give me some background on how the band got started.

Paulie: My wife and I came back from a 2 month tour in July of 2010 and there was a real turning point at that moment. I decided to run with the idea of incorporating brass, woodwinds and strings with my music and I just called a bunch of my friends and family and got them on board. I was sort of flirting with this idea prior to the road trip, being that we had already recorded Shining Stars with the ensemble in April 2010 before we hit the road, but having actually seen other bands throughout the nation do what I wanted to do, made it very clear that it needed to happen.

Ash: You have how many members total in the band? How the heck do you juggle everyone’s schedules when it comes to shows, practice and recording?

Paulie: We actually have anywhere from 8-14 players to be accurate. I rely on friends, family and new talent and just whoever I can get. I usually just send out a mass text or e-mail and just sort of wait for a response. It’s worked out great that way. There are so many committed people to this project. That is another reason why it works.

Ash: When creating this project, did you know right away you wanted to incorporate so many different elements to it? And were you worrisome at all about how that idea would transfer over live when involving that many musicians? (WHICH I have seen, heard and been told by many that you all blend so well together…and that can be a hard thing to do!!)

Paulie: The idea to add so many instruments came both gradually and all at once. I added things gradually, but I always heard the music in my head. It’s not difficult to transfer the idea to players because its my idea. I write out all the music and am very specific so there is no room for interpretation. That’s not to say that there isn’t any room to speak. As a matter of fact I make it very clear that anyone who has an idea is welcome to share it. That doesn’t necessarily mean I will take it, but I am always willing to listen.

Ash: What artist would you say has been your biggest inspiration when it comes to your writing process?

Paulie: I have been listening to a lot of Randy Newman, Paul Simon and Harry Nilsson.

Ash: Right now, you have residency at Continental Room in Fullerton every Tuesday night. How did you feel about show #1? I know there were beads floating around for Mardi Gras…

Paulie: I thought the first show went really well. Of course it’s great to have a full house, it’s great to see familiar faces coming out to support, but it’s also a great experience to see a lot of new people showing up, having a great time and enjoying the night and music with us. It was also nice to have our first night be on Mardi Gras which made it fun and special.

Ash: How was it fitting everyone on the Continental Room stage? And when you play there, do you ever feel like you’re one of the characters at Chuck E. Cheese because of the way the stage is set up and the red curtain?

Paulie: It was really difficult fitting everyone up there but it totally worked out. We were really just focused on playing and not tripping over each other in that small space. YES It really felt like the Chuck E. Cheese stage!

Ash: You released your sophomore EP Shining Stars in fall of  last year. When recording the EP what were you thinking going into it? What did you want to have come across in the record?
Paulie: My wife [Cristal Peshkepia, backup vocals] and I had just gotten married and I really was in a good mood. I really wanted to capture a sound that was exciting and big.  I figured a brass section and string section could really do that. I also just wanted to do something different than my first EP. I hope people can capture the way that I was feeling when I made that EP.

Ash: What can we expect post-residency?

Paulie: Two of the songs in our current set which are not on Shining Stars will be released as a digital EP on April 5th at our show at the Silverlake Lounge. Also, in June we are going to begin recording all new material, which will be produced by Chris Schlarb from Asthmatic Kitty.

Ash: Who are some local artists you’re currently listening to that we should check out?

Paulie: Preacher’s Sons. Those guys are not only great musicians, but they are just awesome guys.

Ash: Any plans of releasing Shining Stars or the next release on vinyl?

Paulie: Cristal and I have been talking about re-releasing Shining Stars on vinyl, so it’s definitely a possibility. I love the feel and sound of vinyl, so I am considering releasing our first full length album on vinyl.

Ash: And lastly, list all of the band members and their birthdays…haha…KIDDING. If you know everyone’s birthdays by heart, then I’m very impressed. But I would like to know, something about each member…a few random words will do.

Paulie: I like to watch horror/sci-fi/fantasy anthologies including Tales from the Darkside, Tales from the Crypt, Amazing Stories, The Twilight Zone (original series) and Goosebumps.

Cristal Pesh- Speaks French, is a great cook and is  obsessed with Martha Stewart.

Marissa Peshkepia- Is actually my sister and is a talented crochet-er and musician.

Philip Roosevelt- is my best friend and was the best man at my wedding. We wrote a rock opera together and have played in many bands since junior high.

Jason Chavez- Has been in many other projects of mine and has stuck around for this one. He’s a great multi-instrumentalist and friend.

Yena Lee- Enjoys making crafts and is starting her own letter press company. I’ve been friends with her older brother Paul Lee since junior high.

Philip Glenn- Amazingly talented multi-instrumentalist. Loves bluegrass. We have been friends since junior high as well.

Jazmine Rampas- Has jumped into the band and has been consistent for two years straight. She is also the Fullerton College’s Grammy U Representative for 2010-2011

Seth Shafer – Composes beautiful original music and plays regularly with a band called Boris Smile.

Adam Portocarrero-  Is a big fan of jazz music and is super talented at the trumpet.

Catch Paulie Pesh this Tuesday at Continental Room in Fullerton and April 5 at Silverlake Lounge for their record release show.

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