Despite the office-bully attitude of Pissed Jeans---Allentown, Pennsylvania's raddest hardcore band---frontperson Mark Kosloff says he's not one for giving wedgies.
"I'd rather receive," he says of the prank that involves yanking someone's underpants by surprise. "If I could choose, I'd probably want [pro-wrestler] Chyna to wedgie me."
For the band's first time in Halifax, Pissed Jeans will headline with Babysitter, Ahna and Naza for OBEY at The Khyber on Saturday. Signed to Sub Pop Records since 2007, the aggression of Pissed Jeans is tempered by apologies for misogyny and criticisms of Middle America. Honeys, the band's fourth LP, attacks cubicle culture and cafeteria food with the sonic assault of a chain-link fence to the face. But the lyrics are pulled from the band's everyday life: Kosloff is an insurance claims adjustor with a family, and the rest of the band has regular gigs, too. So as four usual dudes, Pissed Jeans occupy an unusual place in punk.
"I don't have particularly political intentions, except to be like, 'Here are some topics that are frequently on my mind, that stress me out, or make me angry, or frustrate me or are simply interesting,'" Kosloff says. "I'm just trying to be honest and not cloak myself in crazy metaphors or do the standard 'Life sucks/fuck the cops' punk-rock tropes that don't reflect my daily life. We often get tagged as mundane, but this is just my life."
Together since 2004, Pissed Jeans has received considerable attention and notoriety for a band that doesn't get out much. "I think it's the music fans who should tour," he says. "Why's it gotta be on the band?"
But Sub Pop, the label that founded grunge via Nirvana, Mudhoney and Eric's Trip, and which continues to sign flagships of indie music, ensures the band's exposure.
"Sub Pop instantly legitimatizes us as a band. People have to take us seriously, even if they're used to listening to Fleet Foxes or whatever," says Kosloff. "People expect us to be great but I enjoy trying to be great and giving it our all when we play live. If we weren't on Sub Pop, there's no way we'd have the profile that we have today."
Still, Pissed Jeans is fairly underground. Meanwhile, the hardcore elements are a little cleaner given the grittier conventions of punk. Pissed Jeans is really about realistic expectations and non-careerist motivations.
"We've never looked at being in a band as a career. It'd really just spoil it. It is our passion, our number-one hobby," Kosloff says. "We have the freedom to do whatever we want and not just fall right into the indie music industry. It's an awesome luxury."
For reasons like artistic integrity, Kosloff won't apologize for the four-year gap between the release of 2009's King of Jeans and Honeys. The band had shit to do. "I don't feel like the standard indie-rock album scheduling of every 18 months is appropriate for everyone. It just took that long for us to have enough quality new songs that we wanted to record and felt would work as an album. Stylistically, it's our most straightforward record yet, but there's also plenty about it that isn't so straightforward."
On Honeys, for instance, the song "Male Gaze" focuses on the same-titled second-wave concept of the objectification and role of women in society, art and media.
"It's about acknowledging my own misogyny and trying to knock it off," says Kosloff, who screams guilt-ridden apologies over serious shred. "I think I've come a long way, particularly since I've been programmed like most any straight, white, American male who grew up on television to view women in a certain light. It's fucked up. I want to stop being that way and use my existence and privilege to stop perpetuating sexism."
These aims aren't exclusively punk, but Pissed Jeans is an appropriate context for them. And even with real social concerns, Kosloff says that the mandate of Pissed Jeans has been to have fun together---writing songs, designing album covers, playing shows, "We've all been doing it since we were, like, 13. The day Pissed Jeans becomes un-fun, we'll have to pack it up."
Mostly, Pissed Jeans has a sense of humour that cushions its style of power-noise, influenced by '80s punk like Flipper and Fang and early-'90s hardcore that the band listened to as teens. In some form, Pissed Jeans has played together since high school.
"We all really understand each other. There's always a ton of trust and a psychic vibe at times," says Kosloff, "We're like family." Get ready for a real Royal Rumble.
Pissed Jeans, w/Babysitter, Ahna, Naza, Saturday, June 8, 10pm, The Khyber Club, 1588 Barrington Street, sold out
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