Interview with Jesse Bartz of Lo-Pan
How did you guys come about getting the name Lo-Pan?
We got it from the John Carpenter ‘80s spoof movie, BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA. That’s where we based it off of, but there are other loose interpretations. I mean it means a whole bunch of different things now. But, that’s what it originally started at.
Does the stoner metal tag bother you guys at all?
A little bit, man. Yeah, I mean just because we’re neither-- I don’t know, just because we’re lumped in with certain genres and stuff like that. I just think it’s all original rock and roll, you know what I mean? There’s a lot of different ways that you can describe it.
What kind of stuff you guys are influenced by, what kind of music? Any surprises that you wouldn’t think of by listening from you guys what you are into?
Just that we’re into a lot more eclectic music than what a lot of people would think. I mean we run the whole gamut as far as our influences and stuff. I would say in between the widest variety of music that you could possibly think of…collectively it’s just a huge, wide spectrum.
So what’s normally playing in the touring van?
Funny question. Actually for the most part we all have iPods and like one of the rules is that we have to put it on random so nobody is really in charge of that kind of thing. But to be honest we all listen to our own stuff. But a lot of times, we’ll be listening from anything to like old ‘80s pop music to relative stuff today to old classic rock stuff…up to date music would be like Baroness and things like that. I’ve been listening to a lot of Graveyard and a lot of Honcho and a lot of Ken Mode.
What is it like to work with Small Stone?
Excellent, we have absolutely no complaints in any way. We absolutely love our relationship with Small Stone. It’s been positive, both from their side of everything and our side of everything in every possible way so far.
You look at the roster, and it’s amazing every artist doesn’t go platinum. The musicianship in every single of those bands, it just blows away anything that you hear on any terrestrial radio station.
We totally feel the same way. We feel really honored but a part of that roster and everything. I mean before we were even part of it we were all huge fans of a lot of the bands that are on the roster. We feel very fortunate, very lucky that, we can get this opportunity and everything, and with that comes a big responsibility for us to actually go out there and make something of it, actually do something with it, not just sit on it.
How does a Lo-Pan song normally get written?
A lot of jamming, a lot of hallucinogenics…no…a lot of jamming, getting together and kind of feeling out different parts and stuff. Usually we’ll lump a few different parts together that we’ve been working on that we think go together, compliment each other pretty well. And then we’ll get kind of a rough structure together, record that and then Jeff will take it and kind of do his lyrical thing to it. Then when we get back together, we try to tweak it here and there. Maybe we’ll see if the lyrics will tend to speak themselves or tell us that we need to change a few parts or extend some parts and stuff. Some of this is a little rough still, but then eventually we’ll jam it out a few times, kind of get a live feel for it. And that’s kind of where it comes together and really solidifies and stuff. It’s usually in the live performance part of it. That’s where we really get the feet underneath of it.
Have you ever done anything where you road test songs for a while and decide to put songs on the back burner?
Well, it kind of depends on where we’re at as far as touring and stuff. When we’re writing, we’re generally off for a couple weeks or a couple months or something like that. Lately we haven’t really been having any time off, so we’ve written where we could and stuff. But it kind of is based around our touring schedule and stuff like that. We have rushed a few things and played ‘em out live and then gone back and tweaked ‘em and changed ‘em a little bit later. And we’ve also done the other thing where we’ve played it out live a few times and not really felt that we got the response that we wanted, so we dropped that song. Things have changed definitely after we’ve performed ‘em live.
Talk about the process of recording SALVADOR, where you did it and how it was recorded, any funny stories or any incidents?
We got to record with Benny Grotto up at Mad Oak Studio in Allston. Craig Riggs owns that studio and he’s the singer for Roadsaw and a really good dude. We actually found out that that’s where we were gonna record when we started talking with Small Stone. We were really excited by that opportunity. We got to go up there when we were on tour in Boston and we stopped by and kind of checked out the studio and dropped off some of our demo pre production things that we were doing and he was really enthusiastic about it. He actually had a chance to come out and see us a couple times live, which I think really benefited the overall production and stuff. It definitely helped us be more comfortable with him and him also understanding where we were coming from, from a live perspective. He really keyed into our live tone and our live sound, so that was really important for us to get over on the recording, which I think he did an incredible job of. But yeah, so then after we exchanged those demo tapes with him and stuff, we went up there. I think we did a tour at the end of October, like right around Halloween, and then that first weekend or the first week of November we got to hang out with him the whole time in Allston and stuff, and it was really cool. We actually showed up-- we played in Philadelphia the night before we were supposed to start recording and we showed up at, like, 6:00 in the morning or something, just to start our recording with him and stuff. It was really killer though. I think he was a bit surprised that we had shown up that early. He wasn’t there till like 11:00 or 12:00 and we had everything already set up. We were chomping at the bit. We were really excited to get our recording done and stuff. We’d spent, like, four days on the row on the way up there and then recorded all week and then playing, like, four days in the row on the way back also.
What’s the touring situation for you nowadays?
In our situation, we’re pretty fortunate that none of us have significant ties. We’re not like super binded down in any way. We’re all pretty young and chomping at the bit, really loving touring and stuff and getting comfortable at it, and it’s becoming more and more successful for us. I think that we’re fortunate in that we have been able to network out farther and farther around and from Ohio and the Midwest to where now most of all the Midwest feels like a kind of like a home gig for us. I mean we’ve hit those places enough times now that we know all the bar managers and we know a lot of the other bands and stuff. So it’s starting to get just really, really comfortable for us through the Midwest and starting to reach even farther. Even being able to hit those other regions and stuff, and to tag team up with those other Small Stone bands has been really successful for us, too.
What’s the climate like for a band like you guys when you hit the bars and clubs and stuff like that?
It’s kind of hit or miss. Again, the more that you are commonly out there, I go back to the adage of the more you tour, the more successful you’re gonna be. I think that all of your fans should be earned from a stage. I really think that that’s how you go out there and actually create a buzz, you actually go out there and earn it. And that’s what we’re really steering towards, we’re really trying to concentrate on and stuff. But it’s not for everybody. I definitely think that there are a lot of musicians out there that are really creative and really good songwriters and stuff that just don’t get into the touring mode at all. I mean it’s not their cup of tea to be in a different bed every night and to live off of the dollar menu on the fucking Wendy’s. It’s just not glamorous at all. So I can understand where they’re coming from and stuff. But we’re pretty young, and we’re pretty hungry for it, we really, really want to do and we really, really want to make it a full time thing for us, so we’re kind of looking at the long term part of it, not just the short term part of it.
When you guys are off the road what are you doing when you’re not playing?
Well, Brian and I, we’re both techs…he’s a guitar tech, I’m a drum tech. Scott still has worked in like food industry and the service industry. Jeff has a corporate job. For the most, we just pick up part time jobs and kind of switch here and there, whatever we can do in between tours. It’s actually coming to the point now where we’re picking up a new job every time we’re home for two months or something like that, just trying to keep the things juggling that we can to make it happen, man. I mean there are other jobs and all that crap. We’re not really too worried about the jobs part of it. And that’s not really what we want to do full time. That’s another thing that’s really hard for a lot of bands and stuff out there to have four members that are all on the same page in that sense. There’s a lot of other responsibilities and things that come into play with that and we’re very fortunate to be in the situation that we are and making the most of it that we can right now.
Talk to us a little bit about what’s going down and what do you got on the itinerary for this summer and beyond.
May 24th SALVADOR comes out, then we’re actually hitting the road, we’re gonna go back down to Austin. Going back to Austin, come back, we’re playing that Liquid Sludge Festival…that’ll be a really fun fest. Then we’ll be touring on the way back from that, after we’ll take a couple weeks off. There’s a couple shows in Columbus that we’ll be playing with our friends as well as a couple other local shows in July and stuff. Then, we’re gonna go back out again in August and hit the west coast again and kind of tour out that way and then tour our way back. That’ll take us all the way through to fall. So September, we’re gonna do a couple tours here and there, but we’re really trying to concentrate on getting at least a week over in Europe at some point. We’re also gonna do the Small Stone showcases that they’re gonna do this year too, maybe one in Philadelphia and then one over in Chicago, too.
So you guys will basically be living in the van from now until…
I figure that we’re probably gonna put in at least a good two or three years here in the van. We really want to get out there and get our feet wet as much as possible and really hammer it out. Then take some time off, write some new tunes, recording again, three or four years down the road. Hopefully by the time that one comes out, we can go out and do an established tour and stuff. But right now we really want to concentrate on getting out there and supporting some of the more established Small Stone bands and other bands as well.
What do you guys do in down time on tour?
During down time on tour? That’s probably individual for each one of us. I do a lot of reading. I actually do a bit of e-mailing and a lot of other stuff that I have to pull together. I’m kind of like the default-o tour manager. So I end up having to do most of the technical stuff as far as that goes. Jeff, he’s involved with a podcast and he also does a couple other things, trying to kill time and stuff. A lot of times he’s working and stuff from the road in the different hotel rooms. Brian, he’s got a BMX bike, so he kind of tries to get out and get about and stuff, keep busy that way.
What would make 2011 a success in your eyes?
I think that if we could get out there and support a couple nationals, a couple of good tours between here and now and the end of the year, then get over the pond one time and do like a week or two weeks somewhere over there. That would be a real big success in our eyes, as well as move a good number of the album…we’re all really happy with the way that came out and we really think it has a lot of potential.
What’s your take on downloading and the internet crashing the industry?
I think that it’s kind of like a faucet and you’re never really gonna turn it off at this point. I think that you can either embrace it, use it to your advantage and learn how to play that game to the best of your advantage or you try to fight it as much as you want and stuff, but it’s really, I mean, you’re kind of ignoring the obvious at that point. I think it’s a good thing. I think that the access and the accessibility to people around the world to have that is a really good thing. I think that there’s other means of people marketing their music and other means of people branding their name and marketing their name and being successful other ways, like selling merchandise on the road, t-shirts and that kind of stuff. It’s a lot more successful nowadays than it was in the past, just because of the accessibility of the music and stuff. If it means that ten people get to hear our music before we even play it in the city or something like that, I think that’s a great thing ‘cause that means that even if only one of those ten people comes out and sees a show or something, that one person’s probably either gonna buy a CD or a t-shirt or something like that from us live. So I think it’s a really good thing, man. I wish-- I don’t know, I wish it wasn’t as corrupt as it was or anything like that. But again, it’s kind of like a leaky faucet man, you’re not really gonna be able to control it no matter what happens now.
Be sure to check out Lo-Pan’s new disc SALVADOR and get in touch with them on the web at www.myspace.com/lopandemic.