Interview With Pompeii Graffiti

A good while back, I told the HIMYM-esque story of how I came across one of my favorite local bands (if you haven’t read it, it can be found here.

So now that you know the background and how I feel about this band, I am finally getting around to posting this interview that I did back in March with Ahren Buchheister, the front man for the band. So without further ado, I bring to you Behind The Scenes with Pompeii Graffiti.

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    • How many names did PG have before settling on the current one?I cant remember but I may have thought of the band name before the band and had it ready and waiting. I don’t recall. We formed in 2005 so it’s been a while! I came up with the band name when i was reading a book called “Scorn, the History of Vulgarity”. The most lewd and disgusting quotes were from ancient Pompeii which were preserved in ash. It made me think about several topics like how human nature hasn’t changed much in thousands of years, how society views language and vulgarity, how we always think of the current generation being the most culturally bankrupt, how people romanticize the past, etc

    • How did you guys meet?I met Cara in the band room at Annapolis High School. I walked in on the first day and saw her wearing a Weezer t-shirt. I knew we would be friends.Throughout high school, Cara was always showing me cool music. I remember her slipping me copies of Ben Folds’ “Rocking the Suburbs” at orchestra rehearsal, Cursive’s “The Ugly Organ” in the hallway outside of the band room, and killer mix cds. I got most of my favorite music through her. One day at concert band rehearsal, she came up to me and introduced me to her drummer friend, John Hobgood. We jammed at Cara’s house and we haven’t stopped.

    • What instruments do you all play? Are you brand loyalists? I play mostly guitar for live but on the recordings I’ve played pedal steel, dobro, mandolin, bass, keyboards, and other random stuff. Cara plays keyboards, synth, melodic, glokenspiel, and Ipad. Tyler plays bass. Robin plays the drums. We all sing a bit but I guess I’m the “lead singer”. I prefer being called “front man” because I don’t really feel like a “singer”I have a ton of instruments. My two favorite electric guitars are a blue PRS SE EG that I got when I was 15, and a red “partscaster” that looks like a Fender Telecaster but it’s really just knockoff parts that I put together. Every guitarist who plays that guitar tells me that I lucked out because it sounds great, feels comfortable and worn in, stays in tune perfectly, and is the lightest/most resonant guitar they’ve ever played. On that guitar I have a custom decal that looks like it says “Fender Telecaster” but actually reads “Fielder Buchheister”. Field is my middle name and I thought it would be funny. Every guitarist does a double take when I point it out because it looks so much like “Fender Telecaster”.

  • Where are your favorite/least favorite venues? We have had some bad times at a couple venues in our career, it just so happens that the two venues where we’ve had real problems have both shut down in the past year. Some favorites are Metropolitan in Annapolis, 49 West in Annapolis, Ottobar, Metro Gallery and Joe Squared in Baltimore, Foobar in Nashville, Club Cafe in Pittsburgh. Also living rooms and interesting non traditional venues. The best places are the places that dont have tv’s. Venues with tvs (especially the ones that keep them on during music) are bogus. It’s an insult to the audience who pays to be transported away from the land of mindless reality shows and commercials.

  • What’s your favorite song? I don’t really have many favorite things, I just like a lot of things all for different reasons. Maybe a song by “Landspeedrecord!”, they’re a band from Baltimore. I got really into them when I was 15 and now Cara is married to the front man. Small world. Favorite song of my own? It’s always the one I’ve just finished because it’s fresh. The last song I finished was a goofy country song called “Five More Minutes.” I co-wrote that one with my friend, Susan Wheatley, out of Austin.

  • What’s your song writing/music-making process? It changes for every song. You just have to be open and ready for inspiration. It can come from silly lines from conversations (Jazz Hands for James, Paper Street), technical musical exersizes (Eve of Impending Doom). Some from movies and tv shows (Roslin, Gaius). Some from lofty sci-fi theories (Uncanny Valley, The Singularity). Most come from personal life situations and are all too real. I had a bout of falling for lesbian women. There’s at least 5 songs about that on the next two records.

    When I have the inspiration the rest usually comes from hard work. I prefer the method of “try ideas until something works”. Most of the time I’m jotting down notes on my phone or taking voice memos. Then grab a guitar or sit at a piano and just bash at it until I have somthing I like. Then when I have a bit more I put it into google documents so I can work on it anywhere and share with collaborators. I actually wrote “Gaius”on Cello so for a while it was just called “Cello Song.”

    One song, “Spill My Guts,” (to be released on our 4th record) has the most documented and unique origins. I was trying to help Cara come up with a chord progression for one of her songs when I stumbled across this one (F Gm Eb Bb). I played it with our drummer that night and sang nonsense over us jamming. I then listened to me singing unintelligible nonsense and tried to make sense out of the incoherence. By five in the morning, the song was complete. It was sort of a musical Rorschach test. I inadvertently was singing my true thoughts and feelings that I wasn’t aware of (or at least that’s what I was hearing during playback). The best part is that I have every part of that creation documented so I can show people how I wrote that song in one day.

  • What are rehearsals like? Usually pretty short. We are usually working on something new, figuring out effective arrangements and all that Jazz. The only song that we wrote as a band is “Holly Golightly.” Tyler brought the intro riff and we jammed until something worked. Then he wrote lyrics over it. That song seems to highlight our strengths.
  • Did you guys always write your own songs? We have co-written some songs with people and sometimes are the backing band for other artists but most of the time we do our own stuff. Have we ever had ghost writers? No way, Jose. But we have done plenty of covers – Cursive, Neutral Milk Hotel, Weezer, Bright Eyes, Landspeedrecord!, Buffolo Springfield, Neil Young, Nena, Lady Gaga, Ben Folds, Cake, Blink 182, Dynamite Hack, etc.

  • What changes has the band been through since it first was born? Oh gosh, so many in fact that we sometimes refer to them as pg1, pg2, pg3, and pg4. Pg1 was in high school. Pg 2 and 3 were when I was trying to get the band going again after college, trying out different lineups and styles.The current lineup has been the longest running (3 years) and really IS our sound. All of the members of this band bring something special to the table that can’t be replaced. People often tell us that we should write an anthology of this band because our history is so ridiculous.

  • What would you say the biggest challenge has been? Getting people to care. Having more ambition than time.

  • What is the ultimate direction you would like to see the band go in? I want to keep making music we believe in and never compromise our artistic integrity. So really just the same stuff we have been doing!

  • What advice do you have for starting musicians? Talk is cheap. Go out there and do something. Be yourself. Play to your strengths and embrace your weaknesses.

  • What are you currently working on? We are working on 2 new albums. The next one is a live, with video, collaborative album that we will be releasing songs twice a month over youtube. Then we will have a dvd. 4th album is another studio album chock full of hits.

  • How can fans gain access to your music? Best way to get our music is through Bandcamp. Best way to know what we are up to is like and subscribe to us on FacebookBest way to really know us is to come to a show, watch us bare our souls then hang out with us.

If you would like to be a part of any future posts, dear reader, feel free to email me at j.linds@aol.com. I have several projects in motion that I need feedback for. Use this as an opportunity to advertise your blog, your product, your project.

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3 thoughts on “Interview With Pompeii Graffiti

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