Interview: The Mike Pinto Band

Let’s face it: If you live on the East Coast, you know this is the coldest, snowiest winter in a long time, and it sucks. When we’re not battling two-foot drifts, it’s sheets of solid ice. We long for summer, 100-degree days, flip flops, the smell of Coppertone and a cold, sweaty bottle of beer.

Sadly, it’s only February and the heady days of summer are not for quite some time — or are they? This winter, The Mike Pinto Band, a SoCal reggae/surf rock outfit, is coming to your neighborhood armed with an arsenal of smooth, upbeat and irie tunes that’ll have visions of surfing, bikinis and the boardwalk dancing through your head.

If you’re in the New Jersey area, you can catch The Mike Pinto Band jamming at Jack & Bill’s on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights on Sunday February 6th at 10pm (right after the Superbowl).

Recently, Pop-Break’s Bill Bodkin caught up with Mike Pinto and spoke with him about his East Coast roots, his West Coast sound and his success in the Pacific Rim as well as what bands shouldn’t do while they’re on tour.

BB: You’re originally from Bucks County, Pa., which doesn’t exactly seem like a bastion for the style of music you play. What made you fall in love with the reggae/surf sound you play, and who were your earliest influences?

MP: My friends and their older brothers first got me into Punk and 3rd Wave Ska at about the age of 16, when I initially started playing guitar. I felt like every time I hopped in somebody’s car, they were playing something new from SoCal, whether it be Pennywise, Bad Religion, Lagwagon or NOFX. That was my introduction to that style of punk.

Next, I remember going to Warped Tour shortly after and listening to Less Than Jake’s horn section. It immediately had an impact on me. I remember buying their Losing Streak tape and playing it over and over. So now I had Punk friends, and Ska friends, meaning whoever I hung out with, that’s what we were listening to mostly.

Then along came Sublime, and they mixed the reggae with both. It was a shame that it took me until 1998 to hear Sublime, but from that point on, I starting checking out more reggae bands, and molding my style towards the blueprint of what Sublime brought to the table.

Finally, Surf music came to my attention when I moved to Ocean Beach. I was surprised that no one played that style anymore, especially since O.B. feels like it still maintains the ’60s and ’70s vibe. So I bought a couple surf compilations, and Dick Dale, and Link Wray, and I decided to blend that into my style. as well.

Pinto cut his teeth in the Philly scene before his migration to SoCal

BB: You cut your teeth in the Philly scene as an acoustic artist. Where were some of your early shows and how did playing in that scene influence you as an artist?

MP: When I started playing in Philly, I played EVERYWHERE. I used to play with my two childhood friends until I was about 19, then I went to college in Delaware and couldn’t get home as much. So I was playing coffee shops and a place called the Ground Floor on campus, then I’d drive to Philly to play other places, including The Grape St. Pub, Abilene’s, Dawson St. Pub, Kildare’s, upstairs at the World Café Live. The list honestly includes almost every place that had an open mic — I’m not kidding. I did play with another band, and we got to play upstairs at the Trocadero, and the TLA.

BB: You relocated to the West Coast a few years back after performing some gigs out there. What was the impetus for this move?

MP: There weren’t many bands playing the style of music in Philly, so I felt I needed to go to a place that had a scene that matched my style of music. Plus, a lot of my influences at the time came from there, so it somehow made sense in my head. (laughs)

BB: How is the SoCal music scene different the East Coast music scene?

MP: That’s a tough question, because every city is different on the West and East Coast. San Diego is much different than Long Beach, and L.A. is just another beast altogether. The biggest difference is the styles or genres of music, different types of rap, rock, punk. I believe an artist’s sound comes from the environment that surrounds them. Each city even has it’s own personal style.

BB: How important was it that renowned Hawaiian DJ Shaggy Jenkins got behind your band and played you on the air?

MP: Well, it was huge for me that Shaggy took a chance with me in the first place. I met Shaggy through a friend of mine that I played for in Upstate New York, of all places. His family moved to Maui, and introduced me to their friend Joel, who was actually a DJ on Q103’s AM station. I booked a show out there, I met Joel, and he walked me into Shaggy’s radio hour while he was on the air. This shit hardly ever happens, by the way. Shaggy is very cool like that, though, and let me play right then and there, live on the radio. Apparently, he took a liking to my music, because he still plays my songs on the radio there, almost three years later. Big ups to Shaggy and Q103!

BB: How did your band’s music end up in Japan and other Pacific Rim islands? Have you toured there?

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MP: I was put on a reggae compilation by One Big Family records, so that’s how I got exposure in Japan. I’ve flown to Guam a couple of times, once solo and once with a band. That was a two years ago — I’m ready to go back.

BB: What do you think separates you from the plethora of reggae and surf bands out there? Why should people take the time to discover The Mike Pinto Band?

MP: I think my lyrics are part of what makes my music different from others in the reggae scene. I take pride in making a unique story that doesn’t have lame rhymes that you can hear in just about any other song. I also try to make a point in not listening to very many reggae bands, only the ones who are good lyricists and guitar hooks. I truly believe to be the best you have to listen to the best.

That being said, I think our live show has become one of the most
lively in our scene. Our fans are seriously amazing, and it’s always a
fun crowd. They seriously make this struggle towards success a lot
easier.

BB: You’re embarking on an aggressive nationwide tour — can you describe it for us? What’s been the craziest thing that’s happened to the band, and what’s the toughest thing about being on the road for so long?

MP: Well, we are a week into the tour, and we just canceled our St. Louis show because of a major blizzard, so calling this winter tour “The Coming In From The Cold” tour was appropriate to say the least. One of the craziest thing on tour was an experience with a fan who let us stay in New Mexico. We were shooting off fireworks for some reason and I think every cop in Albuquerque showed up — about six cop cars. The fan had a gun on him, which we didn’t know, and the cops went crazy, probably because they weren’t sure who else had guns.

So we were all questioned for about an hour. I was sitting near a planter and the cop looked in a found weed and a bowl in it, and he thought It was mine. They grabbed a duffel bag full of drugs in the house, too. We all thought we were going to jail for sure. After a whole night of this, they finally realized we weren’t involved, those weren’t our drugs, and they let us go. I thought we were in some deep shit though. So kids, don’t shoot off mortars while on tour.

The hardest thing about touring is the way it beats the shit out of your body. You drink too much, you eat like shit, you sleep in shady places, all in the name of rock n’ roll. Too many gas stations and too long of drives (I’d say about five hours average between cities) also make it a bit mind-numbing, too. Luckily, that all changes once you get to play.

BB: In 2007, you worked with skateboard legend and producer Chuck Treece (Pearl Jam, G Love, Bad Brains, McRad). How did this opportunity come about, and what did a producer of this magnitude bring to the table for your last album?

Check out the endless summer sounds of The Mike Pinto Band this Sunday in Seaside Heights, N.J.

MP: I met him through my friend Don McCloskey, a great Philly musician who had him on his record. He told me I’d be an idiot if I didn’t let Chuck work with me. He was right, because Chuck is a gifted and versatile musician. He wasn’t the main producer, but he surely shaped the album to become something I’m most proud of.

BB: You’re playing at Jack & Bill’s on the Seaside boardwalk in New Jersey on Sunday, Feb. 6 after the Super Bowl. Have you played Jersey before? If not, any nerves about playing a new market? And finally, what can people expect to see at a Mike Pinto show?

MP: I’ve played Jersey a bunch, from Trenton to Belmar, from house parties to Club. No more nerves — just another place to prove yourself in. Fans can expect a fun and exciting party, and we’re the ones that get the party started.

BB: And finally, what can we expect from The Mike Pinto Band in the future?

MP: We will have a new record by the end of the year. We will be touring up north around Michigan and Minnesota soon. I’m sure we will be doing nationwide tours all summer long too. Oh yeah, we are working towards bringing a horn section on the road, too. Can’t wait for that day.

For more info on the band, head over to their official website.

Bill Bodkin is the owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beautiful daughter, Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites

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