Happy Mondays Interview: The Porchistas

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Asbury Park is a gathering place of unique music. So it makes sense for a band like The Porchistas, who brewed their brand of left of center, lyrically driven folk, hippy, punk, throwback rock on the porches of Montclair, to find a second home in the famed city-by-the-sea.

The band will perform today at 9pm The Porchistas will perform at the Wonder Bar’s Happy Monday stage along with Nashville-based band The Vegabonds and local faves The Amboys. Pop-Break caught up the band to talk about music and that wonderful name of theirs.

The Porchistas Are: Alan Smith on rhythm guitar and vocals, Adam Falzer playing lead guitar and singing vocals, Gerry Griffin on bass and Jonathan Riordan on drums. Gerry and Adam are also sound engineers and produce the records. The four piece band with Alan and Adam as the core songwriters developed in 2010; the ‘band’ began as a collective of songwriters and artists in 2006, first releasing a Christmas record as “The Ribbon Boys.”

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We’re Based Out Of: Montclair, NJ

Any New Music Coming Out Soon: Yessir. Shoot it at the Sun is an album exploring the universe, currently in production and being released at Tierney’s Tavern in Montclair on November 1st with a space themed Halloween party and performances by the Defending Champions, Bone & Marrow and of course the Porchistas.

You’ve Seen Us Before [In Other Bands]: I (Alan) have only been in the Porchistas. The rest of the guys have been a lot of bands, let’s see what I can remember! Gerry Griffin was in a few bands including The Alien Slaves and used to do sound for the Dictators. Jon Riordan was in a some prog rock bands, but he is in Amman, Jordan right now so I can’t ask him. Falzer was in a few NY/NJ based rock bands including the Runaway Tanks, The Haunt, and the Underdogs.

Our Sound Has Been Likened to: We hear a lot of different opinions from the Electric Mayhem (the Muppets) to the Stones to They Might be Giants, But who knows?

Cool/Famous Bands We’ve Played With: We played the WNTI festival with Willie Nile and the Grand Slambovians and the Jersey Shore Music Festival last year. Personally, I love playing with any one of a number of great Jersey bands like with the Monday show coming up. And I really can’t wait to check out the Vegabonds!

Photo Credit: George Kopp. Courtesy of the band
Photo Credit: George Kopp. Courtesy of the band

This is a question I’m sure you get asked a lot, but I gotta know, what’s the story behind the name? It’s one of my favorite band names out there right now. It’s a pretty honest and organic name.

Alan Smith: I moved into a rickety old house on Forest St. in Montclair several years back and Falzer and his band lived next door and they were always rehearsing full volume in their apartment. Within a year my porch became a meeting and party place for a group of us writing songs, partying and talking about life and politics. When we all decided to become a band we thought acknowledging the porch as the place where we started made sense. There’s also a playful political undertone to it (Sandinistas etc) and it also had a Latino vibe which comes from my history in Costa Rica, but that’s another story!

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You’ve got a very unique style — can you talk about you guys, about some of your influences?

Alan Smith: Me and Adam write the songs and let the vibe that comes out of it dictate the general flow so although it rocks, it ranges from Punk to Caribbean to Folk and Country. Specifically? Adams guitar playing was influenced by a lot of blues players, Hendrix, Ween, and Johnny Greenwood. The songwriting of Ween definitely influenced both of us. Adam was strongly influenced by Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman and the Beatles and that has definitely rubbed off on me. The combined skills of Gerry, Jon and Adam can really take songs in different directions once they land in the studio.

A bit of more broad, sweeping question — what is it that you love about being in Porchistas?

Alan Smith: Me personally, I love the Montclair community. It’s a unique place with a lot of smart and diverse people of all ages. Being a part of that music community and bringing our sense of love of that concept is a big part of why I play music. Also the friends I’ve made throughout the state; Thomas Wesley Stern, the Accidental Seabirds, those guys and many others are like family to me/us. And we never would have met if not for music.

If someone’s coming out to Happy Mondays and has never heard you before, what song would you recommend them to check out to fully get what the Porchistas is all about?

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Alan Smith: That’s hard because we try to run the gamut, from the sarcastic and playful “Zombie Jesus” to the historical portrait and love song about the 1967 Newark riots, “Make a Wish”. “Frankly you can thank me” was written out of the frustration we feel about racism and gun violence against kids. But we always seem to return to sarcasm and humor!

What can the people coming out to Happy Mondays expect to see from you guys in terms of a live experience?

Alan Smith: A light-hearted band that likes to have fun and whose sound has a wide range.

The Jersey Shore scene has so many bands performing in it right now, so what makes Porchistas stand out — from a musical standpoint?

Alan Smith: Hard question, I’d rather someone who listens to our music answer that! Our songs can stick in your brain and they can make you laugh and sometimes make you think.

What do you have planned for the rest of 2014?

Alan Smith: Some fun shows including a bunch with our good friends at the Shore (The Jackson, NJ Moose Lodge – Fundraiser for “Cattus Island Environmental Center” w/Bone & Marrow, Thomas Wesley Stern, The Amboys & many more), leading up to the release of Shoot it at the Sun.

The Porchistas perform at Happy Mondays with The Vegabonds and The Amboys tonight at The Wonder — 9pm performance time.

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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