Interview: Pasadena

joe zorzi talks with the Maryland-based rock ‘n’ reggae act …

Pasadena has been making some great reggae and rock jams for over a decade now. With a slew of summer tour dates, including a spot on the HFStival in Baltimore, these guys have no intentions of slowing down anytime soon. I recently had the opportunity to talk with singer/guitarist Joe Harkum about life on the road and the past, present, and future of the Pasadena band.

Pop-Break: So, you guys have been around since 2000?

Joe Harkum: 2001 was our first kind of big show. We’ve been doing this Southwest Baltimore Arts Festival — this is like our ninth year. So we always kind of associate that with when we kind of really started.

PB: So with the last decade, there’s been a ton of changes in the music industry, especially with the Internet. Have you guys felt those changes affecting you as a band?

JH: Oh yeah. When we first started it was the end of that old school, having to go out yourself and flier shit and hand CDs to bars and stuff, you know? So I feel like we kind of got, we got a couple years of that in. Which I think was a good thing. Because now you just, if you have a website, you just send them that way. But, [there was] more whimsy when we first started. You got to actually run around and meet people and give people CDs and shit. It’s kind of cool, but I definitely appreciate it being easier now.

PB: You think it is easier now?

JH: I think it is. It’s just so much more accessible [now] that there’s so many more people doing it. It makes for more competition but that’s not a bad thing [because] instead of it being a competition, now we do straight swaps with a lot of bands. On the East Coast it’s easier to meet new people to play with and stuff.

PB: And do you have a good scene in Maryland by you guys?

JH: Yeah, we really do. We have a really solid network of people playing all different styles and personalities. It’s really cool, man.

PB: And where do you guys usually like to play? Bars, is that your main thing?

JH: Yeah well we play in the bars mostly. We play a lot of long sets more than club sets, you know? We only do like one club show a month, but then we do gigs where we’ll play from like 10 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. We do all originals, so it’s cool for people that are fans that come out — ’cause we don’t play any covers the whole night, we just play all our own stuff. I kind of like that better, too.

PB: A lot of bands don’t get that opportunity these days.

JH: And when people come out to a club show where you only play like 45 minutes and they’re like, ‘Oh man, I wanted you to play this song.’ And when you play all night, they run out of requests. It’s pretty cool. [laughs]

PB: And since you guys have been around for so long, do you still see the same fans or has it changed over the years?

JH: It’s definitely changed. I mean, we still see people from back in the day — the people that came out from day one. We still see them, but now we’re getting older so of them have kids and mortgages and shit now. Every year we get a new group kind of fans.

PB: So the local scene in Maryland is big for you guys?

JH: Yeah. And most of the subject matter of our songs are off of observations from home, too. Which is cool because I feel like everybody experiences the same things you know? So we’re singing about shit that happens in Maryland, and people can relate to it anywhere.

PB: What other bands would you say inspires you guys?

JH: Mostly just bands we play with, man. There’s a lot of great bands. Like in Maryland, we play a lot with, The Grilled Lincolns, are a band we play with a lot and Bond & Bentley. In Jersey we play with these guys Tsunami Rising who are like super awesome. I opened up for them in Ireland a couple shows when they were out there. Fucking great, I love those guys. And who else? Flights Kool’s another one that we play with in Jersey. Honestly, all the guys we’ve played with kind of feed off each other.

PB: So it’s more like a community thing? Like you’re pushing each other forward?

JH: Yeah, absolutely. Everybody helps each other out. Like if somebody needs a show in whatever state, that band will help out.

PB: I feel like a lot of people complain about a lack of community in their scenes these days.

JH: Yeah! It’s really weird because a lot of places are like that. We were in a town where they kind of talk shit about each other. It’s just weird because we don’t do that so much at home. Well everybody will bitch a little bit. Or you know, if somebody gets a good gig, you’ll be like, ‘Damn! Those fuckers.’ It’s always with love, you know?

PB: It’s almost as if, since there is so much competition, it just becomes a real competition like, for each band. Like, they actually turn against each other as opposed to help each other out.

JH: The cool thing though, I think, is that a lot of the bands on the East Coast now figured out it’s better if we all just work together. ‘Cause then it’s just like a family vibe, and you don’t have to worry about those kind of things.

PB: You also do a lot of acoustic stuff on the side, right?

JH: We do more acoustic shows with the band. We’ll play all the weekend with the band (and maybe sometimes Thursday or Sunday), but I usually do [acoustic shows] two or three days a week.

PB: Oh, so you’re always playing.

JH: I usually have one or two days off and the guys usually very seldom have three days off. We try to stay busy.

PB: So you guys do this as a full-time thing?

JH: Yeah. We’re very poor, but we do. [laughs]

PB: And I saw you guys actually seem to have a lot of shows coming up this summer. Is there any one in particular you’re excited for?

JH: We’re playing the HFStival this year which is a pretty big deal to us, ’cause we used to always go to those when we were kids. It’s a radio station from Baltimore that stopped. They were off the radio for a while, but they just got a new station and it’s really like a classic part of [life for] people my age if they grew up in Maryland. They would always have big names playing. Like this year, the Avett Brothers are headlining and Flogging Molly’s playing, which are some of our favorite bands. So, it’s pretty cool.

PB: What are your goals as a band? Do you really have anything specific set out, or do you just go out to play and see what happens?

JH: I don’t know … I don’t know how far we can take it, but as far as we can. We don’t really have a lot of resources. Honestly, we’re on our own more than not so we’re just kind of learning as we go along. But we progress every year, so, we’re just trying to make it happen. I don’t know how you get signed to one of those big labels or anything. We don’t really have any resources for that kind of thing, we don’t know anybody. But we’re all in man. Full-time, original music. We’re trying to push it as far as we can.

To see Pasadena playing in your town, check out their tour schedule.