Breaking: So Pitted
Nathan Rodriguez and his band are boldly going where no rock band has gone before—and fucking around a bit, too.
MEMBERS: Nathan Rodriguez (guitar/vocals/drums), Liam Downey (guitar/vocals/drums), and Jeannine Koewler (guitar—through a bass amp)
BACKSTORY: Consummately arty Seattle band that is, in Rodriguez’s words, “an abstract exploration into feelings, songs, and concepts”
FROM: Seattle, although Rodriguez spent his childhood bouncing around California
YOU MIGHT KNOW THEM FROM: Their recent signing to Sub Pop—though even more familiar is a viral video with an amped surfer who inspired the band’s nonsensical name
NOW: Gallivanting around Europe on tour—then heading back stateside for SXSW—in support of their debut album, neo
“I hear things differently than other people,” Nathan Rodriguez says.
This isn’t braggadocio coming from the co-frontman of a hot new band signed to iconic indie-rock label Sub Pop. It’s actually him revealing at the end of a half-hour conversation that he was born with malformed hearing canals.
It’s a hereditary condition in which the canals lack some hairs, thus impairing the person from picking up the clarity—but not volume—of sounds. “I can’t hear the shades and nuances in the way I talk, and I can’t comprehend human speech quite as well as other people do,” Rodriguez says.
The condition forced him to wear hearing aids and go to speech therapy from kindergarten through the eighth grade, he says. In his book, it was all a big “distraction.” The classroom wasn’t a great fit for Rodriguez anyway. The introvert dropped out of high school and screwed around for a few years. And he regrets none of it: “If I had lived a more programmed life, maybe I never would’ve wanted to start a band,” he says.
After all, it was by living in the real world that Rodriguez met Jeannine Koewler, a coworker at Seattle’s Red Light Vintage & Costume. They got along swimmingly and started playing music about a year later. She asked him to join her band, which a now-departed member had named So Pitted.
“It used to be pretty awful,” Rodriguez says of his early days with the group. “It wasn’t that focused.”
“If I had lived a more programmed life, maybe I never would’ve wanted to start a band.” — Nathan Rodriguez
He still struggles with staying focused, the singer admits. One second he’s talking about how his deep-seated love of Muse inspired him to research music theory. In the next, he’s discussing how his early aspirations to become a musician took a backseat to sex, starting around age sixteen.
It’s that peripatetic quality that makes So Pitted’s first album an especially unique foray into supremely atonal, unhinged noise rock. There’s an attractive quality to a young band on a reputed record label playing with such reckless abandon—even if some neo songs (“holding the void” and “get out of my room” in particular) bleed with vitriol.
“I was going through relationship stuff and had insecurity that I never went to college,” Rodriguez says. “I felt haunted, and that anger was a form of entitlement.”
Since recording neo, Rodriguez has resolved his anger issues, he says. The key was realizing that he is capable of both loving and being loved at the same time. Now, as it turns out, he’s having to revisit those angry songs as So Pitted tours in support of the album. Don’t worry, though: he can deal.
“Now I can feel a lot all at once—happy and sad and frustrated at the same time,” he says. “It’s all part of chasing this magic feeling: something familiar, but something that we haven’t quite heard before.” FL