Breaking: Pill

The only Brooklyn post-punk quartet with a yakety sax and a devotion to Japanese disco are ready to offer you a dose of Convenience.

MEMBERS: Veronica Torres (vocals/bass guitar), Jonathan Campolo (guitar), Ben Jaffe (saxophone), Andrew Spaulding (drums)
FROM: Brooklyn
YOU MIGHT KNOW THEM FROM: The instantly memorable video for “Medicine,” off their debut album Convenience
NOW: Prepping for gigs around Brooklyn, including their album release show and the Summer Ends Music Festival

It’s disingenuous to say that Pill sounds like other bands. They certainly share elements with hugely influential artists—namely Patti Smith, with her focus on lyrical content; The Stooges, a punk band with a prominent and well-used saxophone; and Courtney Love, the owner of a legendary snarl. But if you were to try and guess what the Brooklyn band has been heavily into recently, you’d be one-hundred percent incorrect.

“While driving through Texas last March, we listened to hours and hours of ’70s Japanese disco,” says Veronica Torres, Pill’s vocalist, via e-mail. “It must have seeped in a little because when we got back from tour we created some weird, funky electronic tune about pineapples.” Pill doesn’t sound like other bands.

Torres met guitarist Jonathan Campolo and drummer Andrew Spaulding in Brooklyn’s art and music community, and they started playing together relatively recently, in 2014. “This band was born out of just playing and not even necessarily talking about any one thing in particular—texture, tone, influence, etc.,” says Torres. “Just a sort of shut-up-and-play mentality.” Spaulding brought Ben Jaffe, Pill’s saxophonist, into the mix. “This might end up sounding like a mystical PR stunt,” Torres says, “but Ben had a dream when he was seventeen in which he knew how to play ‘Tequila,’ by The Champs. I’m not going to be the one to corroborate this story, but he woke up and could play the song. He leased a sax the next day.”

“This project has always meditated heavily on social and political issues. We did not sit down and decide that’s what this group would make together, but this was our automatic response.” — Veronica Torres

When they first joined forces, the members of Pill were all about playing live, whenever and wherever possible. “Since we finished the record, we’ve slowed down to one or two shows a month, but last year we were basically taking every offer,” says Torres. “Playing live is always the most special to us, so it’s been tough to take a breather to focus on new material.” And playing live is what drew Pill’s first label, Dull Tools, to the band like a magnet. “Chris Pickering of Future Punx and Dull Tools came out to see three shows in a row,” says Torres. “He was DJing the last one and just said, ‘So when are we going to make a record?’ We put out an EP on tape with them in 2015.” That tape ended up getting them signed to Mexican Summer, who are releasing the band’s debut full-length, Convenience, on August 19.

Pill’s lyrics, which have a political and social message, jump out immediately. “Lyrics are definitely taken seriously,” she says, “but the music is the base that allows and inspires. This project has always meditated heavily on social and political issues. We did not sit down and decide that’s what this group would make together, but this was our automatic response. It’s not our reason for being, but it’s something that is integral to us and our communities.”

Torres makes a hugely important point, namely that politics and society are an inextricable part of daily life. She sings about sex, flesh, and dancing in the same space as congressmen, drones, and war because those things exist right next to each other. On “Speaking Up,” she sings, “You’re gonna get fired for speaking up!” Considering that a certain wealthy, high-profile man has recently suggested—while running for the right to lead the nation—that women being sexually harassed at work should simply find a new job, Torres is vocalizing something very, very real.

What does Pill aim to do in between waking us all up and playing shows? Again, you wouldn’t guess, though maybe at this point you might. “Our objective always was and remains getting to Tokyo!” says Torres. This is followed by something in Japanese, which Google translates as “Japan is the love ! (sic) Thank you for your cooperation so as to go to Japan[.]” It doesn’t feel like Pill needs any help getting where they want to go, nor will they need Google Translate once they get there. Their language is strictly their own—and a saxophone sound this good is worth a thousand words. FL


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