The Campus Times had a chance to talk with singer/songwriter Tim Pagnotta and bassist Arin from the California-originated band Sugarcult, before their set at the Blue Cross Arena on Nov. 5, where they opened for New Found Glory and Green Day. Although often responding playfully and sarcastically to our questions, Pagnotta and Arin enlightened the CT about their hobbies, opinions of punk rock, and even their political views.
Campus Times: How has this tour been going for you so far?
Tim Pagnota: It’s been amazing. Arin got a new bass guitar and I got a new guitar too. This tour is probably as cool as if you asked any person off the street who is a fan of this genre of music off and say ‘hey, you’re going on an all expenses paid trip around the country to play with your favorite band.’ That’s really what it’s like.
CT: What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not on tour?
Arin: I like to record music and do laundry.
TP: Lately, in the last couple of years of time off, I have been building stuff. When we go off tour I’ll think, “Oh, I should build a cabinet.” Just something that you would never expect if you were some young person and a fan of a band, or our band – and you think, yeah, when they are off tour they probably ride motor cycles or like do a bunch of scary rock and roll shit. I’ll try and build a cabinet.
CT: What has been your favorite tour to date?
TP: This tour is pretty up there.
CT: How does playing in arenas like this one compare to playing in smaller venues, such as New York City’s Knitting Factory?
A: It’s just like different planets.
CT: Do you guys change your show at all when you take it to the larger stage?
TP: The stage on this tour is so big that I have like guitar pedals – one is for distortion and one is a tuner and there is a radar device that lets me know where Arin is because he is so far away. It’s so hard to see each other, especially when there is fog on stage. You know how on boats there is a radar that lets you know where the fish are? It’s kind of like that, except we had NASA build it. We are so full of shit.
CT: How is it to play on such a large stage?
TP: The floor is so big. Billy Joe is an insane front man – he is as good as it gets. He will get everyone in the arena standing up. You either have that gift or you don’t, and right now it’s such a new thing for us that we aren’t that good yet.
CT: Try giving your instruments away like he does.
TP: Yeah, I know. I feel like we put on a good show still, but it’s a different kind of thing. It’s all so new to us. I like playing theaters – Irving Plaza, St. Joe’s, Sam’s Hall, the Metro in Chicago.
A: I like playing places like Central Park, Hyde Park. I’m more outdoorsy – I like the trees.
TP: But we’ll play a meth lab or a bat mitzvah any day.
CT: How would you guys define your music?
TP: I would say groundbreaking.
A: The best way to define our music would be revolutionary.
TP: The rest of the music industry has a lot of catching up to do. They are going to freak out after the next album comes out after Arin and I have our surgeries, because after we get our extra sixth finger on the left hand, we’re going to be playing chords with an extra pinky.
CT: What would you say your musical influences are? Anyone that you idolize?
TP: I would say the greats – The Beatles, The Police.
CT: Is that who your music is styled after?
A: Our music is styled after all of our influences … I think it just comes out.
CT: Do you have any old punk influences?
A: The Clash, Ramones, the Sex Pistols.
TP: I think that sometimes people get the idea of punk music and think “punk music, yeah, that tough stuff that you just sort of circle pit to” – I hate that – I despise that jock oriented mentality. I don’t think we really identify with tough rock and roll clichs.
CT: How do you respond to bands that once had that “punk” title and then went on MTV and “sold out”?
TP: They are sell outs. They should probably go to hell. Their guitars should probably be taken away from them.
A: I think that people should let the music speak for itself and not try and hide under some title of “punk” or “alternative” or “disco.”
TP: I mean, you’re talking about selling out. Ninety-nine percent of the bands that get to go on tour have a Honda tour or a sponsored tour, but 25 years ago you’d be fucking persecuted, but now the terms are so loosely defined, but it doesn’t matter.
CT: Let’s talk about the new album.
T: It’s awesome.
CT: How do you feel that you have grown since “Start Static?”
TP: We have gained weight. We know two more chords. We are a few years older. We have a new drummer. We have toured the world seven times, or some shit.
A:We have grown as people, so you can’t help but have that come out in your music.
TP: I mean when we put out “Start Static” it was three and half years ago – that’s like going from a freshman in high school to being a senior. And, think of the growth that you would see in someone in that age group, but for us we went from being straight up broke musicians with zero money – not that we are rich now or anything – but that translates to traveling the world. We have grown.
CT: What’s your favorite song to play live off of the new album, or in general?
A: “What you say,” right now. It changes from night to night.
CT: Are all songs that reference girls about the same girl?
TP: No. Look – some people think that I sing about girls, but what the “she” is could be me, my car, a boat, a plane, mountains, trees, Kenny.
CT: We know that Green Day is very vocal in their choice for president, and that you guys put a track on the “Rock Against Bush Volume II” CD, do you guys bring any politics into your live show?
A: We do our part – we say a few things.
TP: I don’t think that’s what we’re really about as a band. But, you can’t help but get involved. I am personally so pissed off – we’re not a political band, but right now America is really divided, and I think that America is divided in the way that I am divided because who you are as a person is usually comprised of your personal beliefs – and in this election there was a lot of talk about freedoms … our freedoms being a human being, and being an American citizen. To me, that’s who I am, and we are living in a country right now where that’s challenged. It absolutely affects my emotions – there are probably going to be a few songs about that on our next record, because I am pissed off about that right now.
CT: How does the song “Stuck in America” relate to that?
TP: “Stuck in America” is more of a social song – it had way less to do with any political stuff, but had more to do with being a young, pissed-off kid, living in a town and wanting to get away.
CT: What’s the one thing that you think that we should know about either you guys or about the band?
TP: Our guitar player is really into cooking. Kenny likes to fish. During the Warped Tour, he tried to fish every time he found a watering hole – a hole of water.
A: We are just normal guys.
While Pagnotta and Arin were interested in continuing our conversation, our interview abrubtly ended when the band was told that they would soon be going on stage, so we were escorted back outside and entered through the arena like every other fan. We would soon learn, however, that the time span of our interview would exceed their performance time.
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