"Set aside this special time of the day during which you devote your
time to this precious record."
The above quotage is the first thing you hear when you throw on the Pietasters' new LP Awesome Mix Tape #6. The record takes its name from a brief, but poignant moment of serendipity amongst bandmates while watching Boogie Nights. And it is truly precious. Not to say the Pietasters are precious. In fact, since their inception, this septet consisting of the blokes listed above, have been making great music and tirelessly taking it to the streets. While bounding across stages in America and abroad, their glorious hodge-podge of reggae, power pop and Stax-inspired soul music has been honed to perfection and will soon be delivered.
Vocalist Stephen Jackson attributes the band's mandate to rock to a cohesive mindset, part of which involves taking pride in stirring up a frenzy at all of their shows. "It's not good unless somebody bleeds." As rough as that statement might sound, it is the product of the band's punk rock roots. Having grown up in DC during its punk heyday, the Pietasters were weened on the old school greats. Shows by bands like Minor Threat, the Meatmen and Scream were regularly attended, like many a capitol kid, by Jackson and his cohorts. It was around this same time that they also discovered ska.
Inspired by British vets such as Bad Manners and the Specials, the Pietasters had found a home. But that wasn't all. While a smattering of ska still exists in the band's platter du jour, your first mistake would be to assume that this group is strictly that kind of outfit. But, it's not unlikely that one will hear shades of Spencer Davis, Otis Redding, Alton Ellis and Bob Marley while rocketing through their repertoire. Jackson says of the band's eclectic output, "It comes from hanging out in old, stinky record stores. You'd pick up a Specials record, find that there were six covers on it. Then you'd buy those records. You start exploring the subcultures and looking for their origins, trying to find the authentic stuff."
In 1995 the Pietasters released 'Oolooloo', their first LP on Moon Records. While it was well received, the band looked to the record moreover as a vehicle for hitting the road. The next few years saw the group through an endless touring agenda, winding through cities from Detroit to Seattle with bands such as the Violent Femmes, No Doubt and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. But it wasn't until the Spring of 1997 that they pulled the lucky card when Tim Armstrong, (who had been religiously cranking their record on Rancid's tour bus) and Epitaph Records' head honcho Brett Gurewitz caught the band at a milestone show at Los Angeles' Palace. In no time the Pietasters signed up with Armstrong's fledgling Hellcat label with Gurewitz himself producing their first record for the outfit as a labor of love.
Recording had previously proven to be a somewhat frustrating experience, not packing the cathartic rush playing live offered them. Gurewitz understood that above all, a Pietasters record needed to reflect what he and Armstrong had seen at the Palace. The result was a record called Willis. The album was the first Pietasters studio LP to righteously harness the band's spirit, portraying their live energy as well as putting across some great songs. It also caught the attention of the music press, Spin magazine calling the long player "An equal opportunity dancehall crasher- part '60s keg rock, part 2 Tone and part Motown groove," and CMJ saying, "This is what the Jam was aiming for at the end of its life, but where that band only came within hailing distance, the Pietasters have found the spot marked X."
Willis afforded the Pietasters more road time. In the past 2 years the band has been on tour almost non-stop playing shows in the States and abroad, sharing stages with the Reverend Horton Heat, the Cherry Poppin' Daddies and Ozomatli. By February 1999, the group had amassed enough new tunes to jump back into the studio. Another love-labored re-visitation by Gurewitz and a commitment to make a record even more focused on the band's intrinsic sound than the last, the Pietasters now offer 'Awesome Mix Tape #6'. Jackson thinks of the new record as being "definitely more refined and cohesive." Where Willis was a throwdown, packing its fair share of punk rock pounce, Awesome... sports an impressive mixed bag of smart pop songs including the unforgettable "Yesterday's Over," the rollicking "What I Do" and the spirited "Can't Stand It."
Overall, the Pietasters have made a record that mixes it up enough to keep you wondering what you'll hear next and tasty enough to satisfy you.