Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Bonus Q&A with Will Pugh of Cartel

I had a great phone interview with Will from Cartel on June 11 as he was driving around somewhere in the vicinity of hometown Conyers, Ga. The band - which also includes guitarists Joseph Pepper and Nic Hudson, drummer Kevin Sanders and bassist Jeff Lett - had just cleaned out their rehearsal space and continued working on new material for the next CD. They always put on an energetic live show. I remember catching Cartel at the Vans Warped Tour a few years ago and they overshadowed the veteran acts. Here are more excerpts from our chat.

Q: What is new in the world of Cartel?
A: We’re starting the writing process a little differently this time. Normally it will start with Joseph or I coming in with a riff or some idea of the song and I’ll have some vocal melody, more of a structure to it. This time, we’re cutting it in a few months early instead of taking those ideas and trying to explore them on our own. We’re actually bringing them in and try to work them out entirely as a band from the ground up.

Q: Do you plan on taking your time with this one?
A: We’ve never actually had time to record a full length. Even the first EP we did on our own. We did 5 songs in 3 days because we were paying for it. ‘Chroma’ was rushed too; mainly because of the budget. We wanted to get the best studio. Obviously, everyone knows the story of the last one. We want to take the time and make sure the songs are perfect - be more prolific this time, have more songs to use as B-sides, more songs to choose from, things like that. Just to switch it up and make it different. It can get monotonous after 4 ½ years of recording/touring.

Q: Any idea who might produce? Maybe Zack and Ken again?
A: I think we’re going to go with somebody else. Not for the fact they can’t do a great job; they always have. We need to hear something different. We need to see something different. We need to have our whole comfort level tossed up a little bit. Just to make us do something else. Not like we’re unhappy with what we did on the last record, which is great. We don’t want to do the same things again. You’ve got to shake up the tree, knock off the dead limbs and get some new growth. That’s kind of what we’ve been doing the last few months.

Q: Can fans look forward to a longer set than usual in Del Mar?
A: That will be our first show back since we’ve started writing. I think we’ll be anxious to get out and play some of our older songs. Every time we’ve written in the past, we’ve been anxious to go out and play the other stuff because we feel like veterans at that. Our second record now is our old stuff. It’s going to be a good mix of everything. Since all our songs are pretty short, we tend to play a lot of songs because we had to fill some time. We’ll probably play 18-20 songs.

Q: What about doing rarities or covers, like that great version of Oasis’ “Wonderwall” you guys did for the 'Punk Goes 90s' comp?
A: We actually really like playing that song live. It’s one of our best songs we do live because it just sounds good. I think we way we recorded it reflects really well the way how we play it live. We never actually rehearsed that song before we recorded it. We took the studio version right to the stage. That really lent it to having the song work out really well.

Q: I read that several of you attended a major NASCAR race last month.
A: We’ve always kind of been closet fans of NASCAR. My uncle and dad we’re really into it when I was younger. Kevin is a car fanatic. Anything that goes fast, he’s down with. Nick’s dad is a big NASCAR guy. It kind of came up a year or two ago that we were all NASCAR nerds. Not necessarily following it, but everybody was like ‘we’re big Earnhart fans.’ I think it all started with us getting the NASCAR ’08 videogame last year. XBox sent us that…we went up to Charlotte and saw two races and got drunk and yelled at cars as they whizzed by.

Q: It’s been about a year since the second album was recorded and released. With hindsight, are you satisfied with how it turned out?
A: A lot of people gave us a lot of flak because they thought the album was actually being written and recorded in 20 days. We felt kind of shafted by that promotion because that’s not what we signed up for. That’s not what they ever told us we had to do.

Q: Why not?
A: When they originally had the contract, they said, ‘we only want you guys to do 4-5 songs. We just want to have the story of a couple songs.’ I thought, ‘great. We can still record the way we want and we’re just going to do a couple songs there and those are required to be on the album. And we can pick the ones we’re going to do. It’s a no-brainer.’ We did that and finished up the record in there. But we’re not going to do drums in the bubble. No way. It’s going to sound terrible. We recorded some drums and we were right, it sounded bad. We made a good call. We kind of got the hose on that. I think the record and what the bubble had to lend to the writing process, the finishing process of the songs, it was a totally unique experience. I think the record turned out really well. We’re all very proud of it. It’s very different that “Chroma.” That’s what we wanted…the second record is always the hardest. Now that we’ve actually been through it, I actually know what people are talking about. It’s either, no one bought your first record and your second one is like your statement and everyone likes it. It’s almost a curse if your debut is good and people like it.

Q: What's on tap for Cartel the rest of the year?
A: The record won’t come out this year. We’re in a good frame of mind. We had these stickers made up: ‘Cartel ’08 – The right band at the right time,’ playing off the election. The new president is not going to be able to do anything until ’09. We feel the same way. It’s a little self-fulfilling prophesy here...the writing is going well so far. We call it Round 2 in the circle.

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