Friday, September 26, 2008

Bands in the Neighborhood: Petworth

Despite the name, the band Petworth is partially based in Columbia Heights, partially in Mt. Pleasant, and partially in their namesake neighborhood. The three piece play early punk-inflected indie rock that goes from The Smiths ("Garofalo") to college rock ("Pez Dispenser Head") and everything in between. The second in the Bands in the Neighborhood series, I interviewed bassist and singer Pitt Stains about the band, which also consists of non-aliased Amos (guitar and vocals) and Shane (drums).

The band's name came after a long search of possible names that Pitt called "awful," including Sperm Wail, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, Zombie Lurch, Sex and the Country, Barium Smoothie, etc. They used both The Deciders and Hostage Soup pending a better name, and then one day it came to them after practice.

"I think Amos suggested it," said Stains. "Since Shane lives there, Amos' great grandparents lived there, and it's the setting of my disastrous failed romance, we were all like, 'Yesssss!' Plus it's a DC thing, and it just sounds cool."

Pitt himself lives in Columbia Heights, near Columbia and Georgia, "right around the corner from Everlasting Life, which is -- to the best of my knowledge -- the only place to get vegan ice cream smoothies in DC."

The story of the band's formation starts at a wedding.

"Somehow, Amos caught wind that there was a drummer in his midst. He spent the entire wedding weekend tracking down this mystery drummer until he finally met Shane. They played for a bit in this miserable little space behind a dry cleaner on Flower Avenue before Shane asked me if I'd like to join them. Shane and I had been talking about starting a band together since college -- in fact, he's the one who got me started playing bass guitar. We wrote and worked out songs in that mold-infested shack in Takoma Park for several months before landing a show at the Black Cat with The Jet Age and moving our gear to Wheaton for practices."

Pitt says they hope to someday use his basement for practices "in a way that doesn't end with my neighbors waving torches and pitchforks outside my door." They say they're looking for gigs in the neighborhood too. Wonderland folks, are you reading?

As noted, the band takes its influences from a lot of places. Amos cites The Smiths, Bad Brains, Throwing Muses, etc. Shane adds more including The Jam, The Who, and Mission of Burma, and Pitt says 80s West Coast punk and hardcore and DC stuff like Minor Threat and Dismemberment Plan. They play next on Halloween at the Red and the Black on H Street NE, along with The Jones, Curly, and the Rocket.

Petworth doesn't have any albums out yet, but the sound man at the Black Cat recorded their last show, and some of the songs are up on their Myspace. Pitt says they may put more up on their website.

And if they had to name their band for something in Columbia Heights? Amos suggests "That Gravelly Patch in Front of Pollo Campero" and Pitt Stains' idea is simpler: "Gentrification."

Catch Petworth at the Red and the Black on October 31.

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