Boardroom Heroes Tell Us Their “Safe Words”
Posted on July 24, 2014
July 24, 2014
by Bryne Yancey
The EpiFat sound used to be everywhere. Not so much anymore. But in Bethesda, Md. of all places, it endures thanks to Boardroom Heroes. The band’s upcoming Brian McTernan-produced EP New Wage, due out Aug. 19 via Sinking Ship, recaptures the quickness, dexterity and sense of melody that made that era of punk so memorable fun to listen to.
The guys have an interesting background, too: Brothers Andre (bass/vocals) and Augusto Pagliarini (drums) grew up in Brazil before moving to the United States, and have been playing music together for the better part of a decade. We spoke with the two of them about the new EP, their upbringing and more. Check it out, along with a first listen of New Wage opener “Safe Words,” below.
The Runout: It’s been a couple years between the release of Another Year and New Wage. What have you guys been up to in the interim?
Andre Pagliarini: It’s been a pretty eventful period for the band. My brother and I recorded Another Year entirely on our own; I did bass and guitar and he did the drums. We made a little video for the song “Elephant” which caught the attention of the good dudes at Sinking Ship, who decided to put out the album. We then recruited our friends Drew [Champion] and Stephen [Parsons] to play guitar so that we could do live shows. Our good friend Nick [Freese] stepped in somewhat recently when Drew couldn’t play with us anymore.
It’s also been a hugely eventful period in my personal life. Since Another Year came out I’ve moved to Providence for grad school and gotten engaged while balancing all that with the band, playing shows whenever we can. It’s been great.
Augusto Pagliarini: Yeah, this has been the first time that Dre and I have been separated so I have been keeping busy by playing in other bands, going to school, working, cooking and hanging out with my girlfriend and friends.
Andre, I indeed read in another interview that you’d moved to Providence to go to grad school at Brown. What were you studying, and how do you feel it influenced the direction of the band’s music, if at all?
Andre: I’m getting my PhD in history, specifically modern Latin America. The content of what I’m studying hasn’t really found its way into the substance of our new material, I don’t think. But the experience of moving to another city, going through momentous life changes, dealing with the ambiguous nature of homecomings in general, all of that has definitely influenced the direction I’ve taken as a songwriter. Hopefully that comes across in a genuine, relatable way in the new batch of songs.
You guys are brothers and have been playing music together for a long time now. What would you say are the advantages to being in a band with a sibling? What about the disadvantages?
Andre: We literally learned how to play music together and at the same time, so there’s definitely a way in which we understand each other’s thought process. We can go through a song and have something pretty much down ready to go in not too much time. We’ve also grown up listening to the exact same bands, so our reference points are usually the same. We almost have our own musical language composed of references to the bands we grew up on. I suppose that might also count as something of a disadvantage. Our older brother sometimes teases us for being too limited in what we listen to. In that sense, it’s really good to have guys like Nick and Stephen in the band. We’re obviously all into a lot of the same bands but they bring a different ear and different sensibilities than what might immediately occur to Gu and I.
Augusto: Musically, we are super in sync with one another. I believe that being the rhythm section together further enforces our musical connection. The addition of Stephen and Nick in the band does bring a fresh perspective to the songwriting process. I can’t wait to work on more songs with all of us, as a band.
Boardroom Heroes hail from Bethesda, Md., which is of course a DC suburb but it’s not typically a place one associates with punk rock or punks living there. It’s one of the most affluent suburbs in the country, actually. Do you feel that your music is in any way a reaction to that upbringing and those surroundings, or is it more of an inward thing?
Andre: I think most of the people we’ve known who grew up in or around Bethesda who got into punk have a complicated relationship with the place. Some hate it and can’t wait to get out and never come back. My brother and I only really lived in the area beginning in high school so we kind of came at it as outsiders a little bit. We actually grew up in Brazil.
In a way, being a DC suburb, Bethesda is really great because it’s really cosmopolitan. We went to high school with people from lots of different countries, for example, which was really cool. People are generally—again, generally—pretty progressive and open-minded. That being said, there is this kind of bubble phenomenon where privilege and safety breed a little bit of risk aversion and aloofness in people who have grown up here. I think a lot of Boardroom’s lyrics are attempts to work through some of that.
What kind of non-musical art could you cite as an influence? Could be a book, a painting, a film, whatever.
Andre: To be honest, I can’t really think of specific instances where I can point to influences from other art forms. I love movies, for example, but I don’t know that it’s been explicitly infused in any meaningful way into our songs.
We have a song on Another Year called “Paradise” in which we kind of play around with references a few books like Catcher in the Rye and An American Tragedy but again, I don’t know that non-musical art has figured too prominently in our process.
Augusto: I agree with Dre, although I do graphic design work which at time, feeds off my punk influences, I don’t really see it being the other way around as much.
Musically then, I sense that you guys were or are very much into the classic EpiFat sound, and since I just wrote an article about how I wish those cheap punk compilations would come back, I have to ask: What’s your favorite cheap punk compilation? Favorite song you first heard on one?
Andre: Oh absolutely. For better or for worse, that’s the stuff we grew up on. It’s the stuff that, no matter where we go in life and in music, is always on the tip of our tongue, if that makes any sense in a musical way. It’s the reference point to how we sound and want to sound.
Punk-O-Rama [compilations] were definitely the ones we always had the most. It was so exciting going from track to track and being introduced to a new great band followed by maybe a not-so-great one. The whole experience could be pretty exhilarating. Aside from those Epitaph comps, I really dug some of the Fat ones too like Short Music for Short People.’ The Bad Religion track on that, “Out of Hand,” was great.
Augusto: Punk-O-Rama was always my favorite. We bought a lot of the early ones. I really like Rancid’s “I Wanna Riot” off Punk-O-Rama 1, as well as “Do What You Want” by Bad Religion and “Don’t Call Me White” by NOFX.
Let’s talk about the new EP, and “Safe Words” in particular. It seems like the song is, at least in a sense, about feeling aimless, stuck in a rut, what have you. (if I’m totally off base here feel free to say so). Is the song autobiographical? Was there a particular situation that brought the lyrics to the page?
Andre: Yeah, in a very general sense the song is about mortality. More specifically, it’s kind of as you pointed out, this idea that we can get boxed in by the choices we make and feel like we have no real control over the trajectory of our lives. So the ‘safe words’ of the title are supposed to refer to the ways in which we narrow our sights and live smaller lives than we might like.
It’s a song that arose from my internal deliberations about my priorities with grad school and the band on the line. I’ve been really happy with how I’ve been able to balance things. I think it would be pretentious of me to think the song can be illuminating for others but hopefully there’s something positive and real here.
You guys worked with Brian McTernan for New Wage, who obviously has produced some of the best punk records of the era. How was that? What type of input/feedback does he give? What’d you learn from working with him?
Andre: The fact that Brian has worked so extensively with Strike Anywhere was, for me, reason enough to be super excited. Then you think about everyone else he’s worked with and it’s even crazier. He’s an amazing producer and an incredibly focused guy. He’s got an amazing ear. He really helped us take our batch of songs to the next level, I think. Hopefully that comes across in the final product. I would love to record with him in the future, if we can make it work.
Augusto: Working with Brian was awesome, maybe even a little intimidating. Here’s a guy who has worked with and produced some of our favorite records and now he’s giving us input on our songs. We spent a whole session playing the songs in front of him. He would give us suggestions for extending or shortening certain parts. He just really had great ideas and was a joy to work with.
OK, name your favorite McTernan-produced record. Mine is probably Hot Water Music’s Caution, with Texas Is The Reason’s EP a close second.
Andre: Definitely any of the Strike Anywhere albums. Either Exit English or Iron Front. I also really liked The Loved Ones stuff he did.
Augusto: I love Caution as well but I think Strike Anywhere’s Exit English might be my favorite.
Boardroom Heroes will again be playing The Fest this fall. From the perspective of a smaller band who doesn’t tour very much, what’s the experience of heading down there and performing like? To me, it sorta feels like a bunch of different, smaller scenes from around the world converging onto another scene, in the best possible way.
Andre: I think that’s absolutely a good way to describe it. It’s this mishmash of scenes and subgenres and stuff and then you’re just kind of there, a tiny part of it. It’s humbling but also extremely gratifying at the same time to be able to play the same festival as so many bands that we absolutely love. I really hope people come check us out because the only thing better than playing the Fest is playing the Fest to a lot of people, you know? A lot of our DC friends will be there this year, including our best buds Kill Lincoln, which only sweetens the deal for us.
Anyone who’s into punk in any way owes it to themselves to check out the Fest in Gainesville at some point. It’s a lot of fun and also amazingly well-run, which I confess was what most impressed me the first time we played there. They’ve really got something special going on down there each there and I don’t think it’s too farfetched to say our “scene”—however small or large one imagines that concept to be—owes No Idea and everyone involved in organizing the Fest a good deal of gratitude.
What bands are you most looking forward to seeing at The Fest?
Augusto: Kill Lincoln, our good buds from DC will be fun to see. They packed 1982 last year and it was awesome. I also can’t wait to see Hot Water Music, Strike Anywhere, The Flatliners, Timeshares, Only Crime, and Descendents.
Andre: Yeah, Kill Lincoln. I really can’t wait to see Banner Pilot. Our sets overlapped last time we played so I kind of missed their set. That won’t happen again. Strike Anywhere, Timeshares, Only Crime. I’m also excited to see Mixtapes for the first time. I’M SO PUMPED!