So my little sista (as I call her) Evie and I talk on the phone once in awhile and she told me about this band she heard called Pancake Riot, she linked me to their music in an email that night, I heard one song (Car Trouble) and loved them right off the bat. Evie did too, told me she bookmarked their page, she was very determined to get them to come to IMP so she could put them on one of her stations. That sort of passed, didn't happen at the time and then I got a note from her several weeks later that she spoke to one of the members (Kat) who agreed to have a page. I only recall Eve being that determined a few other times, she has great taste imo. Turns out Kat was a solo artist too and I heard Swimming For Your Life and it appealed to me on an emotional level. Kat later turned us on to one of her bandmates, Candace Griffin, who was clearly a natural - and a couple other fine artists she knew, the sparkling Aly Jayne and the very cerebral grungers Elmer and the Ceramic Trees (Robbie Haas, another member of Pancake Riot). All 4 of whom are on the current Kayak Big 25 as we speak so this was a pretty big deal for IMP. Wisconsin is not a place I ever suspected was teeming with great songwriters but apparently it's one of those pockets of the universe that the song gods shined down upon. There is something direct and crisp about all of their songs, sort of a common strand or maybe I'm imagining that, either way I feel the sky is the limit for all of them, they write songs that not only catch your ears melodically but the lyrics are about something. This gifted posse of Wisconsinites is the best example I can think of in quite awhile why online music is such a great thing. If not for invention of the mp3 I'm pretty sure I'd never have gotten to hear their tunes. Anyway I got to interview Kat and Candace and by the end I sort of felt like I was hanging out with them, they are down-to-earth and I think they're going to be making a lot more music in the future, I'm pretty sure they do what they do for the right reasons - for the love of music.
Scott: ok let me start out with the easy question, you can both chime in on any you have answers for. Where did the name Pancake Riot come from, I'm picturing a late night run at IHOP?
Candace: Kat can tell the story better. She was actually there when the joke was made!
Kat: Back in 2013 when we were just getting started, we had the members, we had the music, we just didn't have a name. We had a band meeting on the night of November 13th, 2013. We went around and each of the eight members threw in a band name they liked and we drew out of a hat. Afterwards, we played rock, paper, scissors. And after that, I'm pretty sure we went back to drawing out of the hat. We were so indecisive. There were a lot of good contenders such as "Wednesday Eve" and "Bumbleberry Jam", but we ultimately chose "Members of the Pancake Riot". Almost a year later, we shortened it to just "Pancake Riot".
Kat: I met Candace in high school. She was a Senior when I was a Freshman. It wasn't
until we were both out of high school that we really connected. She invited me
to an open mic or two, and eventually to our best friend Danial's house. Every
other Wednesday we got together for what we called "song share", and on the
alternate Wednesdays we attended the open mic in our hometown of Janesville. So
every Wednesday we were together!
Going solo didn't cross our minds until people started moving on from Pancake Riot. Life happens. People get jobs, they relocate, they inevitably get girlfriends and music becomes a hobby rather than a way of life.
We all still talk. I'm still very close with Dan, Candace, and Robbie. They are easily some of my very best friends.
Candace: Kat and I went to the same high school. We met our bandmate Robbie and many other musicians at a local open mic in Janesville. We all got together and would play our songs for each other, soon we started playing along with everyone. And we realized "hey, we're kind of a band!" We're so much better than just a band though because even though we all started out solo and members have came and gone, we're still all so supportive of each other.
Scott: It must be asked if there's something in the water in Janesville cause I've now heard maybe 4 artists from there and they're all really good?
Kat: We were a mess of different people; different backgrounds, different song writing styles, different genres. We all came together through music and we all just happened to live in Janesville!
Candace: Maybe there is something in the water! I feel so lucky to be part of a tight knit community of awesome artists.
Scott: I assume Car Trouble is about real circumstances? I could write a song or 2 about that myself. Are you fans of Sonic Youth cause I hear reverberations of them in that song?
Kat: Car Trouble is both metaphorical and based off of a real life circumstance. Back when we were still booking gigs as Pancake Riot, Danial and I drove around Janesville putting up show posters. His car kept overheating so we had to keep pulling over. The frustration of the car malfunctioning inspired the thought that "We're just kids with car problems". I showed Candace the lyrics and off we went. "Car Trouble" is about being a young adult in today's society and how we take the steps we need to to survive.
Candace: Car Trouble was based off of frustration that Kat and I have definitely felt. Something that really gets us down is not having a reliable way to get around. I've definitely listened to Sonic Youth and while I don't really consider them one of my inspirations, it's very flattering to be compared! Thanks!
Scott: It says on your facebook page you have played gigs at Dunkin Donuts, that can't be true, is it? What's the most memorable show you've played?
Candice: We have definitely played in a Dunkin Donuts! Back in late 2013 when the band was getting started, there weren't a lot of places nearby we felt were friendly towards acoustic music. So we went to coffee shops, record stores, anywhere they let us play! One of my favorite shows there was when we were playing a cover of Rusted Root's "Send me on my way" and a friend of ours jumped up with all these shakers and danced around. It was so great!
Kat: We were lucky enough to play at Dunkin' Donuts about five or six times throughout the duration of being a full band. It was actually where we had our first official show!
My favorite show was either the 2nd or 3rd time that we played at Dunkin' Donuts. The place was packed! Family and friends from wall to wall. It was a great atmosphere to be in. We saw so much love and support. We loved what we were doing and what we were sharing with the community.
Scott: Are you satisfied with indie music on the web? Is the whole set up getting you the kind of exposure you think you deserve?
Kat: It's a continuously growing scene. There are so many ways to access bands and artists of the indie genre. I'm not worried about where it's at right now. I know it will only grow in the years to come.
Scott: Really love your song I Am Not Who I Have Been. Who are your lyrical influences? Also what is your songwriting process for Pancake Riot? You say in that song "I live my life for me". That struck me as profound because it seems I spend much of my energy trying to please people. Was there a real life circumstance that inspired that line?
Kat: I am a huge fan of Paramore, Twenty One Pilots and Tegan and Sara. I listen to a ridiculously wide range of music and am always open to checking out new genres and artists.
"I Am Not Who I've Been" in particular was styled to sound like a pop punk song. I wasn't writing music back in 7th or 8th grade so being in a band in my early twenties gave me the opportunity to open myself up and revisit my youth to write these songs. It's a song dedicated to anyone that I've known in my life that had meant something to me, but the circumstances weren't right and they weren't helping me grow as a person. I live my life for me and no one else and I think people should respect that.
Scott: Do you both remember when you first started writing songs, were you always this expressive? Both of you have a purity, a clarity. Are you as much like that in your life as in your songs?
Candace: I've been writing poetry and lyrics since I was 13 or so. I've always been pretty expressive in my words but so timid. Songwriting is my way of expressing things I'm scared to death to talk about in every day life.
Kat: When I started writing songs I was not a pro at guitar, but I felt I had a way with words. It's easy for me to express how I feel through words. I've always been open and honest. Honesty is the best policy and if you can't be honest in your life, with your words, to your friends and your family, you are cheating yourself. I will not waste a second of my life not expressing exaclty how I feel. Tell people that you love them. Be affectionate. Life is too short.
Scott: Kat, in regards to your song Swimming For My Life, did it take a lot to get you to walk the plank, and do you think you will walk it again soon?
Kat: "Swimming For My Life" is a song about a long-distance relationship. You wouldn't be able to tell by the words but in the song I express how it's time to move on. That's where the plank comes in. The song is about me walking away, or swimming away I suppose - which is ironic because I'm not a great swimmer.
Scott: Candace, about your song Two Weeks, is 2 weeks enough time or do you wish you had more? Do you think maybe you're just ready to move on? :)
Candace: I thought I was being pretty clever with "Two Weeks"! Like giving someone a two weeks notice when you're leaving a job. It's more for them than for you haha. In actuality it took me a LOT longer to get over the struggles I was talking about in the song. At least this way it was kinda catchy ;)
Scott: What's life like in Janesville? I tend to think music doesn't matter as much to folks these days as it did in my youth but with you 2 I sense that may not be true. How much of a role has music played in the culture you both grew up in?
Kat: Janesville is Janesville. It has its open-minded people and its not-so-open-minded people. It's home. It's where my friends are. It's where I got my real start as a musician. But that's all it will ever be. I have sinced moved away and now live in Madison, WI, a thriving music city.
Music has always been a huge part of my life. It was the only thing that ever really made sense. I didn't do great in school and the only things I really enjoyed were my various art classes, photography, graphic design, and, of course, choir. My dad didn't hesitate to show me the classics. The first album I ever fell completely in love with was Paul McCartney's "RAM". My musical interests only grew from there.
Candace: Janesville is full of so many talented people of all sorts. It's slowly starting to put itself on the map. I'd like to think our little group of friends made a difference in all that somehow.
Scott: We ask this of all our Spotlight interviewees, have you ever had any experiences of high strangeness like UFOs or the supernatural?
Kat: Not that I remember!
Candace: Nothing too spooky had happened to me but that doesn't mean it won't!
Scott: What is the current status of your indie dream?
Candace: I find it hard to stay inspired sometimes, but currently I'm doing my best to stay optimistic, keep writing and moving forward!
Kat: My dream is to write some kick ass songs for people to relate to and to play as many gigs as I can. If I get to a point where I can tour and still feed myself, I'll be happy.