How To Be Popular is the perhaps wishfully titled new album from Popular Genius, whose name isn't as immodest as you might think. Unchanged are PG's solid songwriting and instrumental sensibilities, which converge in a buoyant retro-pop sound. But with Popular PG's lyrical content has matured, dealing with both the pain of broken relationships and the euphoria of surviving a broken heart. Here singer-guitarist Andrew Bissell explains the secret of PG's soon-to-be success. PG hosts a CD release party Saturday, July 31, at the Exit/In.
1. Hark! They didn't have to place any ads. "Everything came together quite naturally. Pretty much everyone in the band 'fell into place.' Didn't have to put out any ads, which is always a last resort. The band essentially was an 'idea' before it evolved into what it is today. Scott and I started writing songs and playing as a duo at coffee shops and such, and pretty soon made recordings where we tracked up all the instruments so it would sound like a full band, and then used those recordings to attract the rest of the members. We always knew we wanted some sort of offbeat instrumentation, and I think the horns complete a lot of the musical ideas with the accordion and other little gadgets thrown in for little twists here and there. The fear of having the horn element, particularly the flute and sax, was sounding too much like Dave Matthews or being mistaken for a jam-band, cuz that's not how we'd like to be perceived. I like to think we are using the horns and rest of the instruments in ways that harken back to bands like Chicago, Blood Sweat & Tears, The Beach Boys, Stevie Wonder, etc...Although I wouldn't call our sound 'retro' per se."
2. The secret to being popular is "to get 8-10 hours of rest each night and to consume plenty of fluids until the rashes go away."
3. Life, love and the pursuit of a music career dominate song lyrics. " I don't think I'll stop writing about relationships for a while, but I'd like to come to a point in my life where I've made it thru all that stuff and moved on to something else. The 'ex-girlfriend' songs tend to be a mixture of sour resentment and regret and then turning around and laughing at it all. The laughter element is what I find cathartic. But I think people familiar with my lyrical style will find the approach on this album familiar for the most part, although I think they're more reflective and questioning this time. The darkness comes from uncertainty that sets in when you wonder how in the world you are gonna make money playing music the rest of your life."
4. Popular Genius is growing up. "I really wanted this album to 'breathe' more than the last one did; only put things in places if they make a significant contribution to the whole, rather than sticking anything anywhere just because we could. I think our quirks have matured this time around. Some bands lose the things that make them unique as they continue to mature, but I feel like if we have a 'signature sound,' it's definitely still very apparent on the new album."
5. Talk radio is a major influence. "I think for the most part, I am a generally deprived listener. I kind of stick with talk radio and my limited CD collection, and I don't think Ryan has bought a CD since Green Day's Dookie. Scott tends to listen to the newer stuff like Death Cab and Muse."
6. Even geniuses don't know when to let go. "The worst part is not being able to tell when it's 'done.' I tend to want to keep making these subtle changes during mixing and it drives me nuts. That's what sucks about mixing your own material, you don't know when to let go. The best part is hearing everything really come together. Until the final stages, you hear things all screwy and unmixed, and it's just really special when it all comes together in a complimentary way."
7. Winning the Tour de France for a sixth consecutive time does not necessarily make you popular. "I have no idea what you are talking about."