- by Tom Dumarey
You might not know it yet, but Cabana Wear is your new favorite band. Made up of longtime friends and New Jersey/Philadelphia scene veterans, Cabana Wear features singer-guitarist Brian Mietz (The Not Fur Longs, It’s A King Thing), guitarist Alec McVey (Aspiga), bassist Dan Saraceni (By Surprise, The Only Ghost In Town), and Eric McConathey (Brackish) on drums.
They share a mutual love for late 90ies alternative and power pop and instead of being like me and uttering the words ‘they sure don’t make ‘em like they used to’ on a semi-regular basis to no one in particualar, they started writing songs in the key of Nada Surf, Ash, Harvery Danger, Weezer and the likes. We caught up with vocalist/guitarist Brian to talk about their absolutely amazing self-titled album, which will be out this Friday via Sludge People (preorder here: vinyl / tape). (photo credit: Gianna Vadino)
PRT: While you’re a new band, you have already known each other for over a decade. When and why did you decide to start a band together?
Brian: I don’t really wanna talk about it. It’s too emotional and my heart hurts too much... but in January 2016 we started practicing together.
PRT: You have previously played in bands like By Surprise, Crucial Dudes, and It’s A King Thing. Was being in a band something where you were like ‘it was fun while it lasted but now let’s go find a regular job’?
Brian: I had a regular job during that time. It was dumb. Not dumb cause it was a regular job but dumb because I was wasting too many days not doing what I wanted to do. Then one day during a meeting at work, while were talking about paper jamming in our envelope stuffer, I was asked to leave. I must have been visibly bored. The F word was used twice. It’s pretty funny thinking back on it. I wish I could relive it every day like Groundhog Day and do something different each time to be cussed out. Like take my shoes and socks off and put my feet on the table while twirling chewed gum around my finger and taking a selfie with a selfie stick. Then the next day walk into the meeting 5 minutes late in my pajamas, walk over to the window, breathe hot air on the glass, and write “KILL ME” with my finger. If time travel is ever possible I’d like to do this. Anyway, I’m rambling. Regular jobs. I didn’t see any of that impeding on It’s a King Thing because we weren’t going to tour anyway. We still play. We have new songs. We’ll do another album sometime in the future. By Surprise has a brand new record too. It’s awesome.
PRT: I have to ask… how did you come up with the name Cabana Wear? When I think of cabana wear, I get images of shirts that scream at you with busy prints. Your songs on the other hand sound very non-busy and uncomplicated.
Brian: I kept track of all the bands names that were thrown out and we had roughly 83 other names before we settled on Cabana Wear. It’s a Seinfeld reference. The hit TV show. How can I go on a cruise without my cabana wear? I didn’t like it at first but I’ve grown to love it. Cabana is a cool word. Plus you can pronounce it like “Cabonna” if you want. I tried to buy cabanawear.com but the guy wanted $10,000 for it. Like I’ve got a money tree or something. cabanawearband.com works just fine.
PRT: The songs that make up the album are influenced by the likes of nineties bands like Weezer, Teenage Fanclub, Nada Surf and the likes… what is it about that sound that draws you to it?
Brian: I was starting to get into music around the time all these bands were on the radio. I was watching MTV a lot when “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was in rotation. Eating Doritos and banging my fat head. I’d had a little tape collection. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Blind Melon. They were the first tapes I had. Then one Christmas my brother and I got a boombox with a CD player. My first 3 CDs were Weezer’s first album, R.E.M. “Monster” and Pearl Jam “Vitology”. I have a memory of listening to “My Name Is Jonas” on Christmas morning really loud before we left for my Aunt’s boyfriend’s house. I think the next Christmas I got my first guitar. My cousins Frank and Joe Patullo gave me a basic lesson. Showed me how to do a power chord. Showed me how to play Nirvana songs. So now I have a perspective of songwriting cause I see how they arranged their chords. I got more lessons from a guy named Brian Weinstein. He was a great teacher. He helped me develop my ear, made me tap out rhythm patterns, got me noodling around, showed me how to figure out how to play songs. So I would do all this a lot. Put an album on, figure out how to play the songs by ear and then play along to the album for practice. Sometimes I would stand on my bed. I had a Grunge pedal too. Over the course of high school I started to hear more bands. I got really into Weston, The Figgs, Lemonheads, Superdrag, Nada Surf, Pavement. All bands with cool songs and some sort of amping up. Great harmonies too. We’re lucky to have so many great songs to listen to everyday. What a treat!
PRT: While the melodies are catchy as hell, a lot of the lyrics deal with less sunny things like anxiety, frustration and feeling directionless. What is it about that juxtaposition that appeals to you?
Brian: I don’t know if it’s that it appeals to me as much as it just happens to be that way. I write as frequently as I can and the songs are usually about the same stuff. People you love, something that makes you mad, something funny that happened during your day, crushes, death, TV, music, whatever. The last song I wrote is about my grandfather not being able to find his shoe because he can’t remember where he put it and even if he could remember he wouldn’t be able to formulate the words to tell me where it was. So that’s a sad song and in true juxtapose fashion the music and melody are upbeat. The songs on the Cabana Wear record run the gamut of a whole bunch of things. Some of it is poignant and some of it is playful. The songs I brought to the record I thought would dynamically work well with the sound we were going for.
PRT: The album comes with 12 songs that clock in at just over 30 minutes. Did songs automatically end up that concise while you were writing or did you trim them down?
Brian: I’ve always liked albums like that. I also tend to write very short, simple songs. Alec writes pretty concisely too. Dan wrote “Least Comfortable Me”. He’s said that was him trying to write an It’s a King Thing song. I think the only song on the record that was trimmed down from the original demo was “Bother You” Everything else came in pretty trimmed, ready to dress up.
PRT: You posted something in early 2018 about finishing recording the album. How come it took another year to get the album out there?
Brian: We took some time to figure out who we wanted to master the record. Ryan Smith from Sterling Sound had mastered a bunch of albums we liked so we contacted him. We got the finished record back on June 1, 2018. We waited some more, came up with a game plan, sent it to some labels. We ultimately decided to press some records. Our friend Joey is putting a tape out on his label Sludge People. As luck would have it we’ll have all that stuff a few days after the record is released digitally and for our run of shows this spring. All this time and preparation is working out perfectly. The release date is March 15, 2019.
PRT: You recorded the album with Dave Downham at The Gradwell House, where you have recorded before. Was that about convenience or about feeling at home?
Brian: We love the Gradwell House. Dave and Steve, who sings back-up on “Scaredy Horse” and “Where I Am” on the record, had just built a new spot. We had all helped rip the place apart and build it back up in some capacity. By the time the were ready to record in the new studio, we were ready start laying down some fat tracks. We spoke to Dave about what we wanted to go for sonically, certain albums we liked and he was able to do a kick-ass job cause he’s the god damn master. He also plays Rhodes on the last track.
PRT: Is it brave or foolish to start a band like yours when all the big bucks in music go to people who make music with laptops instead of guitars?
Brian: I was told the big bucks are in the arts. How many rich doctors and lawyers do you know? Probably none. I don’t think it’s brave or foolish really. We knew we wanted to write some good songs and record an album we’d all still be pumped about years down the road. I think we did pretty good. I’m not against laptop-making music. A good song is a good song regardless of production or sound quality. Sometimes you gotta stand on your bed and just jam your face off though.
PRT: If there is one thing you would like to achieve with Cabana Wear that you haven’t been able to with your previous bands, what would it be?
Brian: I’d like to play in some other countries. Play on the West Coast. Melt some faces. Maybe get an endorsement. I’m pointing at you Doritios, with nacho cheese on my finger.