Pedals On Our Pirate Ships – A Place to Stay
Review by Thomas McPhail
Road trips can be pure hell, and no one knows better than road-hauling musicians. Just ask local favorites Pedals on Our Pirate Ships, whose release tour for their second LP, A Place to Stay, has them alongside RVA’s Hold Tight! on a four week romp across all stretches of the U.S.
I had the pleasure of giving their sophomore effort a spin while on my own road trip to Philadelphia; a much less daunting task, rest assured. Though the trip was in all honesty forgettable, their album certainly was not.
Recorded in May with Lance Koehler at Minimum Wage Recording, and clocking in at 35 minutes, A Place to Stay is much more than another Richmond pop-punk or folk release.
Truth be told, the first listen didn’t do it for me. Vocalist Matt Seymour’s croons about vampires, U-locks and birth canals took some patience. However, no album, mind-blowing or garbage, can truly be digested in one spin.
After two or three rounds, A Place To Stay really stuck with me. ‘Cupid Baby’, a shamelessly catchy ballad thoroughly dissecting the emotional irony of having a birthday on Valentine’s Day, is one of the most memorable tunes that I’ve heard from any Richmond band recently.
The unfortunately curt ‘Lightning Rods’ hasn’t given anything else a proper chance to get stuck in my head (and no, not even ‘Call Me Maybe’). Effusive and robust, the textures that fill out songs previously left to nothing but an acoustic guitar shine on this record. ‘Livin’ The Dream’ comes laden with harmonies and clever hooks to match. Catchy is Pedals’ calling card, and they play it damn well.
In true folk fashion, the band decided to pull a Bob Dylan with this release and deviate from their acoustic roots to pursue a full-fledged sound. However, this isn’t your father’s folk rock, and the proof is in the Moog. A sound once championed but largely abandoned by acts over the years (ex. Four Year Strong, The Wonder Years, Motion City Soundtrack, etc), P.O.O.P.S. consciously fuses synth with shred wherever they can: and it works.
It’s an admirable choice, which certainly pays off on tracks like ‘Knives’ and ‘Growing Pains’. Rather than utilizing harmonized mimicry or muddying the sound, the keys, courtesy of Adrienne Brown, give the record a needed punch. There’s aren’t many acts that pull off this delicate balance, and P.O.O.P.S. sheds folk and pop-punk barriers, transcending into a new sound you certainly wouldn’t hear on a cookie-cutter Warped Tour sidestage.
Most surprising is the transformation of ‘Shoot The Hostage’, originally from their acoustic EP, No Bad Blood. The song exudes a new, energetic dynamic with the full band, acting as a tangible bridge between their acoustic and electric performances. ‘Sweet Tragedies’ got a similar treatment, with similarly favorable results. Even so, ‘Tom’s Song’, the only stripped down cut on the album, still makes a vivid sing-along out of a haunting memory. The verdict is clear: P.O.O.P.S. can be refreshing in many forms.
The real highlight of the album is the shout to Hold Tight! Drummer and Stay Sweet Fest organizer Alex Wilhelm. Bands like Hold Tight! and P.O.O.P.S. represent all that is great about the Richmond music scene, and without their individual contributions and performances our city would truly not be what it is today.
Seymour says it best:
“If you stay sweet, then I’ll stay sweet.
We’ll build up a community
Where we actually help one another.
Let’s be friends, let’s be sisters and brothers.
Let’s be everything we can to each other.”
Be sure to catch Pedals at the Say-10 Records 5-Year Anniversary Show in September!