Spidder: Are you gonna carry the fog and the cool SF bay sound into the deserts of New Mexico?
PF: Yeah, of course. Im an SF kid, and I take that with me everywhere I go. As its changed I've held onto that identity even more. I love where I’m from and want my music to carry the feeling of my youth, of the way it is and the way it used to be. But touring has always inspired me and I've been singing songs about the desert to city kids for awhile now too. haha
Spidder: Rockinchair...Trainwreck Riders...Slow Motion Cowboys..is that the core?
PF: Yeah, I don’t really play in other bands. So that’s like the lineage. Rockinchair being the first and Slow Motion Cowboys being what I’m working on now. Trainwreck Riders is somewhere in the middle but still present in everything I do cause thats for life. All are vehicles for my songs. And each has its own specific influences but mostly I hope they all just come out as “pete songs”. A bunch of music that together, stands on its own.
Spidder: There is a silent element to your music and songwriting that has the graffiti vibe...
PF: haha, not sure what you mean by “silent”?
I grew up around a lot of kids who were into reggae and hip hop and that was really boring to me. That wasn’t who I was. The first punks I knew were this gang of girls in my school. They made me tapes and did zines. Every weekend there were shows at Gilman and places like the Cocodrie, and I was into graffiti and running around at night so i just gravitated towards that.
But I always collected records and there was a lot of blues and jazz played around the house. These dudes across the street had tons of records I could comb through. We’d listen to a lot of SST bands, drink martinis, watch the Simpsons and then they’d help me with my homework. I thought the Dead was old people music then I heard the Meat Puppets do “franklins tower”. That inspired me. All those SST bands inspired me. I just gravitated towards country because it works for me and my style, and because it comes from a place that I can relate to, and because no one in my hood knew about it so I had to dig for the good stuff.
Spidder: SST to me captured the blunt honesty of skateboarding vs "organized" sports...a raw reinterpretation of Black Sabbath or whatever...I always heard mention of you guys and Gilman, but for a kid from Alabama, you seemed miles apart to me. Gilman shows were white, school type events, real "punk"...but every time we played or saw you guys play in SF or the mission there was always graffiti kids there. There was always Mexican kids and I remember seeing a crew of black dudes walking by once while you guys were loading in, and they were like "yo, Pete!"
PF: I think what you might be referring too is the suburban element which makes up a lot of the kids who go to Gilman. It makes sense that a lot of kids, with not much to do, end up coming to Berkeley to have fun and hang out. I never was without something to get into so Gilman was just one of many spots I would go to see music and socialize. The coolest thing about it is that it's all ages and in SF I had to sneak into clubs or play house shows or galleries. Balazo Gallery was our neighborhood spot but it was always mixed so you would have a punk band play an art show with a bunch of different scenes all thrown together. Growing up in the Mission, In San Francisco in general, you have so many different cultures all thrown together. As a white kid there was a lot of pressure to act "ghetto" so you woudn't get singled out. I never bent to that pressure and after a while I got respect. I also was really into art and drawing so that got me out of some jams. It was about being the best at whatever you were into so I just came up with my own thing and then brought that to the table with that skateboarder/graffiti mentality.
Maybe I could guess that it doesn't have a lot of do0-dads and arrows and stuff - it doesn't have a lot colors and shapes.Shit. Maybe, you mean that my songwriting style is cutty and sorta under the radar. I like that. I definitely feel that art is best when it's anonymous, often the personality of an artist undercuts the image. I don't want people to be distracted by ME, I want them to find something in it that they can relate to in the song. My favorite writers growing up were TWIST, REMINISCE, ORFN, pretty mellow folks who do real bold, mostly black and white letters and characters. Thats what I try to do. There weren't any songwriters my age that i knew so i just drew from other sources.
Spidder: Lyrically, I’ve always found your music fresh. Simple, with soul. Graffiti in its rawness, slightly illegal, with beauty.
PF: Yeah, You're right! Im so hurt by the changes that have taken place. I feel personally under attack by the developers and tech companies that have moved in and changed so drastically the city that I love. My whole adult life has been dealing with this. From friends and family leaving and getting evicted starting around 98' to the way people treat you like an outsider in your own neighborhood. I've seen everything, I'm not blind to what people will do to snatch up property or "clean up" a neighborhood. Arson, police murder and intimidation, dirty politics it all happens in SF. I try and write about it in my own way but mostly I try to just represent the way I was brought up the best I can. My Dad really taught me the beauty of San Francisco and I try and capture that. But, I'm living in New Mexico right now so that's where I'm at. Im trying to pull from some different influences now.
And, thanks for saying that about my music, I think graffiti is folk art and thats what i do too.
Spidder: I can see the telecaster coming out more with this desert move...
PF: I’m going for more of an Electric Buzzard vibe now that I’m out here. Haha
Spidder: Do you mind explaining the concept of the “buzzard”...
PF: Well, Theres a song of mine called Buzzards Last Stand that sorta explains the personality. But, the origin of it comes from a group of friends that showed me a place called the perch and inspired me to write about these characters. They had a bike shop in the garage called the “tired wheel” and would find old bikes in the neighborhood and fix them up. They seemed to get by on things people threw away, were into painting and old music and exploring the city. Herman, Burt, Read, they were all from Washington, except for Burt who grew up in SF then moved to Vancouver, WA.
Spidder: At the moment, you relocated to New Mexico... you mentioned to me you were looking for a few “electric buzzards”...
PF: This summer I did a songwriting residency in Las Cruces for the month of June. For the first time in my life I had time focus on just writing music. I had always just blasted through town in the past, knowing it was a special place but never getting to see much more than the club and maybe my favorite bookstore. I was losing my place in Oakland and needed to figure something out so I decided to move out here. I’ve always tried to keep the acoustic, traditional feel present in the band but I found after going on tour with you and the Haints last year that the telecaster was so natural to the ear. I never had to fight the room and found I could push the songs dynamics so much more with the electric guitar. I always knew that southern New Mexico had this wealth of pickers and songwriters, and hidden little towns where people really came out to dance and sing along to the songs. Now I have this great band behind me and lots of songs pulled from the desert well. It’s a new chapter for sure.
Interview by James Barrier for Spidder magazine November 11th, 2017