Best of What's Next: Pyramiddd
As the dance-pop quartet recently re-dubbed Pyramidd knows, tossing the term “fucker” into your band name isn’t always the best idea. Until this fall, the foursome had called itself Starfucker, a name slapped on back when the band was just a drumming-only solo project for multi-instrumentalist Josh Hodges. By the time Hodges had unwittingly accumulated three bandmates and started touring, the name had stuck—but had started becoming a distraction, discouraging booking agents from Oregon to Japan. There was a certain amount of attachment to the name—it was what the band had been known as when it released its self-titled debut LP in 2008 and its follow-up EP, Jupiter, earlier this year—and he band didn’t want to betray itself or the people who had made its career possible so far.
But still. They were called Starfucker.
So in September the band invited invited fans to suggest new names, and in October finally settled on Pyramiddd as its new moniker. After playing the last Starfucker show on Halloween night, the band embarked on its first European tour in November, and plan to return to the U.S. to make a fresh start with its new name. Paste spoke to frontman Hodges about the Starfucker legacy, his plans for Pyramidd, and—unexpectedly—how Eastern philosophy makes for great dance music.
Paste: What have the last couple of years been like for you guys, going from not being known to being known on a national level?
Josh Hodges: I think people think we’re a lot bigger than we actually are. We still play for like ten people in Nashville and places like that, you know? I don’t feel that much different—it’s just that we tour a lot. We’ve done like three national tours in the last two years. We’ve done three or four West Coast runs. It’s really fun, and it’s really disruptive to any kind of normal life (Laughs) that I would have in Portland—that all of us used to have in Portland. But it’s worth it.
Paste: How long have you guys been playing together at all?
Hodges: Well Ryan [Bjornstad] and I were in another band before this that also started as a solo project for me and turned into a band—it was called Sexton Blake. And then that band was really boring, and dissolved. And then I started doing this on my own. It was pretty much started so I could play drums to stuff I had pre-recorded, or make loops live. I was like, “You know, this would be a lot more interesting if there was someone else doing something.” Ryan’s a really good entertainer and performer, so I was like, “You should come play on this project with me.” That was a couple of years ago. It just snowballed forward—it wasn’t really intentional. My friend was like, “You should play with my boyfriend,” and I was like, “Alright,” and that was Shawn [Glassford]. Shawn and I were the drummers—we had two drummers for the first tour. And then I thought, “You know, we’re not really good enough to be drummers if we’re going to keep playing like this,” and then Keil [Corcoran] joined the band. Now, Keil is a really great drummer. Shawn and I play other things too, so we just switched. Now I play guitar and keyboards and sing. Shawn plays bass and keyboards and noise tapes and stuff.
Paste: I saw you guys live when you passed through Atlanta a few months back, and I was impressed that you had an actual record player on stage to play the vocal samples you used. What was it that you were playing?
Hodges: The thing you’re probably thinking about is Alan Watts. It’s what’s on the actual record (Starfucker). Alan Watts is sort of a Buddhist philosopher—he’s somebody who’s famous for bringing Eastern philosophy to the West, and he’s just a really charismatic and colorful lecturer. We listen to him when we’re on tour—just his lectures are really great. And he has a great voice, and says stuff like, “How much of a wiggle is a wiggle?”
Paste: That’s interesting to me because your music is so dance-y. That’s kind of a cerebral idea, having a Buddhist philosopher speak on your record. Why combine those two things?
Hodges: Well, for one, that stuff has helped me a lot in my life. If someone finds out about it, even if it’s through goofy dance music, then that’s cool. That’s actually happened, that people have come up to us and said, “I found out about Alan Watts through you guys.” I used to be really introverted and shy and had stage fright, and so for me, it’s kind of like playing in this band is going against what’s comfortable. It takes some bravery, or whatever. It’s taking myself less seriously, I think, and a lot of that for me came from meditation. Not just Alan Watts, but a lot of different people that I read and listen to. If we can help other people have the same experience, where they kind of forget about themselves for a minute and just enjoy life, I think that’s really great.
Paste: Can you talk to me about Jupiter?
Hodges: Jupiter was the leftovers from the first recordings. Half of it’s old and a couple of the songs are new. We play a lot of those songs live, but they weren’t out for a people to buy. Both of the records together are like our complete set. Live, we play almost every song on Jupiter and we play, like, three quarters of the songs on the self-titled.
Paste: Was it intended to bridge a gap? Are you guys working on another full-length on this point?
Hodges: Yeah, we’re working on a new full-length right now. After this European tour, we’re pretty much going to stop playing shows for a while so we can finish an album. Are you asking if Jupiter is a sign of a new direction that we’re going in?
Paste: I’m curious about that as well, definitely.
Hodges: (Laughs) I don’t know if it is. It might be. I think so! Especially since we changed our name. You probably know about that. Because of that we’re going to take a long time, and I want to make the record that I’m most happy with that I’ve ever made. I think we kind of have to.
Paste: I was, of course, going to ask you about the name change. I read that you said that you named the band Starfucker in the first place because you didn’t expect it to leave the small shows you were playing, that you didn’t expect to get bigger than that. You were surprised when you did. Why were you surprised by that?
Hodges: No one’s ever asked us why. For one, I didn’t think that we were going to turn into a band like we have. I think it’s interesting, but I don’t think that most people think that it’s that fun to watch me play drums over my pre-recorded music. I didn’t expect it to turn into something, but people responded really well to it right away. I didn’t know I was going to get Ryan and Shawn in on it with me. I pretty much had just given up on trying to do anything like that. When it got successful, it was like, “Wow, this is something we might be able to keep doing.”
But changing the name is something we’ve been thinking about since we first started touring at all, because our booking agent and our friends were like, “Dude, it would probably help a lot if you changed your name.” (Laughs) And we were like, “Yeah, I know, but we don’t want to do that.” I really wish we would’ve a long time ago, before we actually had as many fans as we do now. It would’ve made it a little easier. We’ve never been able to tour with another band, in part because of our name. It makes it difficult to do all these things we want to do, you know? And we’ve been really, really lucky still being able to do all the stuff that we shouldn’t have been able to do because of our name. Like we went to Japan on this weird show to promote Portland, but it almost didn’t happen because of our name. Whatever local salon was sponsoring it didn’t want to be involved with someone named Starfucker. So we have to lie to people all the time and be like, “Oh no, it’s a Josh Hodges song.” It’s gotten to the point where we could grind it out and try to make it work, but I just feel like I want to give ourselves a shot at being able to do this full-time and make a real living out of it. If it doesn’t happen that’s fine—we can go back to our day jobs or whatever. We really like doing this, and I want to see if we can see how far we can go with it.
Paste: You guys have a new imprint, right, that you’re going to release stuff on in the UK? DDD?
Hodges: Yeah, we’re just kind of self-releasing it.
Paste: Did you name the imprint after the fact that your name now has three Ds in it, or was it the other way around?
Hodges: Originally, we came up with the three Ds [for “Pyramiddd”] and I was like, “That’s so dumb. If we don’t have to do that, let’s not do that.” And then we found out there were a lot more bands than we thought with the name Pyramid. So it was like, “Okay. Let’s go back to three Ds.” The idea for the imprint did come from that. Keil’s a super sci-fi nerd, and was like, “I just wanted to be able to say ‘3-D!’” So that’s where that came from.
Paste: So the next full-length—have you been writing already? Do you have any concept of what it’s going to be like compared to what you’ve already released or is it still too early to say?
Hodges: I’ve been writing a lot, actually. I got my first laptop, and so I wrote a lot of little sketches in the car, like 30 or so sketches, and out of those 30 maybe ten I worked on developing. Out of those ten, maybe five will end up being good songs, or something like that. But I really like the few that I’ve got so far. I think it’s kind of similar to what we have, but I want it to be really well-produced. I still like to record the way that I always have—do all the vocals and keyboards and guitars in my room. But I want it to sound good and professional, so then I want to go into the studio for the drums and mixing. So far it sounds a little bit darker, or something. It’s kind of similar, like simple pop stuff, but I don’t know. I’ve been feeling a little bit into The Cure lately, so it’s a little more Cure-inspired. That’s just me. I’m sure no one else will be able to hear that at all. (Laughs)