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A Conversation with Josh Verbanets of Meeting of Important People 

click to enlarge Meeting of Important People: (from left) Josh Verbanets, Aaron Bubenheim and Matt Miller - PHOTO COURTESY OF RACHEL STADELMEIER
  • Photo courtesy of Rachel Stadelmeier
  • Meeting of Important People: (from left) Josh Verbanets, Aaron Bubenheim and Matt Miller

Local poppy garage trio Meeting of Important People released its self-titled debut LP in early 2009; it was later picked up for digital distribution by L.A.'s Authentik Artists. The band's new EP, Quit Music, is also distributed online by Authentik; the band will give away 500 copies of the CD to attendees at its two upcoming release shows. The band consists of guitarist, singer and main songwriter Josh Verbanets, drummer Matt Miller and bassist Aaron Bubenheim. Verbanets talked with City Paper about the new EP, the state of the band and roller coasters.

 

How did the hookup with Authentik come together?
I contacted so many people about [the 2009 release]. [The Authentik reps] heard a couple tracks and got in touch with us with this really cool distribution deal -- meaning they have nothing to do with the physical record, but they control the digital domain. And it was a great deal. The head of the label, Scott Austin, was the head of Madonna's label, Maverick, in the mid-'90s. It's a small label and they've been incredibly supportive, and they've been into every idea we've had.

It's hard to call them a label, even -- they don't have ties to traditional media and they don't have anything to do with physical distribution. They're just really energetic former music executives who really like to hype music online.

At this juncture, with the business being what it is -- is that the meat of what a band really needs from a label?
We've been able to live several lives at once. On one hand we've been able to appear like a modern pop band: They've hyped us on blogs, put photographs of us up, made us look like a glossy modern Pitchfork band. That hasn't really worked for us, though, because the kind of music we have isn't really experimental enough to fit in with that. But they've gotten some really great placements for us.

We've been doing that and also being a band that travels, and plays what appears to be kind of throwback garage rock. We played with The Cynics and people loved it. When we open for an OK Go or David Bazan or whatever, people don't really care. It's when we play a garage-rock bill where people want to talk about old Alice Cooper bootlegs that it really seems to work.

One thing I'm curious about on this EP is "The Jesus Song." I know some of you are Christian -- what degree of sincerity or irony does the song involve, or does it transcend that?
The only person in the band who's religious is Aaron. That's not outing him in any way -- he's always defined himself as a Christian. "The Jesus Song" was written by me, maybe as a little bit of a reaction to Aaron. To me, the idea was to write a song that was really impassioned. I wanted to write a song that would lay out a straight gospel song, lyrically. The snide kids are going to say, "This is awesome, they're making fun of religion," and the religious kids are going to say, "This is interesting, they're making a real call." For me as a songwriter, it has nothing to do with that. It's just a character singing an impassioned song.

Was that your approach to songwriting on Quit Music -- picking a character, a perspective and writing a song based on that?
On this one, definitely more [than the previous LP]. Each song has a specific voice, a specific character. There's less "silly" than the last record. The first track, "Training Song" -- it started because I wanted to write a song cycle about an amusement park. I wanted to write a concept record, as silly as that is, where every song would be about a different aspect of the park over the day. The first song was going to be "Training Song," and it was the owner of the park telling the employees who not to let in that day: "Don't let anybody with a chain wallet in." They're all kind of that. And there are little references -- "Leap the Dips" is about a roller coaster in Altoona, stuff like that. Pieces of an aborted concept record.

You could probably revisit that idea with some grant money from someone -- The American Coaster Enthusiasts.
The ACE! I was a member for a while. That's my big nerdy thing: old roller coasters.

 

Meeting of Important People CD release shows:

21 and over. 10 p.m. Sat., July 24. Thunderbird Café, 4023 Butler St., Lawrenceville. $10. 412-682-0177 or www.thunderbirdcafe.net

All ages, with Good Night, States. 8 p.m. Fri., July 30. The Andy Warhol Museum, 101 Sandusky St., North Side. $8. 412-237-8300 or www.warhol.org

 

Web only -- read the unabridged version of this interview

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