After playing the music biz game for over a decade, the Ominous Seapods are playing their last four shows just for the fun of it
Dana Monteith of the Ominous Seapods
by Lee Abraham
Rumors have been raging for months. In fact, ever since guitarist/singer Max Verna left the Ominous Seapods two and a half years ago, questions about the band’s future refused to go away. And then came the press release: "Ominous Seapods Announce Hiatus." "It’s a farewell of sorts," says bassist Tom Pirozzi. "We don’t have any more shows scheduled after these four shows out west, but we also don’t have a definitive ‘we’re never going to play together again’ attitude, we’re just all going to take a break."
The decision came slowly. Last year, after signing a record deal with Ryko/Palm Pictures, the ’Pods released -Superman Curse- and then hit the road to support the album. "We did a long tour across the country and then all the way back," Pirozzi says. "By the end of it we were all kind of tired. The album didn’t sell quite the way we had hoped, it sold OK, and the tour was going OK, but after a year of straight touring we just kind of looked at each other and it was like, ‘I think we need to take a break for a while.’"
Ominous bassman Tom Pirozzi
It would be impossible to blame the ‘Pods if they were bitter. After all, other bands from the same east coast jamband scene in the early and mid ‘90s, moe. and the Disco Biscuits to name a couple, have bigger audiences and continue to outpace them in popularity. And nobody’s worked harder. But rather than put a negative spin on things, the ‘Pods have a philosophical view. "It’s easy to get caught up in comparing yourself to other bands," says Pirozzi. "Since we’ve started, 90% of the bands we used to play with have broken up, and then there’s a few that have gone on to riding in a tour bus. This is our road. We have to just follow it and not bang our heads against the wall or second guess ourselves. We’ve always just played the music we wanted to play. We didn’t try to cater to what we thought would make us bigger. We’ve always been a slightly quirky band, an ‘anything can happen at any moment’ band, and we never tried to change that. We basically just had to do our own thing and see where it took us."
"It’s definitely a fickle business and so much of it is timing," says guitarist/singer and founding member, Dana Monteith. "Throughout the history of rock music there’s so many great bands that never had the timing or didn’t catch that wave of intense popularity. I think the business can be cruel like that."
And it’s not just economics. Sure, tracking record sales and measuring a band’s live draw is easy, but there’s no way to calculate the cost to each musician individually for pursuing their collective dream. "As musician, especially if you are touring all the time, you sacrifice a lot of your life to do what you want to do and do what you love," says Monteith. "So you sacrifice your family, your friends, financial rewards, whatever, an easier life maybe where you’re not beat up from constant traveling. I think for me now, I need to be involved in things where the gains are outweighing the sacrifices. Especially with a family now, I need to be able to either come home more often, or make more money, and kind of find my place as a musician where I can have a life with my wife and daughter, and have the music going too."
Soon after the ‘Pods decided to shut things down, they realized that the time was also right to mend fences with Verna, so they invited him to sit in during a recent show in New York City. "It was pretty cool playing with Max again," says Monteith. "I was totally pissed when he quit. I couldn’t believe it. I was angry. I felt totally screwed over, but that seems like a long time ago now, and with everything that’s gone on since our decision to take this extended break, it seemed like a fitting moment. It was a bit of closure I think, and good for us to say, ‘What the hell,’ you know? ‘It doesn’t really matter.’ We can kind of understand where he was coming from a bit more now, his frustrations with the business, and wanting to move on to something else."
Pirozzi agrees. "Musically, when you play with the same people, you sort of fall into a role, so it’ll be good musically to play with different people and see what that brings out in me. There was no big blow out or bad terms, we’re all still good friends, which is the good thing about stopping now, as opposed to maybe later on when things might get tense or something... it was a very relaxed group decision. We’re not saying that we are breaking up, but also not saying that were are definitely playing again. We’re just letting fate spread its wings for a little while."
Pirozzi, lead guitarist Todd Pasternack, drummer Ted Marotta, and keyboard player Brain Mangini, all have plans to get involved with other bands until something clicks. Monteith, on the other hand, is going off on his own. "I’m definitely going to pursue a solo acoustic, punk rock thing, sort of punk rock Americana!," he says with a laugh. "Doing a solo thing will hopefully put me in control of things a little more. I won’t have to talk about when we’re going to practice or when we’re gonna go on tour, I can just say, ‘I’m gonna practice now, I’m going to go on tour now.’"
"The reality of our situation is that we all love the band," continues Monteith. "We all really believe in it, and know that it made an impact on a lot of peoples’ lives, and I think everybody wants to play again in the future some time. But when that time will be, I don’t know. That’s why we’re all so stoked about these last four shows on the west coast."
"We want to party and have a good time and take these last shows as far as we can possibly take them," says Pirozzi. "We basically are just going to rock out and have a really good time in some of our favorite places. We’ve got nothing to lose or prove at this point... we’re going to play just to have fun!"