Pavement's Perth Passion: "We just relearned that song 'I Love Perth' that I don’t think we’ve ever played live"

Pavement's Perth Passion: "We just relearned that song 'I Love Perth' that I don’t think we’ve ever played live"

Ahead of the indie rock icon’s first Australian tour in over a decade, we catch up with guitarist and founding member Scott Kannberg

Image Credit: Tarina Westlund

Formed in Stockton, California back in 1989, Pavement have gone on to become one of the most influential and celebrated bands in the indie rock scene. Maintaining that true indie (read: independent) ethos, the band went on to release five albums during the 90s, all of which came out on independent labels, truly keeping the indie in indie rock.

Having achieved a cult following with their influential albums like their 1992 debut Slanted and Enchanted and its iconic 1994 follow-up Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, the band would go on to break up in 2000 much to the disappointment of fans worldwide. Luckily, ten years later they would reform for a reunion tour that saw them tour the world, including their last shows in Australia.

Fast forward to 2019 where the band were gearing up for their second reunion world tour that was set to kick off at Barcelona & Porto’s iconic Primavera Sound music festival… and then the pandemic hit. Now, nearly three years on from the cancelled 2020 festival, not only is Primavera Sound back but Pavement’s second reunion tour is finally underway - including shows all around Australia during February & March 2023.

Ahead of the tour, we were lucky enough to catch up with founding member and guitarist Scott Kannberg to talk initially reforming during the pandemic, the band’s first shows back, forgetting song lyrics, being discovered by a new generation on TikTok, his solo work as Spiral Stairs, his deep connection to Australia and more!

I wanted to start off by asking what it was like for you guys back in 2019, you know, just announced your reformation and that you’d be playing Primavera Sound in 2020… and then 2020 happened, so what was that like for you guys?

Yeah, it was crazy. We were in - I think it was Mexico, we were living in Mexico at the time and we were all kind of starting to get psyched up… and then the world shut down. Then they were going to try to put it on again the next year and we kind of knew that probably wasn’t going to happen, but they were still going to try so we were kind of stuck in this holding pattern, just like everybody in the world.

We actually moved back to Australia for a year or so, and then it was gonna happen but we were kind of stuck in Australia, so we ended up moving back to the States in the hope it happens. Then May came around and we started rehearsing and it finally seemed like it was happening, but COVID was still around so we were pretty lucky to kind of get those first couple of shows in, even though I did get COVID in between the two Primavers, but I didn’t really have it that bad, so I was lucky.

Then the whole of the year that we did do shows, there were no real problems, so we were pretty lucky. I mean, there were a lot of bands who had to cancel tours, so yeah, pretty lucky. But yeah, the anxiety and everything to get to that point, man, it was tough.

I’m curious what those first rehearsals were like, I guess in particular during the COVID period, like what sort of headspace were you guys in?

It was pretty cool. We were in Portland and I think we were just kind of pretty safe. We were going out to shows, well not really shows but we got to go to restaurants or we’d go out where people were at bars and being careful and stuff. Yeah, we were kind of just like “it’s either gonna happen or it’s not, so let's just have fun”.

I love it, that’s a good attitude for life in general I think! So then what about finally getting to play those first shows, like your first show back which was in L.A. I believe?

Yeah, it was L.A. at the Fonda theatre, like a warm-up kind of gig and it was insane! I mean, we’d rehearsed for two weeks so we were feeling pretty good, but we ended up playing like 30 songs, I think we just had more fun than we thought we’d have. And yeah, it was the first show we’ve played with this new kind of “Harness Your Hopes phenomenon” where we saw how it affected our younger fans, there’s a lot more younger fans that have come into the fold, and when we play that song, they go crazy, so that was cool for the first time. Then Primavera was, you know, you’re playing in front of forty-thousand people or something, and you’re like “whoooaa, this is insane…. Please don’t forget how to sing!” *laughs*

*laughs* Has that ever actually happened? Or only in your nightmares? *laughs*

Has it happened? Yes, I’ve actually forgotten - I have a song called “Kennel District” and a song called “Date With IKEA” where I’ve mixed up the lyrics of one with the other *laughs*

I wonder though if fans are like thinking it’s on purpose, like a bit of an easter egg or something?

Maybe? Yeah, maybe I’ll do that on this tour, maybe I’ll switch them around *laughs*

*laughs* I love it, love that idea. So you mentioned the “Harness Your Hopes phenomenon” and I’d love you to expand on that a bit?

Well, I didn’t realise until the whole streaming thing, I guess it’s like the number one of our streaming songs, way ahead of everything else, and when TikTok started happening, people started using that song as kind of a TikTok thing, so it reached a lot more people. Then our label said we should get this guy to do a video on that song and create a little story about it, so that’s what happened and then we see it in shows with the younger kids who basically say “I saw that song on TikTok and now I love you guys!”.

I love that, and I will admit as to someone who doesn’t really use social media much I had no idea as to the extent of it all , so how does it feel to have a decades old song reignited for a different generation on TikTok?

Yeah, it’s cool. I always knew it was a really cool song but we never really played it live back in the 90s and I kind of forgot about it. Now we play it every night and it’s a really fun, interesting song to play. It’s got this kind of Television like, kind of Tom Verlaine style lead part in the beginning of the song and I always love playing that because I love Tom Verlaine, and Tom has just died so it’s gonna be kind of weird, you know, I’ll be thinking of that everytime I play it. So yeah, there’s that element and I think the kids, they really like that image of roasting their parent on a spit, so I always look out to see if they’re singing that party really loud *laughs*

*laughs* I love it, and I also wonder if this phenomenon will have a ripple effect, like this saame younger audience goes on to discover Television and listen to Marquee Moon and stuff?

Yeah, that’s the point, you know. I mean, that’s how I got into bands, like I was into R.E.M. and Echo & The Bunnymen when I was in my early 20s, and they opened up all those bands to me. That’s one of the things I think with Pavement, we’ve always kind of worn our influences on our sleeve and talked about those influences.

That’s a beautiful thing! So we’ve talked playing songs live, and I’m really curious as to how you guys even begin to plan setlists at this point on a world tour, like where do you even start?!

When we first started rehearsing I think we kind of rehearsed 30, 35 songs because you’ve got to play the same 10 to 15 every night, because they’re your hits. But we ended up going up to almost 70 songs in rehearsals, so we kind of realised some songs we hadn’t played in a long time were really fun to play live and people started going crazy that we were playing a B-side from 1995 or something, and that just makes it more interesting for us. So I think we’re all over the place - we just relearned that song “I Love Perth” that I don’t think we’ve ever played live, so I’m going to hopefully get the guys to play that when we’re over there - and not just in Perth! *laughs*

Too good! So speaking of Perth, you’ve got Pond supporting you guys over here, as well as amazing supports in each city including Bad//Dreems, Rolling Blackouts and more - how much input did you guys have into these supports?

I mean, the promoters were pretty much kind of like “hey, here are some bands we think you guys would like”, and the majority of them we liked, I mean we knew Pond before, we knew Bad//Dreems before - I’m a really huge fan of Rolling Blackouts. I tried to get Rolling Blackouts for the whole tour but they were already booked which is cool. So yeah, we pick most of the bands we play with.

That rules! So you guys have have been gigging a lot over 2022, and just had a bit of time off over the new year - you’re heading to Japan before Australia and New Zealand, so what I’d love to know is if there’s any differences in crwods around the world, especailly after COVID? You know, I’ve been to gigs in Japan and witnessed the amazing politeness, clapping after every song before respectfully being immediately silent again which is so different to other crowds, so yeah, have you noticed any other post-COVID differences while touring?

I mean, people have been pretty wild. You definitely notice like a quarter of the crowd maybe wearing masks, but I think people are trying to make it as normal as it can be having been through a lot. So it’s pretty much back to normal.

Yeah awesome, that’s great to hear! So with the Australian shows just around the corner, having last played here in 2010, I’m curious as to your memories of Australia? I must admit I didn’t know you guys had moved here temporarily during COVID!

Oh for sure, I have memories of everything. In the 90s it was one of our favourite places to visit, we had amazing shows playing with amazing bands back then. So that kind of held over for me, because I would come and play with Preston School of Industry, and then I just started coming and I became friends with so many people in Australia, I would come over and hang out and make music. I ended up meeting my wife in Melbourne, so we lived there for a while, so it’s kind of my second home and I’m really excited to be back and show the guys in the band around a bit more. It’s gonna be “hey we gotta go to this, we need to go to this restaurant, or we gotta check out this bar or this museum”, so yeah, I’m kind of a local.

Yeah, amazing, the plot thickens! So I guess finally, I was curious about your current solo project Spiral Stairs - you had a new record last year, so I’m wondering about future plans there?

Yeah, I mean, I enjoy playing records. I just did a few shows here in California that were fun - I’ve actually got a kind of Aussie band of guys, so I think I’ll probably be playing some shows when I come back, and I’d like to do more records. But right now, I’m just kind of focusing on the Pavement stuff and we’ll see how it goes from there…

…too many lyrics to remember *laughs*

*laughs* Yeah…and my fingers aren’t as nimble as they used to be *laughs*

I’m sure they more than do the job! Scott, thanks so much for chatting about all things Pavement!

Thank you, thanks.

PAVEMENT AUSTRALIA TOUR 2023

Tickets

 

Wednesday 22 February

​Perth Concert Hall | Perth, WA

​Licensed All Ages

* with special guest Pond

​Perthconcerthall.com.au | 08 9231 9999

 

Friday 24 February

​Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide, SA

​Licensed All Ages

* with special guest Bad//Dreems

​Ticketmaster.com.au | 136 100

 

Tuesday 28 February

​Fortitude Music Hall | Brisbane, QLD

​18+

* with special guest Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever

​Ticketmaster.com.au | 136 100

 

Wednesday 1 March

​Anita’s Theatre | Thirroul, NSW

​Licensed All Ages

* with special guest Floodlights

​Ticketmaster.com.au | 136 100

 

Thursday 2 March

​Enmore Theatre | Sydney, NSW

​Licensed All Ages

* with special guest Floodlights

​Ticketek.com.au | 132 849

 

Friday 3 March

​Palais Theatre | Melbourne, VIC

* with special guest Romero

SOLD OUT

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