Say this five times fast: Pigeons Playing Ping Pong. Having fun? Good! That’s exactly what the guys behind the jam band Pigeons Playing Ping Pong would want. (Why else would they choose such an alliteratively awesome name?)
The Baltimore-based quartet embodies the concept of having fun at a live show. It drives their goofy lyrics, their funk-infused improvisational sound, and experimental high energy performances, one of which you can catch this January 26 at Port Chester’s The Capitol Theatre.
Armed with a smile, guitar, and most likely a pair of pajama bottoms, lead vocalist Greg Ormont is the charismatic personality at the helm of this band’s buoyant spirit. Below, we take a moment to get to know him and the virtuosic members of their whimsical band before they come into town to melt some minds in a fun explosion of funk.
You’re from Long Island, right? Have you ever spent any time in Westchester, or have any pre-conceived notions of our area?
I’m from Port Washington which is not too far from Westchester.
Last time I was in Westchester I was probably 13 years old, so whatever I was thinking probably doesn’t hold up anymore, but I have some friends from Chappaqua.
Like a lot of people from Long Island I went to a Jewish sleep away camp, and there were a bunch of kids from Westchester there as well, who I would visit their houses from time to time. And I can tell you my preconceived notion is that the houses there are big and gorgeous. I know the Clintons have a spot there, that’s about the extent of it.
Since this is Pigeons’ first time playing The Cap, do you have any expectations of the venue?
It’s so historic and I’m just very excited to get in there and do our thing. I know a lot of bands have gone in there and done their thing, and the one thing I’m looking forward to the most is I’ve heard so much about the projections that can go on the ceiling and how it can get super psychedelic in there. I’m very curious to see what kind of projections we can use.
We’ve traveled with the same lighting guy for the past 3 years and he’s a very very talented guy by the name of Manny Newman, and I’m very curious to see what he does with the lighting rig at The Capitol Theatre.
I caught the band at Brooklyn Bowl early this summer, and if that light show is anything to base Newman’s skills off of, this upcoming show will be quite a treat.
We’ve been doing the New York circuit a long time. When we first started playing there, we played a place called the Knitting Factory for maybe 40 people. This was way back in the day when we didn’t even have a drummer and we just had a friend come and beatbox and play bongos while we did an acoustic duo thing.
It takes a long time to get to The Capitol Theatre, but we definitely have paid our dues in the area and we’re going to go in and swing for the fences.
A common theme with Pigeons is fun. You started playing together for fun, your songs are very playful, you guys have high energy sets. How do you keep that energy, knowing how work intensive touring can be?
I think the crowd gives us a lot of energy, and I know a lot of bands and musicians say that, but it’s true. No matter what you’re feeling, when you walk out and see those smiling faces and hear the cheers it just gets that adrenaline flowing.
I also sweat very easily — maybe because I’m a Knicks fan and grew up watching Patrick Ewing on the free throw line — but I just get that adrenaline going and push it. I love to play, and I consider myself very lucky to be able to do this at such awesome venues like The Cap, so I’m never going to go to a place like that and give it 80%. I’m going to give it 180% and continue to chase this wild dream that we’re lucky to be able to ride out every night.
You always have such a huge smile on your face when you perform, so I think your fans aren’t concerned with how much you sweat!
If they do I hope they appreciate it. They can see how hard we’re working. Off the scenes we work really hard at it. I don’t think we take ourselves too seriously but we definitely realize our opportunity, and take the opportunity seriously so when you’re working behind the scenes, with band practice and strategizing with our manager and social media and all that stuff, the show itself becomes the relief of that, it’s the reward. And it never ever feels like work to me. Once you’re on stage that’s the dessert after a hard-fought dinner.
It’s been almost 10 years since the band was started. Do you feel you’ve accomplished anywhere near what you set out to when you began?
Well, like you said, we started for fun and I think we accomplished that goal of having fun and playing with each other and writing original music from the very beginning, even when we were playing in the dorm room to our friends.
Especially back in college when we were going to classes and studying for midterms, it was great to just get together, turn our brains off, and just jam and have fun and make friends through the power of music. So for the very soul of us, I think we accomplished our goals since the beginning.
But we’ve had some really exciting benchmarks this past year. We played our first Bonnaroo Festival for over 10,000 people, which was my guitarist, Jeremy [Schon]’s first festival he ever attended.
And as a New Yorker I was beyond belief when we got the call to play half time at a Knicks game for about 8 minutes. We put together a giant medley of our songs and some covers to try to catch the ear of Knicks fans, which was just a complete dream come true. I mean, Jon Stewart was there and Liev Schreiber was there and these are people I never really thought we’d be playing our songs for. Even Nate Robinson, the Knick great, was there and that was just really exciting. So, we’ve accomplished our goal of having fun from the get-go, but Madison Square Garden came a little earlier than expected to say the least.
Playing those big shows makes me feel really confident about The Capitol Theatre. We just played Lockn’ [Festival] to a crowd of maybe 20,000 people.
I was there!
That was just so much fun. It was such an exhilarating show. That was perhaps the biggest crowd we’ve played; it was just sprawling as far as the eye could see. It was maybe the first time I couldn’t see the end of the crowd at all! Which to me felt like I was watching some other band play on Youtube. It was so surreal while it was happening.
It’s been a really exciting year, and to start next year at The Capitol Theatre makes me feel really excited about what’s to come. And we’re going to continue to keep our heads down and not get too inflated by it, just take it seriously and release at the show with a fun explosion of funk.
You guys have tackled some pretty awesome themes in past shows, like Disney for the 2017 New Years run. Anything awesome planned for this upcoming show in January?
I can tell you we’re brewing up some epic themes for Halloween and New Years; you can stay tuned for those themes and once those are in the bank you never know what’s going to pop up at the next shows.
For example, we did DisNYE like you said, and across the summer we sprinkled in some of those covers and those mashups and segments. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were pretty epic bust outs at the Capitol Theatre cause it’s a big one and we’re going to make it a memorable one.
These themed shows are great because it helps us with our variety, keeps us on our toes, and it has us learning new material and different methods of song writing. It just keeps it fresh for us, as well as for the “Flock,” the fans who have started touring with us a lot.
And that’s what’s really exciting about our Flock. Now that people are touring with us, we’ll see kids on the west coast for like 20 shows in a row. It really inspires us to keep writing new music and to keep working on our individual and group craft, cause it could become really easy to become complacent and rest on the songs you’ve written. But we’ve realized that our fans wouldn’t stand for that.
The band released Pizazz last October, and to great reception. Is there any exciting news or albums you can spill beans on?
You know how I like my beans … in my stomach. I can tell you we’re constantly thinking about new music and the next step, whether that be live recording, or writing new songs, or working on themes. Hopefully we’re always one step ahead of the Flocks’ mind.
Pizazz was great, and it was actually our first record with our current drummer Gator, Alex Petropulos, who has really taken the reigns of this band and given it that driving pulse we always hoped for. It’s exciting to be in the studio with him because even the engineers who work on 20 albums at a time for multiple years in a row have pointed Gator out and said, “you hold on to this guy cause his chops are next level.”
I’d love to get back in the studio soon and record some of this new material. We’re planning our next move and we’re not going to let the Flock wait too long for something because we appreciate their support, so they should deserve something fresh.
Pizazz was so awesome because it was a Kickstarter effort at first, and the Flock just came to the rescue and provided us with the funds to put together an album we we’re proud of, and we we’re really taken aback by that support and we wanted to make it the best album we could.
We love to play and we’re going to keep pushing the envelope and never take our foot off the pedal, continue to try to up the ante and make our live shows more enjoyable, and also sit back and take a look at what we’re doing and appreciate it while it’s happening.
Thanks for speaking with us!
It’s my pleasure, we’re locking it in on the Capitol Theatre. It’ll be a great birthday present for my mom who will be in the crowd, as well an anniversary present for my aunt and uncle, so it’s going to be a family affair. And the Flock is family. I’m very much looking forward to celebrating the people we love up in New York.