Up-and-coming bands are about as common across New York City as bodegas, but a rarity here in the county. Think about it; when was the last time you’ve heard of a popular band coming out of Westchester?
Go ahead, take your time.
Assuming you couldn’t name more than one (really good cover bands don’t count!), you’ll agree it’s important to support the few that do hail from the area. Take American Pinup for example; the grippingly punk quartet of Westchesterites has etched a name for themselves within the competitive independent music scene, touring North America and hitting renowned festivals, like SXSW and Warped Tour, along the way.
The group is bringing their raspy-rock powerpop sound to the Garcia’s stage this Friday, June 23, alongside Brooklyn-based songwriter Kevin Devine and rising indie-pop four-piece Charly Bliss. Check out our chat with American Pinup’s powerhouse frontwoman Lauren West for a look at the band’s beginnings and what to watch out for in Westchester’s music scene.
Are you all from Westchester? What towns?
Myself, our guitarist Rob [Peralta], and our drummer John [Casale] are all from Yonkers. Tim [Robbins], our bassist, is from White Plains.
Is Westchester where you started performing live, and were there any particular venues or towns that treated you guys well?
I started going to shows in Westchester in high school at the Scarsdale Teen Center and all those [rec] spots. At the time there was quite a flourishing little scene happening. Over time it kind of started to disappear as the teen centers and the rec center stopped having a lot of shows.
Now we play more in clubs: We play in Garcia’s all the time, we played Captain Lawrence Brewery, we play at Barney McNabbs in Yonkers – we did just a few shows there.
Where did you guys come up with your band name?
We were originally called Big Sister; that was like a long time ago. There was already a band by that name from upstate New York. They caught wind that we were signing to Altercation Records, which was at one time our label, and they were like “Oh, we’re going to send a cease and desist to your potential label,” and we were like, “Please don’t do that. We don’t want to get fined!”
So we ended up changing our name. We had a friend from another Westchester band, The Jukebox Romantics, their guitarist and then-singer Mike Cherry, he came up with the name “The American Pinup”. It was long enough ago that he messaged me on MySpace about it.
He said, “I had a dream about this band called the American Pinup.” I thought that was cool, and it was basically the only thing we could all agree on.
Kevin Devine is a mainstay in the indie rock/indie folk circuit. How do you feel about sharing a stage with him later this month?
I’ve loved his music for years and years. I think I saw him at Purchase when I was going there a while ago. That was how I found out about him. That guy knows how to write a song.
Earlier this year you guys posted on your blog a list of things that you’re looking forward to for your spring tour. Is there a similar list for this summer?
We’re pretty much going to be working on a record over the summer; that’s our ideal situation. I think we’re probably going to end up playing a lot more shows, too.
I have some ideas on what I want to change about the recording process for us: We haven’t recorded a record since 2015, so reopening that whole side of the band and getting back into making new music.
What can we look forward for in the future for American Pinup?
I have been personally interested in working with other bands in terms of helping them book because we used to book all of our own tours. I just started doing it out of necessity and I learned a lot. I’ve been thinking about helping up-and-coming bands and pushing them to go on tour.
There’s a lot of good bands in Westchester that very rarely get out of Westchester; a lot of young new bands that have the potential to be nationally touring acts, but the proximity to the city can kill you.
Can you recommend some for our readers to check out?
Wess Meets West is one of them: they’re half-based out of Connecticut and half-based out of Westchester. And The Traveler is another band from Westchester we play with all the time. We’re playing in July with And the Traveler and a band called Cape Coma. There‘s a lot of good bands out there!