One thing the Khyber bar is not known for is it's huge, sprawling layout. Sat snugly between two buildings on 2nd Street in Philadelphia, it's anything but spacious. However, it does boast an incredibly busy lineup of local and national music acts.
Tonight the Khyber was comfortably populated - seats at the bar were easily attainable and it wasn't anuphill battle to get a drink. Having missed the end of happy hour by about 20 minutes, my wallet didn't take that much of a beating. And that, dear friends, is always nice.
Sitting at the front corner of the bar, I saw that the band had already arrived, so I bought a Budweiser and made my way back to say hello to The Influents - Jason White (Vocals/Guitar), Willie Samuels (Drums/Vocals), Greg Schneider (Vocals/Guitar) and Johnnie Wentz (Bass).
You might remember Jason White as the spare guitarist sharing the stage with Green Day on last summer's Pop Disaster Tour. Drummer Willie Samuels also contrtibutes his talents to Adeline Records (along with White) - scouting and recording new bands. Bay Area natives, they've all had their hands in several different areas of the biz.
Now together as The Influents, these guys have just polished off a killer second album entitled "Some of the Young" (Adeline Records), and are on their way across the country promoting it. Overall a genuinely nice bunch of guys, here's what they had to say in the few minutes I had with them.
Rockzone: Do you have any pre-gig rituals?
Willie: (looks around at band members, each holding a drink) [laughs] You're lookin' at it.
Jason: Um, drink? Maybe change, put shit in our hair.
Rockzone: What are some of your favorite bands right now?
Willie: Bands that are out now?
Rockzone: Not necessarily, whatever you're listening to.
Willie: Wilco, Bob Dylan, classic rock.
Johnnie: The Replacements.
Jason: Yeah, the Replacements, the radio, sometimes, just to see what's out there.
Rockzone: Is this your first time on tour to east coast? Are you going to the UK anytime soon?
Jason: Yeah, this is our first time east as The Influents. We'd love to play anywhere overseas.
Greg: We'd like to play bigger venues, you know, so more people can hear us." [laughs] "Somewhere that pays us good. [Rest of band laughs]
Rockzone: How did you all meet… How did the Influents come about?
Willie: Well, it just sort of happened. We all come from the same area, but were all in different bands.
Greg: We originally started just as a project band, and we started playing in the basement of a music store.
Jason: And it just sort of went from there.
Rockzone: Will Jason be touring with Green Day again?
Jason: Um, probably.
Rockzone: Will Pinhead Gunpowder play any more shows?
[sighs] If I had to choose to check a box that said yes, no, or maybe, I’d check 'not likely'.
Willie: I guess you could have said that a few years back, too. [band laughs]
Jason: [laughs] Yeah.
Rockzone: What’s a place you haven't played yet but really want to?
Jason: Well a big deal for us was NYC, and we played there last night, so that was pretty cool.
Greg: Just big venues… [laughs]
Jason: Yeah, Rome – the Coliseum. I wanna play the Coliseum.
Rockzone: What's the crappiest place you've played so far?
Jason: Ohh, hmm, well, that’d have to be the Zephyr in Nevada - there was like one person there…
Johnnie: Yeah, the bartender. The two guys that were in there drinking wanted to listen to Tool, and when we came on they went outside.
Rockzone: Oh, and you guys don't exactly cover Tool.
Johnnie: It's not that the place itself was crappy, more the circumstances.
Jason: Yeah, we're definitely not badmouthing the place - it was more the circumstances.
Rockzone: Describe your sound... in as few words as possible.
[silence, several glances around the room]
Jason: Good Time Rock n' Roll.
Willie: I dunno, I usually just say Rock n' Roll.
Rockzone: What's your favorite song from the new record? Are there any that have personal meaning?
Greg: I'd have to say 'Simple Girls'.
Jason: No, no, the NEW record, dude.
Greg: Oh. [smiles]
Johnnie & Willie: Legends of their Lame.
Johnnie: Yeah, that song took lots of shaping. It came along during recording.
Rockzone: So, sort of a work in progress? Those always seem to come out the best.
Johnnie: It definitely works that way for us - that's how most of our songs come together. [Band members nod]
Rockzone: (To Willie) Is it difficult to record and mix for your own band? Do you find yourself nitpicking when everything's already laid down?
Willie: Well, I have to play drums and record, so I have to worry about all the levels and sounds, and all that, so I do it, and once it's done I actually nitpick less, because I know what we're each capable of. I think I'm tougher on other the records I work on.
Rockzone: What would you be doing right now if you weren't in this band?
Johnnie: Probably looking for another band to play in.
Greg: Writing Songs.
Rockzone: Thanks guys - have a good set.
Thanking them graciously, I made my exit and let them get ready for show time. Once taking the stage, they played a nice mix of old and new, wowing even my skeptical companion.
"The CD really doesn't do them justice," he said after the set had finished.
I couldn't have said it better myself.
MIchelle Lawlor is a Contributing Writer. Contact her at email@example.com.