Then, in 2003, Pissed Jeans was born. The original lineup was Korvette, Fry, Dave Rosenstrauss (bass) and Wynarczuk. The initial goal, Korvette says, was to “maybe put out a 7-inch.” But in 2005, the band released its debut album, Shallow.
“We didn’t want to worry about notes and riffs and technical proficiency,” Korvette claims. “We wanted it to be personality-driven; we wanted the personality to ooze out.”
This mission was accomplished on the first track, “I’m Sick,” where Korvette excellently articulates the misanthropic agony of the Everyman that’s now become his signature. “I’ve got a fever,” he groans over sludgy riffs and crippling feedback. “I’ve got a runny nose!”
The song concludes with him calling in sick to work.
Right after Shallow, Pissed Jeans hired a new drummer, Sean McGuinness, who grew up in Ardmore and had known the others for several years through mutual hardcore connections. He joined just in time, because the buzz Shallow received led to Sub Pop offering them a record deal.
“I was in South Philly, hanging at Beautiful World Syndicate,” recalls McGuinness. “Korvette called me and said Sub Pop wanted to do a record. I couldn’t believe it. Man, what a sick club to be in! When Sub Pop calls, you don’t hold out for another offer, so we took it.”
Hope for Men, Pissed Jeans’ Sub Pop debut full-length, was released in 2007. Soon after, Huth — from the Nazareth High, Warriors and Crashers days — joined the band on bass. King of Jeans came two years later. And, next week, Honeys.
“I’ve known these guys almost my entire life,” says Huth. “But I can’t believe I’ve been in the Jeans for five years. We’re all fathers now, and we’re all so busy outside of the band. I don’t even think all four of our kids have been in the same room.”
“Life just goes by so fast,” he says.
When I meet Korvette, Fry, Huth and McGuinness at Space 1026, a location of the music video for Honeys’ first single, “Bathroom Laugher” (which debuts on Spin.com Feb. 12), it’s the rare occasion of them all being together outside of band practice.
The kids aren’t to blame. Sure, they make touring a bit more difficult, but Pissed Jeans have never been known to hit the road for months on end. Keep in mind, this is a band that hasn’t released an album in nearly four years. Prior to fatherhood, they all had full-time jobs and other commitments, and the band was never the No. 1 priority for anyone. It was always something that came after everything else.
“Whether we were 14 or in our 30s, we never thought of bands as something we’d ever do for money,” Fry says. “I have this fear of not having the security of a real job, and I think all of us feel that way. Pissed Jeans has always been just one part of our lives.”
“We all have families, and that’s our main thing,” adds Huth. “Pissed Jeans couldn’t work any other way. Our outside lives have always taken precedence over the band.”
“We never wanted to quit our jobs,” confirms Korvette. “We’ve always had our heads on too straight for that. Working is what we all do, because we all like living comfortably. I was raised to believe that I have to work, and I have to act civilized while I do it. But I want to have fun, too. For some people, that might mean cooking or checking their fantasy-football stats, but for me it’s always been music. Pissed Jeans involves work, but it’s mostly for fun.”
In fact, everyone in Pissed Jeans agrees that having kids has brought the band closer together. “We’re all less of dicks now,” says Korvette. “Having kids has made us more loving, tender individuals. Taking care of a tiny being brings out the humanity in you. And since we’re all experiencing this together, we don’t have to be insecure about feeling this love.”
Hearing this makes me wish I had a time machine so I could go back in time to Nazareth High and tell these young punks what their lives would look like in 2013. I’d tell them they’d one day be tender individuals who aren’t insecure about feeling love.
They’d never believe me. After puking a little bit in their mouths, they’d probably punch me in the face and pin me in less than 30 seconds, the way the Ultimate Warrior did to the Honky Tonk Man back at SummerSlam I.
At Grace Tavern on a recent Thursday afternoon, McGuinness is sitting at a table drinking a beer. He’s chatting with a waitress friend while his son bounces on his knee.
The kid’s name is Iggy, inspired, in part, by punk icon Iggy Pop. As we talk, Iggy keeps grabbing a plastic mustard container and throwing it under the table. McGuinness picks it up. Iggy does it again. And again. And again. Each time he does it, Iggy smiles at me, as if to say, “I want you to know that I am having a total blast fucking with my dad right now.”
“You all right, big guy?” McGuinness asks Iggy. “He’s normally a chill guy. As long as he has food, he’s good.”
McGuinness gives Iggy a French fry.
Of all the Pissed Jeans, McGuinness is the most outgoing. When Huth and I talk over a few slices of pizza, he seems ready to leave the second he sits down. Fry isn’t shy, but his nervous energy makes him do things like talk nonstop for 25 minutes about the evolution of his guitar playing. Korvette is confident and friendly, but also shrewd, as if he has an identity to protect, which he does.
“We all have very different personalities,” McGuinness confirms. “But the first time we played together, it just clicked.”
He puts down his cheeseburger and snaps his fingers three times.
Snap. Snap. Snap.