“I wonder why all our music is so fucking dark?” William Keegan, songwriter of local slop-pop group Pangea, asks no one in particular.
Pangea, made up of Keegan, guitarist Cory Hanson, bassist Danny Bengston and drummer Erik Jimenez, are sitting outside Keegan and Bengston's Lincoln Heights house. The place is small and unassuming, the inside freshly partied in. “I'm glad you weren't here last night,” Bengston says with a laugh. “You would have thought we were weird and wonderful.”
Bengston and Keegan are physical opposites: Bengston is short and round and as disheveled as the music he makes; Keegan, 26, is waif-thin, and the afternoon wind seems like it might be able to blow him away. Both are drinking beers while Jimenez sits on the stoop having a cigarette. Hanson is nowhere to be seen.
This particular incarnation of Pangea has existed since August of 2009, though Keegan was writing tunes under the moniker well before then. Bengston and Keegan have known each other for many years, playing music together for much of that time. When Bengston went to Cal Arts he met Hanson. Pangea needed a guitarist, as theirs had left the band, and Hanson has contributed a new musical voice to their sound. “The next record is going to be even darker and heavier, a bit slower,” says Keegan. That sounds auspicious, as some of the best songs on their previous release Living Dummy, like “Haunted,” are quite slow, and most of the band's songs were written about doomed relationships.
Keegan admits that most of their slapdash, messy pop songs were inspired by his own relationship with Penelope Gazin, the muse for Living Dummy. She even drew the cover art. Sample lyric: “We don't hold hands anymore/We just give head anymore.”
The new album will be out on Burger Records, the Fullerton-based shop that doubles as a label with a roster including The Black Lips and Ty Segall. Being a part of Burger has been Pangea's most rich collaboration thus far. The label called them on New Year's day 2011; Jimenez remembers it as a major moment. “We had been trying to find out how to get on Burger,” he says, “and then they were calling us.”
“Burger is just a hub for anything weird,” says Bengston. The label has been growing at a ferocious clip — last month's Burgerama, a mini-festival with a bill of mostly punk artists, sold out. “It was a great moment of confluence for all these great bands to get together, says Keegan. “It felt like something was really happening.”
The band also has a long-time friendship with fellow Burger family member Mikal Cronin, and Bengston, Hanson, and Jimenez were actually in his backing band for a recent tour. “I kissed a homeless girl in Cleveland,” remembers Jimenez. “She came up to me after the show and she looked just like my friend Sammy. And I wanted to kiss my friend but I can't because she has a boyfriend so I kissed this girl. Afterwards everyone in the van was like, 'She was way homeless.'”
Pangea has seen firsthand the rise in popularity of the garage-punk sound that can be heard all over L.A. Although they identify with the scene, frequently playing with FIDLAR, they don't think that shoving everything under a single label is the correct way to classify it. It can be frustrating much like the “grunge” term once was. For example, Keegan says, “I don't think we sound that much like someone like King Tuff.”
“But it's great to play on the same bill as him,” interjects Bengston, “it's good to see the range of the sound where things can be really poppy or super heavy.”
Pangea's hope is that all of these bands will take this inception and run with it, each creating something unusual that can stand on its own two legs. So far, the band's discourteous brand of pop songs are doing just that, perhaps because they're written about one hell of a girl. As Clapton and Harrison will tell you, there's gold to mine in that river.
Pangea play April 18th at the Satellite.