Nineties U.S. alt-rock icons Pavement made a virtue of their rangy, shambolic sound—the aural counterpart to their disheveled appearance. But this sound was likely more calculated than it seemed, and the band was never anything less than hardworking.
“By the time we get to Tokyo, we’ll be razor sharp,” says founding member Bob Nastanovich over the phone from his home in snowy Iowa. The keyboardist/vocalist/percussionist is relaxing after 11 days of practice in Portland with frontman Stephen Malkmus, guitarist Scott Kannberg, bassist Mark Ibold and drummer Steve West in preparation for Pavement’s much-hyped comeback.
“We rehearsed an arsenal of 43 songs and are ready to go,” he continues. “It does feel like a reunion—but it doesn’t feel any different from any Pavement tour other than [that] we’re doing a wider range of eras. I think we’ll be as good or better than ever—that’s the goal.”
The tour launched March 1 in Auckland and sees the band dust off material ranging from formative classics off 1992’s "Slanted and Enchanted" to later songs from 1999’s "Terror Twilight." With the worldwide tour and a greatest hits release, the group is being introduced to a new generation of fans who’ve embraced their music but have yet to experience them live.
“The tour is a little grueling, but it always has been—we were always unable to say no, which was a mistake,” Nastanovich muses. Which leads to the obvious question: was this behind their breakup… er, hiatus?
“No,” he answers emphatically. “The band went on hiatus because Stephen wanted to do something different, and he felt like Pavement had run its course and he wanted to work in a more traditional band environment where all the members are in one town and he could play with people who are technically proficient to meet his satisfaction. It was just one of those things.”
Next obvious question: why the reunion now?
“It’s just a matter of scheduling,” says Nastanovich. “It’s been a little over 10 years, and the reception to our reissues has been very favorable. Anyone under 30 didn’t get a chance to see the band—and the band is more popular now than when we stopped. So it was a matter of timing: among the five members, we have four children, and everybody has gone their own ways in terms of employment and endeavors. Last summer, it was determined that 2010 was a good time to do it.”
Final obvious question: will there be any new material?
“No… I don’t know,” he hedges. “Right now, all we’ve been able to manage is a two-week period to practice old songs. In the course of the year, that might change. But there has been no mention of anything past October. I just hope that we can have a good time and am thrilled that the enthusiasm is there for it. I hope that people will say, ‘They’re almost as good as they were in ’95,’ or even, ‘They’re even better!’ Hopefully there won’t be any, ‘I can’t believe I paid $35 for that.’”
Nastanovich says he was able to get right back into the musical groove after the 11-year layoff, during which time he worked in the horse racing industry.
“I was a bit apprehensive from an individual standpoint,” he admits. “I don’t play music very often, so I was happy that things came back pretty quick. And I was concerned about the enthusiasm level, which was pleasantly high, and the preparation of my bandmates, who were well-prepared—we even enhanced the versions [of our songs].”
Unlikely as Pavement’s success was, it’s even odder that the band should return as a veritable rock ’n’ roll institution. It’s not a status Nastonivich rejects.
“Any time that people show appreciation for what you did, you take it as a huge compliment,” he says. “So the main reason for all this is that people want to see it. For lack of a better way of putting it, we want to make them happy.
“One thing you miss about being in a band for 10 years and having really good support is entertaining people,” he concludes. “You miss the excitement, the challenge and, as corny as it sounds, you miss the applause. I’m also looking forward to traveling again, to going back to these countries, and to seeing how their economies have been destroyed by the Bush administration.”
Pavement will play at Studio Coast in Shin-Kiba, Tokyo, April 7-8. Tickets cost 7,500 yen.
This story originally appeared in Metropolis magazine (www.metropolis.co.jp)© Japan Today