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The best kept secret in music



JJ Koczan
March 15, 2006

See that piano on the album cover? Get a good look if you want any sense at all of where Pistolita are coming from on Oliver Under The Moon, their debut LP. The young San Diego band are definitely in the realm of emo, but their classic pop influence is also readily apparent in songs like opener “Cupid” and “Killjoy.”

Pistolita take arena rock arrangements, the stuff of Queen and Styx and scale it down for the all-ages crowd. The piano does set them apart from the pack, but it also set Socratic apart from the pack last year, though Pistolita are much more active and boast smoother production. - The Aquarian


Despite the fact that most of the bands playing at Bamboozle can’t even drink yet (legally, that is), don’t get the idea that these guys are inexperienced. Pistolita are no strangers to hard work or life on the road. Fresh out of high school, this foursome solidified their lineup in late 2003 and promptly started playing on their own tour, booked by the group’s drummer!

The hard work paid off when Montalban Hotel Records signed them and they entered the studio to record Oliver Under The Moon, the band’s debut release. Recorded in California from September to October of last year, it was released in February 2006.

Originally from San Diego, Pistolita have been on tour with Say Anything. Their first national tour was with Saves The Day. After Bamboozle, they look forward to joining the Warped Tour this summer.

A self-described “aggressive piano-driven band,” Pistolita’s influences include The Beatles and The Pixies. According to guitarist Justin Shannon, “I’d say the fact that we include piano in our music sets us apart.We’re not indie or pop but somewhere in between.” - Buzz


Emily Zemler
Volume 21, Number 217

THE STORY SO FAR: Not every band gets to be the debut signing to a brand-new label, but two-year-old Pistolita (which means "little gun" in Spanish) are the very first band on booking agent Andrew Ellis' records label, Montalban Hotel. Ellis, who intially was unimpressed by the young foursome, handed them a deal after seeing them perform at New Jersey's Bamboozle festival last year. "Everyone always asks us how it is being the flagship band on the label, and it rules," says pianist/singer Conor Meads. "We get a lot of attention, and he's pumping us really hard. It's also good because we can have a real personal relationship with him."

WHY YOU SHOULD KNOW 'EM: The self-taught Meads fronts the band with a piano, but Pistolita veer away from being a cheesy piano-rock band, drawing instead on the influence of groups like Jawbreaker and Fugazi. "I had played guitar in some bands and really wanted to do a piano-rock band, but make it without the piano ballads and make it more aggressive, more like an indie piano band," Mead says, "We're really careful on how we approach the music because it's such a fine line when you have a piano." PLus, guitarist Justin Shannon apparently isn't a very stylish lad. "Justin likes to wear tank topsall the time if he can get away with it," Meads says without a trace of irony. "Even in the winter."
- Alternative Press


Stephanie Dang
Spring 2006

What images come to the mind when thinking of a typical rock band? First, there are porbably the usual instruments of guitar, bass and drums. Then throw in the typical songs, maybe about significant other or annoying peers. Changing it up a bit, Pistolita adds a bit of spice to the current music scene. Hailing from East County Sand Diego, Pistolita presents a different sound, with dominantly piano-driven tunes and more diverse lyrics.

On the band's debut release, Oliver Under the Moon (Montalban Hotel Records), singer, songwriter, and pianist Conor Meads belts out the words while aggressively playing the piano, whish is at the forefront of every song. Justin Shannon on guitar and vocals provides the throaty voice and rough sense that makes each song more assertive. Musical numbers like "Voicebox" and "Panic" give a certain pound into the tone of the record, brough about also by bassist Alex Kushe and drummer Cory Stier. Accompanying these tracks, Oliver also presents some "prettier" songs, like "China Dolls."

Audiences can find just as much intensity in their live shows.

"We tried to keep [this album] as raw and live sounding [as possible]," said Meads. We just really wanted to represent what we sound like live to the record so that people aren't surprised when they see us."

In addition to keeping their album a bit more real, members consciously wanted to be different. When they recorded, they had their ideas completely visualized. According to Shannon, they did not want to be generica but not "too different to where kids can't be into us."

Pistolita's lyrics offer a bit more variety as well, being more on the whimsical side. Throughout the record, there is mention of monsters, a kid breaking his back, and metronomes. Although interesting, a listener should not try to give himself a headache by trying to get to the story behind each line.

"[The lyrics are] a little random," said Meads. "I;d say only half the lyrics of every song actually mean something and the rest are whatever."

The words are what first pops into Mead's head as he is writing a song. he says that they seem to fit the melody as he writes.

Pistolita came about after meads quit writing TV and radio jingles in san Diego, finding it corny and now considers it "a lot of stuff I don't really like talking about." The band took hold in the winter of 2004 and embarked on a multitufe of shows across the county in Stier's truck. The boys did a showcase in New Jersey and their manager hooked them up to get signed on their current record label.

The band just released their album in february, but they have a pretty impressive backgrounf. In addition to having played with Alkaline Trio and dashboard, they opened for Saves the day, Circa Survive, and Moneen through March and also just finished a tour with Say Anything. To listen to them live, check them out at Warped Tour this summer.

- Scene Magazine

"Pistolita Takes Nation with Bang"

Natalie Sanchez

The East County Californian caught up with rising band Pistolita on their wat to Chicago's Beat Kitchen where they are beginning the first leg of their national tour in support of rock band, Say Anything. For the last three years the piano rock band has been performing in various local venues while waiting to graduate Granite Hills High School in El Cajon to go on tour, and signing a record deal leading to the release of their debut album.

"It's awesome we just got off tour with Saves The Day and we are starting up with Say Anything. The shows have been great. The Say Anything tour is great- smaller venues packed every night with kids," said guitaristand vocalist Justin Shannon.

Forming in 2003, Pistolita, whose name comes from an early song written by the band called "bang, Bang" played their first show in Escondido as a three-piece band with Shannon on guitars and vocals, pianist and vocalist Conor Meads and drummer Cory Stier on the throne. Adding bassist Alex Manos, Pistolita continues to play local shows at Soma, Ground Zero and Epicentre. "Corey, our drummer, booked us a bunch of shows and we did a few West Coast tour. We played at the Del Mar Fairgrounds once... with MXPX and that was sweet," Shannon said.

Signing with Montalban Hotel, a division of East West records in 2005, Pistolita recorded their first full-length album, "Oliver Under the Moon" in September 2005. Taking influences from The Beatles, Cursive, At the Drive In and The Pixies, Pistolita's album features 12 original songs, including Shannon's favorites, "The Pity Refrain" and "Oliver Under the Moon."

Not wanting to succumb to the array of sub-genres that make up today's counter-culture turned pop culture "indie" or "emo" rock, Shannon explained, "We always incoporate that we are a pianoband just to separate us from the other bands. Just piano rock band. I know it sounds cheesy but... I don't want to say that we are some Indie rock band because we are accessible. We try to make it so that everybody can listen to it."

Uncertain about when Pistolita will be hitting the airwaves, Shannon guessed that "Age" or the album's self titled song, "Oliver Under the Moon" would be the first possible releases.

Having traveled much of the United States, Pistolita has found encouragement in support provided by local fans and other bands in San Diego. "It's [East County] a thing we've all grown up around. It's helped us, and it's where we are from," Shannon said. "The scene is pretty good. There are really cool local bands from San Diego that we've played with and kids seem to be pretty supportive of local music in San Diego. We've played with bands that have records out and they go to their hometowns and still aren't that well supported. san Diego seems to be a pretty good place if you're a local band."

Coincidentally, as the band reminsces of home, their tour van explodes into mouse from the band memeber shouting, which Shannon explained, "We just passed a burrito place. We miss Mexican food really bad. We were just talking about [looking forward to being back in San Diego]. We really miss home. it will be fun."

Pistolita will return to San Diego on April 21 playing with Say Anything at Epicentre in Mira Mesa. Finishing their national tour in late May Pistolita will return to East County briefly before joinging the Van's Warped Tour shceduled to being mid-June.

Thrilled with their rising success, Pistolita will be doing "just a bunch of touring. Whaenever a band hooks up with us, or whatever our booking agent gives us, we'll be doing," Shannon said.

- The Californian


Oliver Over the Moon (Montalban Hotel Records, Feb. 2006)


Feeling a bit camera shy


Conor Meads wasted no time getting out of his parents house. At age 18, he moved out of his San Diego home, took a day job writing TV jingles for a music house in downtown San Diego, and moved into the attic of a recording studio. It was there that he penned the songs that would make up Pistolita's debut album, Oliver Under The Moon.

Meads (piano, vocals) and Cory Stier (drums) were childhood friends and next door neighbors. Although Meads was three years older, the two were inseparable. When Stier was 13, Meads took advantage of Stier's impressionable nature and convinced him to buy a drum set. Justin Shannon (guitar) knew Meads and Stier from high school, and in the wake of their graduation, the friends decided to put their musical talents together and start a band.

Now at age 22, Meads is the front man for the group whose name was derived from a lyric in one of the band's songs, "Bang Bang." As a self-taught pianist and guitarist, Meads is a prolific songwriter whose inherent talent helped him learn these instruments all on his own. He was the guitarist in other bands, but chose to take Pistolita in a different direction. "I wanted to play piano in a band but do it aggressively," he says. "I wanted to avoid all the piano rock cliches and all the power ballads."

Pistolita has been primarily influenced by Fugazi, At The Drive-In, Hot Water Music and Hot Snakes. Their piano-driven rock style draws inevitable comparisons to Cursive, but also appeals to fans of The Get Up Kids and Thursday. Stier, Shannon, and bassist Derek Miller build a perfect multi-faceted foundation for Mead's haunting melodies on Oliver Under The Moon, which began as a concept album, but the band feared it would be too pretentious.

Pistolita is the first signing on Montalban Hotel Records, the imprint run by self-made booking agent Andrew Ellis. "He came out to see us and didn't like us," Meads explains. "But then we got a last-minute chance to play Bamboozle, and that night he said he wanted to sign us to his label. We knew we wanted to work with him. We wanted to be a part of something new,and his label sounded really exciting."

From here on, Pistolita is looking forward to touring with Say Anything, The Bled and the Vans Warped Tour. Pistolita is grateful for their success thus far and remain humble and excited to play for their growing fan base. So take notice. This is just the beginning of a great unfolding rock story.