Pompeii Graffiti
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Pompeii Graffiti

Annapolis, Maryland, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2005 | SELF

Annapolis, Maryland, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2005
Band Rock Indie

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"Pompeii Graffiti - Five Minutes to Midnight"

“Let’s get the band back together.” How many times have those words been spoken? But fortunately, it’s often as difficult logistically as it is artistically, so reuniting with teenage bandmates typically remains pondered but rarely accomplished. That’s usually a good thing. In the case of Annapolis band Pompeii Graffiti, getting them back together took a phone call from the sound engineer of their nearly abandoned debut recording. The results are as promising as they are surprising.

When we first met Ahren Buchheister, he was a 16 year old prodigy that impressed Ruben Dobbs so much as a guitar student that Ruben asked him to join his band Swampcandy. By the summer of 2005, he had formed Pompeii Graffiti with several classmates and they enjoyed the success associated with winning several categories in the Anne Arundel County HS Battle of the Bands. But as life often does, it got in the way as several band members headed off to college, leaving an unfinished demo in their wake. Fortunately, for them and us, local producer and engineer Ryan Cullen was so impressed by the early recordings that he urged Buchheister to reform the band early this year.

Despite the continuing academic careers of two of the original band members, Pompeii Graffiti did reunite by adding bassist Tyler Grimsley and badass local drummer Robin Eckman (Burn the Fields, Elder Statesmen, Cookie Head Jenkins) to the mainstays of Buchheister, vocalist Stephanie Leger and keyboardist Cara Santin. The band also performs with a rotating lineup of other musicians, including violinists, cellists, trumpet players, and rappers and the resulting sound is as varied as it is mature.

Don’t be thrown by the Judas Priest-esque album title “Five Minutes To Midnight.” Or the sea of feedback that accompanies opening track “Pickadilly 3rd.” This is a record that smartly makes it way around the rock landscape with songs that often unfold in movements, veering seamlessly from orchestral pop to gentle folk to rock that brushes up against both metal and punk. And for a record with fairly large aspirations, there’s also a humorous vain that keeps pretense to a minimum.

There’s the lovely and trumpet-augmented “Whale Song (Apology)” that owes a sonic debt to local songwriter extraordinaire Jimi Davies and his band Jarflys. The absolutely fabulous “Blankets” features slightly distorted call-and response backing vocals from Leger tucked into a tremendous pop arrangement. The jagged “Bad Social Habit” calls to mind the art punk of modern purveyors like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Los Campesinos!

And what can we say about “Emo Dance Song.” First off, it’s called “Emo Dance Song.” Secondly, it’s opening lines are “Another goddamn emo song/crying in the basement with the lights off” before setting off on a driving chorus that sounds like Franz Ferdinand and Interpol at the same time. That’s a song, my friends. The faux-hip hop of “I Got Style” with it’s over-the-top posturing and ironic musings about finance and romance (Where’s the G’s at?/Where the money? Where all my gangsta homies/With the honeys) begins almost as pure comedy but something even funnier happens along the way – it actually becomes a good song. By coupling rapper Jesse “Casheer” Smith and the violin, they manage to poke fun at the genre and make Kanye jealous at the same time.

But they save the best for last with the album closer “Settle For Less.” From its opening strings to its Rhodes-driven hook, it’s a song that unfolds over nearly seven minutes and showcases the male and female vocal interplay between Buchheister and Leger that defines the band’s sound.

For a bunch of kids, Pompeii Graffiti sounds like an old band and we mean that in the nicest possible way. In an era where indie has turned toward folk but all too often in the direction of the disingenuous energy of bands like Mumford &Sons, the multi-instrumentalists in Pompeii Graffiti have delivered a self-assured debut that demonstrates a wisdom beyond their years.

Pompeii Graffiti – Blankets - Underground Wednesday


"Pompeii Graffiti is about to release their debut full length, Annapolitan, with a sound their Facebook page promises is “confessional, self deprecating, nerdy, remedial math rock”."

ompeii Graffiti is about to release their debut full length, Annapolitan, with a sound their Facebook page promises is “confessional, self deprecating, nerdy, remedial math rock”.

Deep thoughts. Dark words. The best part about this? Negativity is finally back.

After a decade of songs about “getting on the dance floor” and whistle-led choruses, a rock scene has started to reemerge, and nobody is pretending that the last decade has been kind. With the 90’s on their 20’s most bands are looking back, but Pompeii Graffiti is pushing ahead with the indie/rock sound.

With excellent synth production underlaying pop-punk guitars it’s impossible to be bored or stop head banging through these twelve songs. The choruses are big. The hooks are catchy. And the most important element of a song, the lyrics, never fail. They get flamboyant and they get insightful, but most of all, they get revenge.
Pompeii Graffiti answered fourteen questions backstage in Annapolis, MD.


We definitely obsess over some of their records. I secretly wish I was from Omaha so I could be on that label. That’s probably the only reason anyone has ever wished they were from Omaha! People usually tell me that we sound like Bright Eyes songwriting and vocals mixed with Weezer instrumentation. I’ll take that as a compliment any day even if they mean that as an insult.

Scott Laudati: When I hear your band I think Saddle Creek, how would you describe your sound?

When people ask me what style of music we play I just skip the “indie rock” label because that can mean anything from Bon Iver to Pavement. We’re not a new genre or anything, but I call us “Nerd Rock” because of the subject matter of all the songs.

How did Pompeii Graffiti start?

Cara and I met in high school. I saw her wearing a Weezer t-shirt the first week of school and knew she would be a cool person to be friends with. We were both in marching band, concert band, and orchestra together so we chatted about music all the time. She got me into Cursive and Ben Folds. She came up to me one day towards the end of my junior year and asked if I’d like to jam. We practiced a bit and then started immediately playing shows that summer.

How many times have you broken up since then?

Technically we “broke up” at the end of 2006 (end of my senior year in high school) so we could all focus on college. We all got together in 2010 to record the first record of songs we had written in high school. That was really cool because I had learned tons from going to music school so I kind of went overboard writing string sections. My proudest moment on that first record is writing a two part Baroque style violin and cello duet in a rap song. You don’t hear that every day!

songs about falling

in love with lesbians,

a song about

Battlestar Galactica,

songs about losing

friends, songs about

high school romance,

songs about feeling

like a loser

Anyways, the drummer and bassist from the original lineup weren’t available to commit to being in a band so we recruited Robin Eckman on drums (he played in several bands I idolized) and Tyler Grimsley on bass (who was in a band called Sonic Bloom that we would always play with in high school).

We’ve all gone through a lot in our personal lives since reforming but we’ve managed to hold onto this core group of people, which is really neat. I’ve played more with this group than anyone else in my life. Things are really starting to click now that we know each others’ strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. Songs seem to write themselves now.

Is there a story behind the naming of Pompeii Graffiti?

I was looking through my parents’ bookshelf when I came across a book called Scorn which is a history of vulgarity. The nastiest, most disgusting language examples came from the graffiti written in ancient Pompeii that had been preserved in ash for thousands of years. Really revolting stuff describing sex acts with animals and the like.

It made me think about how people always talk about “the golden age” of society, as if there were ever a utopian period of culture without prostitution, murder, vulgarity, hate. The ugliness in humanity has always been there alongside the beauty: we are just more aware of it now because of the media.

What record has had the most impact on you?

If I had to pick one it would be Fevers and Mirrors by Bright Eyes. One of my friends from sailing camp when I was fourteen suggested it to me and it just blew me away like nothing had ever done before or since. The lyrics are brutally honest, and best of all for me – the instrumentation and arrangements are brilliant and engaging.

There are so many different textures on that record; accordion, synths, pedal steel, toy piano, acoustic guitar, flutes, mellotron, glockenspiel, organ, hammer dulcimer, mandolin.A picture of Pompeii Grafitti

This record made me want to go out and learn every instrument I could get a hold of. I’m litera - Trebuchet Magazine


"Pompeii Graffiti is about to release their debut full length, Annapolitan, with a sound their Facebook page promises is “confessional, self deprecating, nerdy, remedial math rock”."

ompeii Graffiti is about to release their debut full length, Annapolitan, with a sound their Facebook page promises is “confessional, self deprecating, nerdy, remedial math rock”.

Deep thoughts. Dark words. The best part about this? Negativity is finally back.

After a decade of songs about “getting on the dance floor” and whistle-led choruses, a rock scene has started to reemerge, and nobody is pretending that the last decade has been kind. With the 90’s on their 20’s most bands are looking back, but Pompeii Graffiti is pushing ahead with the indie/rock sound.

With excellent synth production underlaying pop-punk guitars it’s impossible to be bored or stop head banging through these twelve songs. The choruses are big. The hooks are catchy. And the most important element of a song, the lyrics, never fail. They get flamboyant and they get insightful, but most of all, they get revenge.
Pompeii Graffiti answered fourteen questions backstage in Annapolis, MD.


We definitely obsess over some of their records. I secretly wish I was from Omaha so I could be on that label. That’s probably the only reason anyone has ever wished they were from Omaha! People usually tell me that we sound like Bright Eyes songwriting and vocals mixed with Weezer instrumentation. I’ll take that as a compliment any day even if they mean that as an insult.

Scott Laudati: When I hear your band I think Saddle Creek, how would you describe your sound?

When people ask me what style of music we play I just skip the “indie rock” label because that can mean anything from Bon Iver to Pavement. We’re not a new genre or anything, but I call us “Nerd Rock” because of the subject matter of all the songs.

How did Pompeii Graffiti start?

Cara and I met in high school. I saw her wearing a Weezer t-shirt the first week of school and knew she would be a cool person to be friends with. We were both in marching band, concert band, and orchestra together so we chatted about music all the time. She got me into Cursive and Ben Folds. She came up to me one day towards the end of my junior year and asked if I’d like to jam. We practiced a bit and then started immediately playing shows that summer.

How many times have you broken up since then?

Technically we “broke up” at the end of 2006 (end of my senior year in high school) so we could all focus on college. We all got together in 2010 to record the first record of songs we had written in high school. That was really cool because I had learned tons from going to music school so I kind of went overboard writing string sections. My proudest moment on that first record is writing a two part Baroque style violin and cello duet in a rap song. You don’t hear that every day!

songs about falling

in love with lesbians,

a song about

Battlestar Galactica,

songs about losing

friends, songs about

high school romance,

songs about feeling

like a loser

Anyways, the drummer and bassist from the original lineup weren’t available to commit to being in a band so we recruited Robin Eckman on drums (he played in several bands I idolized) and Tyler Grimsley on bass (who was in a band called Sonic Bloom that we would always play with in high school).

We’ve all gone through a lot in our personal lives since reforming but we’ve managed to hold onto this core group of people, which is really neat. I’ve played more with this group than anyone else in my life. Things are really starting to click now that we know each others’ strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. Songs seem to write themselves now.

Is there a story behind the naming of Pompeii Graffiti?

I was looking through my parents’ bookshelf when I came across a book called Scorn which is a history of vulgarity. The nastiest, most disgusting language examples came from the graffiti written in ancient Pompeii that had been preserved in ash for thousands of years. Really revolting stuff describing sex acts with animals and the like.

It made me think about how people always talk about “the golden age” of society, as if there were ever a utopian period of culture without prostitution, murder, vulgarity, hate. The ugliness in humanity has always been there alongside the beauty: we are just more aware of it now because of the media.

What record has had the most impact on you?

If I had to pick one it would be Fevers and Mirrors by Bright Eyes. One of my friends from sailing camp when I was fourteen suggested it to me and it just blew me away like nothing had ever done before or since. The lyrics are brutally honest, and best of all for me – the instrumentation and arrangements are brilliant and engaging.

There are so many different textures on that record; accordion, synths, pedal steel, toy piano, acoustic guitar, flutes, mellotron, glockenspiel, organ, hammer dulcimer, mandolin.A picture of Pompeii Grafitti

This record made me want to go out and learn every instrument I could get a hold of. I’m litera - Trebuchet Magazine


Discography

Annapolitan (2013)
Five Minutes to Midnight (2011)

Photos

Bio

Pompeii Graffiti is an indie rock band from Annapolis, Maryland.

"PG" was formed in 2005 in the band room of Annapolis High School by dorky music nerds. They went on hiatus in the fall of 2006 so that members could pursue their college educations.

The group reformed in March 2010 and released their first full length album, "Five Minutes To Midnight" in June 2011. They are still nerds.

On August 9th, 2013 Pompeii Graffiti released their second studio album, "ANNAPOLITAN."

As well as performing their own brand of Indie Rock music, PG likes to perform note-for-note covers of their favorite albums. In 2011-2012 PG covered Cursive's "The Ugly Organ" and in 2012-2013 they covered Neutral Milk Hotel's "In The Aeroplane Over The Sea".

PG is currently working on their third studio album

Band Members