Words by Tommy Johnson
Roughly twelve hours have passed since Aaron Pfannebecker, and his band Drawing Boards played their final song from The Message album release party at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn. It’s clear from the get-go during our conversation that Pfannebecker is still feeling the deprivation of sleep. In the background, though, the faint sounds of a marker are pressed onto paper can be heard. Being a copywriter, Pfannebecker is pushing forward on his day.
Drawing Boards has some of the most top-notch NYC musicians has to offer these days. Along with Pfannebecker’s stint with the noise-pop ensemble Sisters, Doug Mavin (Dirty On Purpose), Jane Herships (TEEN), and Peter Rynksy (Darlings) have originated earworm alt-pop melodies heavy songs haze of overdriven guitar and languid vocals. Throughout The Message, the assorted backgrounds of the bandmates bloom so elegantly through the soaring sounds of indie rock.
OffShelf: How did the album release show go?
Aaron Pfannebecker: It went well; there was a pretty good turnout. There was a really good set of bands, like this band Blush. There are friends of ours, and you should check them out. They make some beautiful effervescent pop music… guitar pop. It’s really good. Maura [Lynch] has this beautiful voice. A. Savage from Parquet Courts did a solo on electric guitar. It was nice.
OS: Have you always been in New York?
AP: No, I’m from western Massachusetts; a small town called Deerfield. I lived in Seattle for a while and now in New York to finish school. I hopped around.
OS: Where did you go to school?
AP: I went to UMass for a year and then The New School up here in the city. I then went to an art school for music, writing, and photography for a little bit.
OS: What makes NYC special to you?
AP: A lot of reasons. It’s fun to be around a lot of people; there are intoxicating, and there’s a lot of energy here. It’s easy to pick up and go somewhere in the US and the world. It’s a great place to talk to and watch people. I went to school for writing…when you are storytelling, it’s one of the best places to do it.
OS: What got into writing?
AP: I’ve always been obsessed with writing and reading, like a book nerd. I always off on my own reading; I love it, just getting lost in the story, but also the language.
OS: Who are some of your favorite authors?
AP: Oh, man, I don’t know. I keep coming back to some people again and again, semantically. I come back to people depending on the mood. And I come back to different depending on my mood, I guess is what I am trying to say. I also go through phases, too. I will be interested in one person for a little while and I think that they will be wonderful. Honestly, some of my favorite things are absurd, funny, and older. Like Don Quixote, believe or not. Seriously, it’s hilarious.
OS: It is! I remember reading a little bit back in Spanish class when I was in high school.
AP: He died on the same day, the same year as William Shakespeare. It’s pretty wild.
OS: Oh! I didn’t know that.
AP: That book is really interesting because it’s two books in one. In the second part of the book, the characters become aware that the first part is written about them. [Quixote] is doing these meta things that would take people… he basically created the novel and corresponded it into one breath. It would take all these writers like Samuel Beckett. Visionary people to keep pushing that envelope later on; people who make films like Being John Malkovich. That stuff is inherently in Don Quixote. I just like that… it makes me think in a different way.
OS: Do you find that you write music you go about it the same way as reading? Are you bouncing around different influences?
AP: Yeah, always. There are people that I go back to… my favorite band growing up. I’ll maybe not listen for a long time, but I still hold them to the highest regard. I go through a phase of listening to them for a week again. Or longer, depending on who it is. It’s funny because this record [The Message] is such a rock record and I didn’t think it was till I heard it. My interest in music now… I have no urge to step on a distortion pedal for a long time now [laughs]. A lot of stuff we are thinking about is quieter, prettier, more dynamic, and softer in places. That’s not this record.
OS: How important was it for you to get Jane and Peter to get with you and Doug on Drawing Boards?
AP: Very. I love Jane’s voice, and I love singing with her. I love writing with her.
OS: It comes off on The Message. You two have this soft blend that fits perfectly within the vocals.
AP: It’s effortless. I like the juxtaposition with her voice. Her voice has so much range than my does.
OS: Did the evolution come quickly once Jane and Peter joined you and Doug?
AP: It felt magical working with Doug from the get-go. We made this record [2018’s self-titled] together, and it was just us playing everything. I liked it; it was a really lo-fi record. We recorded when we could and where we could. I think some of the songwriting on it was really good and it has a soft, weird basement quality to it.
We did ease into this because it kept going very naturally. We just started it this to record and not even play. That was very much said. I didn’t want to put myself out there in any way, and I don’t think Doug did either. It felt safer, and it felt freeing. It felt like a relief and felt very like ‘this is my thing.’ It felt very special until [laughs]… we felt like there was magic here and let’s see if we bring this to life with other people. It got to a point where we wanted to share this. Doug knew Jane, and she started to play with us. After a while, we needed someone else. We needed another guitar player because had recorded all these guitar overdubs. I knew Peter from playing with his band Darlings and just ended. I asked what he was doing, and he said nothing. I was like, “Great!”
OS: It sounds like you were finding love in playing music again. Is that wrong to say?
AP: Yeah… that’s what The Message is about. It sounds like a band that is real excited about being in a band at that moment. On some songs, it’s pointed about particular instances and relationships with people. I wanted to encapsulate the feeling of being in a relationship with someone in different capacities. So it could be a lover, a family member, someone that you don’t know. They are all based on some of my real experiences and different avenues of my life.
OS: How long did the recording process take for The Message?
AP: It was actually really quick; we did in four days. We did these twelve-hour days. We worked with Justin [Pizzoferrato], who was a great engineer. We did sixteen songs; four couldn’t fit onto the record so we have this other EP that we might release in a month or something.
OS: Are there plans of going back into the studio soon to do some recording?
AP: We are talking loosely about recording another record in the fall. I like to because there’s a lot of songs here that I love. There are very strong, and they show a depth and growth from The Message. Especially the ones from Jane; there’s a few that gorgeous and absolutely interesting. That’s what I’m more excited about… doing something less straight forwarded, indie rock record. I don’t know it will be, but I will just describe it as a beautiful listening experience.