BE YOUR OWN PET: Let’s Get Awkward

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Although Nashville rarely tops the list when naming the world’s hotbeds of punk rock, Be Your Own Pet may force people to reconsider the Music City’s artistic landscape. After touring nonstop in support of its eponymous debut, the punk-noise band pushed to raise the songwriting stakes when creating its sophomore album, Get Awkward.

Although Nashville rarely tops the list when naming the world’s hotbeds of punk rock, Be Your Own Pet may force people to reconsider the Music City’s artistic landscape. After touring nonstop in support of its eponymous debut, the punk-noise band pushed to raise the songwriting stakes when creating its sophomore album, Get Awkward.

Upon releasing Get Awkward, which sounds like a teenager’s garage rock manifesto, Be Your Own Pet emerges with a collection that intensifies the group’s full-throttle impact. Vocalist Jemina Pearl explains, “We were just trying to write better. We’ve been playing almost every night and touring so much that we’ve all become better musicians. We wanted to write songs that challenged us a little bit more than the last album.”

After the first four cracks of John Eatherly’s snare drum on the song‘s opener, “Super Soaked,” B.Y.O.P. explodes like a Roman candle spraying flames and peeling paint off the garage’s walls. While the blistering energy barely relents in the 15-track tour de force, the singer hints that there were occasional challenges in the songwriting process. In particular, Pearl admits, “Some of the slower songs on the album, like ‘You’re A Waste’ and ‘Creepy Crawl,’ I was not into doing them at first. Now I’m glad that we ended up recording them. I’m proud of those.”

An unusual aspect of Be Your Own Pet’s writing process is that the outfit is a rather amorphous creative collective. “All of them play different instruments,” remarks Pearl. “Jonas [Stein], Nathan [Vasquez], and John [Eatherly] can each play guitar, drums, and bass pretty well. They’re pretty strong musicians and are the kind of people who can pick up any instrument and be good at it.”

While the band fleshes out the feel of a song, Pearl begins crafting an idea that will complement the sound. “While they’re jamming on a riff or a part to come up with the structure, I’ll either come up with lyrics or I’ll take lyrics I’ve already started to write and add on to them to make them fit with the song,” she reveals. “We never sit down and discuss it-it just happens.”

Lyrically, the singer draws from a wide array of odd interests to collect ideas. From childhood games to kitschy film nuggets, Pearl finds a way to relate surreal scenes to her own life. One of Get Awkward‘s many examples is the track, “Zombie Graveyard Party.” For the shrill howl of the melody, the vocalist recalls, “I really like The Return of the Living Dead and the part where they [the zombies] want to eat brains. I was thinking it would be funny to flip it around and make it about a girl who’s become a zombie to tell a guy, if he really loved her, he’d let her eat his brain.”

The quirky songwriter also finds inspiration from a board game. Though initially fairly reticent in discussing the details of “Heart Throb,” the vocalist admits, “That’s just this personal thing that happened in my life laughs. I have a board game that I like called Heart Throb. I thought it would be a funny title for a song about boy-girl relationships.”

Once the writing was completed, the foursome took consideration in making the record sound as powerful as the material deserved. With a laugh, Pearl concludes, “It took long hours of me and [producer] Steve [McDonald] working together to make my parts better and more melodic. There was a lot of screaming out of frustration in the studio, but it’s all worth it in the end.”

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