Together Pangea’s William Keegan on Exploring a “Different Vibe” (8/24 at Underground Arts)

Next week Los Angeles garage punk trio Together Pangea kick off about a week of end-of-summer shows that will have them returning to our very own Underground Arts on...

Next week Los Angeles garage punk trio Together Pangea kick off about a week of end-of-summer shows that will have them returning to our very own Underground Arts on Thursday, August 24th.  They played the Eraserhood basement just last April on some of the band’s first post-lockdown dates.  They were even joined by our good phriends in Skating Polly (whose Peyton Bighorse recently admitted to me that she’s been enjoying the sounds of Together Pangea almost every day on her morning walks since touring with the band), who provided immediate support.

This June Together Pangea released the Pt. 2 EP, featuring acoustic reimaginings of four of their tracks, including three songs off of 2021’s DYE (the band’s most recent full-length), in addition to 2011 fan favorite “Night of the Living Dummy.”  I recently got a chance to catch up with Together Pangea’s William Keegan via Zoom to talk about what he likes about the band’s acoustic takes on their songs, his favorite things about touring and playing live, and what can be expected of next week’s stop at Underground Arts.

Izzy Cihak: The last time we spoke was last March, when you were just getting ready to hit the road for the tour behind DYE.  I know this is a big question, but what have been some of the highlights of the band since then, over the last year-ish?

William Keegan: We did a Nirvana cover set for Halloween last year, and I had a good time.  I’ve always really liked Nirvana, but I think learning all their songs and performing them, my appreciation grew, for the songwriting and stuff.  That was really fun!

Izzy: Any favorite Nirvana songs, whether to play, or just that you gained a new appreciation for from that?

William: Yeah!  I always thought “Heart Shaped Box” was like, kind of whatever, as a song, but learning the song and playing it, I was like, “Whoa, there’s a lot more going on here than I realized.”  And I just really liked playing that song!

Izzy: You recently released Pt. 2, a collection of acoustic renditions of previously released songs.  How did this idea come about?

William: We did Sleeping Til Sunset in 2018, which was acoustic versions of Bulls and Roosters, and I think I just really liked recording stripped-down versions of stuff, and not really lo-fi, but kind of lo-fi.  Like, it reminded me of demos that I make.  The demos just tend to have a different vibe than the recordings that we do in a studio that have somebody mixing them and all that kind of stuff.  So, it feels like a more direct way to release a song.  So, I just wanted to do it again, and it was fun to do!

Izzy: And how did you decide on which songs to include?

William: I basically just played all the songs from the record on an acoustic guitar, and just chose the ones that I thought sounded good that way.

Izzy: I’m curious if you have any favorite acoustic, or unplugged, albums, whether it be from bands putting an acoustic spin on existing work, like this, or just artists who primarily record acoustic music?

William: [Laughs] I think it’s that Nirvana record.

Izzy: When you said that before – because I was just looking through the MTV Unplugged releases – I was like, “That’s probably gonna come up!”

William: Yeah!  When I was a kid, I loved that record.  I didn’t even like Nirvana when I was a kid, because I thought they were too mainstream and a couple jerks that I knew really liked Nirvana [laughs], so I just avoided them.  But that record, even when I was a kid, I was like, “Oh, this is really cool.”  And, I mean, it’s just stayed good.

Izzy: Last month you played two hometown shows in LA at The Knitting Factory.  How did they go?

William: It was awesome!  We played Living Dummy, an old record of ours, front-to-back, which we’d never done before.  And we play some of those songs live, but not a lot of them, so it was fun to play through those songs again, and you kind of remember what was going on in your life and in your thoughts around that time.  And it was just fun.  It’s funny, because I realized that a lot of those songs are the same chord progression, and I didn’t know at the time.  But, it’s basically like 15 versions of the same song [laughs].  It’s cool!

Izzy: You have a number of upcoming dates throughout the end of the month, including a return to Underground Arts here.  What can be expected of the live show this time around?

William: Well, we’ve got Max Kuehn from FIDLAR playing drums for us.

Izzy: Oh, cool!  We’ve covered them a lot, too!

William: So, that’ll be fun, and it’s like a different dynamic and it sounds really good!  And Erik, our drummer, is moving to guitar.  He just really wanted to.  So, it’ll be a different vibe, but I’m excited to do it.

Izzy: You’re going to be doing this run of dates with THICK, who I’m also a really big fan of.  How did you get connected with them, and are you a fan of their music?

William: Yeah!  My wife is in a band called Reckling [who are opening the show], and she’s played a couple shows with THICK, and she just said they were really cool, and we like their music, so we just hit them up and asked if they wanted to do it, and they were down.

Izzy: You play a pretty wide variety of settings, from barrooms to some larger nightclubs, major festivals, even some really huge venues as a support act.  Do you have a favorite type of setting to play, or one that kind of feels most natural to you?

William: I think 300 caps are my favorite, because I think I feel the vibe of the crowd a lot.  And, if I can’t feel that, I just get in my own head.  So, venues that are too big, you can’t really get a vibe for people.  But 300 is like the right number for feeling like you’re with the audience, and you’re both ready to pop off!

Izzy: Do you approach your performances differently, depending on the setting, ‘cause they do kind of range from like 300 to like tens of thousands at some of these festivals?

William: Sometimes, if we’re supporting another band, we might pick certain songs of ours that we feel like fit the vibe better.  I think in bigger rooms I tend to be more comfortable playing slower songs.  In a small room, I feel like you want the energy to be up.  But, I mean, we don’t really change that much about what we’re doing, depending on the venue, but little things like that…

Izzy: You’ve done a lot of touring over the years, so I’m curious if you’ve developed any particularly significant touring rituals, whether certain kinds of places you always make a point to stop, or things you do to get yourselves geared up to play, or just things you do to pass the time and keep your sanity?

William: We do a few things.  Sometimes we do overnight drives, and we’ll listen to podcasts about aliens or ghosts or something.  And we always stop at Buc-ee’s whenever we drive by Buc-ee’s, and Wawa!  We always stop at Wawa!  We have a little ritual that we started a couple years ago, where we light a bunch of candles and we turn all the lights off and then we kind of meditate to this throat singing [laughs].  I think you wanna just get in the moment, and maybe meditating is doing that.  Like, I know that LeBron James does stuff like that.  I’m a Lakers fan, so I follow all that stuff!

Izzy: Finally, what’s next for Together Pangea, after these dates wrap?  Is there anything you’re especially excited about in the last part of 2023?

William: We’re doing that Nirvana set again, which I’m excited for!  And I’m excited to just play Philly and New York and Chicago.  We’re working on new stuff.  So, we’re in the writing process, and that’s kinda my favorite part, so I’m excited to write stuff!

Izzy: Any hints you can give about what direction your new sounds may be going?

William: It’s not there yet.  I feel like some of the songs are closer to the acoustic version of “Friend of Nothing,” kind of, in vibe.  Our last record was kind of a loud rock record, so we might do something different, but we’re not really there yet.  I’m not sure yet…

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.