Another in the growing list of emo-gone-indie rock bands, Piebald has spent the last decade evolving into a clever catchall of smirks and winks. Bringing a sort of irreverence reminiscent of early Weezer or OK Go and a live show that has exponentially increased their fan base, this Boston quartet is giving a voice to sarcastic youth everywhere. And though Piebald was recently forced off the tour grind due to illness, the band has returned to the road with a vengeance.
Coming together while the members were in high school, Piebald got its start as a hardcore band. Although a distant cry from the band's musical stylings now, hardcore is a past they are nonetheless happy to claim. As singer Travis Shettel says of the group's earliest works, "When we made those recordings, we were really excited about them and really happy about them. That's just what we were doing then, and this is just what we're doing now, and tomorrow is going to be what we're doing tomorrow."
In a city known best for free-thinking, it's little wonder that Piebald transcended into something more sublime. Taking a cue from the Boston scene, the band's lyrics began to evolve and their music progressed into a style that was then on the cusp: emo. Finding kinship with other burgeoning emo acts, the band began to hit the road hard, seeing the country with the likes of Jimmy Eat World, Saves the Day and New Found Glory. And though constant touring has been a big element of the group's success, it's certainly not the only one.
Blending hook-filled pop riffs with catch-phrase-drenched choruses, Piebald has created a sound that resonates with listeners. Taking part in lyrical foreplay, Shettel dances around his subjects from song to song, teasing the listener until he finally delivers his punch. With songs like "Sex Sells and (Unfortunately) I'm Buying" and "Karate Chops for Everyone But Us," it's clear that the typical you-broke-my-heart or let's-make-out fare is not on the menu. Yet, with the spring-morning playfulness that's so prevalent in their work, it's hard not to grin midsong and start to sing along.
For the past few months, the opportunity to sing along in concert has been missing, removing a key ingredient from the Piebald recipe. A band so conspicuously present month-in and month-out has been far more conspicuous in their recent absence.
As the result of years of strenuous touring, Shettel's vocal cords developed a series of painful blood blisters and the band was forced to take a break while he underwent surgery. The surgery and subsequent rehab also proved expensive, a condition that typically proves fatal to indie bands. Yet Piebald found an ingenious way to help cover the financial deficit by producing a series of "Travis K Shettel Throat Surgery Commemorative" T-shirts. Available from their website, the shirts have given fans a chance to display their loyalty and it paid off, helping the band cover its pecuniary shortfall. And, of course, allowing them to get right back out on tour.
"We're getting kinda restless, `because` we're not on the road right now -- we're all excited to get back `out`," says Shettel.
Shettel's words -- and the fact that Piebald's hiatus has officially ended with the December onset of a monthlong U.S. tour -- must comfort fans that were worried that the band might scale back their live attack.
What else does the future hold for the band? "`We just want to` write the best songs we can and put out better records than we ever have and tour as much as possible and have a lot of fun."