Philadelphia duo Pattern Is Movement are about to release their unclassifiable third album All Together. Looking too deeply into childhood influences can get dicey, but maybe some of Andrew Thiboldeaux and Chris Ward’s excellently unique sound came from their beginnings: They both grew up in “strict” Pentecostal households and met as teens while part of a Christian hip hop crew. They both dug Dr. Dre. I can’t trace exactly how this led to their orchestral, shimmering, polyrhythmic pop — part Pinback, part Grizzly Bear, part two-man tape-loop project, part musical, part… — but it’s likely in there somewhere. As are guest oboe, trumpet, violin, etc., fleshing out the already luxurious sounds. Really, I don’t imagine you’ll hear anything like it until PIM gets around to releasing a fourth record.
On top of throwing the kitchen sink into their music, the guys have jobs — Andrew’s a PE teacher by trade; Chris, a technical services assistant at the Drexel Law library who does sound in various Philly clubs at night. When you’re done reading about underage jam band members, Pastor Steve, and volleyball played in a room with a low ceiling, check out All Together standouts, the super opener “Bird” and the previously posted “Right Away.” We once described the latter as possessing a “contrapuntal Rodgers & Hammerstein vibe.” (You might also remember We Versus The Shark’s more jagged cover.)
Chris Ward, drums and percussion
STEREOGUM: You have a sort of double thing going. Drexel Univerity’s Law Library by day and sound at clubs in Philadelphia at night. What do you do at the library?
CHRIS WARD: I am what they call a technical services assistant at the Drexel Law library. Technical services is the ‘back end’ of the library where the serials and monographs come in for processing/cataloging. My typical day is updating material because lawyers are always changing their minds about laws and such and they need that new material to argue for more money against McDonalds.
STEREOGUM: Are you dealing at all with research questions?
CW: Nope. That would the reference librarians (the people with Master’s degrees) doing that sort of thing.
STEREOGUM: Are you a law student? If not, how’d you get this particular gig?
CW: I am not a law student. My wife, Jessica, is one of those people with a Master’s in Library Science and she put in a good word for me (wink, wink).
STEREOGUM: You said you leave a lot on tour, so they’re pretty flexible?
CW: I started working at the library a year and a half ago and they told me that they needed me for two months only, but once I got back home from tour last year, they decided they needed some assistance and I was available. When I told them that I was leaving for tour for two months they actually changed my status to permanent part time worker so that I could come back and work. Pretty rad.
STEREOGUM: Then, at night, you do sound at clubs. Which ones?
CW: I have worked at just about every club in Philadelphia. I started at a little club called Doc Watsons where the sound system was held together with gum and duct tape. I moved on from their and started doing sound at the Pontiac, the Khyber and the North Star Bar. Recently, I have been consistently working at Johnny Brenda’s. This is a pretty new rock club, but it is by far the best one in all of Philadelphia. For starters, the club itself is gorgeous and the bathrooms are always clean (pretty rare). The sound system is super badass and the whole staff is the nicest people you’ll ever run into in a rock club. Also, the food they serve downstairs is so amazing — some of the best grub in that side of town.
STEREOGUM: I imagine prima donnas as well as difficult-to-mic instruments. Can you pass along an anecdote or two about some sticky situations? Like, is it difficult getting good sound out of a gourd/saw combo?
CW: Doing sound at most clubs is a lot of babysitting and organizing. Most bands wander into the club and have absolutely no clue what the hell is going on. It’s my job to get them into the club and organize the night and, at times, organize their band itself (example: making sure that the bass player stays in the club because they go on in 10 minutes).
A recent situation was pretty crazy. Their were four (count them — four) jam bands at a local rock club (not Johnny Brenda’s, btw) and one of the bands had an underage player which always presents weird situations for the club. The door guy told the band that the underage player had to hang in this one spot till he played. Well, like most people, sitting in a spot away from the action was too much for this kid and he kept moving about. The door guy got frustrated and kicked the kid out. So, after the first band, the door guy tells me that the second band has a choice — either play without the underage kid or not play at all. They were mega-bummed because the kid was the singer/main guitarist. So they stay on stage forever trying to figure out and they finally come up to me and plead for my intervention. I told them I have absolutely no control and they leave the stage with their gear and five friends chanting: “let (insert band name) play.”
STEREOGUM: Ever blow anything up?
CW: Luckily, I have never blown anything up.
STEREOGUM: I’ve seen bands storm off-stage when the sound gets sketchy. Is it a nerve wracking job?
CW: It is a very nerve wracking job at times. The person doing sound can really determine if you have a good show or a great show and that can be a lot of pressure when the mix is not coming together. However, if you have the perspective that you are, at that moment, very much a part of the band, then the stress generally becomes a motivating factor and most nights resolves into a lot of thank you’s and hi-fives.
STEREOGUM: Where are you recording bands?
CW: I work at the Gradwell House in Haddon Heights, NJ. I haven’t been doing much engineering there lately, but I was about a year and half a go. Pattern demoed all of All Together there. Two dudes, Steve Poponi and David Downham, own the studio and record bands like: Danielson, Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right BA Start, The Progress and so forth.
STEREOGUM: How do you treat live sound versus the sound you do in the studio?
CW: Live sound can be harder at times because everything is immediate. Even if you do a lengthy sound check — variables, like cords not working, the house being full of people or a drunken guitarist, can make the night go down the crapper. You have to put on your detective hat a bit more doing live sound because there is only so much time allotted for that given show. However, recording a band comes with its problems as well and that detective hat should be handy. The main problems are sub-standard gear and performance. Most young musicians think that a studio is a holy place where your gear and performances are magically changed by the “studio.” This, sadly, is not the case and you are stuck eq-ing the hell out of that Crate amp for days and days!
STEREOGUM: Any interesting anecdotes?
CW: Two stories: I was recording a Christian r&b band for about two months. The guy who was in charge of the band was named Pastor Steve. Pastor Steve had a son, Sonny, and he played and sang with his buddies. The music was mainly 98 Degrees with a cross of Romanian Pentecostalism! Yep — they were Romanian Pentecostals who were from the Bronx’s originally. When they would record, they would bring their whole entourage (about 10-15 people) and they would bother me the whole time. One time, they brought a drummer without Pastor Steve’s knowledge and we put down a bunch of tracks. When Pastor Steve came in he was so pissed off that they had the drummer on the tracks because he was from a rival church. The takes were also very horrible and Pastor Steve explained to me and his band that this is because the drummer was not filled with the holy spirit — yep — so next time you can’t nail that part — just ask your drummer if he’s been filled today?
I was recording some hip-hop for this older guy. He was a real nice guy and his stuff was ok. We got to the end of the session and he was short on cash. He wanted to know if he could get a mix and pay the studio back at a later time. I called the owners and they were not into giving out the disc unless he could give us some collateral. I told the guy this and he seemed pretty bummed (it was weird for a 27 year old to say this to a 38-year-old man) about it, but he ultimately gave us his portable CD player. I told him to call the studio and arrange a time to pick up the cd player and drop off his money. To this day, he has yet to come get his CD player. Now — to top it off — I was driving home and got a call from a phone number I was unfamiliar with. It turned out to be the client from the studio. He had given me all his money and did not have any money to get over the bridge ($3 toll). I was unsure at first — thinking maybe this was a joke or worse, a setup, but the guy was desperate, so I gave him the $3 dollars. One of the weirdest interactions in my life.
Andrew Thiboldeaux, voice, keyboards, bass, percussion
STEREOGUM: How’d you get into teaching PE?
ANDREW THIBOLDEAUX: It’s weird because it’s sorta something I wanted to do since I was young but I wasn’t actually in love with gym class in general. I liked the idea of teaching as a service, and teaching gym seemed like a chance to do that.
STEREOGUM: Had you taught any other subjects before this? Coached any sports?
AT: Nope, just gym. I coached volleyball for year. The ceiling in the gym I worked in was super low as it was pretty much just a basement with basketball nets. So naturally volleyball was really hard to play in there, and the kids were bummed a lot of the time because they thought they were really bad at it. The funny thing though is that it actually trained the kids to keep the ball really low to the net (which is good) so when we eventually played another school in a huge gym they were like the best in the league. They were so happy!
STEREOGUM: Where do you teach? How big is the class?
AT: I quit full-time gym teaching about a year and half ago to be able to tour and now I just substitute teach. When I was teaching gym I taught at a public middle-school in South Philly. The classes were often as big as 36 kids. Just me and them.
STEREOGUM: I imagine PE’s a tough class to teach. Certain students don’t want to be there, while others might want to be there too much (and harass those who don’t). Did you need to be much of a disciplinarian?
AT: Yeah it’s tough being a non-classroom teacher because the kids automatically think they can do whatever you want. I found that I had to be even stricter than the regular teachers just to get anything done. I was also super-vigilant of any bullying and forced the kids to be kind to each other. Gym class can be a really uncomfortable place for a lot of people so I tried to make it as pleasant and accepting as possible.
STEREOGUM: What was a typical class day? I know some PE programs are more involved than others … like organized sports (softball, volleyball, etc.), whereas others are more about jumping jacks and that sort of thing.
AT: My first day of teaching ever in life I tried to do a Stomp lesson to a bunch of over-age 8th graders (like with beards and pictures of their offspring in their wallet). I tried to have the kids make up their own Stomp routines where they were to make rhythms/dances using baseball bats, hockey sticks, chairs, basketballs, etc. Within a matter of like three minutes all of the equipment was airborne and strewn about the gym. So they sat on their role spots for weeks and weeks and little by little we started doing more simple lessons. By June they were performing their Stomp routines in front of the whole school.
Most of the kids I worked with were really underdeveloped emotionally and never had the chance to be a kid and use their imagination. We’d often start 8th grade classes with warm-ups where they had to pretend to be things like an alligator or walking in space or walking quiet like a mouse. I remember the first time trying that stuff with them and they loved it. These huge grown-up looking dudes just eating it up. It’s hilarious and sad at the time because I would have never done that crap when I was in 8th grade, but only because I’d already done it with parents and capable teachers when I was little.
STEREOGUM: Any of your students know about PIM?
AT: No, not really.
STEREOGUM: Are you a stickler? Like if a student forgets their regulation shorts they can’t participate?
AT: I didn’t let them have earrings on during class but the girls used to try to hide their huge fluorescent earrings under their weaves. Lame.
03/25 – Tuscon, AZ @ Dry River Collective
03/26 – Phoenix, AZ @ Phix Gallery
03/27 – Los Angeles, CA @ TBA
03/28 – San Diego, CA @ Beauty Bar
03/29 – San Francisco, CA @ Bike Kitchen
03/30 – Fresno, CA @ Green Home Collective
04/01 – Davis, CA @ UCD Firehouse
04/02 – Sacramento, CA @ Press Club/Club Pow!
04/03 – Stanford, CA @ Stanford University
04/04 – Portland, Oregon @ The Know
04/05 – Seattle, WA @ Healthy Times
04/07 – Pittsburgh, PA @ WPPJ Radio Fest, Point Park University
04/10 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge
04/11 – Boulder, CO @ University Of Colorado, Boulder
04/12 – Denver, CO @ Hi Dive
04/13 – Lincoln, NE @ Box Awesome
04/15 – Kansas City, MO @ Record Bar
04/17 – Ames, IA @ University of Iowa M Shop
04/18 – Chicago, IL @ Co-Prosperity Sphere
04/19 – Bloomington, IN @ Shockwave Fest
04/20 – Lafayette, IN @ The Venue
04/21 – Grand Rapids, MI @ DAAC
04/22 – Gambier, OH @ Kenyon College
04/24 – Brooklyn, NY @ Zombieville Series, Southpaw
[“Chris Ward (me) is wearing the crazy glasses and starring straight at the camera. Andrew Thiboldeaux is looking off with his chest hair exposed.”]