Flock Talks: “Burning Up My Time” with Greg Ormont From Pigeons
Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Baltimore’s beloved eccentric and funkadelic ensemble, is easily one of the most heavily-touring bands in the scene. Garnering more and more attention with each show they play, Pigeons’ talent has catapulted them into the spotlight, playing countless shows and festivals nationwide with continued support from their friends and fans; affectionately referred to as The Flock. Sensible Reason caught up with the band on the road and spoke with Greg Ormont – lead singer and guitarist – about their newest single “Burning Up My Time,” and the band’s musical influences and accomplishments over the years.
Sensible Reason: How does your newest album Pleasure differ from Psychology?
Greg Ormont: It’s almost like night and day. With Psychology, we personally positioned the microphones, adjusted the levels and pressed record, with some help from our sound-inclined friends. However with Pleasure, we hired a professional engineer to take care of the recording, and he took our sound to the next level, more than we could’ve expected. It’s so full and professional sounding, and I think our fans are going to feel the energy in the music much more just because everything was set up “pro.” With help from a professional engineer this time around, all we had to do was focus on the music, and I think you can hear our relaxation and focus in the recordings.
SR: How did you end up settling on the name Pleasure for the album?
GO: Well, we deliberated on (honestly) hundreds of names and sure enough, it was one of the first suggestions we brought up, if not the very first option. As a band who tours full time, we are trying our best to spread pleasure around the country year-round. And when you look at the track listing of Pleasure, virtually every song’s central concept revolves around a feeling of pleasure. For example, our first single “Live It Up,” is about seizing the moment, having fun, and making the most of life while you can.
SR: You just released another new song from Pleasure called “Burning Up My Time.” What is it about?
GO: We wrote the music of “Burning Up My Time” before the lyrics, as we tend to do. It has a old vintage funk sound, so I matched that musical palate with classic lyrics about war, not wanting to fight, promoting peace and making sure that your priorities are in line so no one’s getting hurt for no good reason. I’m not too politically minded by any means, but this song was written in the wake of the United States’ involvement in Middle East, and the song’s musical style instantly put me in the classic protester/musician mindset. Like the Bob Dylan phase of Dewey Cox in Walk Hard, but not nearly as deep.
SR: When you play a live show, do you tend to feed off the audience a bit or are there strict guidelines that you stick to?
GO: We 100% feed off the crowd. Sure, we’ll have a set list in mind, but just like improvisational music in general, we go with the flow and react to the overall energy. Sometimes we’ll play a downbeat song that usually serves as a moment of relaxation during our sets, but if the crowd reacts more energetically than usual, our drummer will pick up on it and send the jam into a fast-paced dance party. And when that happens, we usually feel the need to play a cool-down song after, so we’ll add a chill song to the set list or jumble the remaining order of songs to keep the natural flow moving as we see fit. We like our shows to experience natural peaks and valleys. Sometimes we plan it out perfectly, but other times the crowd takes you on an adventure and you have to react accordingly.
SR: Yeah, you guys have great chemistry and play off each other very well.
GO: Thanks. I mean it’s all natural. We practice a lot. And it all stems from us seeing shows for years and experiencing that live energy from the crowd’s perspective. We all love live music so much that when we’re playing at our own shows, it almost feels like we’re simultaneously in the crowd experiencing the natural flow.
SR: What is your process for coming up with new material?
GO: We’re always writing. We’re still buckled into a Ford 15-passenger van so we’re not writing on the road as much as I’d love to, but we’re always writing mentally, at home, and basically whenever we get the chance. We practice as a group relentlessly, about twice a week for years, and we record the majority of all of them. Most of our practice time is spent just jamming these days. A good portion is still spent on reviewing parts for shows and planning fun events like our Dead Zeppelin theme for Halloween from last year (a mash up of Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin and originals), but the majority of practice is spent jamming and sharing song ideas. As a result, we have hundreds of “half songs” that we’ve made as a group and recorded on the fly. Plus, we all work diligently at home on our own craft, learning music and writing songs or ideas that we’ll bring to practice and flesh out together. It’s a pretty collaborative effort; it’s not very common that one of us will come in with a full piece of music completely done. If one of us wrote all the material, you’d hear it in the music. It would sound one-dimensional, but since we all have different musical backgrounds, we create interesting music together. And that’s what’s cool about having a band that’s collaborative. Songs get morphed like a ball of clay, and ours generally get molded into a psychedelic clay pigeon.
SR: What would you say is your greatest accomplishment as a band – something that has affected the direction it’s going in a positive way?
GO: I don’t know about our greatest accomplishment, but one positive event that definitely affected our direction was opening for Electron in Baltimore a couple years ago. Electron is a side project of a premier jam musicians, including Marc Brownstein and Aron Magner from the Disco Biscuits, as well as the Mike Greenfield of Lotus and Tommy Hamilton of Brothers Past/JRAD/American Babies/Every band in 2015. It turned out that Marc really liked us. He came into our dressing room after our set and told us that everyone in the band was digging the music. He said that he could tell we have a lot of fun on stage just like the band has for years. From there, we ended up opening for the Disco Biscuits on their New Years run in a 2,000-person room in Manhattan, played with Conspirator at the 9:30 Club in Washington D.C. and got booked for City Bisco and Camp Bisco in PA. It’s been great working with Marc and hanging with the other members of Electron. We continue to see them on the circuit and all of them have been really welcoming. Tom’s sat in with us a bunch of times and holy crap, that guy can play guitar.
SR: Are there any other artists who you look up to or who influence your music?
GO: Absolutely, tons. The first ones that come to mind are Lotus and Umphrey’s McGee. Both bands pump out shows with epic flow and respectable prowess. Every time we see them, we soak up their style like sponges. We’ve also been listening to a lot of Jamiroquai, Steely Dan, Electro Deluxe, Dopapod, Sex on Toast and Snarky Puppy in the van these days, but the list never ends.
SR: As an artist, what does success mean to you?
GO: Success as an artist (to me) means playing our music to a crowd who appreciates our energy, for as long as we can. Touring the country and maybe the world, spreading pleasure and building energy with massive groups of like-minded strangers. Treasuring that moment of natural release only achieved by epic musical peaks. Pushing my musical and performance limits. And knowing that when it’s all said and done, I gave it my all and helped a few strangers smile along the way.