Pity Sex’s Sean St. Charles Discusses The Band’s New Album, ‘90s Pop, And Biker Bars


Don’t let the name fool you, there’s nothing pitiful about Pity Sex. The Ann Arbor-based quartet creates lush, shoegaze-inspired songs that founding member/drummer Sean St. Charles’ admits is because of the love he and guitarist/vocalist Brennan Greaves have for the guitar driven pop of the ‘90s. 


This admiration is evident on the band’s debut full-length album, Feast of Love, which dropped via Run For Cover Records in June. Since then Pity Sex has been touring the country in support of the release. And even though van troubles made the four-piece miss the first two tour dates and a biker bar in Myrtle Beach practically ran out the tour package, it was a rewarding experience in St. Charles’ eyes. The drummer recently chatted with me about that, the new album, and how he just can’t help loving ‘90s pop.


Katrina Nattress: Your band name is hilarious. What’s the story behind it?


Sean St. Charles: Ehh, that’s not a question I like to answer really. I’ll say that it’s a name that makes people feel uncomfortable and I want to confront that. I hate to hear pity sex as a phrase. What the hell is that supposed to mean? There’s nothing pitiful about sex.  Sex shouldn’t scare people. We write about sex a lot – not gratuitously, sex as love, sex as human, etc.


KN: You’re winding down an almost two-month long tour. How has it been going?


SSC: We just got back a few days ago. Tour really exceeded our expectations.  Every show was great. It’s been pretty surreal for us to play sold out shows on the other side of the country. Any tour is exhausting and two months can be downright unbearable at times, but the bands we’re on tour with and all the people at the shows made it easy to forget how long we were gone.


KN: What was your highlight?


SSC: Favorite spots for us were San Diego, Brooklyn, our record release show in Ann Arbor, really anywhere there were people singing along and having a good time. Pembroke Pines in South Florida was a total shocker – absolutely packed show on the night Miami won the NBA finals. Everyone was feeling loose and happy. We love weird nights like that.


KN: Any horror stories?


SSC: The only real horror story was from an early show we played near Myrtle Beach. We’d missed the first two dates of tour because of van problems and had to drive overnight to catch up in South Carolina. We pulled into town at 10 am, went straight to the beach and tried to rest a bit because we had two shows that day.  A couple hours later we roll up to the venue to find out it’s a biker bar in a tourist part of town. In my head, the spot seems cool: huge bar with motorcycle shit on the walls, a “bike pit” in the back, outdoor stages, cheap drinks, etc.  Everyone is tired, kind of just taking in the spot while the first band is setting up when we hear the sound guy through the microphone. The dude is drunk or some shit – doing an awful job setting up sound, and just being a dick to everyone.  After the first band finishes, the dude goes up on stage and makes an announcement that everyone in attendance has to go buy chicken wings from the bar because “that’s how you support the scene.”  All the touring bands start butting heads with all the bar people, the biker guys start threatening to “call in the Hell’s Angels.”  This goes on for most of the show and eventually the tour package ends up splitting before World Is gets to play.

KN: You recently released your debut LP; how does it feel to have a full-length under your belts?

SSC: It’s great to have the full-length out. Brennan and I have been playing in bands together for 15 years or something, and this is the first time we’ve done a full record. All four of us are really pleased with how the record turned out; we don’t want to rest on our laurels though. The full-length is a good launching off point for new material, and it gives us some space to experiment with some weirder stuff before we start writing another LP.


KN: This album has a distinct shoegaze feel to it. What were your influences while writing/recording?

SSC: There’s a definite shoegaze influence on the record, but that isn’t something we set out to do specifically – we just wanted to write lush songs.  We’ve always been interested in doing a lot with guitar tone and texture. The whole gamut of ‘80s/’90s alternative music figured into our writing process. My Bloody Valentine, sure, but the Pixies and Pavement and Dinosaur Jr. too. 


KN: You’re touring with The World Is A Beautiful Place & I’m No Longer Afraid To Die and Dads, which seems like an odd pairing. How did their fans react to your sound?

SSC: Touring with World Is and Dads wasn’t really the jump it seems like on paper. Greg from World Is is our booking agent, and we’ve been playing shows in that scene since we started the band. At this point, we’re making a conscious movement away from the emo thing that those two bands are more entrenched in, but the people who’ve dug us from the beginning are the same people who like those bands. This tour was the first time we saw a distinction between the people who are more into the World Is/Dads stuff and the people who are into our newer material. I think all three bands would agree that the conflux of crowds made the shows more interesting.


KN: I’ve read that when you started this band the idea was to emulate the ‘90s pop that you listened to when you were kids. Talk to me about that.


SSC: Yeah, ‘90s pop music is really the touchtone for our sound. I guess it’s just a matter of what we grew up listening to. I think everyone looks back at the music of their childhood with rose-colored glasses. Brennan has been a huge Weezer fan since he was a kid. Smashing Pumpkins are one of the first bands I remember seeing on TV. Not everything from the ‘90s has aged well, but a lot of the guitar driven pop stuff is still great. Those sorts of bands will always be the axiom of music for us; we can’t really help it.


KN: You’re from Ann Arbor, what are some other local up-and-coming bands we should have on our radar?

SSC: Ann Arbor isn’t a huge scene but our friends play in two of our favorite bands. Brave Bird is a more math rock influenced emo band. Their bass player grew up with Brennan and I, and we’ve played in a bunch of bands together. Our roommate Dom’s new band True Love is probably my favorite hardcore band right now; he’s flat-out the best lyricist I know.


KN: What’s next for Pity Sex?


SSC: Not exactly sure. We’ll be doing a few shows on the east coast in late August and then Gainesville Fest in October. We’re recording a couple songs for various projects in a couple weeks. Other than that, nothing is set in stone.


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