Four years ago a trio of musicians came together in the sleepy college town of Denton by happenstance, and decided they wanted to work together. Singer Roy Robertson, bassist Pablo Burrell and drummer Ramon Muzquiz didn't see a future in the usual trajectory of a local band — formation, local media buzz, disappointment and eventual disappearance.
The trio, titled Pageantry, managed to land official showcases at South By Southwest and CMJ Music Marathon. They've toured extensively during the last four years on the backs of 2 EPs and a new LP. They've even managed to get their own branded coffee. In other words, they've had the type of success you'd expect people in the area to be raving about, but the band's largely gone unnoticed by North Texas outlets. We checked in with them to find out why.
Dallas Observer: You're a fairly successful group, you're constantly working on new things, and finding new ways to get material out, but it feels like you're often ignored by the local media. Why do you think that is?
Robertson: I think it's because we don't have a narrative to the band. Social media is just this bizarre, gross presence in the world that keeps getting bigger and weirder. All of our exposure as a band circulates from it or at least through it, which makes things pretty meaningless a lot of the time. Most bands have now realized it's much better to be a caricature of something from the past than a unique, living and evolving thing, which is a real fucking shame.
Muzquiz: Maybe they don't like our music. We don't spend a lot of time caring. We just want to write and create, focusing on anything else is counterproductive.
Robertson: That we don't get covered for what we've done this year hasn't done anything to us, per se. We had an awesome time at SXSW, our release shows and tours were amazing and we got to collaborate with people that are really passionate about creating something beautiful — whether that be musically, visually or with the coffee. We have so many people in our corner that the press thing doesn't affect our reach. At the end of the day we've sold a lot of records, tickets and bags of coffee this year even without the local media being a part of our business model.
It seems from the get-go you three have always concentrated on touring, instead of playing local shows. It feels like you believe that your audience will show up even though you're not playing on every other local bill like most of the acts in Dallas. What led to that decision?
Robertson: From the beginning we've been precise about the shows we play locally and we're grateful to be able to be that way and for people to always show up. We toured as soon as we could, it's an adventure and gives you experiences you won't get by staying in your hometown.
Muzquiz: It seems obvious to us that a repeatable experience is not an enjoyable one in terms of entertainment. By making a single show or event (in terms of the listening party we did for the coffee release in conjunction with Vicious Wishes) in six months a unique experience we think that we create more of an energy of people wanting to see us as they don't have that option available to them every other weekend. We also tend to get sick of rehearsing our own music over and over, we did that for several years leading up to the release of Influence and got over playing it quickly. We want to entertain ourselves on stage as much as the audience, it's more exciting for both parties.
Robertson: No one in the band wants to be a hometown hero, we're making music that is hopefully becoming more and more honest and it's not for Denton, or because of Denton. The local band concept is kind of outdated and distracts people from what we're actually about and the content that we release.
Do you think this has been to your detriment?
Robertson: It could be to our detriment but we've done things a lot of other bands haven't managed to do as a result of our choices, so I don't regret how we've done things. You'd almost have to have no regrets when you've so thoroughly bucked the local system. And while results so far have shown that the group's foray outside of the usual practices have been paying off, there's no guarantee that it will continue to do so. In the end only an audience decides who's worth spending their money on. Make no assumptions though, whether it's to their detriment, or not; Pageantry is sure as hell going to continue doing things their way.
What separates Influence from your other work?
Muzquiz: That particular album was the culmination of a long process of writing that started while Friends of the Year was still unfinished and recording that started two years ago before we went to SXSW and then CMJ shortly thereafter. After spending a lot of laborious time recording and revising we ended up sitting on the record for a lot longer than anticipated. A lot of considerations were made as to how we would put out the album. After a good amount of planning and writing of new material we decided to started recording Vicious Wishes to take our minds off of it a little bit. The recording process was easier and quicker than before. Once we put out Influence we decided to not repeat that folly with Vicious Wishes and put it out ASAP.
Robertson: Our output this year was what I'd like to see us do regularly. We toured less but used that extra time to finish recordings we'd been working on for a while. I think people underestimate how much you can get done when you have a decent work ethic with good people and have good projects to work on.
So what's all this about the coffee?
Muzquiz: That came about as a result of mutual admiration for the people at Novel Coffee in Dallas whom I have a relationship with through Shift Coffee in Denton. We were able to collaborate with them on the roast which was great for us as we have always considered wanting to release our music in different ways. This is just the first time it has worked out for us.