Written by: Mikala Lugen | Photo(s) by: Kendall McCargo Strawberry Island Dweller
All Aboard Pigeons Playing Ping Pong’s Sixth Studio Album ‘Perspective’ & 11th Domefest [Interview]
In a world of constant change, music has always been a constant, driving force to those it resonates with. While society was flipped upside down the past two years, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong found solace in music, compiled their most prolific album to date, and gained a new perspective surrounding their musical careers and what’s important in today’s fleeting world.
“When live music got shut down in 2020, it really put in front of my face how much I love performing and how much music has shaped me as a person,” frontman Greg Ormont told Volume in a recent interview. “I never take our shows for granted; I treat every show like it’s our last. It certainly reminded me to squeeze all the juice out of every moment. I’ve also become a father so now I have a completely different perspective on life and what’s important.”
With it being just under a month since the band released their sixth studio album, Perspective, the Baltimore-based, psychedelic funk quartet – comprised of Ormont, Jeremy Schon, Alex “Gator” Petropulos, and Ben Carrey – have been reeling in the energy the new album has brought into their live performance setting all the while reliving their history, both on and off the stage. The 12-track album not only showcases the group’s plentiful career-spanning catalog from a “bird’s eye view,” but also highlights their ability to continuously keep their fans, also known as “The Flock,” on their toes with new songs and lively instrumental features.
Perspective kicks off with a brand-new, never-before played live track titled “Elephante,” tuning listeners to a ’70s-style funk ballad thanks to some added horn accompaniment from frequented PPPP collaborators and Nashville-based ensemble, Here Come The Mummies. It’s a solid nod to the rest of the album where half of the songs contain added musical texture. Its follow-up, “Move Like That,” stands as another newer tune for the band and features respected percussionist Jason Hann from The String Cheese Incident for an added rhythm blend to Petropulos’ already solid backing. “Su Casa” continues to push the band musically, incorporating strings into their music for the first time by local Washington, D.C. strings player, Amy Shook. Early on in the song it almost sounds like synths but then her low-end, longer, uplifting lines really fill in the rest of the composition for a powerful and emotive new take on the song.
“It’s always a really fun, collaborative process and we try to give musicians more of an open-ended direction and allow them to contribute their own flavor into the song,” Schon explained.
“We went into the studio almost as a form of therapy. We poured so much pent-up creative energy into the album and I think that translates into the record because it was like a love letter to music and the only way we knew how to comprehend live music ending. What the pandemic afforded us was that everyone was home, so we weren’t the only ones seeking music therapy. When you add a new fresh element, it adds this new excitement for all of us and brings the music to life.”
The album’s standout, “Sir Real,” not only bursts with echoing, kaleidoscopic vocals and psychedelic crescendo guitar lines from Schon and Carrey, but fans following the band for years have known this to be a rare occurrence at live shows, first originating as an on-stage improv some 10 or so years ago. A staple track both in the live setting and within the studio, “Sir Real” embodies the band’s genuine free form in songwriting, energized by the core of their fans and magic within a live performance setting.
“Sir Real” – Pigeons Playing Ping Pong
[Video: Pigeons Playing Ping Pong]
“”Sir Real” embodies taking a chance,” Ormont explained. “Over time in a very casual way, it has developed into a whole song. We were finally able to give it the studio treatment it deserves with a bit of structure…Perspective is a 15-year snapshot of our lives put into a cohesive, musical collection. Now that I have a daughter, the most recent songs are tied to my current life chapter, but the older ones, like “Indiglo,” take me back to college. It gets me really excited for the next 10 years of perspective that’s yet to come.”
Coming off the heels of their new album and encapsulating their past 15 years, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong show no signs of stopping for their next decade as a group. The band is gearing up to host their 11th Domefest at Ohio’s Legend Valley in exactly two weeks, returning to its regularly programmed camping layout for the first time since 2019. Since its inception as a one-day, one-night event in College Park, MD, Domefest has blossomed into an annual musical reunion for both the band and The Flock.
“The intimacy of Domefest is what sets it apart from other festivals. And that intimacy is shared between all the bands to the fans. We always want Domefest to be a place where you can meet someone on the first day and by the third day they’re your new best friend. It’s very important to keep that interpersonal connection alive and thriving at Domefest. The Flock is everywhere when we’re on tour, but I feel like Domefest is like the “cream of The Flock.””
This year’s lineup includes a plethora of trend-setting groups that emanate the intimacy the band hopes to foster, and provide ample opportunity for live collaborative sit-ins. Including six sets from the PPPP host themselves, jamtronica collective Lotus, jamgrass pioneers Kitchen Dwellers, electro-funk trio SunSquabi, soulful groove group Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers, funk jam band Spafford, funk-fusion ensemble Funk You, NYC-based bassist Karina Rykman, mountain music staples and Domefest alumni Magic Beans, and more will transform the historical outdoor camping venue into a melting pot of music, art, and collective community.
“Booking the lineup is easily one of my favorite parts of curating Domefest each year. It’s kind of like making a mixtape for someone,” Schon admitted. “This year is easily our best lineup to date. A lot of the bands scheduled to play are ones we’ve been wanting to have for a lot of years. There will be tons of interplay and sit-ins from musicians throughout the weekend. And we have our Domefest All-Stars on the main stage Saturday night. It allows a time for each musician to be showcased in their own way. It’s always a favorite memory from Domefest each year because it’s a special moment in music where the only thing that matters is what is happening onstage with other musicians that can never really be replicated in the same way again.”
A limited number of tickets to Pigeons Playing Ping Pong’s Domefest remain on the festival’s website. If you can’t make it to Domefest, you can catch their celebratory three-year return to the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheatre on May 27th with The Motet. Click here for tickets. For a full list of upcoming tour dates and festival appearances, visit the band’s website. Stream Perspective below and on all streaming platforms here.
Pigeons Playing Ping Pong – Perspective