Pigeons Playing Ping Pong [PPPP] has experienced a momentous April and May in 2022 including the release of their latest album, Perspective. At the album release party at Brooklyn Steel, friends both on stage and off celebrated. This upcoming weekend marks the commencement of Domefest for the 12th year in production.
PPPP bassist Ben kept contact with Em Walis over the first two weeks in April about the creative process, rituals for wellness, farming, rainbows, Perspective, and their festival Domefest which is happening this weekend, May 19-21 at Legend Valley. Special commentary is provided by members of the PPPP fanbase affectionately nicknamed “The Flock” as well as Funky Dawgz saxophoinist Tommy Weeks and the gal changing the bass game, Karina Rykman.
Three conversations with bassist Ben Carrey coincided with three events. The first conversation occurred the week before the Perspective release. The second conversation happened two days after PPPP performed at Brooklyn Steel. The final chat happened the following week after PPPP played Brooklyn Bowl Nashville.
Each interaction with both Ben and the PPPP community at large illuminated more and more understanding as to why so many people choose PPPP for priority declaration and lifestyle identity. Commentary and elaboration follows each conversation.
Commentary On The Quest For Perspective:
Why this band? What is it about PPPP that compels someone to declare themselves a part of “The Flock”? How did this epiphany happen anecdotally for members of The Flock? These questions have no bias and could be asked to any dedicated fan in regards to any artist they plan their sacred and few vacation days around.
The current landscape for music provides what feels like infinite options available for dedicating a lifestyle to. New flavors of musical genre fusions, coinciding side orders of artist side projects and mini super-band collaborations form on what feels like a daily occurrence. Smaller festivals catered specifically to citizens of that community have been popping up everywhere. Streams and communities allow some to participate without traveling outside of their county, let alone outside of the United States.
Conversation 1: March 26 2022 Before The Shift | Pre Perspective Release
Em Walis [EW]: Thank you for taking the time! Where are you right now?
Ben [B]: No problem! I am on a walk to get coffee now at home in Maryland.
EW: How do your routines differ from home versus being on the road?
B: At home, my main focus is this small farm where my wife and I live.. There might be metaphorical cultivating to do on the road, but there is not much room for physical crops. Finding routine for being at home and while on the road are equally important. Not finding touring hacks for prosperity and longevity in what could be a detrimental hamster wheel lifestyle.
EW: What are you growing?
B: Right now we have kale, other wintered greens, potatoes , as well as both white and red clovers. Clover isn’t a harvest crop, just ground coner between rows. We are also working on composting. I love it.
EW: What kind of advice do you have for someone that is either new to touring, or seasoned and seeking a better sense of existence?
B It is extremely important to have healthy routines. I recommend that anyone on the road carve out 5 minutes of quiet breathing before a show and 10 minutes of stretching after. It is not a big commitment but can make all of the difference. Greg is known for his post show routine. He is always full of smiles after a show, takes a shower, cleans up his guitar, does office work then goes to bed. The most he will differ from this would be getting a slice of pizza.
I recommend that anyone on the road carve out 5 minutes of quiet breathing before a show and 10 minutes of stretching after. It is not a big commitment but can make all of the difference.Ben
EW: I can imagine that it can be easy to let certain aspects of your wellbeing go to the wayside amongst the constant motion that is being on tour.
B: It is all about finding what you need. Each person has different needs and to find attainable ways to feed that. Things like yoga and meditation can be great for dealing with issues like addiction which runs rampant in music. We discuss many of these topics on the podcast I have with Luke Bemand from Lespecial called Back2Bassics.
EW: Very cool. I hope you get to soak in your time at home before the upcoming excitement begins. Would you like tell me a little about what you have coming up?
B: Our new album is about to come out, we have a really exciting release party planned for Brooklyn Steel. Our friends TAUK are opening. It should be a great time. After that, we go back on the road. May 19-21 willl be Domefest which has some of my favorite artist like Lotus and Spafford.
B: Karina was a complete pleasure to have on our last tour. She really brings that positive energy similar to Marco [Benevento’s]. You can listen to some of my conversation with her on the podcast.
EW: What is something you love about Domefest?
B: There are no overlaps in sets which means if you miss something, that’s on you. We aim to minimize the heartache here.
EW: Speaking of heartache, the day is March 26 and it would feel dishonorable to not mention the untimely passing of Taylor Hawkins. I know the news is still very fresh, but would you like to comment on this?
B: Taylor’s passing hit hard. The band actually comes pretty close to home for us. Jeremy’s dad was the was Dave Grohl’s orthopedic doctor while on tour. The Foo Fighters have had Jeremy’s dad up on stage to sit in for a song on multiple occasions. I’m sure you can find a video on youtube somehwere.
EW: Wow. That is wild. I will look this up as soon as we get off the phone. Thank you for speaking on this and sharing that extremely fun fact. It seems it has hit hard for a lot of people and that there is something to be said about doing everything possible to have a positive impact on those around us.
BI like to think that when great energy is released into the world, it becomes a better place.
EW: Thank you. That is a really refreshing way to look at loss.
EW: Not to try to crack jokes in order to break up a sad moment, but what a beautiful Perspective you have. Not getting back on track, what does the recording process look like for PPPP? Was this one different in any way?
B: Ha! I see what you did there. It is in fact, all about perspective. [Perspective] was tracked pretty quickly, though putting it all together definitely took some time. We put the drums down first and use the best take from that. We build off of those tracks and add layers. We could only get into the studio here and there. I am psyched on the song “Water.” It has a cool vibe with different sonic textures imbued throughout. “Elephante” features this Nashville brass band called Here Come The Mummies. We have a music video from that track.
EW: Super cool! Well I know we did not have a whole lot of time today, but I wanted to thank you for the introduction and I look forward to talking to you after the album release party?
B: Looking forward to it all!
Commentary 1: Contemplating Cultivating Wintered Greens and Home Routines
It appears that PPPP do a lot of work individually to help improve their chances for showing up for the band in their best possible form. Having mindful routines and practices cultivate creativity, open-mindedness and good communication.
In dark times, it is all too easy to tend towards automatic negative reactions to any input. The desire to tune out or numb out. Letting the wind beneath our wings fall away can be normal, especially in the wake of such isolating times. It does not have to be this way.
Perspective is readily available and we have the power to choose. How we think about a situation, the behaviors associated. Narratives we tell ourselves and others reinforce similar feedback loops. It might be difficult to molt old beliefs, but over time, new instinctual responses occur, and a better example can be set for others.
PPPP have taken the endless void of shutdown and created a space for practice, looking at the feelings that would have been directed towards despair as an opportunity in order to improve their own sense of self-care and wellbeing. The finite resource of mental bandwidth and physical energy typically poured into touring provided a magnified fountain for energetic resource in the studio. Ben provided a great reminder of how small practices, repeated over time can improve the way we show up creatively and for those that we care about.
Guest Commentary: Karina Rykman Weighs In
When asked about her experience with Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, bass sorceress Karina Rykman had this to say:
“I will never forget how kind and welcoming PPPP was to my band and crew, and the lengths they went to to make our daily lives better while we spent a month on the road together. They truly went above and beyond at every turn – sharing greenrooms, having us sit in, giving us their hotel rooms in Crystal Bay when their bus was leaving for the night, etc etc. They are truly one of the nicest touring operations, with everyone on their crew being spectacular at their jobs and hilarious to hang out with, respectively. I had no idea what to expect, and I’ve walked away with huge admiration for those guys. They take their craft wildly seriously – rehearsing new material every soundcheck until the minute they have to be done, and then rehearsing more in their practice room. I’m thrilled to be a part of Domefest and I can’t wait for our crews to be reunited!”
April 10 2022: Experiencing The Shift | Double Rainbow Album Release Party
EW: How was your experience surriounding the album release party?
B: It was a really good time. Good vibes. There was like a double rainbow over the venue before the show. I remember there have been a few rainbow shows summer camp when we played the secondary sIt was a really good time. Good vibes. There was like a double rainbow over the venue before the show. I remember there have been a few rainbow shows… for example, at summer camp when we played the secondary stage. Ten minutes before we were about to go on… It’s been super hot all day to the point where like, I’ve tried having a breakfast of some gravy egg hodgepodge or other and I was laying in the back of one of our rental cars since we’d flown in and we were staying at a hotel which was like 45 minutes away. We had gotten there for soundcheck at like noon after not much sleep and didn’t play till like six or seven or something and I’m just like laying in the back of my rental car with AC on while the sun is beating down just like nauseous as fuck. This. Fucking. Sucks. I started to feel better in the hour or two before our set and then right before we go on…
I looked up and thought this is totally rainbow weather. I pointed to a security guard and told him to keep an eye out in that direction (opposite the sun) and let me know when you see a rainbow.. it’s gonna happen. We are literally about to walk on stage after we are announced and he goes there it is! There’s the rainbow! We walked on stage and behind this giant crowd of like 5000 people, the biggest we’d played in front to that point, there was a gorgeous, multi-hued arc of some facet of the universe saying…. We Good.
EW: That’s amazing. It was pretty magical. I was struck by the easygoing, fun atmosphere in the crowd. I had a blast that night and 3,000 frames were made without realizing. What is it about the The Flock that sets them apart from other music communities out there?
B: Inclusivity: the idea that we’re all in it together. The idea that we are all a part of the experience, its just different. We have different roles. I’m the bass player. Jeremy’s the guitarist. The audience is the audience. We’re all part of it. No one’s just observing or spectating in the flock. You’re co-creating essentially.
I think people get that vibe and feel fulfilled. You know, creation is one of our Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The creativity aspect. I think attending our show scratches that itch for a lot of people. It allows them to just be like, genuinely nice and genuinely want to share it.
We’ve worked hard and constantly over the years to help instill this mentality in the flock, from way back when we started the Facebook group ‘The Flock’ with the idea that our fans/friends are more than just a collection of people. We are an entity
EW: The negativity didn’t seem present at all.
B: The idea is, we’re all worshipping music together… it’s about proselytizing the power of Love & Music & togetherness.
EW: Would you say that PPPP has a defined set of core values with which it conducts itself and its community at large and do you think it has had an impact on the ways in which folks conduct themselves?
B: The values of the band are obvious so those that are that are with you know why they’re with you. Two things we are certainly all about are valuing kindness and spreading positivity. Greg wore “be kind” on his [flocking] shirt on Saturday because… it’s not hard. We’re humans; we make mistakes. So just be kind to others, as well as to yourself. I think that shows through.
EW: This is all great stuff. Thank you and I will be in touch!
Commentary 2: The Brave Little Roll of Toilet Paper
At the album release party, there was a ritual performed that at its surface might seem pretty silly. With an open mind to a fresh perspective, unraveling an entire roll of toilet paper could represent much more than a tool for bathroom emergencies. The delicate paper with tiny ribbed areas for easy tearing was held up for quite some time by many fans. The way the white paper glowed with such vibrancy was striking. The vulnerability and willingness to expose our areas of weakness, allows for more joyous color to enter the room. The decision to remain all coiled up with hundreds of protective layers might mean a little more resistance to spilled beer, but it lacks the ability for personal growth, or in this case, length.
Being at a PPPP show is all about mindset and how you show up. The experience is about showing up ready to have a good time, let loose and ecape from outside roles and responsibilities. What you wear, how you dance and who you are is accepted immediately. The crowd is welcoming and full of more smiles and fewer phones.
Guest Commentary 2: Tommy of Funky Dawgz and Sophistafunk
Taking care of each other with loving kindness is a practice that could help improve the overall landscape of live music. After sitting in with PPPP at the album release party, Funky Dawgz and Sophistafunk saxophonist Tommy Weeks shared his thoughts about how artists can help support each other better.
“Artists supporting artists is a great way to make for a kinder music community. There is so much room for different styles of music and so many people consume music on such a wide spectrum. There should be no competition. Promote each other’s releases, videos, and successes. Musicians are in a spot now where everyone wants to go out and see shows. Promote each other. Also more importantly, educate younger musicians. We all had music teachers; I see it as a duty of professional musicians. Inspire young musicians like you were inspired, we all have stories of great music teachers that we remember from when we were younger. Give the kids some stories to tell about you.”
Conversation 3: Many Hats and Many Wraps
EW: Your touring photographer Kendall McCargo has been a real pleasure to shoot with. What is it like having someone like him on your team?
B: Kendall is a hard worker and fantastic photographer. Everyone on the team works hard, but he works the hardest. Always going. Always helping us look and feel great.
EW: I have noticed that you are often wearing different hats throughout the show. This feels significant. Can you describe your relationship with “many hats” both physically and transcendently?
B: I suppose the hat is a representation of the ego/of a hat that we take on as we are born into this world and by changing it so often I remind myself that I am simply the wearer a hat or of an experience of a body… I’m not the hatbody experience itself!
Guest Commentary 3: Let’s Ask The Flock
Gavin And His Fresh PPPP Tattoo Might Have Something To Say
Flock member Gavin was happy to share his story about how PPPP took center stage in his life during a tough time. “So in 2019 I went to Peach Fest, and they played one set and I was like, Okay, this is it. This is cool. I kept going and go and go and go into shows and about 25 shows. I was like, this is everything. This is it. this is everything.
Then COVID hit. I turned the streams on. They were my heavy jams. You know, the world’s still gonna be good one day just not today. We went for a drive-in show and I paid it back with my energy on the rail the best I could. I got right up front. You know, we needed it. They needed it. Crazy. So then I went to another drive in and then another so then I went to Domefest and got my poster signed. The Security guard went back and I was able to meet Ben and Jeremy and it meant the world to me“
One moment observed at the Perspective release party encompassed everything important to the world of PPPP. When an entire beer rained upon the crowd beneath the balcony at the Brooklyn Steel, a young man with a very broken leg put this belief into practice. Temporarily injured and grounded Flock member Coop was asked to recount what happened.
“I forgot about that! I felt so bad for her! half a beer was spilled on this poor woman and just kept dripping on her from above and no one was doing anything about it. No one should have to put up with that especially if you are handicapped. I couldn’t just sit and watch that happen. It doesn’t matter that my leg was broken. I’m a young kid and my other leg works just fine! I offered up my seat and then went to make sure they cleaned it up. It was the least I could do. It took a while and I had to bug security a few times but they eventually got someone up there to mop it up.” – Coop of “The Flock”
I couldn’t just sit and watch that happen. It doesn’t matter that my leg was broken.Coop of “The Flock”
After hearing the story of the raining beer, the obvious next thing to do was ask Coop about himself, his experience at the show and what his relationship with PPPP looked like.
“I’m just a dude with an afro and a broken leg who is a fan of PPPP. my name is Coop and I am a marijuana extractor out in Colorado. The show was spectacular and the new album is awesome! My favorite song on it is probably water. The community as a whole is much like the deadhead crowd. Weird and wonderful and kind. I feel at home within the trippy scene. I can show a more authentic side of myself and have the freedom to be me. Good vibes all around. Loved yours! You can use whatever you want in your article. I would love to read it when its done!“– Coop
Commentary 3: Wrapping It All Up… Wait, What?
Without fully knowing about Here Come The Mummies,, or that they were based in Nashville, the idea about the toilet paper ritual had already formed. It was thus with complete shock and utter disbelief when, there it was, a group of people collaborating creatively while quite literally wearing what many use, toilet paper, for making mummy costumes!
Repetition of words like “kindness’ and themes about improving the lives of those surrounding came up with every participant. The sampling of PPPP community members speaking of their values in similar terms provide evidence to infer the true strength and shared belief system among a larger population of fans and associated artists. While this may seem like a no-brainer, not all music communities have maintained synchronicity with this level of cohesion.
Gavin’s story was striking because the proclamation story of shutdown and streams helped so many find their community in music. Livestreams truly helped know what day it way. Playing pretend festival during couch tour evoked a sense of normalcy and hope. Many friendships were formed on forums and online platforms. The story was not one that could only be applied to PPPP which indicates that despite difference in musical preference, common ground can be found among music fans that transcends genre.
Some takeaways from this experience: Show up. Breathe for 5 minutes before you do something important. Don’t take life to seriously, at least for the few hours during the show. Trust that you will be welcomed with open arms. Take care of yourself, take care of others. Make it to Domefest if you can. Give Perspective a try by all meanings of the definition.