When the genre Math Rock is discussed, or someone asks “What is this Math Rock stuff? Can you give me some bands to check out?” almost every Math-iphile (word I just made up for math-rocker) will mention one specific band in particular: a band called Piglet. Seldom is Math Rock discussed without mentioning Piglet, a 3-piece group from Chicago, whose existence was very short-lived. The band consisted of members Asher (Guitar), Ezra (Bass), and Matt (Drums). Forming in 2002 and disbanding after their first (and final) release entitled "Lava Land", this EP consisted of 6 tracks that would go on to be, arguably, one of the most iconic musical releases in the genre of Math Rock.
"Lava Land" offers all of the key elements you would expect from a math rock band, but I personally always found Piglet’s sound to have a unique charm about it that many other bands cannot compete with. To me, “Lava Land” has never gotten old. I first heard it many years ago and it still feels fresh today. It continues to impress me with each listen. With beautiful and catchy melodies finger-tapped on guitar and bass in unison along with jazzy and creative drumming, the three members effortlessly create a sound on this EP that feels so organized, cohesive, and just damn good. On each track, no instrument feels as though it is left in the background or overshadowed by the other two. They all stand on their own to bring you awesome instrumental rock that doesn’t even feel instrumental; the instruments all sing in harmony with one another and join together to bring us an amazing 25 minutes of pure technicality and fantastic musicianship. For me, it is truly a timeless classic that almost a decade since its release, has not aged a day.
Piglet is one of those bands who many future math rock bands wanted to be and were heavily influenced by. Even today with many new math rock bands forming, many cite Piglet as an influence. One in particular being the band Weye, naming one of their songs "We Miss You Piglet" as homage to the Chicago power trio. Like the members of Weye, fans far and wide have grieved over Piglet’s short lifespan; especially when the band seemed to be at the top of their game with “Lava Land” being prime evidence of this fact. The reason for their breakup was left unknown to fans and many longed for the band’s members to return to the fictional, mathematical, world of Lava Land to bring us all the new material we were all dreamed of. In 2013, fans rejoiced as the band seemed to become active on Facebook and launched a Kickstarter campaign to re-release “Lava Land” on vinyl along with an early demo tape, and other unreleased material. With the help of their fans, the band surpassed their $5000 dollar goal and released all of the aforementioned material. It was an exciting day for math rock fans everywhere. As I write this, side B of my copy “Lava Land” on vinyl is nearing its end. But what else can we expect from Piglet in the coming years? We have contacted Ezra Zera, the former bassist and sent some interview questions for him.
TMRB: How was Piglet formed?
E: Generally speaking, Asher and Matt were already playing in a band called Seyarse when I met them. Asher and I went to the same high school and had some shared musical interests, so we set up a time to play and enjoyed working together. The rest is history.
TMRB: Your music has been praised highly for its composition and technicality. What were your musical influences collectively as a group and what drove you all to create such progressive songs together?
E: It’s hard to say definitively. We each listened to such a broad variety of music. As far as the instrumental rock vibe goes, we were definitely listening to Don Cab’s album “American Don”, Hella’s album “Hold Your Horse Is”, and the Bad Plus album “Give”. On the other side of the spectrum, Wilco’s “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” got a lot of play. I don’t think our songs were that progressive… I would say a lack of true compositional understanding and slapping riffs together worked to our advantage. We just wanted to make songs that were fun to play.
TMRB: I know it’s been quite a while, but could you perhaps breakdown your songwriting process of the time and your experiences in recording “Lava Land”?
E: Yeah, it’s been a decade. We recorded riffs for each other and would bring them to the shed a couple days a week for band practice. It was a collaborative venture. Usually one person came up with an idea and the other two would creatively respond to the music in the moment. Over time we would gradually arrive at something that could pass for a song. With lava land, it was more about riffs, but as we developed as a band, specifically with the music that’s now available on the SONGS EP, we started going for a more compositional approach, with recurring motifs and musical themes. As far as interpersonal dynamics go, there was always some creative tension but we got along pretty well overall.
TMRB: A lot of people have discovered the band’s work long after the group disbanded and because of this, many of us fans would constantly ask ourselves “Why on earth did these guys not make more music? And what made them stop?” Even a small math rock band named Weye has a song entitled “We Miss You Piglet”. I’m sure many of our readers would like to know: what led to the group’s breakup?
E: Sorry to disappoint you but the breakup was nothing special. I was barely 20 when we played our last show. We didn’t even really break up, things just kind of drifted apart. If we had a big fan base at the time I don’t think we would have broken up, but the way it seems to me in hindsight, it’s like we were just kids playing in a garage band. The fans we did have were super cool and devoted, but there weren’t many, and after a while there just wasn’t enough of an audience interest to sustain the intense level of devotion required to keep a band like Piglet going.
TMRB: Many argue that Piglet is/was one of the most influential groups in the resurgence of instrumental math rock in recent years. First off, what do you all think of the term “math rock” and do you guys consider Piglet a math rock group? Second, when writing these songs and playing shows, did you ever think that the music you were creating would create such great of an impact on the math rock/experimental music scene?
E: I would say the “math rock” label is just as valid or invalid as any other music genre, but it’s not really important to us. We definitely fit in to what people are referring to when they use that phrase, and the expression was already in circulation while we were a band, but I don’t think we ever explicitly called ourselves a math rock band. The expression “Chicago instrumental band” was more common for us. To answer the second question, no, we became more popular after we broke up so we definitely didn’t foresee any kind of lasting impression on the community at large.
TMRB: With the band not having any activity after the breakup, what led to the sudden re-emergence of the band ‘s presence, particularly online with the Facebook page, and then the Kickstarter campaign that launched very recently to press “Lava Land” on vinyl along with demo recordings and previously unreleased material being sold on CD along with other goodies?
E: After a few years of steady email feedback from fans, we noticed there were many requests for lava land on vinyl. We were curious whether there was enough demand to fund the pressing of the album, and sure enough there was, so we just went for it. Records have been flying off the shelves so fast we can hardly keep up with the packaging and shipping process. We’re having to do it in 45 batch instalments to avoid getting overwhelmed. It’s been a lot of work but I’m happy we followed through with it.
TMRB: This may be a stretch, but after many your fans have obsessively watching those few live videos of the band, is there any chance of a reunion? Would you guys ever see that being a possibility?
E: Anything’s possible.
TMRB: Finally, what are you all up to musically these days?
E: We all still play music but none of us are in a touring band right now. I’ve been developing something called the Tone Color Alchemy project for the past six years. It’s a pretty far out experiment in musical cryptography. I’ve just finished writing a full length book that’s due for release on the Sync Book Press sometime this spring. I have also written a lot of singer-songwriter bedroom tracks that are floating around on the internet somewhere, but nothing that I would feel compelled to promote. Thanks for your interest.
Be sure to visit www.piglet.bandcamp.com to stream and purchase Piglet’s entire discography as well as purchase posters as well as “Lava Land” on vinyl (when available).
Interview and Retrospective Article by Gary | Co-Founder