Waaaaay back in 2021, OC Music News spoke with Soul Asylum front-man Dave Pirner, plus caught him on tour with Local H for the Back in Your Face Tour. After 40 years of being Soul Asylum, they are sounding better than ever with Pirner, Ryan Smith (guitar), Jeremy Tappero (bass), and Michael Bland (drums). Because of this, we are certain you will enjoy rocking with them at Flannel Nation.
Since the release of “Grave Dancers Union” in 1992, music fans have known Soul Asylum for hit singles “Somebody to Shove,” “Black Gold,” and the uber hit, “Runaway Train.” The album went triple platinum and Soul Asylum followed up with “Let Your Dim Light Shine,” home to “Misery,” “Just Like Anyone,” and a live show favorite, “String of Pearls.”
Soul Asylum continued to release albums and tour heavily, and in 2020 they dropped “Hurry Up and Wait.” With 2020 shutting things down – and seriously, how crazy did that title fit 2020? – they could not tour to promote the album, but gave some incredible acoustic performances of the new songs online. Fortunately, some of those acoustic versions are on an EP titled “Born Free.”
In addition to “Hurry Up and Wait,” Pirner released the book, “Loud Fast Words.” It includes lyrics to all of his songs, the inspirations behind them, drawings, and commentary on albums. Pirner does not hold back; he gives an intimate look at the past 40 years and addresses depression, success, parenthood, divorce, and so much more.
Currently, the band is also celebrating the 15th anniversary of “The Silver Lining” by releasing an EP with four previously unreleased live tracks and a new song, “Stand Up and Be Strong.” And recently, Pirner and Smith hit the road for a handful of acoustic gigs. Per Pirner, “We’re going to keep playing shows until everyone’s sick of us because that’s what we do.” OC Music News recently caught up with Pirner before their Nashville acoustic show.
Traci: Dave how are you?
Dave: Not too bad!
Traci: The last time you and I talked, you were loving your Ugg slippers.
Dave: Wow. (laughing)
Traci: (laughing) Sorry!
Dave: I still have them, but they get kind of stinky after a while.
Traci: That is true. (laughing)
Dave: But I definitely moved into them over COVID and was wearing them more often than any other footwear, I would say.
Traci: We also talked about being socially awkward after COVID. Now that you’ve been back to touring for a year, are you awkward or are you good?
Dave: I guess it depends on what time of day it is and what I’m doing. (laughing) I mean, there’s a certain amount of just being nice and talking to strangers and having an anecdote or something to say to somebody that wants to talk to me, but doesn’t have anything to say to me. So they just kind of laugh at all my jokes, whether they’re funny or not.
FLANNEL NATION FESTIVAL
Port of Los Angeles
August 13, 2022
Traci: The U2 bar joke is funny.
Dave: I know, except putting it on the internet is kind of ruining it because now it’s just been told.
Traci: I am sure you have more (Spoiler alert: he does have more and even better jokes.) I saw you in concert last summer with Local H, and that was amazing. Then I spent time with your book and I am just amazed by how open you are. Is it scary to be that vulnerable in front of people?
Dave: Well, I suppose there’s been songs that are too much of just whatever it is. I’m talking about whether it’s insecurity or whether it’s how I’m feeling about some social construct, things are a little bit different now. I think that my guitar player is more open minded or something. I think there was a part where my songs were a little too personal for certain members of the band, and there was, “I don’t think people need to know that much about you, Dave.” It’s that thing where I have to keep kind of exploring interesting topics without falling into some sort of a rut where I’m coming across with the same songwriting stuff that most songwriters come up with. I guess I try to avoid the obvious love songs and clichés and whatnot. So, yeah, I do have to kind of take inside myself and then kind of own it. I’m not out there singing about shit I don’t believe in.
Traci: I admire songwriters so much because one, they can think of stuff; and two, they can say, “Hey, here I am.” I just think that’s amazing, and then with your book, you went even deeper into that.
Dave: Great way to make a living, I’m telling you what.
Traci: You also mentioned in the book that you thought your next record was going to be harder than “Hurry Up and Wait.” Are you still feeling that way?
Dave: Absolutely, yeah. It’s just kind of what I’m going for, and most of the material is kind of louder, and it’s harder than – ironically, here I am on an acoustic tour – but it kind of cuts both ways. I’m sure that once I have a body of work… I’m working on a song in 3/4, because I didn’t have that yet, so I sort of try to cover a lot of territory just as far as the songs not all sounding the same. It should be a little bit more electric.
Traci: What is the status of the record? How far along?
Dave: We’re really trying to do it ourselves. Within about the seven people in the immediate organization, there are four guys that all produce records and engineer records. The inmates are taking over the asylum, and we’re going to try to do it all by ourselves. It’s either going to work or we’re going to go, “Well, fuck this, this isn’t working. Let’s start over with somebody that knows what they’re doing,” and I’m not really sure how it’s going to turn out.
Traci: You have a few more acoustic shows and then you go into the full-on rock shows for the rest of summer?
Dave: That is correct, yes.
Traci: I know it is often said that a certain decade is “back,” but the ‘90s resurgence right now feels bigger than ever and Flannel Nation is perfect.
Dave: It’s kind of funny because I hear that every three years. I was in Japan and they were like, “What do you think of this resurgence?” I was like, “I was not aware of it, so if it gets me a gig, I’m in.” (laughing) [With Flannel Nation], it is kind of funny because I ran into an artist in Minneapolis and she works with flannel shirts. So I said, “How do you do it? What’s your thing?” She goes to thrift stores and whatnot and just collects cool flannel shirts and then she does designs on the back of them and we’re going to bring some to Flannel Nation and people can buy them. Although it’s not exactly summer wear.
Traci: I went to a ‘90s party a couple of weeks ago and I just wore my flannel around my waist.
Dave: Oh, right, that works too. I was also thinking you could just cut the sleeves off and that’s a good summer look.
Traci: Also true. Do you know most of the other bands at Flannel Nation? Have you toured with them or just passed them on the road?
Dave: I do. I think I’ve been on a bill with at least half of those bands.
Traci: I do remember festivals that had most of you together, so I just assume all ‘90s rock bands know each other and hang out.
Dave: [Recently], I was at the Mohegan Sun and the Gin Blossoms were playing in the other room, and I ran into Robin [Wilson, singer] and we did a lot of touring with them. I said, “How’s Grey doing?” He has a kid named Grey and this adult standing next to him said, “Oh, that’s me.” Which is kind of interesting because the last time I saw him, he was five years old! There’s that kind of interesting angle of watching all these bands grow up.
Traci: How old is your son now?
Dave: My son was turned 19 yesterday! I had a toast to him and sent him a picture of the Washington Monument and I hope he had a great birthday. He’s back in New Orleans, but he’s going to school in Chicago. He’s a cool kid.
Traci: It goes way too fast! While Soul Asylum is a monster band from the ‘90s, your 2020 CD is damn good too. I’m sorry it came out in 2020 though!
Dave: We’re still kind of “Hurry Up and Wait,” which, I say to people, it’s aptly titled because it came out right when COVID started. So we weren’t really able to properly tour the record. And my book came out also and I wasn’t really able to do a book tour. We couldn’t really do any of those things, so we also put out an EP from “Hurry Up and Wait,” which people seem to be buying. It’s just me and Ryan playing some acoustic versions of the songs on “Hurry Up and Wait.”
Traci: When you guys did the acoustic sessions during COVID, I really enjoyed hearing the new songs acoustic style.
Dave: Yeah, that’s pretty much the program [for acoustic tour].
Traci: Well, I look forward to it, plus the full band at Flannel Nation!
Dave: Nice! Thanks!
Thank you Dave Pirner and Soul Asylum! We can’t wait to see you kick ass on the stage at Flannel Nation with Sugar Ray, Everclear, Filter, Fastball, Sponge, Cracker, and Candlebox. The inaugural Flannel Nation invades the Port of Los Angeles on August 13th. Get your tickets now and we can all hang out as we wear our flannel – hopefully in the Pirner sleeveless style!