Resident Aliens

Steeltown transplants of Pollen learn to love the desert and stop hating girls

Those first eight-track cassette demos caught the attention of a New York-based indie, Grass Records. Incredibly, the master cassette tape which would contain the group's first release Bluette in 1994 was taped over repeatedly as the band used it to audition other vocalists!

While Bluette attracted favorable reviews from underground zines, Hargest still knows where all the imperfections lie. "There are parts where the guitar track was done the same time as the vocals, and sometimes they would punch out too fast and the beginnings of words get cut off," he says. "We're planning to rerecord the entire album using the same machine and rerelease it at some point, since it's out of print."

So is Crescent, the group's superior follow-up. "Actually, our second record never came out," explains Bennett. "There was a computer mishap and it was listed as out of print the day it came out, so no one could order it. It made it to press. About 100 copies shipped." Bennett stares down in disbelief. "No one would check into it! At that point, Grass Records had 44 bands on it, and the label consisted of two people."

Fortunately, Grass Records was bought and sold in 1996, and Pollen was one of the only bands kept on the roster when the label became Wind-Up.

So how did the band wind up in Arizona? "We just had to get out of Pittsburgh really bad," Bennett mutters. "It was strangling us. There was no real music scene at all. There was a pretty big gloom scene, college-rock, cover-band scene and an extremely conservative indie-rock scene. There was also a small but intensely private punk-rock scene, but you had to have at least half of your head shaved to be involved in it. And sport some hair color not natural to man."

"The snow is just stupid in Pittsburgh," adds Serafini. "All of us have to work jobs, so we figured we'd do it where it's warm, and any place would be better than Pittsburgh. We certainly didn't move here because of this music scene. California was a possibility, but we thought we'd get lost in that scene."

"Our first show in Arizona was at a church in Chandler, and it was a disaster," recalls Hargest. "Bands usually start out with a bunch of friends who will go to the show. Even in Pittsburgh we had trouble with that, although, as luck would have it, we started getting popular just before we left. When we moved here, we really didn't know anybody but ourselves for a year. We just couldn't meet people. Nobody came to see our first shows. Even Mike's fiancee didn't come right away."

The only advantage to being out here was the band members' proximity to one another. Once scattered across several eastern states, they were now living in the same apartment complex with nowhere to go on Saturday nights. "The band suddenly became our focus," Hargest says.

During this time, Hoag's focus wavered considerably. He moved out here with his girlfriend and began forsaking the band before breaking up with her seven months ago. "It was pretty brutal," Hoag concedes. "And she still lives here."

Let's qualify that. She still lives in Arizona and still lives with Hoag in the same house they rented together, providing way too much grist for the heartbreak mill. "When she left me--then I didn't care about the band--I just wanted to die, go back to Pittsburgh and work at my grandfather's lumber mill, because if I go play in a band, that will remind me of the time of my life when I was with her. I'm better now!" he shouts.

An additional burden was lifted off the band's collective shoulders a month and a half ago, when Pollen finally got a manager. "We can't believe we went that long without any representation," says Hargest. "Our manager constantly marvels at all the dumb things we've done in our career. He calls us every day and tells us how we got screwed negotiating a record contract without a lawyer."

"Well, we had a lawyer look over the contract," Hoag explains. "But at that point, we'd already put our foot so far up our ass we couldn't get it out."

Things look very positive for Pollen in the coming months. The band begins recording a new album when it returns from touring. Hoag hints that he is also moving away from negative songs about girls. "Last album, we had a song about the Zodiac murders, in my continual attempts to broaden what Dan sings," Hoag cracks.

Maybe he just doesn't want to hear that "misogyny" word again. Someone who logged on to the band's Internet discussion group did just that, asking: "Why do you hate women so much? Were you not able to get a date for the prom? Why don't you lighten up, Bob?"

"Rest assured, I fired off an incredibly vitriolic response," Hoag counters. "I wanted to write a jokey answer back like 'because they're all mean bitches like you.' That would've been kick-ass. We don't have any antigirls songs. There are anti-specific-chick songs. They're all about one specific mean girl or combinations of multiple mean girls. I know crappy girls and crappy guys. Since I get emotionally involved with girls, I allow girls to sucker me into their crapulence more easily than guys.

"I have a general distaste for the human race. I don't necessarily want to alienate those with breasts. Male or female."

Pollen is scheduled to perform on Friday, September 19, at Nita's Hideaway in Tempe, with the Sport Model, and Alisons Halo. Call 967-9531 for showtime.

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