On Nov. 21, Pop Pistol will be playing at Limelight. The setlist? The entirety of their first official album Angelus.
Pop Pistol released Angelus in 2008, but the project’s roots stretch beyond that. Frontman Alex Scheel, bassist George Garza and drummer Jorge Gonzalez started playing together when they were in high school and don’t think they’ve changed that much.
“We are still the same, in that the music that we played, being so singular, has been a constant,” George said of the band’s sound. “It’s been timeless, the music and the songs, even going back and listening to Angelus now. Some of them we started writing in maybe 2004 even before we were the band Pop Pistol.”
The band started recording music for the album two years before its release in 2008. They decided to save up to go to a professional studio.
“It took some time to get enough funds and finally be able to afford to record,” Alex said. “We had no jobs, we were very young and trying to make something higher quality because we were used to.”
The music scene in San Antonio has radically changed since the release of Angelus, but that hasn’t affected Pop Pistol much.
“The musical landscape was very different. It was heavier, more metal. More industrial stuff was going on, more emo. Emo hardcore was really big. And so we would play with a bunch of hardcore bands, emo bands. We’d play at Sin 13, the Sanctuary, White Rabbit, all these places that were constantly having music, like heavy music, and we were a little bit not that, we were more electronic pop style or more influenced by European influences,” Alex said. “And I think that’s something that we have continued throughout our history.”
Pop Pistol hasn’t technically been representative of the change in music in San Antonio, but it’s because of that that they are emblematic of the scene.
“As things continue to change, we’ve always been kind of a lone wolf. We do what we do, and we represent the city by being true to what we do, and so we evolve, but we don’t try to pay attention to what’s happening because if we did, we’d be making emo music in 2005. We’d be making electronic pop in 2010. We’d be making soul revival in 2012. We’d be making psychedelic music in 2014,” Alex said. “It’s just natural to embrace what’s happening and want to be a part of it.”
Alex said they’re like mushrooms.
“We can operate in different ecosystems, but we don’t ruin the ecosystem,” Alex said. “We just try to be beneficial a little. We help out wherever we go.”
The band never went on an official hiatus and has played multiple shows even though they haven’t released an album since 2014. For George, this infrequency of playing is nice because it makes the reception of their music more intense.
“It’s kinda cool that everytime we build up to doing something we’re really excited about people are like, ‘Oh y’all are back,’ or like we’re returning from something, from some slumber, which is really great in some ways,” George said. “It’s reaffirming to feel like. ‘Oh, they remember,’ and we got some of those people that do remember, and we get this opportunity that we’re really excited about because we don’t play that often.”
George explained that there are many gigs that the band discusses and decides not to take on because of other conflicts. The difference with this show, as opposed to other potential shows, is that the band decided they wanted to do it, so they focused and made a plan. The show has been in the works since the springtime.
The members of Pop Pistol all currently collaborate with other projects — Alex with Femina-X, Jorge with Pochos Chidos, George with Foreign Arm, among others — and so they work to balance these other obligations.
“You want to give them that same love,” Alex said. “I don’t want to shortchange Femina-X, and I don’t want to shortchange Pop Pistol by splitting them.”
Part of the Pop Pistol atmosphere is how comfortable the bandmates are with one another, which makes sense since they’ve been playing together since the ages of fifteen or sixteen.
“Some people think a comfort zone is something you want to avoid, but we work together, and it’s really about the amount of respect we have for each other and this understanding that we’re all here because we want to be here, and nobody has any desire not to be here,” George said. “But we’re all growing, and everybody’s learning a lot of stuff about themselves and learning about the world. We always liken it to a family. Maybe you weren’t there for every holiday, but sooner or later the holiday’s going to come around, and you’re going to be there. It’s as pleasant as you make it and it’s a really enjoyable experience.”
For the first time, Pop Pistol will be playing the album front to back, exactly as it was recorded.
Alex said that, listening to the album now, he appreciates the naivety of the songs and that he appreciates the confidence he gained in the process of creating it and future albums.
“I was kind of scared to put it out because I was shy about it, and I didnt have any confidence about it,” Alex said. “It took outsiders to convince me to finish it and put it out there, and I’m grateful for those people who helped me because after that, it allowed us to become better and allowed us to create a few more albums and allowed me to continue playing to this day, and I don’t know if I would’ve continued if I didn’t know those people.”
George agreed and added that they want Pop Pistol has a kind of symbiotic relationship with other bands in the scene.
“There’s nothing better as a musician than seeing a band up on stage that makes you want to be better, even more so if you’re playing the show with them, and I feel like I’ve experienced that on both sides,” George said. “I feel like we’ve been the band watching and then go on stage and feel electrified, or we played before them and same difference. We feed off each other.”
Ten years is a long time, but luckily, the band has been creating and progressing as musicians the entire time. For them, the past decade has been filled with trials and errors that have pushed them to be better.
“We’re slowly better. We’re not virtuosos in any way, but we try our hardest,” Alex said. “I saw an interview with Radiohead where they were like, ‘We’re playing to the highest of our ability,’ and I think that’s why our shows are successful. Some people are so good they don’t have to try, so the shows are boring, but if you see an artist who’s trying to hold on, trying their hardest, you root for them. Maintaining that helps you become always better and that’s what keeps bands alive.”
When asked what they would tell their ten-years-ago selves, Alex answered promptly.
“Keep it simple. Simplify what you’re trying to do. Don’t rely on tricks. People see straight through the tricks,” Alex said. “Don’t be so shy. Focus. Trust your voice. I hated my voice for so long. Don't hate your voice.”
“And don’t hate your baselines,” George added.
Before you attend the celebration, check out Pop Pistol’s Bandcamp, where you can find Angelus as well as the rest of their produced work. Angelus is available to download for free on Bandcamp.
Pop Pistol will host two events in celebration of the 10th anniversary of Angelus. On Nov. 21, a 21+ live concert will be held at Limelight, where the band will play the album front-to-back. On Nov. 25, an all-ages celebration will be held at Friends of Sound Records. Tickets can be purchased online.