Photos and interview by Shannon Shumaker
If I had to choose one word to describe Pistol Day Parade, it would be humble. For a band that is currently out on tour with the legendary Ted Nugent, guitarist Rob Banks’ self-proclaimed idol, they don’t let it get to their heads. They said it best themselves: they’re just raw, gritty real rock music for real people. It’s apparent within minutes of speaking with them – and after watching their incredible set – that they’re really just a group of down-to-earth, hard working guys, who are both thankful to be where they are today, but also excited for what the future might hold and willing to work hard to get there.
We had the chance to sit down with guitarists Rob Banks and Guido Johnson before their set in Denver, and were blown away by the positivity and work ethic of the Detroit-based band.
For a lot of our readers, this will be their introduction to Pistol Day Parade, can you tell us a little bit about yourselves and the band?
Rob: We’re called Pistol Day Parade. We’re both the guitarists and backup vocalists. We started putting this band together about five years ago – Dave Fuller and Guido had already been jamming together. We’ve been jamming together throughout the years since we were kids.
They wanted to do something new and called me up and I said ‘yeah lets do it’ and then we got Jason Lollio on bass shortly after. We’ve been through a few drummers but now we’ve got Jason Hartless – he’s nineteen and he’s been with us for two years. He’s really good. He’s a talented young man and he’s got a great attitude.
I heard that you guys originally auditioned Jason when he was younger, right?
Guido: He was fourteen or fifteen and he wasn’t ready for us then, and we weren’t ready for him.
He wasn’t ready for tour?
R: Actually, he’s been touring since he was ten years old.
G: But he just wasn’t the right guy at the right time.
So how’s the tour with Ted Nugent been so far?
R: Second to none. The whole band – Mick Brown, Greg Smith and Derek St. Holmes – they’re players. They play their instruments and they’ve mastered the craft.
G: They’re all great musicians
R: Watching them every night, man, you have to give it 110% to open up for guys like that. And Ted absolutely owns the room whenever he walks in. It’s an honor to play with him.
G: Tour has been great – the crew has been great. It started out a little rough for us, though. We broke down the first four days in a row, and we were stranded in the Mojave for about ten hours.
So you missed some shows?
G: We missed a date because of that, yeah. But we pulled together and we got a different vehicle and we’re back on track
R: A lot of people ask why we’re on this tour – about the gap in the years of music and the genres, but the answer is simple: When Uncle Ted calls, you answer.
Well it’s also cool to introduce people from a different genre and generation to your music.
G: I was a little worried about that, but it’s been seamless. I can’t believe the way that people have reacted.
R: We bridged the gap. And yeah, he [Guido] was worried about it, and I’m not going to say it wasn’t in the back of my mind, but it’s Ted Nugent. He was my childhood guitar idol. I went to the camp for kids, and I went to all of his concerts and the wild game dinners… But yeah, the tour is great. The fans are great. We’re picking up new fans every day.
They’ve kind of welcomed you with open arms.
G: They did.
R: George Lopez, for instance. He came to our show in Anaheim, California and he was hanging out with Ted and he came out a grabbed us and took a picture with us and retweeted our post. So yeah, Ted has been open and great to us.
So you guys released Burn about a year ago… Now that you’ve had the chance to play it on the road, do you have any favorite songs to play live?
R: The thing about that is, we did release it about a year ago, but everything wasn’t really in place where we wanted it to be for the push yet. We hadn’t opened all the doors we wanted to open yet. Since we started this tour, more of those doors have been opening. With “Rockstars Girlfriend,” we’re hitting the radio – over ten stations now have picked us up over the last two weeks. We went from three hundred and seventy-something on the charts to seventy in the last few days… So we’re shooting up the charts and we plan to keep doing that.
I think that playing the songs over the past year has been great. We don’t get tired of it, especially when you get to do it for new people every night.
Are there any songs that have been getting the best crowd reactions?
G: Of course, “Rockstars Girlfriend.”
R: That’s the summer song. They react to that one great, even without the coaching or trying to get them to sing along. They just sing it. But I have a very hard time picking a favorite song.
G: I would have to say that my favorite to play is “Where I Lay.” It’s got a different intro than a lot of the stuff we play. I think it’s easy for people to connect with that intro. There’s not a whole lot going on except for guitar and vocals, but it sucks you in. But of course, we’re all biased.
R: I think that’s one of my favorite songs to play as well. That entire song, I’m playing guitar work that would almost be on the range of busy guitar work and I’m singing backups the whole time, and when we harmonize together, it’s like one instrument. It all comes together – the whole band.
I think we actually stand alone in that aspect, because you can’t specify our genre. It is different. We’re not trying to do all of the sonic, crazy background stuff that people are doing. When we recorded our album, we wanted to make sure that we could do that live. You know, we’re not going to add seven different guitar tracks and then come out here live, and it just doesn’t sound the same, and we’ve never been built that way. Actually, Detroit is all about that – raw, gritty, real rock music for real people.
Now obviously, on this tour you’re gaining a lot of new fans – there’s a lot of people who’ve never heard of you before. What would you like people to be able to take away from your show?
R: Obviously, the music. We want them to connect with it. We write songs the people can relate to with five different aspects of their life. Some of it is about relationships, but some of it’s not – some of it’s just about life in general.
G: It’s funny because people will go, ‘your album’s about relationships’ and it can be, but a lot of our stuff isn’t channeled toward a normal relationship like most people would think. Not every song is about your girlfriend – a lot of those songs are about people and things that happen in life.
That’s how you make relatable music.
G: And the thing is, we didn’t really set out to make it relatable, we were just compelled to write that way.
R: It’s just the way we right. And I mean, did we ever have relationships on our mind when we were writing? Absolutely. There’s a lot of reasons to write, but most of the time we’d just pick up our guitars and it just came out. It’s about the heart, and that’s what I’m not hearing in a lot of today’s music – is heart.
I think a lot of people don’t write music because they love it or want to write – they write because they want to be big or famous.
G: That is the wrong attitude. If you get into this business, you’re going to fail really quickly with that attitude. I’ll tell you right now, anybody who gets into it for any other reason rather than making music, they’re doing it for the wrong reasons.
R: They’ve already failed. They won’t last.
G: If you don’t love this, you won’t be able to make it out here.
Right. You won’t be able to spend months away from family, doing it every single night.
R: It’s not easy. You have family at home that you love and you miss, and you hope for the day that you get to come home and see them. And that is more important than any amount of attention or media that someone could get. But the music not only has the ability to change the lives and the opinions of the fans, but also of your own family as well. It’s the best of both worlds, but you can’t achieve it without a lot of heart and hard work, and we’ve still got a long way to go.
Have you guys been working on anything new out on the road?
G: We constantly write. This machine never stops writing. We have a ton of material. That’s one of the reasons that Burn took a while to get finished.
R: We probably have about three or four albums written, and we just continue to write. We’ll just grab our phones and hit record because we just had a great idea.
G: It’s non-stop work.
I remember I put your album in, and I wasn’t sure what to expect and was really pleasantly surprised – it was a great break from what I’ve been listening to. It’s very different from a lot of bands on the radio right now.
R: When you listen to some bands that are on the radio – great bands, even – but when you listen to their album and it’s like the same song over and over again. Our album goes from “Where I Lay” and that grit, to the poppy-ness of “Rockstars Girlfriend” and then right to the ballad of “Angels On Fire.” Our songs don’t sound the same – none of them do. That’s what I love about playing with this group. I love the way we write together.
G: Everybody always asks the question ‘who do you sound like?’ and we don’t sound like anybody. We sound like us.
R: It’s difficult when people talk about the genre and who you sound like.
If there were any bands you could ever tour with, who would they be?
R: Well the top of the bucket list is done for me right here, but there’s still several others.
G: Alice In Chains would have been one for me.
R: It’s a long list because there’s a lot of great musicians out there – people who play real music for real people. We’ve played with so many great bands…
G: One of my favorites was one that wasn’t on the radio. This band called Almost Kings – we played with them in Tennessee and they were great!
R: They’re an amazing band. Their stage presence and their quality of music is insane. We’ve played with a lot of awesome bands – we’re really fortunate, but we’ve busted our asses for it. Nothing is handed to anyone in this industry. We don’t come from rich families. We come from workers – we’re country boys. We’re out in the woods hunting and fishing.
So what’s next for you guys?
R: Like I said, we’re taking off on the radio right now, but we’ve also got a great team behind us. Rick Smith Management, Landshark Promotions and Dana, Steve Karas, and we’ve got out label behind us…
G: It’s definitely time for us to start getting some material together – to start pre-production on some stuff and possibly hit the studio.
R: We’re gonna keep writing and touring, so we can keep doing awesome tours like this! Get the word out, there – check out pistoldayparade.com and all of the social media, listen to our music and get the word out there! We’re very grateful and humbled to have opportunities like this, right here, to spread the word. Thank you!