Matt Korvette works for an insurance company. He's been a claims adjuster in the Philadelphia office of a big Fortune 500 outfit for about six years now. He wears business attire and spends most of his time working the phone, poring over files and tapping information into a computer. The pay is solid and the benefits are good.
Then there's his night job.
That's where Korvette screams and howls, pummels his bare chest with half-empty beer bottles and convulses across stages in cacophonous nightclubs that many of his corporate colleagues wouldn't dare set foot in without pepper spray and a tetanus shot.
“I come across pretty mellow in real life,” Korvette says. “I think most people would be more surprised that I'm in a band than that I work in an office.”
He lives parallel lives not unlike Edward Norton's character in Fight Club. The difference is that Korvette the Cubicle Drone and Korvette the Liberated Anarchist are unquestionably and unapologetically one and the same. It just happens that his “Project Mayhem” is a rock band called Pissed Jeans that revels in the kind of frustration, ennui, humor and rage that comes with living a perfectly average life.
“I've always been middle-class, and I'll probably remain middle-class until the day I die,” Korvette says. “Nowhere in our songs am I talking about having any sort of a serious, life-or-death struggle. It's more about what I do encounter and how I try to make sense of that experience.”
On the band's first two albums (2005's Shallow and 2007's Hope For Men), that translated into adrenalized songs—often delivered with a sincere smirk—about topics like scrapbooking, eating ice cream and shopping at Whole Foods. The subject matter on the band's new album, King of Jeans (PJ's second with indie icon Sub Pop), mirrors their inevitable maturation—both as musicians and taxpaying adults—without sacrificing their unruly energy.
“I love people who write honestly about their experience,” Korvette says. “I enjoy early New York hardcore bands talking about living on the streets, and I enjoy The Strokes where you know [vocalist Julian Casablancas] has been stinking rich and hanging out with models his whole life. If they switched songs it would be phony and lame, but they're both just speaking about what they know. I think that's legit.”
Pissed Jeans' sound elicits a wide variety of comparisons, with groups like Flipper and Black Flag typically getting the most mileage. Yet the band is too intelligible to be hardcore, not militant enough to be punk, too self-deprecating to be art rock and too self-restrained to be strictly noise. They are aggressive but not violent. Chaotic but savvy.
“Sometimes I like pointless anger for stupidity's sake and harsh chunks of feedback with no point but to annoy,” Korvette says. “But I want to do those things in interesting ways. I'm down to do whatever as long as there's thought behind it.”
That philosophy often manifests in Korvette's lyrics and vocals, which convey the hopelessness and hilarity of everyday reality in a way that stretches beyond the standard scream-groan-howl-and-moan of most hardcore acts.
“That's the only thing I do in the band, so I figure I might as well make something interesting out of it,” Korvette says. “You can just shout ‘Cops suck!' and nobody is going to argue with you, but it's more fun to take things a little further.”
PJ largely caters to the punk / hardcore crowd, but Korvette is encouraged by the amount of women and, uh, old men the band draws to their shows.
“I figure we must be doing something right if we can get at least one random old guy at every show,” Korvette says. “You know they're just there for the music and not because they're a hipster looking for the flavor-of-the-month.”
The current mini-tour is composed almost exclusively of West Coast shows simply because the band members are using vacation time to do it and, as Korvette says, “Would you rather spend your vacation in San Diego or Ohio?”
Some people relieve 9-to-5 desperation by smashing the office printer with a baseball bat or, say, blowing up the corporate headquarters of credit-card companies with homemade dynamite. Pissed Jeans plays music—delirious, fast and loud. And while analyzing worker's compensation claims doesn't exactly match the rush of working sweaty throngs into a frenzy, Korvette understands—if not embraces—the role the band's average existence plays in allowing them to create something exceptional.
“I don't think we'd be the same band if we quit our lives to do this full-time until we burnt out,” Korvette says. “My daily job definitely informs who I am as a person, but music is different. Performing is a release, but so is playing basketball. I wouldn't kill myself if I never played a show again but it's tons of fun and we have no plans to stop.”Pissed Jeans play with Rats Eyes and Bumbklaat on Sunday, Aug. 16, at The Casbah. www.myspace.com/pissedjeansband.