In Fight Club, Edward Norton laments, “I’m a 30-year-old boy!”
You don’t have to grow up all the way, do you? On their latest full-length album and first for Nettwerk, Bulls and Roosters, Together Pangea managed to hit a sweet spot between writing rock ‘n’ roll songs worthy of being hummed twenty years from now and maintaining the brash and ballsy bite fans know and love. The Los Angeles quartet—William Keegan [guitar, vocals], Danny Bengston [bass, vocals], Erik Jimenez [drums], and Roland Cosio [guitar]—essentially get louder by dialing the volume down.
“It’s important to never make the same album twice,” William asserts. “If there’s any concerted effort from us, that’s it. We wanted to try new things and experiment with making music that wasn’t so aggressive or fast. Rather than worrying about any expectations, we were like, ‘Fuck all that. Let’s be as honest as we can possibly be.’ Sure it’s growth, but there’s still a brattiness to it.”
Since they began jamming back in William’s Santa Clarita bedroom, Together Pangea have continually challenged themselves with each subsequent offering. Jelly Jam  poured the gasoline, Living Dummy  struck the match, and Badillac  lit the fire with its revved up nineties rock-inspired flames. Along the way, fan favorites like “Sick Shit,” “Badillac,” and “Offer” would rack up millions of Spotify streams. “Snakedog” became a plot point in a bonkers episode of NCIS and “Sick Shit” soundtracked a trailer for HBO’s Animals, while the group received support from Consequence of Sound, Pitchfork, MTV, Stereogum, and more. Prior to the 2015 release of The Phage EP, produced by The Replacements’ Tommy Stinson, one month tested their mettle like never before.
“Within a couple of weeks, we got dropped from our label, management, and booking agent,” sighs Danny. “We started writing though. We were still like kids when we made Badillac. It’s a breakup record with a lot of angst reflective of the recklessness and partying in our day-to-day lives at the time. Rather than a flash-in-the-moment garage punk album, we aimed to do something a little more memorable. We had a lot less to lose.”
In between European tours, the musicians holed up in Golden Beat Studios with longtime friend and collaborator Andrew Schubert. Co-producing the album together with mixing by Chris Coady [TV On The Radio, Beach House], Together Pangea tracked to two-inch tape for the first time. Throughout the process, everyone progressed not only as far as chops go, but in terms of vision as well.
“There are more instrumental spaces,” William explains. “I felt more comfortable letting the guitars breathe. On Badillac, we were worried about losing the audience’s attention. Every note was like a reminder. We’re giving the fans credit and letting parts repeat without feeling the need to scream something to wake everyone up.”
The first single “Better Find Out” gallops along on a propulsive and powerful riff before turning on a dime with a chanting hook and surf-inspired lead. “I wrote the lyrics in the studio, which I never do,” he goes on. “The song is about being frustrated with touring and confused about being at home but also that people shouldn’t look to entertainers for answers.”
Elsewhere on Bulls and Roosters, the jangly swagger and bombastic beat of “Sippy Cup” spirals into the bold declaration of youth, “I got a sippy cup, you’ve got your wedding gown.” “The Cold” illuminates that aforementioned use of space with its delicate buildup and calculated tempo as “Money On It” ponders the nature of relationships with a soulful swing. “Kenmore Ave.” proves to be a special moment as it marks the first of three songs—including “Alison” and “Southern Comfort”—that Danny penned for Together Pangea.
“I went to rehab in September 2015,” he recalls. “It was time for a change, and I’m thankful to MusiCares. While I was there, I had an acoustic guitar, and I began writing ‘Kenmore Ave.’ It was big for me.”
Inspired by a John Baldessari painting named “Tips for Artists Who Want To Sell” William saw in the downtown L.A. museum The Broad, Bulls and Roosters speaks to the balance the band artfully wrangles.
“These two competing ideas, commercial success and expression, are always in the back of my mind,” he admits. “The album has a lot of that conflict in it. The piece argues that paintings of bulls sell better than paintings of cows, and paintings of roosters sell better than paintings of chickens. We have D.I.Y. roots and punk ethics, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have strong hooks and melodies. It’s a push-and-pull.”
It pays off in the end as Bulls and Roosters represents Together Pangea at their boldest, brightest, and best to date.
“We wanted it to just be a good rock ‘n’ roll record people could enjoy,” concludes Danny. “We’ve grown up, yet we’re still the same dudes. It was time to sprinkle a little sunshine in there without everything being so heavy and dark.”
“I hope people have some connection,” William leaves off. “We’re just being as honest as ever.”