A band that lives together doesn’t always stay together, but for the Newark, N.J.-based rock quartet pete., it sure didn’t hurt.
Guitarist Rich Andruska says sharing a house with band mates David Terrana (vocals), Lars Alverson (bass) and Scott Anderson (drums) shored up their friendships and then some.
“We lived together for about four years and rehearsed all the time,” Andruska said recently. “We did our demos there, and we lived there when we did our independent release. When we got signed and went to record in L.A., then we moved out.
“We really became the best of friends. It could have gone either one way or the other; it could go that everyone hates each other or it could go like everyone just got together, worked together and became friends. It makes what we’re doing now a lot easier.”
It also makes it easier to enjoy the group’s recent success. Its self-titled debut Warner album, released July 31, features the single “Sweet Daze,” which rose to No. 17 and spent 13 weeks on Billboard’s mainstream rock tracks chart.
They have come a long way from their humble beginnings in Newark.
“When we first started out,” Andruska said, “we were doing it kind of weekend-warrior style for a while, but we just realized that it’s like being a football player in the NFL doing it part-time. You can’t do it. It takes a lot more than that, so we thought, ‘Let’s all get a house and dive in.’
“The neighborhood we lived in wasn’t that bad, it wasn’t good, but it wasn’t that bad, not as bad as most Newark neighborhoods. It was actually in a section of town that when the riots happened in the ’60s, the mayor lived there and he rolled in the National Guard with tanks to protect that part of town. It didn’t get devastated as much of the rest of the city.
“There’s a lot of big Victorian homes there, and we had one that was really rundown. A crack family had been living in it before us. We found needles and all kinds of shit there. There was still another crack house across the street, and I know those are the guys who stole my car twice. But there was a nice park nearby; some Portuguese and South American people were moving in and taking it over and making it nice.”
Andruska and the others rehearsed for hours on end, honing their sound without any interruptions.
“The first floor of this home was all stone,” Andruska said, “and we played in the basement, so no one ever heard us. We were on a corner, and we had no real neighbors. There was an empty church next to us on Heller Parkway. I don’t think we ever got a complaint. We’re pretty scaring-looking guys, so maybe no one wanted to complain.”
Anderson booked shows for the band, taking them to such places as Detroit, Toledo and Iowa City, before Warner caught wind of their growing fan base.
“Getting signed to Warner was the biggest step for us,” Andruska said, “but there were a lot of baby steps to get us there. It took so long and it was kind of draining, it wasn’t like the traditional thing where you hear about a band signing and going out and partying. We understood that it really meant nothing to get signed, because we knew a lot of bands on the road who would get signed and they either didn’t want to tour or didn’t want to put all the work into it that they needed to. Our manager was really good about letting us know that this was just the first step and that 99.9 percent of albums released by major labels don’t do shit. You’ve got to work your ass off to get to that place.
“It took us over a year to make our record, and there was a year of doing demos before that. That was hell, too, and now we’re in touring hell. Driving 10 hours between shows in a beat-up old RV that keeps breaking down. This is our new challenge. We’re into that, though; we like being the underdog. We like having obstacles ahead of us and knocking them down.”
Andruska laughs loudly when recounting how the band knocked down one of its biggest obstacles: coming up with a band name.
“Ever watch ‘Cheers’?” he asks. “Norm would walk into the bar and everyone would go, ‘Hey, Norm!’ Well, we were in this bar, really drunk trying to come up with band names, coming up with stupid stuff like Crystal Witch or Assholes of Eden or Duh. We were pretty smashed, and then this guy walks in. Everyone knows him, his name is Chopper Pete. The whole bar goes, ‘Pete!’ We were drunk and it sounded great, and that was the end of that. The name came walking through the door literally.
“This has been pretty much our baby from the beginning, so we thought it should have a real name. Everyone knows a Pete, and he’s usually a pretty good guy. The only time I’ve heard a bad thing about a Pete, we were in some truck stop in Oklahoma, and this guy says, ‘You guys in a band?’ We said yeah. ‘What’s the name?’ And we said ‘pete.’ He says, ‘Ooo, god, I hate that name. That’s the guy who’s sleeping with my wife.’ I was like, ‘It’s not us, I swear.’ He looked like he would kill us, too, but we stepped back and slowly walked away.”
THE FIRST RECORD I EVER BOUGHT: “Yes’ ‘Fragile.’ I bought it from my brother when I was in the fourth grade. I saved up my allowance money. I could always listen to it whenever I wanted to, but for some reason I liked that record so much I felt that I needed to possess it. It had to be mine.”
THE FIRST CONCERT I EVER WENT TO: “Van Halen, way back when, at the Nassau Coliseum. I was a little pup. I remember my brother put me on his shoulders through the whole thing, we were like 40 rows back on the floor. It was awesome. I remember thinking, ‘Why the hell would Van Halen want to come here and play? They’re big rock stars, why do they need to play in front of people.’ I didn’t understand it at the time.”
THE WORST JOB I’VE EVER HAD: “I sold vacuum cleaners door to door. It was painful. I didn’t do it for very long, but it was ugly. They send you out on these wacky things; they call ahead of time and set up these demonstrations for you to do, and it’s basically people just wanting you to shampoo their carpet for free. They sit through this diatribe you have memorized just so you’ll do their living room for free. Nobody ever buys those fuckin’ things. It was a $4,000 vacuum. Who’s gonna buy that? It’s an amazing vacuum, I gotta say, but I don’t need to vacuum that good.”
ON THE WEB: www.petenoise.com.