POP ETC has existed in one form or another since 2005 and has performed with bands including Death Cab for Cutie, The Kooks, and X Japan. They were first known as The Morning Benders while based in Berkeley, CA, and then as POP ETC, in Brooklyn, NY. The band, comprised of brothers Chris and Jon Chu, along with Julian Harmon, is currently touring the U.S. with bands Royal Teeth and The Wombats. As if they weren’t busy enough, POP ETC is preparing to release their Souvenir LP in January.
You guys go on in 40 minutes. How do you feel about that?
CC: We just had a really quick soundcheck where we got to play half a song.
You’re from California, but you’ve been in Brooklyn for a while. Have you performed at Terminal 5 before?
CC: One of the first times we played in New York was here, with The Kooks.
They just toured again recently, didn’t they?
CC: I think so. We saw them once during the whole tour. They’re doing their own thing. A lot of bands that come from the U.K. go from touring in Europe, and then they come here on no sleep and do 10 shows in a row and leave. So I think they were just tired.
Has that been your experience during this tour with The Wombats?
CC: Our first show of the tour with them was yesterday, but I chatted with them for a second and they were super nice.
JC: It was their first show in the states, too.
CC: They played a show in Berlin the day before. Or maybe they had 1 day in between.
You’ve performed in Japan as well.
CC: We just got back from Japan, we were there for 2 weeks. We had a few shows, but we mostly did a bunch of promo. It was more of a promotional trip, because the record is coming out there in January. And this band that I’ve produced over there, called Galileo Galilei, we call them GG, we were touring with them and we did a lot of interviews with them about working together and stuff like that. But yeah, it was awesome. We love Japan.
Did you get to meet Yoshiki or any of the X Japan guys?
CC: I knew about them, [gestures to his bandmates] these guys didn’t. They weren’t on our radar. We should’ve, we would’ve known how lucky we were.
You opened for Death Cab for Cutie as well.
CC: A long time ago.
JC: That might’ve been The Kooks tour, actually. It was kind of a festival.
CC: I also played a few shows for Ben Gibbard’s solo tour as well. I guess we played more shows with him than I thought. He was super sweet.
You have an album coming out in January, how are your preparing? Will you tour when it comes out?
CC: Yeah, we actually are pretty amped on touring ’cause we spent a really long time on this record. Longer than we have on any record before. The whole point when we were making this record was we didn’t want to put a deadline on it. So that’s why it took forever.
That’s the best way to do it.
CC: I think so too, but there’s times in the middle of it where you lose sight. Kind of like “When is this going to end?” or “What is this?” When you’re playing songs, and you’re seeing people reacting to them in real time, when we’re not in the studio or in my house writing stuff, it’s just kind of re-energizing after spending so much time inside.
JC: It’s like I forgot people actually listen to it.
CC: Although, as soon as we’re touring for a while, I want to go back to the studio.
When you’re touring it’s like you’re working 100% of the time for weeks. I could see how that gets exhausting.
CC: You are and you aren’t. You’re also only playing like, 1/20th of the time that you’re on the road, if that.
Is it hard for you to sit in a van for that long?
CC: For me it’s hard because I like to write music all the time. I feel best when I’m working on stuff.
Is that what you do to pass the time?
CC: Yeah, when I’m not on tour. When I’m on tour, I can’t really get into the mindset. I’ll do little ideas of something, but it’s like there’s no quiet place to record. But we get into it. We like going and meeting people, traveling. We really like food, so we like to go to restaurants. We have all our favorite restaurants across the country now, so we like playing our tours around going to eat at them.
What’s been your favorite?
JC: Japan was the best.
CC: Japan’s in a different league. One of our favorite restaurants is Monell’s [in Nashville]. We haven’t been there in a while, but we’re ending this tour in Nashville, so we’ll probably go 2 or 3 times.
Will you be at South by Southwest this year?
CC: Not if we can avoid it.
This coming year will be my first time. Do you have any advice?
CC: The first time is awesome. We’ve played it a bunch, and it actually is really fun to just go. I went one year just as a fan, and it was really fun. It’s really hectic as a band. Like you’re just sitting in traffic, trying to go 2 blocks, and you’re not going to make it [to your gig], so you just throw [the van] next to a hydrant and run your amps across the street. It’s really crazy. It’s too small an area. It’s too big a festival for that small an area at this point. It’s just grown.
JC: You get free Jansport backpacks, which is awesome. I still use mine.
Any last words before you go onstage, in front of thousands of people at Terminal 5?
CC: I’m going to save my last words, because I feel like this is just the beginning.
JC: That’s beautiful.