No Focus is the title of the third full-length studio album from The Pilgrims. It’s also an apt way to describe how this Windsor-based rock outfit handles interviews. When we met up in late 2016 to discuss the new record we spent nearly fifteen minutes on the first question, “What is your full name and age?” This hardball inquiry elicited the following responses: Singer Chris Rosenquest said he’s thirty-six but would “prefer thirty-two for print.” Bass player Brendan Dangelo speculated that drummer Chris Egner “is at least thirty.” Guitarist Chris Goulet identified himself as “nineteen, female” and the band’s other guitarist, Kiel Alarcon, leaned in to whisper “four-twenty, sixty-nine” with a wink. After verifying these “alternative facts,” we moved on to the following questions.
What were some of the alternate titles you considered for this album?
Rosenquest: Dig Bick.
Alarcon: Fuckuitude was my favorite.
Rosenquest: The Pilgrims Live from Red Rocks.
Dangelo: Live from Connecticut.
Goulet: There were definitely more ideas for an album title than there were hours involved in creating this album.
Dangelo: That’s normally how it happens.
Are you planning to release No Focusin physical form or digital-only?
Rosenquest: We’re playing around with the idea of doing a poster release that gives a download code. That basically means we’d write a funny code on there because the whole record will probably be free anyway.
Goulet: We’ve discovered that if we try to sell CDs or any other physical form of music, they’ll sit there all night. But if we have some t-shirts and stickers and maybe pins or a poster, that stuff sells all the time.
Alarcon: We also found out recently that if you don’t charge money, but you say “buy us a beer and we’ll give you an album,” then you get wasted.
Dangelo: Yeah, no one would give us money for our stuff, but people bought us like twenty $5 beers when we played this festival over the summer. They just kept bringing food and beers up to us.
Goulet: Which is to say, I think we’re a lot more entertaining than we are memorable.
Rosenquest: Keep that off the record.
That’s staying on the record. It’s a great pull-quote.
Dangelo: Yeah, that’s a good one.
Goulet: I’ve been working on my sound bites.
Why did you decide to have Jer Coons of Madaila produce this one?
Goulet:Rosenquest and Jer had a thing a while ago.
Alarcon:Owed him a favor, I guess.
Dangelo:Leave that off the record.
Rosenquest:I used to do my solo recording up there at Park Hill Studio. Jer’s super good, and it’s also a very fitting space for us to make a record.
Alarcon:There’s garbage everywhere.
Rosenquest:It just has that basement vibe, but with super high-end equipment. It’s perfect.
What are some of the stranger venues that you’ve had to perform at over the years?
Dangelo: The car lot.
[Loud knocking sound]
Rosenquest: Chris Egner!?
Goulet: No, I did that. That knocking sound was me.
Rosenquest: [Singing to the tune of “Carol of the Bells”] Fa-la-la-la, fa-la-la-la.
Dangelo: There was a used car lot in Lebanon. We were set up where they park the cars. We played “Wipe Out” there—the surf song. Egner just pulled that out of nowhere, which is a pretty crazy drum part.
Goulet: The Vixens—roller derby.
Dangelo: We played the Vixens half-time. We played the Ag Fair in the middle of a thunder storm. There were severe storm warnings that day. We set up and started to play, and they were like, “Well, you don’t have to.” It was only a three-hour drive to get there.
Goulet: We played outside at the bottom of Okemo.
Dangelo: People were skiing by.
Goulet: I love playing at the Windsor Station. Only venue in Vermont that seems to get it. They pay you, they feed you, they treat you like a human being. It’s fun to play there.
Rosenquest: I really like playing the Monkey House, too. Charlie-O’s is one of the best. And you have to give a shout-out to the Main Street Museum because it’s a pretty awesome place to play.
Dangelo: For what we do, the Windsor Station and the Museum are the only two places to play in this area.
“That’s one thing about getting older—when bullshit pops up, our tolerance for it is a lot less.”
The Pilgrims started as a trio in 2010. Now you’re a quintet. How long has this iteration of the band been playing together?
Alarcon: It’s probably been two years now.
Dangelo: When did the seven-inch come out?
Goulet: Right now, baby!
Goulet: Oh, seven? Sorry…
Alarcon: When’s the three-inch come out?
Goulet: It’s four!
Who are some of your favorite local bands?
Goulet: Faux in Love, obviously.
Dangelo: Faux in Love is the best band.
Goulet: They’re a perfect band. You watch them and you assume that they’ve existed for a hundred years. We also used to play a lot of shows with The Law Abiders.
Dangelo: And every version of Matt Mazur.
Goulet: Pariah Beat.
Rosenquest: Our album release is with Jake McKelvie and the Countertops. He’s a mensch.
This past year was one of the shittiest on record. What was most disappointing about 2016 for you?
Alarcon: Donald Trump being president—that’s easily the worst thing.
Goulet: Yeah, fascism coming back was really disappointing.
Dangelo: I don’t have a lot of hope for the world. I just don’t think about it anymore, which is kind of good—he’s making my life great again because I’ve stopped thinking about things.
Rosenquest: 2016 was a really good year for me for a lot of different reasons, and just really shitty for other ones. I had my kid, and then I lost a super close friend, so it’s just like being pulled back and forth.
Goulet: The loss of Charley Conquest, who was our boss at Hanover Strings and our super pal, was fucking terrible.
Rosenquest: But I’m also super fucking proud of this record. We didn’t even mean to write a response record but we just kind of did. I’m really pumped that it’s going to be something that came out of 2016.
Goulet: We were just like, “Let’s book dates to make a record.” That was basically the vision.
Rosenquest: Which is a terrifying thing to lay out: “Hey, by the way, I booked us recording dates...”
Goulet: “…so we better write at least ten songs.”
Dangelo: It can be tough being in a band with five people.
Alarcon: And when one of them is Rosie.
Rosenquest: Hey! It’s Christmastime!
Speaking of which—now that you’re in your thirties, what are some of the challenges to keeping the band going?
Goulet: The biggest challenge is just having the mental and emotional fortitude to know that when something doesn’t quite work out, it’s not because of a lack of desire. That’s only something that you get from experience. Rock ’n’ roll will give you a lot of reasons to feel impatient, but the truth is we all do this because we fucking love it and we like hanging out with each other. It’s really wonderful to be with these guys, because we get to make something cool and we have a lot of fun doing it. That’s really the only reason for us to exist.
Rosenquest: Also to hang out with Faux in Love.
Dangelo: And we do it for the money.
Goulet: The money is just insane.
Alarcon: We make several dollars a year.
Goulet:It’s a really good idea to start a rock band these days.
Dangelo: A guitar-driven band of white men. Two guitars, bass, and drums.
Alarcon: It’s new territory we’re charting.
Goulet: It’s something real new.
Dangelo: People weren’t expecting this.
Rosenquest: I hear Santa. Does anybody else hear Santa?
Alarcon: Rosie’s been sending cryptic texts for a few days now—some sort of surprise.
Dangelo: He called me today, slowly humming “Carol of the Bells.”
Rosenquest: [Singing to the tune of “Carol of the Bells”] La-la-la-la, la-la-la-la. [Again, but twice as loud and in the falsetto register] LA-LA-LA-LA, LA-LA-LA-LA!
Alarcon: The interview’s not over, man. Focus, focus!
[At this point the interview comes to a halt as Chris Rosenquest distributes bags of presents to his bandmates while issuing a strict you-can-only-open-one-at-a-time rule. Among the odd assortment of gifts are the following: an unopened Twister box; a classic iPod FM transmitter that plugs into the socket of an automobile’s cigarette lighter; the Oscar Meyer Celebration Cookbook; a framed collection of images of Chris’ college fraternity brothers; a double-sided lightsaber; a Family Guyt-shirt; a 9/11 memorial pin; the December 1985 issue of Heavy Metalmagazine; a Game Boy advance with Mortal Kombat game cartridge; several rounds of cap gun ammunition (but no cap gun); a 12-year-old box of Cookie D’ohs; a pair of opera glasses. Eighteen minutes later, the interview resumes.]
What are some of the worst shows you’ve played over the years?
Dangelo: One time we played at a Chinese restaurant, and there was this guy booing us.
Goulet: It was literally a Chinese buffet.
Dangelo: We got paid maybe three hundred bucks, but we played for three hours, which is about two hours longer than we can play. There have been so many shitty shows. Where do we start?
Goulet: The Keene Music Fest.
Rosenquest: There was a little tension there, but we got through it.
Alarcon: There was a venue change because of the weather.
Dangelo: We were going to play in the french fry place, and we were like, “We probably shouldn’t do this.”
Alarcon: “We’re gonna ruin your business. We’re gonna scare away all your customers.”
Dangelo: And we all drove there. That’s one thing about getting older—when bullshit pops up, our tolerance for it is a lot less. Oh, and the night before that we were at the Windsor Station and we just kept fucking up.
Rosenquest: I dropped a beer on the board.
Dangelo: Then my bass died, and Kiel’s guitar died at one point. Something smelled like burning hair, so we stopped playing.
Alarcon: We thought it was the board, because we spilled beer on it. But it was just Jaime—she had lit her hair on fire!
Dangelo: We’ve had plenty of rocky starts.
Goulet: I feel like if you’re gonna play rock ’n’ roll these days, you’re just gonna be inundated with assholes. It’s the stories you carve despite that which really makes it worthwhile. We always have fun.
Rosenquest: We definitely always have fun.
Dangelo: We didn’t have fun in Keene.
Goulet: I had great french fries there.
Alarcon: Yeah, the french fries were great. And I went to the beer store, so it wasn’t a total loss.
Do you even want to be in this band, Chris Egner?
Egner: [Nervous laughter]
Dangelo: I wish we could just say that Egner was an original member, but we can’t ignore the truth.
Egner: How many shows did you play before me? Three?
Dangelo: Maybe two or three.
What’s the most embarrassing record in each of your personal collections right now?
Alarcon: Any of the Moody Blues. Awful. I hate the fucking Moody Blues.
Dangelo: I’ve been trying to whittle down all the ones that I never want to listen to. I don’t know what the most embarrassing one is. One reason we don’t have a manager anymore is because he has Sisqo’s “Thong Song” on vinyl. That must be the most embarrassing.
Goulet: To be fair, I gave that to him.
Rosenquest: I still have the Weezer Red Album on vinyl, which is a fucking terrible record.
Goulet: I’m pretty sure I have Aqua’s first record.
Alarcon: That’s something to be proud of!
Goulet: It’s a great record, right!?
Alarcon: What was everyone’s first record?
Rosenquest: Does it have to be on vinyl?
Alarcon: No—any format. The first one I got was a Devo cassette tape, and the first album I ever bought was Green Day’s Kerplunk.
Rosenquest: I bought a New Kids On The Block Christmas tape. I also bought the Fat Boys at the same time, so I think I’m still cool.
Dangelo: The first CD I ever got was Harry Belafonte’s Greatest Hits.
Egner: My first cassette tape was Queen’s Greatest Hits. I had some questionable stuff in my collection after that, though.
Rosenquest: You still have some questionable stuff in your collection. Let’s be frank. Take a car ride with Chris Egner and he’ll start pulling out some CDs he’s got hidden that are…
Dangelo: …frat rock.
Goulet: Once again, I’m pretty sure mine was Aqua’s first album.
Alarcon: That’s really the only record he owns. You don’t need any more music after you get that one.
Goulet: Actually, it was probably Doc Watson’s Greatest Hitsor something like that. Growing up in the woods, very sheltered, trying to be like Dad—you know how it is. But I didn’t actually give a shit until Aqua.
I heard you had a falling out with your former manager over a money dispute. Do you have plans to reconcile after you release the new album?
Alarcon: Nope. Not until we get those four dollars and thirteen cents back.