Interview with Pale People

Pale People are a 3 piece rock/progressive punk band. A balding neurotic, a disabled music-school dropout, and a diabetic martial artist; this band combine vocals, piano, bass and percussion to create music with something important to say. We talked about Taco Bell, the origins of their band name and the motivation behind their music.

Where did the band name come from?

Most of our songs deal with people who’re existing just outside the boundaries of regular human society.  They’re strange, their sorrows are obscure, and they’re fading quietly away.  We feel that way sometimes.


How did you all get together?

Mack Gilcrest (piano, vocals) and Kurt Skrivseth (bass, guitar) met in the U of Montana’s Jazz Band I, and bonded over a liking for Rush and a distaste for the Jazz Band I.  When Mack had his punk-cabaret awakening and needed help manifesting it, Kurt was the first person he turned to.

Austin Graef (drums) is actually our second drummer–he and Mack’ve been friends since high school, and they speak the same language, baby.


What inspired you to become musicians?

Mack first started playing to make his mom happy.  Then he realized music was a social currency, and that kept him going.  Then he realized he’d be happy doing it even if nobody listened.

Kurt got to meet “Weird Al” Yankovic when he was 14 after seeing his first live concert, and that’s all she wrote.

Austin sort of always had the drive to be a drummer, and started taking piano lessons in 3rd grade to fit the public school requirements to begin drumming in 5th grade. He still drums, and acts, like a 5th grader.


Was that what you always wanted to do?

Mack, frankly, wanted to be a paleontologist when he was six.  But he’ll settle.

Kurt also wanted to be a paleontologist from ages 5-13.  Also, Power Ranger.

Austin oddly had the same fascination with paleontology after seeing Jurassic Park around age 6. Later, he wanted to be President. Not much has changed.


What song would you recommend to someone who hasn’t heard your music before?

Probably this song called Steven, which is about the Westboro Baptist Church, sort of.

What artists influence you as a band? Who do you admire?

Radiohead!  The Dresden Dolls!  The Pixies!  Rush! Blur!  Death Cab For Cutie!  Neutral Milk Hotel!  Primus!  The Mountain Goats!  Leonard Cohen!  Red Hot Chili Peppers!  The Velvet Underground!  THE LIST GOES ON!


Is there anyone you’d like to collaborate with?

The other members of Pale People.


My Mum insists that in every interview I ask; what apps do you have on your phone and which one is your favourite?

Mack:  Tinder is my favorite.  Tinder is also my least favorite.

Kurt:  The Howl FM app to listen to WTF, a guitar tuner, the Digital Performer recording interface remote app makes my life much easier.

Austin:  Spotify mostly, but that’s my egotistical way of saying I like listening to my own music at work.


Can we expect to see you playing shows in the UK anytime soon?

We cannot emphasize enough how little money we have.  But we’d really, really like to!   (  (


Do you have any pre-show rituals?

We get Taco Bell, sometimes.  And cry.


What would you like to achieve through your music?

The last line in the penultimate song in Sunday in the Park with George is, “Give us more to see.”  We’d like to do that.  We’d like to surprise people.


To you, what is the most important part of a song?

Mack:  The first line.

Kurt: How it sounds.

Austin: The part you like the most.


What do you think is the easiest and hardest part of a song to write?

The easiest is the midmost stanza–it can be anything, it can interrupt the narrative, carry it forward, whatever.  The hardest is probably the first line.


If you’re buying music, how would you do so: CD, vinyl or digital?

Mack has a huge soft spot for cassette tapes.

Kurt has a substantial CD collection, and his iTunes library has well over $2000 of downloads.

Austin prefers CD’s for the sake of holding something tangible, but digital is easiest to share and spread to a community of listeners.


What is the most challenging song to play live?

We have this song called Mitchell, which is about the 14-year-old kid who claimed, to a 10-year-old Mack, that he’d built a race of deadly nanobots and that if Mack told anyone, they’d kill his parents.  The performance that ended up on the album is probably the only time we’ve ever played that song well.


What’s your earliest musical memory?

Mack:  I’m 2 years old, watching the “Rite of Spring” dinosaur sequence in Disney’s Fantasia.  Then I knock over the block tower I’m building and break the fishtank.

Kurt:  When I was 7 I remember being compelled to figure out the main theme to the movie Gremlins on my dad’s old Casio keyboard.

Austin: When I was 3 or 4, we had a small Casio keyboard in our house in Florida. My brothers and I used to love dancing to all of the preset demos the machine had to offer.


What’s your fondest musical memory?

Mack:  I’m 2 years old, watching the “Rite of Spring” dinosaur sequence in Disney’s Fantasia.  Then I knock over the block tower I’m building and break the fishtank.

Kurt:  Nailing the bassline to the studio version of our song Steven (it never had a bass part previously), 6 hours after ending a long-term relationship and just thinking to myself, “I will always have this.”

Austin: Not long after my uncle died, I wrote a song called “Hello Brooklyn” that we perform from time to time. We performed it in Eugene, Oregon, and it was the first time I’d ever seen people sing or clap to something I’d written, and I knew in that moment that we had in some small way done my uncle’s memory justice.


What advice would you give to aspiring musicians?

Just remember that you never, ever need anybody’s permission to play.  There’s also no “right way” to do anything.


Have you ever met an idol and freaked out about it?

Mack: I once embarrassed the hell out of myself in front of Jeff Hamilton.  He now thinks my serious long-term career goal is to be the drummer for Radiohead.

Kurt: I’ve met several.  Freaked out? Nope.  In the flesh you realize they’re just people.  As Regina Spektor once put it, “People are just people like you.”

Austin: I met Trombone Shorty (Troy Andrews) at a show in Missoula. I was speechless and it was the coolest fist bump I’ve ever received.


What would be your dream tour?

Multiple continents, playing every night, to anyone who’s excited to hear us.


Where would you be, ideally, in 5 years?

Done with 5 more albums, sailing out of Neptune’s orbit, toward interstellar space…

Pale People

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