By Jessica Federkeil, Point Park News Service:
Rishi Bahl, vocalist and lead guitar player of the Pittsburgh based band, The SpacePimps, can pinpoint at least two or three times he was ready to call it quits since the band began in 2003.
“I couldn’t exactly pinpoint a specific great moment (being in a band), but I can think of two or three moments when all I could think was this really stinks,” Bahl, 29, of Shadyside, said.
Bahl said that these moments have been significant in getting the band to where they are today.
“As you get older you realize that change is so incredibly important,” Bahl said. “Metaphorically, if you don’t change, you die. In those hard times you either give up, or you change.”
Turning over a new leaf after the departure of co-founding member Jared Roscoe, the unsigned, independent, do-it-yourself band has turned to a crowd-funding site, Kickstarter, to help defray some of the cost to record their fourth studio album. The goal: Raise $8,000 by May 4.
How The SpacePimps got their name
The band began in 2003 as a creative outlet for Bahl.
“I went to a pretty strict private high school,” Bahl said. “They didn’t give you much room to think outside of the box. I was never really an in-the-box kind of thinker. Back then, being punk was about doing what other people weren’t doing.”
The pop-punk group combines aspects of punk-rock and pop music. Bahl said his biggest influences were pop-punk giants Blink-182 and New Found Glory.
Bahl remembers forcing his friend Jared, the band’s original drummer, to listen to his favorite albums. By their senior year of high school at Shady Side Academy, the two were playing cover songs together.
“Before I knew it Jared enrolled us in a battle of the bands under the name The SpacePimps,” Bahl said. “I was pretty mortified when I found out that he did that.”
So where did the name come from?
“Essentially how it came to be was at our first practice. Our bass player at the time was watching his 6-year-old nephew. The kid was watching MTV’s ‘Pimp My Ride’ and playing with a Buzz Lightyear doll from (the movie) ‘Toy Story.’ When we walked out of this walk-in closet we were practicing in, he said that we looked like a bunch of pimps from outer space.”
“The first thing I tell people about The SpacePimps is to ignore their name,” Alex DiVincenzo, a writer for Chorus.fm, formerly AbsolutePunk.net, said. “It’s a silly, sophomoric name that does not do their music justice.”
According to the website, The SpacePimps offer an honest brand of pop-punk to listeners.
“Their music brings me back to the pop-punk bands I grew up loving in the late ’90s and early ’00s, like Blink 182 and Green Day,” DiVincenzo said.
That sound isn’t as common as it was ten or twenty years ago.
“So many groups from that era have ‘matured’ their sound or broken up altogether, and newer pop-punk bands have a different style,” DiVincenzo said. “It’s fun, catchy music that’s perfect for playing loud with the windows down on a carefree summer afternoon.”
Who are The SpacePimps Now?
Bahl is currently joined by bass player Joe Harbulak and the newest member of The SpacePimps, drummer, Andy Mayer.
“I’m really proud of my guys,” Harbulak, 28, said. “I have a lot of fun being in the band with them. I’m with two really, really good dudes. They are my friends first, but we do some amazing things together with music.”
Harbulak became a member of The SpacePimps in 2013, playing his first official show with the band in Beijing, China.
Each member of the band has a full-time job to make ends meet.
Bahl works full time as a professor at La Roche College. He teaches classes in the marketing department, including introduction to marketing, advertising and public relations, brand management, nonprofit marketing and marketing research.
“In my heart, my job is being in the band,” Bahl said. “My bank account will tell you that I’m really a college professor.”
Bahl said that the time he devotes into the band makes it a full-time job.
“Honestly, they both probably take up an equal amount of my time,” Bahl said.
Bahl offered some advice for others trying to make being in a band work:
“If you aren’t good at balancing things, you won’t be good at being in an independent band,” he said. “If you can’t do multiple things and work, you will either end up really poor and depressed, or you are going to focus too much on one thing and everything else is going to suffer.”
Harbulak works as a substitute math teacher. He also is owner of a School of Rock store, where he teaches and records music.
“It’s hard work being in a band and working full time,” Harbulak said. “Sometimes it’s nice to just take a weekend off and spend time with my family.”
Nate Sirotta, the band’s publicist, from Los Angeles, has worked with The SpacePimps off and on for three years. He has seen how dedicated they are.
“They are one of the most loyal, hard-working bands I have ever come across,” Sirotta said. “They also know how to have a great time, and are truly passionate about what they do.”
That hardworking attitude is all the band has ever known.
“They’ve ignored trends and stayed true to their roots, both with their DIY ethics and their musical style,” DiVincenzo said. “I greatly respect that as someone in the industry and appreciate it even more as a fan of the band.”
Bahl is proud of the fact they are, and always have been, a self-made band.
“Nobody has really ever helped us. There have been very few people who have been willing to put there neck out on the line for us,” Bahl said.
One of those people has been Kevin Lyman, the founder of “Vans Warped Tour,” the longest-running and largest traveling music festival in North America.
“They’ve played ‘Warped Tour’ many years,” Lyman said. “Their live show is always good. You have to have a good live show to be on ‘Warped Tour.’ You can’t be up on stage and be boring, or your audience will just walk to another stage.”
Lyman notices Bahl’s strong connection to the city of the Pittsburgh.
“Rishi is a really big supporter of the Pittsburgh music scene. He’s proud of the city he lives in,” Lyman said.
“He has so much passion about what he’s doing,” Lyman added. “You root for a guy like Rishi.”
Support of the Fans
“I first heard of The SpacePimps back on MySpace in the mid-2000s,” DiVincenzo said. “The pop-punk craze was big at the time. I liked what I heard from them, but they fell off my radar for a few years. Thankfully, I rediscovered them.”
Bahl said he noticed their fan base really solidified when the band released its latest album, “Eternal Boy” in 2013.
“Analytically, we tend to attract males in the age range of 16-24. This group (of people) is typical to pop-punk music,” Bahl said. “Our ratio is about 60-40 male-to-female and that’s pretty even. But on a philosophical level, I want to say that I think just anyone who is looking for change in their lives will listen to our music.”
The band has become close with a lot of its fans over the years.
“There are some crazy people that listen to us,” Bahl said. “I don’t call them fans. They are our friends.”
One of their friends is Sheena Ekas, 29, of Butler.
“I really connect with them as friends,” she said. “I saw them for the first time back in 2006. I didn’t love them at first, but when they released Eternal Boy I really got into all of their music.”
Ekas will frequently help with promoting the band. She estimates that she has seen The SpacePimps, in a variety of Pittsburgh venues, at least 25 times.
“My favorite show of theirs was this past fall when they played (at) The Smiling Moose for their vinyl release party,” Ekas said. “I had a blast at their ‘Warped Tour’ sets, and when they opened for Sum 41 in 2012 at Altar Bar as well.”
She even has a tattoo of their lyrics.
“My tattoo is of an owl holding a scroll with lyrics from two of their songs written on it,” Ekas said.
Bahl says fans, like Ekas, give them purpose as band.
“We really rely on the people who listen to us,” Bahl said. “Without them there is no reason for us to do anything.”
“I’m super excited to take things foreword with the band,” Harbulak said.
The future of The SpacePimps will be far from dull.
“There is no quit in that band,” he said. “They will continue to relentlessly play shows and record music as they have for over a decade now, and I have a feeling a wider audience will finally start to take notice. They deserve all the success in the world.”
When it came time to think about new music, the idea of doing a Kickstarter was suggested by Bahl to help the band out.
“It helps a lot,” Harbulak said. “We are an independent band. We don’t get to play a bunch of big shows to make a ton of money. We just try to put up different incentives that we think are cool.”
Rewards start at $10, which means basically that the backer is just paying for the cost of their new album. Two of Bahl’s guitars have sold in the campaign, at $900 each. One backer put up $1,200 for the band to professionally cover any song of the buyer’s choice. You can find more details about rewards here.
“It’s fun for us when we get to send out the packages afterwards,” Bahl said. “It’s cool we can throw some custom things into the bags we send out.”
If The SpacePimps reach their goal and raise the total $8,000, they plan to head into the studio with producer Chris Badami this summer in New York. Badami has worked with bands such as The Starting line, Early November and The Dillinger Escape Plan.
The band members write their music in a very analytical way. They have already recorded demos for new material in Harbulak’s own studio.
“The demoing process is about getting our ideas down. It’s like a rough draft.” Harbulak said.
They hope to have a new single sometime this summer. Accompanying the new song will be the announcement of a drastic change for The SpacePimps.
The band is planning to change their potentially offensive name. Bahl said they aren’t turning their back on the longtime fans of the band. The name will change, but the band is staying the same.
“We are changing the band name, but we will still be the same band,” Bahl said. “It will be the exact same everything, but this is kind of a reboot for us.”