Brian: On DC Music Rocks, we're shining a spotlight on the great songs, artists, and incredible people behind the DC region's local music scene. Pleasure Train is a Washing DC area band that incorporates a fusion of styles, rooted in groove, alternative, jam, jazz, pop, and house. Pleasure Train has been a staple in the local music scene since the summer of 2014 and the band has enjoyed making their own unique contribution to the soundscape of the greater DC area. I first came across these guys when they released their first single, Calabasas, and I used it in my exercise classes. I played it in the car. I jammed it as loud as I could. I sang in the shower with it. There's just so much Calabasas in my life. Now they released an EP and now they're here with me. God, this is exciting. Thank you guys for being here.
Valerie: Thank you for having us.
Will: Thank you. That's a high compliment because we wanted to be a party band first and foremost.
Will: There's a lot of ways we ca define ourselves but that's number one.
Brian: You know, being played in the shower is status.
Richard: I was going to say, that's basically what I had in mind when writing it, was we want people to be able to dance in the shower.
Valerie: After a hard day, I want you in your shower, blasting Calabasas.
Brian: Calabasas, there it is. Alright. Now, talk about the band and how it came together.
Richard: I can take that one.
Valerie: Yeah, you take that one.
Richard: Actually, three of us actually went to high school together, Robinson High School in Fairfax and funny enough, we really didn't know each other at the time. I mean, through most of high school, but met our other guitar player [inaudible 00:01:35] towards end of senior year and started playing music together. He was a big, big [inaudible 00:01:42] from a guitar stand point.
Will: Me too, he's a [inaudible 00:01:43].
Valerie: He's amazing.
Richard: I mean, we just kind of took it from there. We all went out separate ways, went to college and knew when we came back, we wanted to play together.
Brian: That's amazing.
Valerie: They found me off YouTube.
Will: Yeah, with the wonders of the internet.
Brian: Now, so it all came together, one of you met another one and then another band member came together and slowly we became six.
Will: I was actually the last puzzle piece to fall into place. Shortly before me, our drummer Andrew David fell into place. Once the rhythm section fell into place, that's how our current sound came to be.
Brian: Speaking of current sounds, I realize they can't see you and if they don't know you, introduce yourselves and say your name and your role in the band. Then, the other three guys too.
Will: I'm Will Berger. I play the bass.
Valerie: Valerie Vega, I'm the vocalist.
Richard: Richard Fiegal, one of two guitars.
Valerie: We have Ian Dandridge who is the other guitarist, and we have Andrew Gabor who is our drummer and we have Michael Paquette who is our keyboardist.
Brian: Wow, so lots of sound from six instruments and some vocals. I love that. Now, talk about the name. What is Pleasure Train? Where does that come from?
Valerie: Me, Ian and Mike, when we first started the band would have these nights where we would get really drunk and just jam in this barn. We were like, we're going to have a band. What is the name going to be? We were so torn between making it something serious, and emotional, and creative, and then when we were very drunk, Mike was like Pleasure Train. Richard and some others were not for it, but I was like, that's brilliant. It's different and it's fun. I wanted to be fun but make good music.
Richard: It got to the point where we just started looking around and naming things in the room and wondering if that would be a good band name.
Will: I came around to realize that it's like a brilliant band name because it's just, it's evocative and memorable. Yeah, it's very memorable. People don't forget it.
Brian: That's a train you want to get on.
Will: I mean really, like our band, evocative and memorable.
Brian: There you go. If you take nothing away from this interview, I want you to remember that Pleasure Train is evocative and memorable. That is awesome.
Valerie: Great word. That's our genre.
Brian: Now, you guys are local DC. You're from DC?
Valerie: Yeah, we're from DC pretty much.
Will: Five out of the six band members are from the DC area, Virginia side of the DC area. I am originally from Pennsylvania, but I made my way down to the area a couple years ago. I came into contact with Ian first and knew I had to jam with him. I came into contact with him at the open jams.
Valerie: Like Fats right?
Will: Yeah, Fats. I was like, dude. We have to start a band. Then, low and behold, Pleasure Train needed a bassist and that's how I kind of fell in with everyone.
Brian: That's amazing. Now, talk about you guys on the personal side. You've got this whole music thing that you do, and then outside of the music thing, what's life like for each of you?
Valerie: We're busy people.
Will: Yeah, we're very busy.
Valerie: I'm a nurse, a DJ, and a realtor.
Brian: Okay, wait a minute. One more time, you're a nurse at a hospital in town?
Valerie: Yeah, I do home care to make this part of my life, it's flexible.
Brian: Yeah, so home care. Then, a DJ?
Valerie: I'm DJ Dilate and I played at Old Engine 12 in DC, U-Street, Back Bar. I'm part of the dance group, Dance Collective.
Brian: Oh, and wait there were three. Nurse, DJ-
Valerie: A realtor.
Brian: A realtor.
Valerie: Yeah. Capital Homes, yeah.
Brian: Good gracious.
Will: Valerie doesn't sleep much.
Brian: Alright, fellas she set the bar high. What about you?
Will: Well I can't quite get it that high. Well, in addition to playing bass in Pleasure Train, I also play bass with Andy Stokes and Apple Juice Jones, which is a Philly based band of my old buddies. Then I also am an environmental consulting engineer by day, to get a little money in my pocket.
Valerie: Smart man.
Brian: Holy smokes. Alright. What about you Richard?
Richard: Myself, not as busy as these guys. I am a loan officer for a local mortgage company, Church Hill Mortgage and that's where I spend most of my day.
Richard: Helping people get into homes.
Brian: Doing loans and getting into homes. Nice one. I know right? That's amazing.
Richard: You heard it first.
Brian: You heard it here first, absolutely. What about funnies moment as the band? What comes to mind?
Valerie: Alright. We talked about this. It would have to be two separate occasions. One at the Clifton Bar Jam and then one at our first not fade away where separate moments, members of our band had to flee off the state for bathroom issues.
Valerie: Bathroom emergencies.
Brian: Emergency issues.
Will: Could not-
Brian: It was a really long set.
Will: We have one song, Filthy Ladder. That's the last one on the EP. It has this really epic long jam out at the end, and it's usually a set closer. We like to really hit it and ride the wave.
Valerie: We were riding the wave.
Will: Andrew on drums is looking at me. I can't. After two seconds he just ran off. He was looking at me. I'm like, you can. You can. You can. Don't you leave.
Valerie: Take one for the team. No, he couldn't. I was just like, what happened?
Richard: I'm pretty sure there's video of it.
Brian: Oh my god.
Valerie: You held yours right?
Richard: It was getting dangerous but, I made it.
Brian: Where does music enter your lives? What's your background with music each of you?
Valerie: I have been songwriting and singing sine like in third grade, choir. I mostly did like R&B stuff because I'm a vocalist. I unfortunately don't play instruments. I would just sing for producers in DC and Maryland. Wow, that's what I did until I found Pleasure Train.
Will: For me, like a lot of kids around 12 or 13 fell in love with rock and roll music. I really liked the bass, so I picked up the bass around there and started playing in bands all through college and after. When I moved down here to take a job, I started attending open jams and just looking for people to play with. That's how I eventually crossed paths with Ian. Through that whole scene I've learned to find other people to play with, like the other and so for instance. That's what got me to where I am today.
Brian: Wow. What about you Richard?
Richard: For me, I was a pretty wild child. My parents wanted me to play some sort of instrument as an outlet. I played piano, violin. By the time I got to guitar, my parents were done with it. They were like we're not paying for any more lessons for this. I mean I took that as a challenge.
Brian: Did you reject the other instruments?
Richard: No, no.
Brian: Just didn't like them? What was it?
Richard: I played them for years. I mean, it got to the point where I wasn't practicing anymore and they kind of gave up on me.
Brian: Got it.
Richard: Guitar, I took that as a challenge. I was like, alright. You're not going to pay for it? Well, shoot I'll teach myself.
Brian: There it is, self incentive is an amazing thing. It really is.
Richard: They might have known that. They may have done it on purpose.
Brian: That may be so. That really can be true. What's something in your music collection that might surprise us, each of you?
Will: Oh man.
Valerie: A lot of Spanish music.
Will: Two ukulele and three mandolins and four cats.
Brian: Wait, actual music that you listen to. [crosstalk 00:09:10] We're going to come back to how you play a cat, but-
Will: Oh there it is.
Valerie: Oh wow.
Brian: Oh goodness. Okay.
Will: You're talking about-
Valerie: Yeah, like music.
Will: Artists we listen to.
Valerie: Do you have anything in your collection?
Will: More of a Tupac kind of.
Valerie: Oh okay.
Brian: A Tupac guy.
Will: Let's see, surprising. Yeah. You go first.
Valerie: Oh, I don't know. I don't know, Marc Anthony? I'm from Puerto Rico so that's not surprising if you know that. If you don't know that, yes I have a lot of like Cheyenne and Marc Anthony and Spanish songs.
Brian: Got it. You do more reggaeton or more traditional salsa.
Valerie: No, traditional salsa merengue, yeah. I like reggaeton. It's good, but no.
Valerie: It's very redundant.
Brian: What about you Richard?
Richard: I'm kind of all over the place, but more recently the Lion King 2 soundtrack.
Valerie: We jammed very hard to that.
Richard: [inaudible 00:10:23] very surprised yes.
Valerie: Our piano player likes that one too.
Brian: More Disney in your life.
Will: I was singing the Pocahontas today, the Paint with the Colors of the Wind. It entered my head for some reason.
Valerie: Oh my.
Brian: That's amazing. What about you? You skipped away. Now, we're coming back to you.
Will: For me, probably I don't know, afrobeat is one of the things that I've been listening to.
Will: I love the repetitive baseline. It's just like getting lost in a groove, repetition is underrated.
Brian: Absolutely. Now, I've got to put you on the spot because you said you play a cat?
Will: Not in the same sense as you play an instrument. More the cat is a muse and a tool for inspiration.
Brian: You should see the face he's making right now. He's like, oh what am I going to say?
Valerie: Make melodies to the meows.
Will: Oh I know exactly.
Valerie: Oh my.
Brian: Oh this is going such good places fast. I love it. Alright, now so one of my favorite questions to ask is if you could offer one piece of advice, what would it be, for each of you?
Will: Well, for me, you know I think the best advice is very simple advice. If you want to make music, then never stop making music. There's a lot of reasons to get discouraged. There's a lot of reasons to talk yourself out of doing it, but you like doing it, and you want to do it, do it.
Brian: Has something in your life happened? Do you have a personal example of that?
Will: Well, for me I guess the example is it's just kind of like something I have always made space for in my life because I feel the need to do it. It's similar to sleeping if I don't do it for long enough, I'd go crazy. I think it's just something you're compelled to do.
Brian: Yeah. What about you Valerie?
Valerie: I would tell people that are in the music scene just to try and not let the competitiveness of it all get in toxic or too overbearing in your creativity. We're all in the music scene together, and of course there's venues we all want to achieve and there's all festivals we all want to achieve. If you get too competitive with it, it can really get down on your creativity and the whole point of why you're making music in the first place. I would say, look at your fellow musicians as companions and inspiration and not competition.
Brian: What's a personal example for you of something like that? Is there something that you've been gunning for that you wish could happen faster?
Valerie: Yeah, I mean there's a ton of venues and music festivals that I believe we should be playing and that we are very capable. We make great music. I love this band. I and the number one fan and advocate for Pleasure Train. Yeah, there's definitely venues and stuff that-
Will: I always feel like we could be doing more.
Valerie: Yeah, I always feel like we could be doing more and that we're deserving of it, because we've worked so hard. I'm a female, so there's always going to be competition and jealousy. Did I just break a feminist?
Brian: I was going to say, no wait a minute. That's not a female thing. That's a human being thing.
Valerie: I'm a human too. I'm like the least feminist. I love females but I'm non passive aggressive.
Brian: Oh my god.
Valerie: I'm just saying, it's a human feeling to want to be competitive and be like we deserve that. Well, no. We are all in this together and we all deserve to make music. Just focus on making beautiful music and that's all that matters.
Brian: That's what gets you places. That's what it comes down to. If you make that good music, that's what opens doors. Yep.
Valerie: I like everyone, all females.
Brian: What about you Richard? What have you got?
Richard: Professionally man, what I would say is don't get caught up in the trends. Play what you know, what you love. Play from the heart. I mean, like I said, you can't go wrong with it if you're playing stuff that means something to you. With all the stuff that's going around now days, it can be tough to stick to your guns and what you really want to play, and not what you think people want to hear.
Brian: Yeah. For real. That's the truth.
Will: It's almost a paradox because we love inspiring people with our music, and after we play a show, you love it when people walk up to you and say, "Oh that was amazing. That inspired me." That's one of the reasons we do it obviously but also you can't get too caught up in playing what you think people want to hear. Sometimes if we're doing song writing and one of us is like, "Oh well I don't know if people would like that." We got to be like, wait a sec.
Valerie: Doesn't matter.
Will: Don't do that.
Will: Whatever we want to do here.
Valerie: What do we want to do?
Will: What is our vision for this?
Brian: Make the best songs you can do, but don't compromise. What makes you happy, right? You're doing this. What could you do that would make this the most fulfilling experience? If you just keep having the fulfilling experiences, it's going to end up being rewarding. There's always more that you can want, but it's true. You got to keep going.
Now, for those folks who want to find you guys, follow on more aout the amazing. Man, my words today.
Valerie: Oh my.
Brian: Who want to follow you and find out more about you guys, where do they go?
Will: You can check out our worldwide website at www.pleasuretrainmusic.net.
Will: Also our Facebook page obviously and we're on Spotify. We're on iTunes.
Valerie: Yeah, we're very active on social media.
Brian: Got it.
Will: We like posting. Occasionally we post weird selfies. Occasionally we post animal pictures.
Brian: Selfies and animal pictures, the cats that you play at home sometimes
Valerie: We love our cats.