Yesterday, a minor scandal broke out as video surfaced of Beach Fossils bassist John Pena chucking his instrument into the East River after a particularly heated Fourth of July performance at Long Island City’s Water Taxi Beach. Certain corners of the Internet were not amused. Brooklyn Vegan commenters questioned Pena’s commitment to the environment. His shorts were made fun of. Trust funds were alleged. In response, we figured it was only fair to ask Pena for his side of the story. Cell phone service went out in Cleveland last night, where the band was performing — wonder why? — so this morning, we chatted with Pena over e-mail instead. His account is below:
So you threw your bass into the East River last weekend. What happened?
Nothing really “happened.” I think that there has been any sort of public opinion on the situation is kind of hilarious.
Let me say here I respect the distance you got on the throw. Was it premeditated?
Ha, thanks, but there was no premeditation. I was too preoccupied trying to balance drinking as much beer as possible without passing out from the intense heat to think about what was going to happen at the end of our set. I really loved that bass but it was on its way out…literally.
My colleague, Rob Harvilla, has noticed that your set tends to be pretty amiable until right at the end, and then all of a sudden, in the last 15 seconds, you fly into the drum kit, or totally freak out. Is that deliberate?
I mean, all the shows are different, energy-wise. Some of what happens onstage is dictated by how the crowd is reacting, but most of what is going on depends on how we are feeling about the show. The only constant is that we have fun playing the songs while hoping people have as much fun watching.
How does the rest of your band feel about it when something like this happens?
I don’t think they are too worried about it as long as I replace anything that gets broken. Sometimes it’s a bummer to see the money from a show go toward fixing equipment instead of rent, food, and girls. It’s not something we spend a lot (or any) time discussing really.
Obviously, you were only able to do this because you have a trust fund, right?
Ha, I wish I was in a situation where a trust fund was paying for my lifestyle. I had done everything from driving tractors at a dirt farm in Texas to managing the jewelry department at Sears to building custom counter and tabletops before I joined the band. I’d been working full-time since I dropped out of high school junior year so it’s been a nice break to be able to play music and tour with my friends. It’s entertaining to read what people’s perceptions of what sort of life I live or what my sort of money my family makes based on the band I play in. It’s all in good fun (I hope).
Then it must be because you hate the environment.
What do you make of some of the more outlandish comments on the Brooklyn Vegan post that “broke the story”? One guy made fun of your shorts.
We were hanging out backstage in Cleveland when I saw all the comments on BV about the “situation.” I think the best part is that people are responding as “the bass player from Beach Fossils” for me. I don’t know if it’s friends or fans of the band, but it’s touching even if it isn’t necessarily how I would respond. I’m not gonna lie — there are definitely some classic comments on there though.
Any response for the haters?
Ha, that would be pointless. I’ve already got people responding in my name (which again is kinda weird). It’ll all blow over soon enough. Just gonna focus on my friends, family, my band, and this beer. AMERICA!