Mike Pinto is fresh out of the studio boasting a brand new 6 track EP titled The West Is Still Wild. It was recorded out of 17th Street Studios with producer/engineer Lew Richards out of Costa Mesa, CA. The EP has a few guest appearances including DeLa of Slightly Stoopid & Juan Rios of Seedless. The Pier was able to catch up with Mike Pinto before he marches out on The West Is Still Wild fall tour with Cas Haley & Josh Heinrichs. We were able to ask Mike a few questions about his new EP, his new band with Todd Elrod & Matt Brien (formerly of Bargain Music) and whats ahead for the band. Enjoy…
The Pier: The last 3 years you’ve been touring & writing with your new band members Todd Elrod & Matt Brien (of Bargain Music). What are some of the rewards & challenges in transitioning from a solo artist to a band member?
Mike Pinto: Todd and Matt have been playing together for around 8 years, so to get a rhythm section that is as comfortable together as they are makes the live show that much better. There are times I don’t even have to look at them, I know they’re on point. Everyone in our band has spent countless hours in the studio, and we’re all road dogs. The only challenge for me is keeping us all happy and somewhat sane while staying on the road for more than half of the year. So far, none of us have lost it yet haha.
The Pier: You recorded the new EP out of 17 St. Studio with Producer Lew Richards. What was it like working with Lew & what did he bring to the table in terms of production & creativity?
Mike Pinto: Lew is a pro, plain and simple. His input on instrumentation for our EP brought new life to my style of music. He played some guitar and keys on it too, and helped me create some different vocal harmonies that I haven’t attempted in the past. Lew is making a lot of bands better in this scene, no doubt about it.
The Pier: When we spoke with Lew, he mentioned his favorite songs were “Turn You On” & “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now”. Which of the new songs are you most excited about and why?
Mike Pinto: I think “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” is my favorite track on the EP. They’re my favorite lyrics on the EP, and all the instrumentation is solid. The West is Still Wild takes me back to when I was younger, playing rock and punk in high school. It’s great to play live too, especially the beginning riff.
The Pier: The EP features guest spots by DeLa of Slightly Stoopid on horns, accompanied by Kat Nestel & Juan Rios of Seedless on vocals. How did these guest appearances come about? And what quality did everyone bring with their contribution?
Mike Pinto: DeLa has been a friend of mine for years. He and C Money used to jam with me at Winston’s in Ocean Beach, since we all lived there a few years back. We both live in Encinitas, CA now, and I showed him the song when I first wrote it and told him I wanted him on “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now”. He agreed, and I think DeLa killed it on that track. As for Kat and Juan, they are regulars at 17th street in Costa Mesa. They’ve worked a lot with Lew, and he suggested Kat for backup vocals for “The Cool and the Deadly” while she was hanging out one day. Juan stepped in while doing other work on one of his own projects in the studio. We wanted a different style of keys for “Turn You On”, and Juan delivered. Basically, Kat and Juan were unplanned appearances, but I’m grateful to have them on the record and they both did a great job.
The Pier: First, you acoustically recorded “Everything I Got” on the Sense Boardwear “Poetry In Motion” compilation back in 2008 & then again for your Acoustic Album titled “Everything I Got”. After 3 years, there’s finally a non acoustic version of the song. How happy are you with the final version vs the acoustic?
Mike Pinto: I really like the alternate ending to that song on the full-band version. The track had to have the band on it, since we play it live all the time. I still enjoy playing it acoustic though.
The Pier: Tell us about the cover art for the EP. You had Paul Carpenter design the cover, the same artist who designed your self-titled & Little District album. Describe the cover & how the theme came about?
Mike Pinto: I came up with the concept for the cover. I wanted to have the old West mirroring the new West, showing their similarities. The theatre on the left mirrors Winston’s (a venue in Ocean Beach, CA), the saloon compares to DiPiazza’s, where our band plays and hangs out in Long Beach…the OB Hostel is across the street from the old Western hotel. Cowboys ride horses; surfers ride waves.
The Pier: With so many live performances under your belt do you still get nervous before stepping out on stage? Are there any pre-show rituals with the group?
Mike Pinto: I don’t really get nervous anymore, more like anxious to play. I hate waiting for our set. The last time I remember being nervous was the first show I ever played at the Roxy in Hollywood. There’s a curtain they raise before each band plays. Waiting for that damn curtain to go up while waiting to start made me sweat haha. I remember thinking “Holy shit, Bob Marley stood right here…this is a pretty big deal”…
The Pier: You been quoted as saying that the song “Temptation” was the first song you wrote back in 2005 when you moved out from Philadelphia, PA to San Diego, CA. How scary was that to pack up to move out west & how special is that song to you given your recent success?
Mike Pinto: Moving to San Diego was an adventure that was long overdue. I used to talk about to my friends back East about California so much that finally they were like “either move out there or shut up about it”. So when the opportunity to move to SD arose, I was ready for it. “Temptation” is one of my favorite songs to play, especially since it reflects my move to the other side of the country. It was an important and worthwhile move for me, and I’m grateful I get to revisit it every night on stage.
The Pier: What are your plans for another full length album? Do you have the material for a full length release and is it too early to say if you’ll be going through 17 St. Studios again with Lew?
Mike Pinto: We plan on working on more tracks with Lew when we get home from our fall tour. We have about 5 or 6 other songs we’ve developed that aren’t on the EP. There’s some friends I want to collaborate with too. If I had it my way, I’d like to drop a full-length album in a years time. That’s the plan for now. We’ve been on the road most of the year, I’m sure we’ll take a break at some point so we can work on new material…eventually.
Here’s a video of Mike Pinto in a “Brodeo” with Iration on stage covering “The Way You Do The Things You Do”