INTERVIEW: Rob Pennington on Revisiting His Youth, the Craziest Show Ever, and the Burrito Algorithm!

Photo by Bryan Volz

If you read this blog you know by now who Rob Pennington is. He has played in a host of amazing Louisville bands which includes Endpoint, By the Grace of God, Ousia (one of my all time favorites), Minnow, and Black God, and he just keeps going. Pennington is an energetic front person and one of the most engaging performers out there, not to mention a terminally nice guy. I met him when I was a teenager and BTGOG were enormous around town, and he never once made me feel like a jerk for talking to him, which is not something I can say for a ton of people I have encountered either before or sense; he is incredibly approachable and that affability is apparent in his music manifested as a sincere passion for the subject of his art. This Monday, By the Grace of God are playing at The New Vintage as part of the 2015 In-Pants Show, a fundraiser for the awesome Louisville Outskirts Festival which returns this fall, with Miracle Drug (featuring members of Frontier(s), By The Grace Of God, Supertouch and CR), and a super secret TBA band that I’m hoping is Fugazi.

Never Nervous: How is it to revisit your earlier music? Does it put you in the headspace of a younger Rob, or do you see the material from a new perspective?

Rob Pennington: It has been a blast! I find many of the songs are still relevant to me and strike the chord I need to lose myself in the moment of playing.  I especially look forward to playing this upcoming EP set, as we are only playing songs that I really enjoy as compared to 2010 when we were trying to play most of the catalog.  As for the headspace of the younger Rob, I don’t think so. The younger Rob was more vulnerable to the opinions of others, now I am more acutely aware of how lucky I am to be playing and still a part of this scene.

“The younger Rob was more vulnerable to the opinions of others, now I am more acutely aware of how lucky I am to be playing and still a part of this scene.” 

NN: How would you describe the status of By the Grace of God in 2015?

RP: A tornado wrapped in a tsunami, held together with duct tape and ibuprofen. It that good? This isn’t a reunion, it is just an escape back into the world. Kind a like the mattress in “Hellraiser.”


NN: Have you all (BTGOG) put any consideration into writing new stuff? Is that on the table, or is it just fun to kick out the older jams?

RP: We have two new songs but have not had the opportunity to record them. I think we would all like to write a new EP!


NN: What about Endpoint? Is that project still put to bed, or at this point is it just anything goes, whatever is fun, like a Louisville punk rock juke box?

RP: I kinda like the whatever happens concept and I know this breaks the local tradition of each generation wanting their generation’s bands to be the most special. I think its sad when older and younger scenesters alike bury their heads in their own butts and miss what could be awesome moments. Louisville is a special place and if a band is feeling it, good for them. I won’t sabotage their enjoyment. So yes, bring on the jukeboxes!

“I think its sad when older and younger scenesters alike bury their heads in their own butts and miss what could be awesome moments. Louisville is a special place and if a band is feeling it, good for them. I won’t sabotage their enjoyment.”

I would like to see SU or the Horse show up on that jukebox!


NN: How are you preparing for the upcoming tour? How would Endpoint era-Rob have performed live versus you today?

RP: Long practices, as we are learning two sets with a different drummer (Thommy could not miss work this time). The pipes are getting a lot of practice so I am hoping they don’t blow out early in Europe. We play both EP and BTGOG sets on the first two days!  You know, there is not much difference between then and know as I kinda open the floodgates and then go with it. I think there is less jumping, pointing, and garden gloves.


NN: How have you evolved as a performer over the years?

RP: I think I have a deeper well of experiences from which to draw when writing and connecting to songs. I still get nervous, but am still touched by connecting to people at the show. I think I like the way I sing in the “black” bands (Black Widow/Black Cross/Black God) more and that may have been that the music helped me  tap in to some of my other influences.

“I think I have a deeper well of experiences from which to draw when writing and connecting to songs. I still get nervous, but am still touched by connecting to people at the show.”


NN: What drew you all to help the Outskirts festival?

RP: This event is one of the best things to be born out of the Louisville scene. We have been inspired by so many powerful female musicians and want to help facilitate the continued participation of young women in our music scene. Plus Carrie Neumayer asked us and she is one of the best people I know.


NN: What responsibility should performers have to engage in socio-political activism if at all?

RP: I don’t hold anyone responsible for sharing their socio-political views on stage. I do believe that music can be a powerful force for positive change and  I am inspired when I see it used for that purpose.  In general, I prefer bands that talk about some that is real to them.


NN: Is Black God still playing together? If not, why?

RP: Yep, working on our 4th record between Coliseum and Xerxes tours. I really really love playing with this band.


NN: What’s next? Having played with a number of bands over the years, are there things you still want to try?

RP: Not sure, I have definitely been sniffing around for new projects. It would be great to do something completely different. I have picked up the guitar, but am not diligent enough to acquire any proficiency.


NN: What would constitute too many burritos and why?

RP: It’s all about the context and the burrito. For example too many chips might make a 3/4 of a large burrito seem excessive. Whereas, a full day of skating might make 2 medium size burritos sound, just right. We might need an algorithm.


NN: What is the most ridiculous (extraordinary, memorable, weird, etc.) show you’ve ever been too? What about played?

RP: IgnitionCharlies Pizzeria 1987. First, Ignition was great, but there was a crazy brawl in the middle of the street. People rolling in the street in front of stopped traffic waiting for the light to turn. As for playing, we have played many wild shows but I remember this one time we (BTGOG) played an African cultural center in South Houston. A bunch of skin heads rolled up to evoke trouble and the club owner started waving a gun around. We jumped on stage before the police could arrive and it was like a match to Kerosene. It was one of the most intense beginnings of set ever.


NN: What non-musical things have gotten you hyped lately? Caught any good movies or television lately? Been to any good restaurants? Do tell.

RP: I stopped by The Flea on Market the other day and the vegan selections were impressive. I enjoyed my V-Grits burger. I also have really been into this new book by Tom Kratochwill on Single Case Research Design.


NN: Last but never ever least: what have you been listening to lately and why?

RP: I have been rocking the older solo Ozzy jams. As a kid, he was my fav and with a lot going on this year (we just moved, going up for tenure at work), I find his voice always soothing. Bark at the Moon!