Ok so if I was writing a paper on Pencey Prep and how we fit into the history of rock I would start with how Pencey Prep formed:
Pencey Prep had 3 main writers: Frank Iero , John McGuire, Neil Sabatino
Before Pencey Prep there was the band that John and Frank started in high school called Hybrid . Frank was inspired by local NJ punk like Humble Beginnings and Big Wig along with bands like Nirvana, the Misfits and Screaching Weasel. John was Inspired by bands like The New York Dolls, the replacements, The Misfits and songwriters like Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan. It was at this time when John was about 16 that he penned most of the lyrics to songs like Don Quixote and Lloyd Dobbler. Of course these songs changed alot musically years later when Pencey formed and reworked them. At this time I was a few years older then both Frank and John. I had enjoyed local success with the band Stick Figure Suicide , we were doing bad religion meets Minor Threat punk. We were getting dates on Warped Tour in 1998 and playing big shows with bands like The Bouncing Souls and H2O. Prior to 1998 John had left Hybrid I think, I’m pretty sure he did and this is when Frank renamed the remaining 3 members Sector 12. Sector 12 was a local punk band I beleive from around 1998 - 2000 . This is when Frank and I had met for the first time , we played a show together in South NJ with the band The Casualties. We all crashed at a friends house that night and became close friends, from then on My band would hook Sector 12 up with shows and Sector 12 would hook up Stick Figure Suicide up with shows. I was lucky enough to get a job booking for a really good club and I was able to help Sector 12 get on some decent shows like a Battle of the bands for a Warped Tour Spot and A show with Weston who were very big at the time.
It was the middle of the year 2000 , around June, when I had a falling out Stick Figure Suicide and I decided to go out on my own and start a band. It was at this time that Sector 12 as well was falling apart because Franks exgirlfriend ended up cheating on Frank with the drummer of Sector 12. Frank had called me and asked how things were going and had mentioned he might be starting a new band and at the time , I said that was cool and I was in the same boat. We didn’t even think anything of it and two months later we got in touch again and he just came out and asked if i’d like to join the new project he started called Pencey Prep. It was at this time that I myself had just gotten dumped from a long term relationship and I was looking for a band to fill all my time.
So Frank and John had been writing songs together for this new project however they were very in the vein of what Sector 12 was doing except Frank was originally not going to sing. This duty was going to go to Bruno, the bass player of Sector 12. He was no longer playing bass because John joined the band and was now the bass player. So Frank on Guitar, John on bass, Bruno singing. So they were sitting around one day and decided they wanted Shaun Simon, one of their good friends to be in the band so they dug out a keyboard and taught him to play. So Pencey was now gaining steam, they just needed a drummer. So they just happened to be at a party and were asking people if they knew any drummers and this kid Gene said his friend Tim was a drummer and he might be interested. So Pencey was born , they got together and wrote two complete songs and went into the studio to record The Secret Goldfish with Bruno Singing and 8th Grade with Frank Singing. This demo is known as the “Trying to Escape the Inevitable demo” probably only 100 are out there. The song with Bruno singing was pretty awful, however the one with Frank singing was good but needed something . This is where I joined the band , I came in and Fank and John had a good collection of songs written but they had no leads or things for the keyboards to play . It was as well at this point that everyone in the band was single and miserable. So what else did we do but practice 7 days a week . Frank and John had a good 5 songs together and as soon as we were togther for a month we had 5 more as a band, some written by me , some by Frank and some by John. It was at this point as well that we were promised a record deal by a company called Black Ball Music that Franks dad worked at. They said they loved the stuff and they would pay for recordings but only if Frank did the singing and not Bruno. So Bruno was moved to backing vocalist. So I joined in August, By september we were practicing 7 days a week and getting ready to record a full album at any minute for Black Ball. So we had 10 songs written and done and we just spent everyday re-writing and perfecting.
Now you probably know the rest, about us going off and playing big shows and getting signed to Eyeball , but if you want to know why Pencey Prep was important I will dwell in November of 2000.
So Pencey Prep was a name that seemed to fit in with our new batch of Idols who at the time were the up and comers like The Get Up Kids, The Anniversary and Hot Rod Circuit . However Frank didn’t have that pretty voice and his range was not very high, However from any of you have heard me sing i have a voice like a chick so the lyric and melody writing process between us got very interesting. Now at this time Thursday from NJ was starting to get huge and we loved the whole Screamy thing with dark heavy metalish music for them but it wasn’t right for us, we wanted more melodic music, less emo type music , more towards bands that John liked , like The Replacements , or bands that I liked , Like the Cure , the Pixies and The Smiths and more like Frank liked , like Nirvana and The Get up Kids. Don’t get us wrong though, we all had an appreciation for the misfits and wanted to as well remain Dark.
This is what I feel makes Pencey Prep important in the scheme of things, originality. We were playing songs like the Secret Goldfish , which frank wrote as a sappy joke ballad and then once I had added Pixiesish lead to it and we all punked it up a bit we had something very different then what was going on with other music. We had first a Keyboard player that played all single note leads in the vein of the Anniversary and sort of made the moog exceptable in the emo/punk community. We had the bass player who played incredible bass lines that were sometimes more like lead guitar and less like bass. We had me playing Pixies and pavement-ish riffs over franks loud sonic youth/nirvana noise guitar. We had a metal drummer playing double bass and mixed in with rock beats and Finally we had the singer who climaxed in many songs with gutwrneching screams even though the songs were sort of mellow and had more of a rock vibe. As well one major secret to our success was lyrics, they were heartfelt and honest . We wrote an album about heartbreak while all of us were going through heartbreak. I assure you there wasn’t any other bands that were doing what we did at the time that we did it. In fact I remember that only a few weeks after our first shows that bands who wanted to be like us sprung up , one of the notable ones was the Dawson River Kids from PA , they went from punk to 5 peice melodic rock with a moog and a punk singer…
Now Pencey Prep not only put out a memorable first album that was original and an influential CD, but after I had left the band and the band decided to take a turn for the heavier such as in songs like Attention Reader, the band started an entire new trend of screamy heavy prog rock esque songs with insane keyboard parts. As well if Pencey had ever put out their second album you would have heard something ahead of its time, You can hear the starts of what our second album was shaping up to be in songs like heroin slow on Purevolume.com/penceyprep .
Pencey Prep at this later point in their careers I’m sure was musical inspiration to Mikey Way and the rest of My Chemical Romance who at the time were just starting out as Pencey was playing their last few shows. Mikey had seen Pencey Prep from the beginning when Pencey first got signed to Eyeball until the end where MCR asked Frank to join. Seeing as MCR is probably one of the biggest new acts this year and they have frank in the band , I have to beleive that some of what Pencey was doing rubbed off on them, even if the rest of the band has other influences, Frank brings his influence to the band and along with that is some of the elemnets of what made Pencey Prep popular, Even if I’m wrong in this, I’d have to say that many elements of what Pencey was doing is reflected back in the upcoming scene. Before we existed we hadn’t seen: Moogs in heavy bands, Metal drummers playing melodic Punk/emo, Sonic Youth guitars and Pixiesish guitars together in one band, and although there was singers like Geoff Rickly from Thursday singing and Screaming I think Pencey made it ok to do that in melodic pop/punk/emo songs. Pencey Prep overall I would have to say has been an influence on Fairmont and MCR, i say this because these are the bands that evolved from the end of Pencey Prep , I can’t say where either MCR or Fairmont are going in the future but as both bands influence other bands it all stems originally from what Pencey Prep was doing in the year 2000 in a basement in Bellville New jersey…
Neil Sabatino (Pencey Prep guitarist)