Ever attempt to Google the word Pengo before? If you have, chances are you found websites dedicated to the video game, information about a form of Hungarian currency, and maybe even a German techno music label.
If you dig a little deeper, you'll find Rochester, New York noisemakers Pengo. Described in their bio as a "four* headed avant/drone/noise/psych hy-dra," figuring out what this band is, isn't an easy task at all. At first listen, Pengo comes off as a bunch of guys with loud amps, and even louder imaginations. Comprised of John Schoen (electronics, saxophone, floor bass & vocals), Jason Finkbeiner (guitar), and Nuuj (electronics and homemade instruments), this band was built to piss some people off. "Some people definitely don't like what we're doing," quips Schoen after beating local traffic one Friday afternoon.
"Sometimes people come (to our shows) and have no idea what to expect and they've really, really dug it because they come with an open mind," he adds. "Sometimes people come to see the other bands, and they just can't stand us at all."
Understanding as to why some might find his band hard to handle, Schoen appears enthusiastically defiant when it comes to Pengo's musical prowess. Preferring to be thought of as a psychedelic act, Schoen and company's anti*mainstream sound is no accident.
When they started off in the summer of 1998, Pengo was a reaction to what was going on in the Rochester scene around them. Seeing that a lot of the bands were relatively the same in sound and delivery, Pengo took a sharp 180. Instead of crafting the typical radio/audience* friendly ditties, they decided to take their instruments and make as much uninhibited noise as possible. "Our music was just this insane, no*wave noise stuff*it was pretty much to piss people off," Schoen remembers. "Then we started slowly making music for ourselves. "When I listen to what we've recorded, it is music that I would like to hear myself. There are a small handful of people in Rochester who are doing 'outsider' music, but for the most part, we're creating in a vacuum here," he elaborates. "There are really no other bands locally that we play with too much."
With so few bands around town to share a bill, Pengo usually winds up waiting for friends from other areas of the world to come around and tour with them. However, the diversity and challenging nature of the band's music has allowed them to play with a wide range of musicians*everyone from jazz artists to Turkish musicians.
As a result, Pengo manage to release a pile of music. When between full*length albums, Pengo treats their fans to homemade CDRs as a way to keep their momentum moving.
Luckily for the Pengo lovers out there, they will be able to get real deal LPs sooner, rather than later. Schoen believes that the band will release three full*length recordings between this fall and February or March of 2006.
In the meantime, Pengo will continue to do what they do best*and that is be as different as they can possibly be, even if that results in a few war wounds. "The thing that bores me the most is when you see a certain style of band and they do exactly everything you've seen a band that style do, over, and over, and over again," Schoen explains. "I'm more into breaking down the whole lexicon of stage performance. "When we began, people would throw bottles, or try to unplug us*but that didn't really bother me. The way I look at it is any reaction is a valid reaction."