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Pittsburgh Artist of the Week: Meeting of Important People

Eileen Yoest Hadden / Andre Costello

It's been almost a decade since Pittsburgh indie rock legends Meeting of Important People spent some time together in the studio. This month, they'll release "MOIPsgiving" — a record 20 years in the making.

The band are hosting an album release show with Andre Costello and Woodland Creatures on March 22 at Thunderbird Cafe & Music Hall.

Christopher Sprowls

Meeting of Important People are from L-R:
Aaron Bubenheim - bass
Matt Miller - drums
Josh Verbanets - guitar and vocals
Clark Slater - guitar

Josh Verbanets recently spoke with WYEP's Joey Spehar.

What’s your musical history up to this point? 

We are a band from Pittsburgh and our members met here when playing with other projects in the early/mid 2000's. Drummer Matt Miller — originally in the Pleasure Technicans — he and I met when our friend Greg Dutton put together his band Lohio in 2006 and we found ourselves together in a practice room. Matt and I were members of Lohio for those years, which was where we first had some airplay on WYEP. Bassist Aaron Bubenheim and his brother were in a band called Bre'r Fox in that era too, which was this incredible duo blues-rock thing. It's been the three of us as MOIP for 16-17 years now, and we have now been joined by Clark Slater on guitar and keys (he plays with the Gathering Field and other projects!)

Two of our albums were selected by WYEP as hometown releases of the year (2009 self-titled album and 2016 Troika album — which until this new release was our last full record!) We have travelled, played with some incredible bands, had songs placed in film and TV, and have continued this little band family well into adulthood — now playing in the Pittsburgh region maybe two or three times a year.

Tell us more about the song "Broken-Down Storefront." What inspired you to write it and what does it mean to you?

"Broken-Down Storefront" was written when I was about 20-21 years old working in a little mom-and-pop video store in my hometown, watching the people around me, watching the video store slowly go down the tubes, and wondering if anyone would ever hear my songs. It's also about being a kid writing songs about poverty and struggle when of course you don't actually know anything about that. Twenty years later it seems like some sort of big cautionary tale about the economy...

Tell us more about how this new album came about.

The story of this album is kind of like our 'Taylor's Version' — this is a specific batch of songs I wrote back when I was 20-21 in a band called The You. That project had a record deal and at the time these felt like very special songs, but the whole thing fell apart and it's always been kind of a 'lost record' to us. So the concept is songs you wrote when you were 20 finally recorded now at 40 with your band and with hindsight. They all have kind of a quirky garage-folk feel to them, lots of chord changes and harmonies — I always thought these nine tunes were probably my best songs and the band always loved these songs over the years, we have played many of them live but they've never been properly recorded until now!

The album artwork is striking and very nostalgic. Where did it come from?

The album cover is a revamp of an old print ad done by my Grandmother Eileen Yoest Hadden back in the early 60’s, this was a print ad for Hornes department stores Fall collection 1961! She has a pretty amazing story, was a professional artist in the Pittsburgh region in the 1940’s-60’s and did hundreds of incredible fashion drawings, ad layouts, magazine illustrations over the years. She is still with us – now 97- and graciously let us take this old drawing and lay it out with new text, kinda kitchy and period-appropriate by graphic designer Andre Costello, for our album cover. The celebratory figure just seems to scream Fall AND Spring, and there’s the family angle too.

What was the first album that really changed your life?

The first album that really changed my life was of course Weird Al albums, listening in the car on family trips because they were edgy and fun but still clean enough to be able to listen to as the full family — on the way to Cedar Point. Then I heard my Mom and Dad's old Alice Cooper vinyls and Jesus Christ Superstar, the original album — these weren't song parodies, they were original songs - it changed my life.

Who are some other Pittsburgh artists you think more people should listen to?

One of my favorite Pittsburgh artists is a band of young folks called Posterchild, really cool songs and vibe to them. The lead singer is Gibson Musisko, son of Pittsburgh/Rusted Root legend Jenn Wertz — honestly an unbelievably prolific songwriter.

Christopher Sprowls

For a little extra fun, since it is fish fry season here in Pittsburgh, check out this recording of Josh covering Phish's "Farmouse" last Lent on the morning show.

Joey Spehar is a Pittsburgh native who started as a volunteer D.J. at WYEP, fresh out of college in 2006. He took on any job they’d let him do like editing audio, engineering remote broadcasts, and shoveling snow.