A Conversation with Alvie and the Breakfast Pigs

Alvie and the Breakfast Pigs are a band from San Francisco who “isn’t here to serve a brand new cuisine.” Claiming to be one of the last rock bands in the city, Alvie, Matt, Phil, and Jake “serve up those classic high-gain recipes you grew up on,” playing rock’n’roll with influences from a myriad of genres. This Friday, you’ll be able to see them play live on the WQHS Instagram!

Ashna: You guys want to tell us how you guys met? Why did you decide to start all of this together?

Alvie: Sure. I can kind of start there.  We got Jake, our drummer, Phillip, our bass player with the tape. And then Matt, our guitar player. Me and Jake and Philip were all originally from Arizona and we were getting music out there.

Ashna (interrupting): I live in Arizona. That’s crazy. Where are you guys from?

Alvie: Well, me and Philip grew up in Mesa. Jake, you grew up in Mesa, too, right? 

Jake: I grew up in Mesa. Then in Tempe. 

Alvie: Yeah. We all moved in together pretty much in Tempe and started playing music out there. And I graduated college in 2014. So me and Philip moved up to Alaska, actually, and decided to play some music out there and save some money to move to San Francisco. Jake followed a couple of months later after we moved there. And at the time, Philip was actually playing guitar for us. And we had a bass player out in San Francisco. And then did a little switcheroo. We met Matt and Phil is now playing bass and Matt is from Iowa. And he moved out here a few years before we did. And we connected through our mutual friends through rock and roll. And so that’s kind of how we all met. 

But me, Phillip, and Jake all lived in the house in Tempe, called Breakfast. It’s the breakfast pigs, though. 

Ryan: Nice, did you guys christen the house “Breakfast”, or was the name already given to the house? 

Jake:  It’s a good story, too Alvie. You should tell that one.

Alvie: Before we moved to the house, we had an instance where a bunch of kids…you know, when you’re in high school, you do stupid things. So someone got a flat tire in front of a Wendy’s. And I was there with six people. And for some reason, I was the only one that knew how to change the car tire, which it wasn’t even my car. So I’m over there changing this car tire. And like, all of a sudden as soon we get into my car, I’m like, “Let’s go back to the house” and like, they’re all giggling and laughing. And I’m like, “what is going on?” And I find out they steal this giant nine foot breakfast flag from the Wendy’s parking lot. And we actually had someone call the police on us and they sent three squad cars and a police helicopter on us. 

And then the doorbell rings and it’s the police. Long story short, we talked our way out of it and then a couple of years later moved to Tempe. And, you know, we were a bunch of rock’n’roll kids and we were like, let’s party! But how are we going to ever figure out how to get people to know where we live? 

So, we’re like, why don’t we just put the giant breakfast flag in front of the house so we can just say turn left on this street to the house on the right, this is breakfast. And so the flag actually didn’t last that long. It was like someone stole it after about a month. It was probably the neighbors. They probably hated the fact that there was like a giant flag on the front of our house. It was like over the garage. It was like really badly done, but someone stole it and the name kind of just stuck.

And when we were coming up with band names, that was literally the first band name we thought of. We’re like, why don’t we just call it Alvie and the Breakfast Pigs? And I was like, Yeah, let’s do that.

Ryan: It was meant to be.

Alvie: Yeah, guess so.

Ashna: So, I know you guys refer to yourselves as the last rock and roll band in San Francisco. So do you guys really think rock and roll is officially dead now?

Matt: It’s just marketing. (laughs)

Phil: Well, I don’t know. I’m always the one interjecting with that sort of shit saying that rock n roll is dead. I don’t think it’s dead. I definitely think it’s just not mainstream anymore. But I think if I really pay attention, like the differences are just how people interact with it or listen to it or absorb it. Like it used to just be like you go to a club or a bar. There were just rock bands. But now it’s something you kind of have to seek out. There’s not like the same kind of energy that’s just implied. We’re rockies’ because you kind of have to conjure that up. That’s our job now to get people all fired up and moshing and punching each other like the old days. It’s definitely still there. You just have to work harder for it. Or maybe people are less interested, but the people who still dig that shit out there are thirsty for it. So we’re happy to make it. Yeah, we’re big listeners, too. We love that style of music.

Matt: Yeah, for sure. And there’s just a lot of other types of music now. And so the shows that you can go to might have something completely, just completely different than what we do.

I just think there’s more of that, which is fine. And we like listening to all types of music.

We just think there’s something special about a loud, fast rock and roll show with just a lot of sweat and a lot of energy and beer flying everywhere and real instruments.

Phil: Same with rock music, too. Like if you play in San Francisco with three bands that also claim to be rock bands, you’re gonna hear like a whole couple of decades worth of influences and bizarro shit. You get these 60s rockers. You got these guys bringing back surf rock. It’s a big world.

Alvie: The music that is popular now, like hip hop and electronic aren’t going to go away. I think they’re going to morph with rock and roll eventually, and it’s going to hopefully bring them both together, which is what I hope for.

So I guess we also hope that we are continuing to keep this rock and roll alive by playing it. And hopefully, you know, some of the younger generation gets to hear it and go, whoa, what? I don’t hear music like this anymore. And then kind of bring them down a new rabbit hole that brings them in to do rock and roll and like some old rock and roll. I mean, I remember the first time I heard the Beatles. I didn’t even believe that it was real. My brain, like, froze. 

Matt: 2019 was a big year for Alvie. 

Alvie: That’s true. I was spelling it wrong the whole time. 

Matt: Yeah, but I don’t think we’re clinging to some romanticized idea of what rock and roll used to be, I do think what we’re trying to push forward with it and there’s been a lot of versions of rock and roll since the 1960s.  So, you know. I said it kind of in jest, but there’s a little bit of seriousness. It is a little bit of marketing. 

You know, we want people to get excited about rock and roll. And, you know, there it’s true that there aren’t as many rock and roll bands in San Francisco as there were at one point. But there are still some good ones. We’ve got a lot of friends making great music in San Francisco. The scene is good.

Ryan: You guys mentioned how you want to play loud and fast, and that reminds me of your new single. How did you guys get the names for the two songs, Tokyo and Jenny Flores?

Alvie: To be honest, we’re writing a full length as well, and we were going to put these on the full length, but we were focusing on these two songs. Actually, we originally wanted to release Tokyo because of the 2020 Olympics.The song had nothing to do with it, but that was kind of our timeline. We were like, “Oh, we’ll release it when the Olympics happen and it will, kind of, like, do something!” but that obviously didn’t end up happening, so it backfired on us. Anyway, that was why we wanted to write a song called Tokyo. And then it kind of turned into this story that almost fit perfectly with what’s going on in the world right now. It’s about trying to find yourself, where you belong, and where you feel good. You’re on this journey through life, and, you know, just trying to find the people or the place that makes you happy. And, you know, everyone’s striving for that.

Jenny Flores is actually about a girl named Jenny Flores. In the 90s, she was detained on the border with her family. It was actually part of this big lawsuit that had to do with how the law used to treat children exactly the same as how they treated adults without any discrepancy of what they did. It was really not great to put kids in that environment. So after this lawsuit, there came the Flores Act, which pretty much disallowed them from treating these kids terribly and instead put them with other kids, making it less like a jail and more like just a place for kids to be. Obviously, it’s still terrible on the border, but the reason we wrote the song was in protest of Trump trying to get rid of that law so he could pretty much do whatever he wanted, detaining these kids, sending them home and ripping these families apart, so we thought it was important to put these two songs out right now. They were just both really loud and fast and we were like “Let’s just drop a couple!” It was originally going to be a seven inch and we ended up doing a comic book instead. Weird times. We decided to try to do something unique and different since we really couldn’t meet and play music as much.

Ryan: Tell us about the comic book!

Matt: Noah Wilson did the art. He is an emerging artist in the East Bay/Oakland area, and he was eager to do the story. We just put out a Craigslist ad looking for artists and got three or four hundred responses, but he was the clear frontrunner and just did a great job. We’re super proud of the comic book. The story is good. It’s fun. There’s a lot of hidden stuff in the art, too, you know, in the background stuff.

Alvie: His Instagram handle is @noahrtt If anyone wants to check it out. Also, you can check out our comic book on our Instagram. We’re slowly throwing it all out. I think we’re on page like 14 of 16, so it’s almost complete on our Instagram. And it’s also for sale!

Ryan: Is your music connected to the comic book?

Matt: Yes. So, essentially, the story of the comic book is the origin story for the song Tokyo. We play the song Tokyo at the very end, and you see those lyrics and some of our other songs’ lyrics as well.

Alvie: We also gave away two characters. We did a little contest: we got some fans involved, and they helped us raise some money to get everything going. And then we got to add two people into the comic book, who were contest winners, which was a pretty fun experience to do as a band.

Ryan: You’ve been talking about how you haven’t played a show in a year, and how your song Tokyo is about these crazy times. How has COVID affected your practicing, when and how you guys get together, virtual practices, etc.?

Philip: Yeah, I selfishly went out of town and I’m instantly regretting it. It was not worth it. The place where we rehearse is where I live, so we can’t practice until I’m better next week. We’re two weeks down, which is a fucking drag, but we started rehearsing again probably about a month ago after not really seeing each other at all. It’s just tough for us to begin with since we’re spread across the city – like I interface with the public as a bartender. Matt works at the hospital. Jake is doing the good work, driving hot pizzas around. So we were kind of on the front lines in the beginning when things were more scary and confusing. It’s chilled out now, and it’s cool for us to practice, it’s really been awesome. It’s been therapeutic to get back and be rehearsing, But also we’re kind of frustrated because there’s no gigs to rehearse for. We’re just kind of writing this new album, like Alvie mentioned. It’s weird, but it’s super revitalizing, I guess, to get together, to play some of that loud, fast stuff we were talking about, even if it’s just in the room for us. You know, one constant.

Jake: We started doing Zoom meetings when we would normally have practice and we started writing the comic book that way. And we did a couple of quarantine videos, too.

Ashna: Do you guys have any big plans for 2021? Are you guys trying to get some concerts going?

Philip: I think a lot of our mutual friends have bands, but people are moving away, so we’re hoping that if we could just actually survive together, that we’ll be the first band that people call for gigs just because we’re still here. So we’re hoping to hit it hard, play some shows, and get back out on the road again next year, if that’s permitted, or acceptable, or a good idea. But either way, we’ll be ready to drop this cool new album. We’ve done a lot of EPs over the years, but we have yet to put out a huge full length. That’s what I want to do. Make a big old album. I want to see it on vinyl. But we’ll figure out how to get there.

Alvie: We had big plans for 2020. I mean, we had at least three, if not four, tours trying to get booked, and then this all happened. We played our last show on March 6th in Santa Rosa, which was the end of a little tour that we went on, and that was the last time we played together. And it is crazy. So hopefully we’re able to – we’re trying to do a few festivals and stuff. There’s a lot in California, and we usually got to Denver to play Underground Music Showcase, which is like South by Southwest. I also usually go and work South by Southwest. So all this stuff that normally we get to be a part of, we’re not, so we’re really hoping that it actually just happens in 2021. But if that doesn’t happen, we are prepared to just come out and really focus on this next album. And like Philip said, it’s we want it to be big, like over fifteen songs. Oh, yes.

Ashna: Tell us about some of the music you guys are listening to!

Philip: I’m trying to think of stuff connected to our music outside of the world of just rock music. I guess I listen to a lot of post math rock and I like a lot of jazz, jazz, funk stuff. I’ve been sucking every little morsel out of the Thundercat album that came out in March. Daniel Donato is an awesome country guitarist who came out with a badass long 15 song album. Check it out!

Alvie: Well, I’ve been digging a lot from PUP this last year. They kind of remind me of this pop punk kind of stuff. I really like the lyrics. For some reason, country has really hit home for me in quarantine, made me feel real good, so I’ve been listening to a lot of Brent Cobb. There was a new one by Sturgill Simpson that just came out yesterday. I also have been diggin’ a lot from The Blue Stones. Those guys are pretty tight. Red city radio, also a punk rock band. We are big fans of The Menzingers and things like that. Those are the few that came to mind. I think I’ve got some records in the mail, too, so I’ll send you guys that list when I get it! Tyler Childers. That guy is tight. He came out with a fiddle album a few days ago.

Matt: Yeah I was listening to that, I was five songs in like “When is he going to sing?” He never does. It’s all I’ll fiddle.

Alvie: But he does on the last song, It’s called Long By History. It’s about equality. He did a whole interview talking about this album. It’s really good if you haven’t seen it.

Matt: I must have been living under a rock, but Phil turned me on to Khruangbin about three months ago, and I’ve been listening to that record ever since. It’s one of those records where you can sit and really listen to every little thing that’s going on, or you can have it in the background while you’re writing, folding laundry or, you know, chillin. Probably the top one of 2020 so far for me.

Ryan: Who writes the songs? I noticed all of you guys talk about songwriting.

Alvie: That’s kind of where the name came from. I was writing these acoustic tunes that, like, shouldn’t have been acoustic tunes, so they were like, all right, well, they’re Alvie’s songs, we’re the Breakfast Pigs, so boom! Let’s put it together. So a lot of times it was just me writing it, but I would say the last double with Tokyo on there was influenced heavily by the guys. Now, I’ll come up with an idea, like a chorus or a riff, and I really like the idea of allowing them to have some say in it, because, to be honest, they usually make the songs what they are, giving them all the cool parts. I usually come up with the structure, and then they’re the sprinkles, and the cherries, and the whipped cream on top. So it’s fun to come up with something that’s almost an acoustic song and turn it into the stuff that we do, which is sometimes pretty intricate with weird key changes, different time signatures, and stuff.