Q&A: Pigeons Playing Ping Pong on the pursuit of fun and funk

Emma Wishnow | The Daily Orange

Pigeons Playing Ping Pong play as many as 200 concerts a year and find venues anywhere from basements to full on theatres. The band formed in 2009 and have been rocking their psychedelic funk ever since.

A few pigeons are making their way to Syracuse. Instead of flying, they’ll be playing ping pong.

The four-piece band Pigeons Playing Ping Pong will perform at The Westcott Theater Thursday along with bands Formula 5 and Flotus. Pigeons Playing Ping Pong’s new album “Pizazz” will be released this fall as its debut single “Sail On” is out now.

Formed in Maryland in 2009, the band garnered widespread attention for their rhythmic funk anthems and high-energy live shows, playing as many as 200 concerts a year. With two full-length albums out and another coming soon, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong is a fan favorite. The Daily Orange spoke with the band’s lead vocalist Greg Ormont.


The Daily Orange: How did you guys meet?

Greg Ormont: We just met at the University of Maryland, and we started jamming casually like most college kids do. I brought my guitar to school and started making friends on my floor freshman year, and we just decided to form a band.


D.O.: Where’d the name “Pigeons Playing Ping Pong” come from?

G.O.: The name came from my psychology class. If any of you are taking Psychology 100 or 101, you might learn about B.F. Skinner’s experiment where he taught pigeons to play ping pong through operant conditioning. But I was basically just sitting in class with our guitarist and found the phrase on the wrong page of my textbook, so I just rolled with it.


D.O.: If you could describe your musical style in one phrase, what would it be?

G.O.: High-energy psychedelic funk.


D.O.: You guys play a lot of shows each tour. What’s the best part of touring or performing live?

G.O.: Well, we love to play. I mean, we loved playing when we started in college basements and we love playing now in theaters like The Westcott. We’re chasing that natural high that you can only get when you’re at a live concert. We’ve all experienced shows on the audience side that has brought us to a blissful place and we try to pour our energy into each night and have fun. Fortunately, our job, if you want to call it a job, is a ton of fun and we love doing it. So, every part of touring is great. Sometimes you don’t sleep a lot, but you know, there’s no rest for the wicked.


D.O.: What’s your favorite song to perform live?

G.O.: You know, you can’t really say one’s a favorite, you have to say that you love playing them all. Having said that, there’s a couple songs that I have an unbelievable time playing. I would say our song “Ocean Flows” is always fun to jump around during and I like playing the song “Bad For You” because there’s a lot of quick transitions with my foot pedals that kind of keeps me on my toes literally.


D.O.: Syracuse has a lot of student bands and artists that want to make a career out of their music. Do you have any advice for them?

G.O.: Stay true to yourself. I know a lot of people change their personalities over the years as their bands grow, and you don’t want to do that. Stay the person you were when you started, continue to pursue fun and the rest will fall will into place.

They say choose a job that you love and then the rest will follow, and in the music industry, you really can develop a sustainable for yourself while chasing fun. That’s a beautiful thing that young musicians should really try to appreciate. We have as much fun as we did in the college basement. Life isn’t about money. It’s about fulfillment and sharing that fulfillment with others. If you can do that with your music, from five people to 50 people to 5,000 people, then you’re on the right track.


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