PRS artists Jeremy Schon and Greg Ormont along with their bandmates in Pigeons Playing Ping Pong (PPPP) captivate crowds with a high-energy mix of funk, rock, electronica, jazz, and good vibes. The story of this Maryland-based funk jam band has a humble beginning - a random dorm room jam at the University of Maryland. After a considerable amount of hard work, PPPP soon found themselves touring the country and as of midnight on January 24, 2020 - releasing their 5th studio album.
Guitarist and vocalist Greg Ormont had this to say about their newly released album, Presto, “We went from a lengthy tour straight into the studio to record Presto, and I think that had a big impact on the sound. We had just finished playing a lot of these songs on the road, and that experience made our performances on the album so much more confident, lively and electric.”
We were fortunate to interview Jeremy and Greg about the band's recent shows, PRS instruments, and their latest album.
PRS: Pigeons Playing Ping Pong have been drawing record crowds at increasingly larger venues, how is the band & crew adapting to this rapid expansion?
GO: We’ve been very fortunate to see our crowds grow into the thousands lately, but we’ve always had the mindset of playing every show like it’s our biggest show ever since the start of the band. Even back when we were just getting started playing tiny bars for small crowds, we would get together before walking on stage and say “let’s play this one like it’s Madison Square Garden.” That mindset has really helped us jump to larger rooms because our preparation and stage energy has remained consistent all this time. But now that the stages are growing in size, we’re starting to explore extra production and added stage antics. For example, this past New Year’s Eve was our first time playing an arena, so we were able to invite additional performers to make use of the extra space on stage and in the crowd. Our NYE theme was “The Electric Kool-Aid Asheville Test,” so as we approached midnight, we invited mascots dressed as Grateful Dead dancing bears to build fake brick walls on the wings of the stage while we were playing, and once the clock struck midnight, we had two Kool-Aid mascots break through the walls while I yelled “OOOH YEAH!!!” New Year’s was crazy and there’s so much more I’ll have to tell you about later. We’re definitely looking forward to planning more wackiness in the future as we continue to have more room to do so.
I think our biggest adjustment has been on the crew side of things. We’ve always traveled with a quality light show, but now we’re also renting extra lights for bigger rooms, which requires a bigger trailer or an additional box truck. We also just started traveling with a mixing board for our in-ear monitor rig, which just adds to the pack. On top of that, we’re lucky that our fanbase is constantly clamoring for new merch, so the rest of our trailer space is packed to the brim with merch boxes. I kind of miss the days of traveling with two merch boxes and eight light fixtures, but I wouldn’t trade this exciting growth for the world. As our production demands grow, so does our crew itself. Our five-person touring crew now outnumbers our four-person band, which is pretty surreal to think about considering we started as an acoustic duo playing coffee shops and open mic nights at University of Maryland back in 2006-07. We couldn’t do it without our team and it’s been awesome watching their maturation in recent years.
JS: Man… it’s pretty crazy. It’s kind of surreal to be playing such huge rooms now, places we never thought would be possible back when we were playing small bars 10 years ago. We’re truly blessed to have an amazingly loyal and supporting fanbase, The Flock, that has allowed us to stretch our wings and get to where we are now. We’re also lucky to have an incredibly dedicated and hard-working crew to back us up on the road - without them there’s no way we’d be able to pull off playing at these huge venues. Our team crushes it!
PRS: This May, Pigeons will be once again hosting its “flock” at the 11th annual Domefest in Masontown, WV. What was the initial catalyst for founding a new festival so early in your career together?
JS: I’ve always been a huge fan of music festivals, ever since my first camping festival experience at Bonnaroo in 2006. I just loved the festival atmosphere and the marathon of live music. However, the two festivals that really inspired Domefest the most were All Good and Camp Barefoot. All Good had only two stages, side-by-side, with no overlapping sets, and was the perfect escape from reality in the serene setting of Marvin’s Mountaintop. The overlapping set conflicts at Bonnaroo always made for very tough decisions, so it was great to avoid that at All Good. Camp Barefoot was a smaller, more intimate festival that featured more up-and-coming regional touring bands, and I discovered a ton of new emerging bands at that festival. When we started Domefest in 2010, I wanted to combine my favorite elements of these festivals. It’s been very cool to be able to help other bands be discovered by music fans, sticking to the two-stage format while booking a ton of up-and-coming artists.
GO: Believe it or not, the inaugural Domefest was the first music and camping festival that I ever attended. Needless to say, my life was forever changed for the better. At the time, I was just starting to see more concerts and beginning to grasp the tremendous impact that live music can have on a person or group of friends, and then Domefest came along and blew the worms out of the can. I was blown away by the positivity of the event and eventually found myself champing at the bit to help make the magic happen for years to come. As a co-producer now, I have the utmost respect for anyone who helps organize such wonderful events because it’s a huge undertaking but all of the hard work behind-the-scenes is always worth it when you see the crowd happier than ever. Plus, we eventually get to take off our walkie talkies and play at the festival that we built from the ground up, which is a really rewarding experience.
PRS: We happen to know that you guys recently added an SE Hollowbody & a Silver Sky to your sonic arsenal. Have there been any other notable additions to, or subtractions from your touring rigs?
GO: I upgraded my primary guitar to a PRS Custom 24 back in 2018 and it plays like an absolute dream. Plus it’s ocean blue, which happens to be my favorite color, and we all know how important that is. I’m thrilled to have recently added the Silver Sky to my touring rig so I can add that Stratocaster sound on some of our 1970s-inspired funk songs. Between the Custom 24 and the Silver Sky, I have the sonic range of funk completely covered, and they both play like butter.
JS: Since getting the SE Hollowbody II I’ve been playing it non-stop at home, it’s truly an amazing guitar for the price. As for my touring rig, I’ve been very satisfied with it since I started playing my Hollowbody II many years ago. My rig hasn’t changed much over the years, just the occasional pedal repair or minor upgrade. I’m afraid of change, clearly.
PRS: You both are longtime PRS loyalists and proud Marylanders, can you remember your first experiences with our guitars?
JS: In high school I remember seeing pictures of an Emerald Green quilt-top PRS Custom 22, and couldn’t get over how badass and cool that guitar looked. That was my dream guitar until I became obsessed with the hollowbody tone and feel.
GO: When I met Jeremy at the University of Maryland, I only had an acoustic guitar and only knew the most basic of chord inversions, but I had been singing for years. A lot of my growth as a guitarist can be traced back to Jeremy. He took me under his wing, so to speak, and expanded my musical knowledge across the board. He opened my ears to new music and gave me my first PRS experience when he lent me his SE Singlecut for practices and early gigs. With that in mind, PRS is sort of like the only thing I’ve ever known, although I will admit that my first electric purchase was not a PRS. It just didn’t feel right over time. There’s something about a PRS that feels more ergonomic. The neck is so easy to navigate and nothing feels clunky. Everything is right where it needs to be for my playing style, which includes a lot of volume sweeps and playing on or off the pickups.
What music have you been listening to most recently in your downtime? Whether it be for inspiration or recreation.
JS: We listen so much different music and try to pull inspiration from as many different genres as possible. However, lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Greensky Bluegrass, California Honeydrops, The Wood Brothers and Tom Misch.
GO: My musical palate is all over the place these days and I can thank Spotify for that. Since Jeremy and I organize Domefest and still assist with the day-to-day management of the band, a lot of my listening is music that is great to have in the background, likely without lyrics or just distant vocals. Before I had Spotify, I would go on YouTube every work day and listen to “lofi hip hop radio - beats to study/relax to” almost exclusively. Nowadays I’ve been working to the soundtrack of Khruangbin, Kikagaku Moyo, YAM YAM and Tommy Emmanuel, to name a few. When my wife comes home, we usually switch to Steely Dan, Anderson .Paak, Fleetwood Mac or the Spotify playlist “All Funked Up.” And in my off time, I’m just as happy listening to Phish Radio as I am The Phantom of the Opera. I performed in around 25 musicals before college and then saw 50 Phish shows from college on, so I love revisiting both of those roots regularly. But my favorite moments are when my selected Spotify playlist completes and it continues to play similar music. There’s nothing better than suddenly realizing you’re digging a song that you’ve never heard before, scrambling into your pocket and thinking “this is awesome, who is this?” I’ve discovered so many new bands that way and I hope other people randomly stumble upon our songs, reach into their pockets and ultimately laugh at the name Pigeons Playing Ping Pong.