An Interview with Joe Ragosta of Patent Pending

By 28th April 2017 Interview No Comments

Interview by Ruby Price

Patent Pending are back in the UK for another Spring Break tour and before the second family reunion started at Manchester Academy 3, I caught up with lead singer Joe Ragosta who had to be prised away from a growing queue of adoring fans wanting selfies and signatures.

The punk rock band from New York are in their 17th year as a band with five studio albums and 12 Eps. “What’s crazy about it is that I’ve been in this band way more than half my life, basically it’s been my life, so it’s been great. Everything’s good. No complaints.” Ragosta reflects. “Being in a band is a weird thing because it’s exactly what you make it to be. It can be very difficult and frustrating, disheartening and stuff but if you don’t let that happen then it’s really really fun. It’s a lot of hard work but it’s a lot of fun. So I guess my life has been a lot of hard work and a lot of fun.”

The line-up of the five piece currently consists of Joe Ragosta (vocals), Marc Kantor (guitar), Rob Felicetti (guitar), Corey DeVincenzo (bass) and Anthony Mingoia (drums) however, in the time since the band’s formation in 2001 a number of line-up changes took place. “We basically figured out that to exist for this long, obviously there was going to be some member changes. People have to live a life and, for some people, you learn you have to grow out of certain stuff” Joe tells me. “We’ve learned that as long as good people are in the band, the dynamic is the same. Great people are in the band so we’re having a great time.”

In September 2013, they released their massive hit single Hey Mario which has racked up nearly two million plays on Spotify since, proving to be the band’s biggest song so far. Curious to know if they expected it to take off I asked if it was just something that happened naturally, to which the singer said “I’ll tell you this. Every time that you write a song, no matter how bad it is, you’re always super connected to it at first. So, at first, any song – even the worst songs I’ve ever written – you’re like ‘this is a smash’. We call it demoitis. It’s basically how you get when you write a song. ‘Hit, this is amazing’ and then you wake up the next morning and you realise that it’s awful. The good news is that we woke up after Hey Mario and it wasn’t awful. I just thought it was fun and funny and different to a lot of stuff that was out there. So I knew it was special. I’ve been in the band long enough to know that almost nothing will be a hit, so we’re very excited people gravitated towards that one.”

They followed the song up in 2014 with a six track EP titled Mario & the Brick Breakers: Greatest Hits and a 28-minute mockumentary parodying the Mario characters. “I don’t know why no one told me ‘no’” Joe starts. “My brother had this idea, because we had to do a music video for Hey Mario, to do a ‘behind the music’ thing. It was supposed to just be three minutes long and we turned it into an eight-month project and there’s a version of the movie that’s an hour and ten minutes long. I had a great time but I think the people around me had to have thought I was actually clinically insane because I kept wanting to add stuff. I even grew a real moustache for it.”

The EP gave the band a chance to experiment with their musical style as well, with only two of the songs carrying Patent Pending’s usual punk rock genre. “That’s the funniest part. We did Up in My Tower, which is like a filthy Christina Aguilera circa-2001 song. If you’re unfamiliar with the project, the Mario brothers are in a band with Toad and Yoshi and they have this long, illustrious career and at one point they were really into drugs, meaning the mushrooms from the game Super Mario and there’s a song called Boom Boom, Pass The Mushroom and it’s like a reggae song about drugs, but it’s a joke. We had this serious, serious fan in Birmingham who sent us an email, like a scathing letter like ‘you guys have changed… you’re promoting drug use, this sucks and I hate you… I thought you were good people.’ When we wrote back, I was like ‘it’s okay if you feel this way but have you ever played Nintendo?’ and they said ‘no.’ I was like ‘okay dude, this is a joke and that’s part of the game and we’re completely kidding.’ And they went and played the game and then understood, but they were so mad at us. But yeah, it was a really fun thing. The whole thing was amazingly fun. And what’s really cool is that sometimes people use the song Rainbow Road as their wedding song. That’s hilarious… and beautiful.”

Patent Pending Other People's Greatest Hits FINAL ART

On the 17th of April, a new studio album was announced. Other People’s Greatest Hits is a 10 track covers album and the first single off it, a cover of Spice Girls’ Spice Up Your Life was released on the same day. “First thing’s first. If you don’t like it, we didn’t write it. We claim no responsibility” the 33-year old joked. “It sounds like old-school Patent Pending playing already hit songs. It’s really, really fun. I had a blast making it with everybody and I can’t imagine a Patent Pending fan not liking it. I hope some new fans check it out because they were searching for that other song on the internet and find us by mistake. That’s always funny.”

If you attended two randomly selected dates on any of Patent Pending’s UK tours, you would spot many familiar faces in the crowd. As it happens, there are a number of fans who follow the band to most, if not all, of the dates on their tours. After asking Joe if he knew why this was, he said “We have this thing called the Second Family. It’s this idea that you always have a home here at Patent Pending shows, and even more than that, you always have a home in the rock ‘n’ roll world because it’s usually made up of like-minded people who’ve been through the same stuff. Everybody’s different but everybody, at least at our shows, is accepted. I think we’re a type of band that people feel comfortable going to every single show for because we’re very real. There’s no smoke and mirrors with our band. What you see on stage is who we are, what you see on our everything is who we are.” The current tour has 12 dates which, as you can imagine, involves travelling up and down the United Kingdom and going as far as Glasgow and Swansea. “It’s very flattering when you see that people have taken two weeks out of their life to quit everything else and just spend money. Spend it on hotels and driving – I don’t know how much it costs these people to do this – it’s amazing. It’s so crazy to see it happen and for the numbers to grow every year is really cool. I don’t know why exactly but I’m flattered by it and if I had to give an answer, I’d say it’s probably because we’re a weird family.”

Having only seen them in the UK, I was curious to see if it was anything like that in America. “The US is different because the US is gigantic. It’s very difficult to do that. Your whole country is like the size of some of our states and there’s 50 of them. We’re doing the Simple Plan tour this summer and some of the drives are 15 hours long so it’s very hard to follow if you’re doing that tour. That being said, people have done it in the past.”

In March 2016, the single Six Feet from the band’s previous studio album Riot Hearts Rebellion was released. The music video was played on Kerrang! TV a number of times and received a load of radio airplay which Ragosta said was awesome. “It was really cool because we always like to do different things, and y’know, this band is our life and you’re not the same person every day. It was cool to see rock music get behind that because it was a pretty predominantly-pop track. That song is very personal to me because it’s about how I have a family and I’m also in a band and most of the time those things don’t mix. But I found a way to try and it just means I’ll never sleep again, and that’s what that song’s about.”

If you’ve ever been to see Patent Pending live and they played Anti-Everything, you’ll know that the live song features a ‘boyband dance’ where the four members not playing drums perform a dance you would expect to see during a One Direction concert. I wanted to know where the idea came from. “It was just an idea to be hilarious” the singer told me. “We were writing the song, me and Josh (long-time song-writing collaborator) and I said ‘this part should be weird… we should make it like a boyband’ and he was like ‘sick.’ So we did it and we had this guy Jeremy Carr sing on it, he’s awesome. When we were gonna play it live, I said we should just play that part on a track, it’ll be hilarious. But we couldn’t just play it and stand there, it’d be way funnier if we danced like a boyband. So, cut to a week later, five of us on my parent’s front lawn choreographing a boyband dance to a 30 second part of our song. The best part is when we have fill-ins and we have to teach them how to do the dance… Now that’s funny.”

The songs One Less Heart to Break and Brighter are just two of the band’s songs that really hit on an emotional level which I’ve witnessed people break into tears when they’ve heard them played live. “It’s a crazy thing because it’s not something that’s talked about very much and a lot of people who struggle with those things don’t want to talk about it, whereas the best possible thing to do would be to talk about it. Sometimes when you hear that type of thing, it triggers a reaction. When you realise that “okay, I’m not the only person who feels this way, I’m not the only person who’s going through this, there are other people and I can get help”. It’s almost like hope. So it’s almost like you’re crying out of hope.” Asked what the reaction from those people meant to him, Joe said “that reaction to me means everything because I think it’s amazing that music has the power to do such a thing. It’s so important that music has different sides to it. It’s so important that it’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s heavy, it’s hard and soft, it’s meaningful and stupid. Whatever the song is, it should trigger a reaction. And to know that that song can help people is an amazing thing. Every time I see that it’s great to know that that person, at least for the moment, remembers that they have somewhere they can go and be a part of something.”

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