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Try The Pie Playing San Jose Rock Shop Before Embarking On Tour Behind New Album

In Music
Being Bean: After helping found the Think and Die Thinking Collective and playing in local bands Sourpatch and Crabapple, Bean Kaloni Tupou is leading a new band, Try The Pie. Photo by Adrian Discipulo.

Being Bean: After helping found the Think and Die Thinking Collective and playing in local bands Sourpatch and Crabapple, Bean Kaloni Tupou is leading a new band, Try The Pie. Photo by Adrian Discipulo.

Bean Kaloni Tupou talks a lot about safe spaces. It makes sense. The leader of San Jose’s airy indie-punk project, Try the Pie has done a lot to create local places where people can be themselves, no matter their gender or sexual orientation.

As a part of the bands Sourpatch and Crabapple, and as one of the creative forces behind the Think and Die Thinking Collective, Tupou has become a fixture on the South Bay’s DIY punk scene—known for crafting socially-conscious and catchy punk rock, while making sure kids have some place to be that is open, accepting and fun.

“People who find these shows (often) have (that as) the only safe space sometimes in their life,” the musician and community organizer says, sitting on the patio at Boba Bar in downtown San Jose. Tupou, who prefers to be referred to by gender-neutral pronouns, knows the importance of places where people can hang out, free from fear of judgement or persecution. “It’s so imperative to some young people that they have that.”

Though the delicate, sophisticated sound of Try the Pie’s punk-laced balladry might suggest a musical upbringing, Tupou’s earliest exposure to music was in the Tongan church. “Harmonization is, like, really key in Tongan church,” the singer says. “Like, someone will sing and everyone starts singing and finds their place in the harmony. I feel like it was really an early influence on the way I saw music.”

The improvisational nature of Tongan traditional music shares a lot of similarities with the DIY culture Tupou eventually fell in love with.

As a teenager, Tupou began accompanying friends to shows—either at the Billy DeFrank center, a community center for LGBT youth that has become a hub for punk, DIY, and alternative cultures in San Jose—and to other all-ages shows around town.

After graduating from high school, Tupou moved to San Francisco and lived in a house with a group of friends. Tupou’s first band, Sourpatch, sprang from meeting Rich Gutierrez—now the band’s bassist—who shared the singer’s interest in the bouncy pop-punk of Go Sailor.

“‘I want to start a band like Go Sailor,’” Tupou recalls telling Gutierrez. “And he’s like, ‘Let’s do it.’”

Eventually Sourpatch became the most visible band on San Jose’s underground punk circuit. Tupou moved back to San Jose, and helped found Think and Die Thinking, a summer music festival that celebrates San Jose’s excitingly self-sufficient DIY scene and scenes like it from all over the country.

The DIY scene taught Tupou a lot about the bare-bones business of being an independent artist. “Going on tour (with Sourpatch) fueled my passion for wanting to keep doing this,” the band leader says. “Some people graduated high school and never stopped being in bands, and it’s like, ‘I guess I could do this.’ And…the kind of things you hear and are affirmed when you’re in spaces like that…like, ‘We can reimagine our future, and…we don’t have to abide by these constructs that we’re given.’ I think that was really appealing to me as a lifestyle, and the music is definitely something I’m passionate about, too. It’s nice to have all of that.”

Now Tupou finds comfort in Try the Pie. Backed by Gutierrez on bass and Nick Lopez, formerly of Ugly Winner, the band plans to release their first album, Domestication, this spring. Critical praise is already starting to trickle in for the record, and Tupou is gearing up for a tour in support of it. That starts at the Rock Shop on the 6th.

In contrast to Sourpatch and other bands Tupou’s been in, Try the Pie is a little more understated. Poignant. Personal. Whereas other ventures were a democracy—a group effort—Try the Pie is a showcase for Tupou’s songwriting.

Fittingly, as an album, Domestication deals largely with Tupou’s own personal history, growing up in San Jose.

“Most of my family have left San Jose, either (because) it’s too expensive or it’s just not the same as when they grew up—all the orchards and just land everywhere,” Tupou says. “That’s something I think about a lot. I know my family has left, but I still choose to stay here. Traveling or going on tour kind of satiates the need to be in other places or know other places. So if I ever feel like I need a break I can go on a break. I can go to LA and visit friends, y’know, but…I don’t know if I could have what I have here anywhere else. That’s definitely what keeps me here.”

Try The Pie play the San Jose Rock Shop on March 6 at 6:30pm. More info. Local punk icon Tony Molina is also playing. Check out his solo album below:

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