More than the average band, Delran pop-punk outfit All Systems Go is amped for new audiences (they’ll get one when they play the acoustic stage at Atlantic City Beer Fest at Bader Field in June). For they know, from their early days, what it’s like to play for the same old crowd.
“Eventually the sets would become the same, and we didn’t know how to book bars,” says vocalist Matt Pezza. “We were getting to the point where we were playing to the same people so much that if we had one bad night where the sound was off and someone from our high school heard it they would be like, ‘Oh, this band sucks, and they just think they are hot shit.’ Towards the end, it would become less fun.’’
Originally, the band was called But We Aren’t Canadian, and included All Systems Go guitarist and vocalist Devin Kollmar. The band lasted from 2011-2013, and then they all went their separate ways for college. It wasn’t until Pezza caught up with Kollmar in the summer of 2016 that they decided to rekindle the old flame, this time with the intention to learn from their mistakes.
“In the summer of 2016 I saw Devin for the first time in years,” Pezza recalls. “One of our first conversations we had was about music. Immediately he goes, ‘We could have done a lot better especially towards the end, and we were picking up momentum,’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, but we were playing for the same people all the time’. Then the conversation turned into starting the band again, and doing it our way and learning from our mistakes. Let’s start again and see where this thing takes us.”
One of the first mistakes the band addressed: their name.
“This was another subtle mistake, but when we were called But We Aren’t Canadian, everyone called us BWAC,” says Pezza. “That wasn’t our band name, and I wanted to pick something that people have to say. There were so many learning things like that we had to learn. We also learned that we have to practice more, we had a couple shit gigs in high school because we didn’t practice, and now we don’t play a show unless we practice first.”
And it turns out practice does make for some pretty damn good performances, and All Systems Go were playing in new venues across South Jersey. An open mic night that Pezza would frequent in Mt. Holly turned into something that would change the band’s trajectory.
“I would go to an open mic in Mt. Holly at this then new venue called the Union Firehouse,” says Pezza. “The open mic was sponsored by Blue Light Studio, and it was one of those things where if you come back three times you get entered in a drawing for free studio time. I missed a couple weeks but when I came back they said, ‘Oh Matt, your card won the drawing.’’’
The free studio time at Blue Light Studio was the launching point for the band’s first EP, The Waiting Room. The overall theme of the EP is about waiting; whether it’s waiting to ask someone out, waiting for things to get better, or waiting to gain confidence. The Waiting Room marked a turning point in how Pezza and the band wrote songs.
“Back when we were But We Aren’t Canadian we would write songs just to have them,” says Pezza. “With The Waiting Room, we were writing to get our feelings out, and with the EP, each of the songs symbolizes waiting.”
Waiting is something that Pezza, and the rest of All Systems Go (rounded out by Dean Mason on bass and Joe Codispoti on drums) had to deal with over the past couple of years. The band had a disappointing experience recording their first LP Garden State Skies, but the experience of recording their second LP has been anything but—All Systems Go turned to Man Overboard vocalist Nik Bruzzese to produce it.
“All the songs sound super different,” says Pezza about the upcoming record. “The record has totally different vibes from start to finish, and it has a lot of cool moments in it, but it sounds like it was done by the same band. I think personally this is the most ‘All Systems Go’ we’ve sounded.”
The record won’t be released until later this year, but in the meantime All Systems Go has released some singles that didn’t make the album. Similar to The Waiting Room, the band explores different emotions. In the song “No One Does Homecoming Like Us,” All Systems Go sings about their ‘G-rated suburbia’ town of Delran, and how, in that setting, it’s easy to feel like others are getting farther ahead; particularly with social media showing only others’ successes.
“I was working at a dead end job when I wrote ‘Homecoming,’” remembers Pezza. “At the time I wrote it I wasn’t feeling great about myself, and felt like I was falling behind. All my classmates were getting engaged, buying houses, and I felt like I was running out of time. But it was one of those things I fell into because of social media. It’s easy to compare your life to others on social media.”
Pezza also got inspiration for the song from seeing a post in his high school Facebook group about a 10-year reunion.
“I saw a post on my high school class’ Facebook page that said, ‘Can you believe our 10 year reunion is coming up?’ This person said, ‘I can’t believe how successful you have all become,’ and I didn’t feel that way at all. Once I saw that Facebook post, the rest of the lyrics came together super quick. That Facebook post itself was kind of reflected in the bridge, ‘There’s talk of a 10-year reunion celebrating everyone’s success, but hardly anyone is talking about it.’ On the actual Facebook post, like 100 people saw it, but it got two likes. So hardly anyone is talking about it, but maybe I’m not the only one who feels that way.”
Another single that the band released was “Don’t Let Me Go,” which is about being able to rely on your friends during tough times.
“The song itself is about when you are down, it’s OK to be able to connect to your friends,” says Pezza. “Even if you can’t open up, you should be able to. “
“Don’t Let Me Go,” is also a hit with fans at recent shows, and it’s been surreal for Pezza to watch—if the familiarity with audiences was toxic early in the band’s existence, now it’s a plus.
“At our last couple shows we’re up on stage and can hear the echo from people singing it back,” says Pezza. “It’s been one of the first times that we have been able to experience this.”
All Systems Go will be playing at Jawnaroo on May 21 in Mullica Hill. Information can be found here. They will also be performing at AC Beerfest on the acoustic stage on June 5. Information and tickets can be found here.