By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
When the Pasadena alternative rock trio Poe the Passenger performs, there’s one thing the musicians want to come across: being authentic.
“The mantra in our band is live your life loving yourself first and spread love to others when you can,” said Jeff Pridgen, the vocalist and guitarist. “You never know what they’re going through. This is more than music. This is family.”
Recently, Poe the Passenger’s “family” pushed the band’s song “Follow Me” to the top of KROQ’s “Locals Only” show, which features bands out of Los Angeles and Southern California.
“It was a dream of ours,” Pridgen said. “We’re still on their rotation. Now we get to meet people via social media who are from Brazil, France, Russia and Pakistan, as well as local music supporters.”
“Follow Me” is an ode to a handful of Poe the Passenger’s fans and tackles the struggles of being bipolar.
“It’s not something any of us deal with,” Pridgen said. “I’ve researched and read about it. We have fans who have told us that they have it. It’s a tough subject for them, so we decided to shed a little bit of light on it.
“That’s where this ebb and flow comes from in that song. Sometimes people feel up and some feel down.”
Former Pasadena City College students Pridgen, Trent Marderosian and Matt Rosenblum assembled Poe the Passenger in 2017. Although they attended PCC at the same time, they didn’t connect until a few years later.
Since forming, Poe the Passenger clocked well over 100 live shows pre-pandemic, gaining a diverse following of fans from all around the world.
Born in the Chicago area, Pridgen moved to Pasadena in 2011. He was into film before he co-founded Poe the Passenger.
“I was doing a lot more film production and working behind the scenes,” he said. “I dabbled in a bit of acting, too. I had always played music in Chicago.”
He switched to music because he said he believed he didn’t have control over the outcome of his career. With music, he can create these “little, short stories” with songs and put all of his effort into it.
“I get way more out of this than acting,” Pridgen said. “It’s not the case for everybody, but that’s how I feel.”
Inspired by Green Day, early Maroon 5 and Rise Against, Pridgen was performing acoustically when he ran into his now-drummer Marderosian.
“I always wanted to reform a band, but I didn’t think about that when I moved to LA,” he said. “Trent listens to progressive music. He grew up on Thrice and Circa Survive, which had some fame in the early 2000s.
“Matt loves groove. He’s big on Muse, Tool and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. When we’re writing something, sometimes we have disagreements. We are able to meet somewhere in the middle. We come up with really cool stuff.”
Among the cool stuff is the single “Heart Strings,” which was scheduled to be released on February 19. Pridgen calls it a “hometown nostalgia type of song.”
“I wrote the lyrics from the perspective of being away from my family,” he said. “My family is 1,600 miles away, but every day I feel their love.
“I wanted it to feel like I’m taking the people I met here in LA back home to see my brother, my mom and my goddaughter, and bask in that hometown nostalgia.”
Poe the Passenger plans to release an album later this year but wants to release it with authenticity and sustainability in mind. When the trio are not recording, they do community service by helping out at recycling functions or working with the homeless in Pasadena.
“We’re trying to find something we can do to promote the community and promote sustainability,” he said. “We want to be able to reach people around the world as well as locally. We keep it super honest. We come from a perspective of self-growth or inner growth.”
Although a livestream is planned, Poe the Passenger is looking forward to performing live once again.
“There’s something intangible about it,” he said. “This energy that you feel from people and they’re watching you and singing our songs is amazing. It’s the soundtrack of their night.
“That feeling is so incredible. To not have that for almost a year has been really tough on us. Thankfully, we can still communicate with our fans through social media. We miss our fans dearly.”