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Interview with a Pilgrim

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William Pilgrim & The All Grows Up is a band stationed in LA that recently visited New York to participate in the People’s Climate March. This band is a duo comprised of LA-born Phil Romero and Kansas-bred Ishmael Herring.

The two have been a band for three years now, and the story of how they found one another is pretty amazing. Ish was a foster child who eventually grew too old to remain in the foster system and was forced out. With his last $50, he took a bus from Kansas City to LA. 

He was homeless, but he still had a dream in his heart. He managed to meet Phil through a “terrible” Craigslist ad he created about being a singer. After they corresponded and Phil heard Ish’s music, the two made a connection. 

The shocker is that Phil didn’t even know Ish was homeless throughout the entire time they were recording their first album, “The Great Recession,” which was released in 2012. Initially, they thought their relationship would be solely to create this album, which Phil had already written. However, after working together, they clicked, became a band, and went on to write a second album together. 

Their band name was partially inspired by the character William Pilgrim from the novel “Slaughterhouse-Five.” The main character reminded Phil of Ish, so he bought the book for him to read. (“Slaughterhouse-Five” ended up being the first book of literature Ish ever read.) The other part of their name, “All Grows Up,” came from the movie “Swingers,” where Vince Vaughn’s character embarrasses Jon Favreau’s in a restaurant when he yells, “My little baby’s all grows up!”

When I asked Phil what makes their band different from others, he answered, “Beyond the music, what we are trying to do is influence people and make a difference. Music is just the vehicle.” Take a brief look at this band’s adventures, and you can easily see this is indeed the case. They perform at more benefit-related concerts than anything else. 

Their first album covers issues dealing with economic and financial collapse. Oddly enough, Ish was going through some of these issues when Phil was writing about them, but William Pilgrim is not all talk. As mentioned, they came to New York for the Climate March and spoke up for the cause in several interviews. While in town, they worked with the People’s Art Space in Brooklyn and were even able to film a music video on the local streets.

In LA, the duo has given their time to teach guitar and songwriting to youth homeless shelters in LA in order to give children a voice by helping them use music to express themselves. 

This band is not only involved in music; they are also bringing attention to social issues through webisodes and an upcoming documentary titled “Cheating the Devil.” Some of these projects involve collaborations with well-known artists, like Run DMC, the Blind Boys of Alabama, and Exene Cervenka

William Pilgrim is passionate about music, but their main goal is to make a difference by getting people involved. Phil put it plainly by saying, “Music is something we do for ourselves. 

Because we’re creative people, it’s what we have in our blood. To be able to do something out there with it, that would be great.” He believes that all of the social issues we face are connected. “Climate change is a symptom; the larger problem is economic policy, and we can’t change our issue with our current conditions.”

If you want to get a taste of their newest and second album, Epic Endings, check out their new music video for “How It Feels” (HOW IT FEELS – Official Music Video).

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