Penpusher is a songwriting unit comprising Ave Chan, Brian Leery, and most recently, Thomas Wu.
The band’s name is a playful reference to the gruelling 9-5 pencil-pushing existence — particularly familiar to Ave (who was a practising lawyer) and to Brian (who was working in PR) when the band was first formed.
More importantly, however, “Penpusher” also alludes to the focus on lyrical content in their music, inspired in part by the folk, alt-country styles of Ryan Adams and Neil Young, with, as a touch of the “brashness (or ‘anyhow play’) found in punk or lo-fi genres”. Beneath all that folksy “campfire tunes”-like cheer, however, there is a sense of exploration — of self, urban existence, and meaning — that underlines many of their songs, which will no doubt resonate with many city-dwellers. "A City Full of Whores" ; "Everything is Beautiful When There’s More Space”
The band have only been making music together since early 2011, but one could say it all began back in 2004 when Ave met the band, Leeson, of which Brian and Thomas are both members. Or perhaps even as far back as 1998, when Brian and Thomas started their first band. Maybe the seeds were sown when Ave learnt to play the piano as a child, after which she also played in “a smattering of other bands”.
Nevertheless, their respective musical journeys as individuals have seen them through many bands, playing a variety of roles, and many types of genre music.
“Suffice to say, we would [only] play music that we felt comfortable in our own skin, playing. It may not sound like much, until you appreciate that there are folk out there who play music to sound like someone, or be someone else apart from themselves.”
As Penpusher, however, what they’re most passionate about is music as a medium itself, which is perhaps why the band members describe themselves as “not so much a band in terms of what bands are normally perceived to be”, preferring to see themselves as part of a wider “loose collective of people who write and create through the medium of music”.
At the moment, its current members form the core group of songwriters, who have collectively written several songs in “a minimalistic form”, though there are plans to work with other musicians who will offer up their own interpretations of those songs, as well as explore other musical possibilities.