Power pop superfans delight fellow devotees with ‘Material Issues’ podcast

material issues

Mark Hershberger, left, and David Bash of the “Material Issues” podcast.

Every week, Mark Hershberger, who lives on the East Coast, and David Bash, who lives on the West Coast, get together to talk about music. Not just any kind of music, but a particular category known as power pop.

“They’re bands that grew out of Top 40 radio in the ’60s and ’70s, with songs that were all about melodies and hooks, strong vocals and harmonies,” says Bash, of Los Angeles.

The cover of Raspberries’ self-titled 1972 debut album.

“The glory days of power pop were Beatles circa ’66 up to Raspberries ’73,” says Hershberger, of Audubon (Camden County). “But then you had a lot of jangly harmony British bands, like Oasis, doing the same kind of thing.”

Hershberger and Bash could go on and on and on about power pop, and … well, that’s exactly what they do each Wednesday at 6 p.m. EST, on their “Material Issues” podcast, a combination of deep, geeky music chat and engaging interviews with recording artists, mostly from the ’60s and ’70s.

The idea for the show arose in 2021, when the pandemic was still wreaking havoc on the music industry. “I made a casual mention to Dave, ‘Why don’t we do something together where we just talk about new releases and music and stay active,’ ” says Hershberger, who also owns Pop Detective, an independent record label. It would become the perfect transition for two guys who first met in an early 2000s-era internet power pop chat room where they shared a love for what Hershberger calls “melodic pop bands that have some guts to them.”

So off they went to Facebook where they introduced their “Material Issues” podcasts. “The first two episodes were just a lot of clowning around like we were 14-year-olds,” says Bash. But the show got a couple of thousand subscribers right from the start.

“So we thought, let’s spread it out to YouTube,” says Hershberger.

By the fourth episode, they started adding guests, drawing from Hershberger’s record label contacts and the fact that Bash has a pipeline to interesting bands through his International Pop Overthrow festival (more on that later).

“We found people who hadn’t been interviewed in a long while and archived their stories,” says Hershberger. “We wanted to know how they did what they did back then, how their career folded, and what they’re doing now. It made for a much more interesting program, more interesting stories.”

Gilbert O’Sullivan has appeared on the “Material Issues” podcast.

The show’s first guest was Sal Maida, who played bass for a few ’70-era bands (Sparks, Roxy Music, Milk ‘N’ Cookies) and is co-author of “The White Label Promo Preservation Society: 100 Flop Albums You Ought to Know.” Among other guests since then have been Gilbert O’Sullivan, best known for his hit “Alone Again (Naturally)”; Glen Burtnik of The Weeklings and Styx; Rhino Records co-founder Harold Bronson; and James Warren and Al Steele of The Korgis. So far, “Material Issues” has archived 142 episodes. (You can watch the episode featuring Burtnik below.)

“In the beginning it was like, ‘Who wants to be on “Material Issues”?’ A lot of people jumped at the opportunity, which was great,” says Hershberger. “But now we’re at the point where we can pick and choose who we want.”

The podcast’s name is an homage to Jim Ellison, a ‘90s-era power pop rocker who took his own life in 1996. “One of the most iconic power pop bands of all time was called Material Issue,” says Hershberger. “Ellison (the group’s frontman) was a genius. And their two albums were unbelievable. They’re one of my and David’s favorite bands and when we were deciding what to call our program, David said, ‘Well, I named my music festival after their first album, International Pop Overthrow. So why don’t we call it “Material Issue”?’ And I said, ‘How about “Material Issues”?’ It opens up the show to talking about things other than music.” Which is something the pair do on occasion.

Hershberger describes the show’s target audience as between the ages of 40 and 70. “They’re mostly people who remember all the late-’60s, early-’70s stuff from when they were kids. And then there are the late-’70s bands, like The Knack with ‘My Sharona’ and Bram Tchaikovsky with ‘Girl of My Dreams.’ Classic power pop songs. That’s the wheelhouse of the people who remember the guests we’re interviewing.”

International Pop Overthrow has been an annual festival since 1998.

They are also the kind of people who have been flocking to Bash’s International Pop Overthrow music festival since it started in Los Angeles in 1998. “The first year we did it, we had about 100 bands,” he says. “Half of them were from outside of L.A. and about 15 were from outside the U.S. It was a really big success at an indie grassroots level, not a Lollapalooza level. But that’s what I wanted.

“One of the reasons I named it International Pop Overthrow was because I wanted our kind of music, power pop — melodic rock ‘n’ roll — to overthrow what was being played on the radio at that time, which was a lot of Korn and Limp Bizkit, boy bands and things like that. Unfortunately that hasn’t happened, but we’re still here!”

Except for two years during the COVID shutdown, IPO has continued presenting original bands playing original music across the country, in cities such as New York, Chicago and Boston, and overseas in places like Copenhagen and at the British Invasion landmark, Liverpool’s underground Cavern Club. “This will be our 20th year at the Cavern,” says Bash, who is proud that the festival also champions the international pop scene.

Most IPO events run for a week, with bands playing 30-minute sets from 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. every day. “The festival just keeps spreading out,” says Hershberger. “Most are unsigned indie bands, just out there promoting themselves. That’s what’s cool about it. They get a fan base, sell a lot of merchandise. People get to know who they are.”

Bash says there is only one requirement to get into the festival: “The bands have to be good. I have to like what I’m hearing because I go to all these festivals and I want to enjoy myself. I think I have pretty good taste when it comes to melodic rock ‘n’ roll. I figure if I like it, other people will like it.”

Which is also the philosophy behind “Material Issues.” They do what they like and don’t worry about tomorrow.

New episodes of “Material Issues” are posted every Wednesday.

Bash says “Material Issues” guests seem to like hopping into the wayback machine, as well. “A lot of them don’t realize there’s a core group that really appreciates what they did,” he says. “Sometimes they think that they’ve been forgotten by everybody, but then we bring them on and they see that they still have some fans.”

Bash spends his podcast off-hours immersed in music from his collection of 15,000 CDs, 2,000 LPs and 1,500 45s as he works on promoting the IPO festival. And when Hershberger isn’t co-hosting “Material Issues,” he is clocking in at the Philadelphia Reserve Bank, where he has been a senior financial analyst for 33 years. Then it’s off to Haddonfield High School, where he announces varsity boys and girls basketball games. Oh, and there is also the Saturday night bartending gig at the Il Villaggio restaurant in Cherry Hill.

“When you think about it, every single thing is a memory,” he says. “Even this conversation we’re having five seconds ago is already a memory. That’s why I take every moment and I try to live it as much as I can because all you really have are the memories.”

The “Material Issues” podcast, including an archive of past shows, can be found on YouTube and at materialissues.podbean.com. Shows are live every Wednesday at 6 p.m.

Tentative dates for the 2024 International Pop Overthrow in New York, at The Parkside Lounge, are Nov. 7-10. Visit internationalpopoverthrow.com.


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