It seems like craft brewery collaborations with bands are becoming pretty commonplace these days, but when the brewery is one of the best in the nation and the band are longtime Pittsburgh veterans, we definitely take notice. We sat down with Chris and Steve from pop-punk outfit Punchline to discuss their “Punchlion” IPA with Dancing Gnome, their upcoming album Lion and their record release show at Mr. Smalls.

So, the obvious question first: How did you guys connect with Dancing Gnome? How did the whole beer idea begin?

Chris: Our friend and booking agent Josh Bakaitus originally had the idea and got it into motion.

Steve: Andrew [of Dancing Gnome] and I were neighbors on Mt. Washington. He actually lived with my friend Joe DeWitt, who has done videos for Punchline in the past. We never met then, but in that first year when he started brewing beer in his apartment, I was on the other side of the wall working on new Punchline songs. It’s kind of a crazy story, how we knew the same people but never met until this. They’ve seen us play a bunch of times and we even played in bands together back in the day.

What’s your ultimate beer? How much does it overlap with the “Punchlion” beer? 

Chris: Dancing Gnome is definitely my ultimate beer! Otherwise, for me as not a real huge drinker, I’ll usually order a Corona. I probably like Corona because I get to stuff a lime in it. I also don’t mind PBR as far as the cheap stuff goes!

Steve: I love IPAs. Unless I’m on a beach, then I like Mexican beers. One thing we can say for sure about Punchlion IPA (because the guys from Dancing Gnome told us so) is that it’s hopped aggressively with Citra, Simcoe, Amarillo, Mosaic, Ekuanot, Columbus, and Chinook hops. We told them we wanted it to be the La Croix of IPAs and they were like, “Um, okay guys, you stick to music.”

How did you guys design the label, come up with the name, branding, etc.? 

The art for the label comes straight from the cover of our new album, which was painted and designed by the amazing Dave Watt. Dave is a Pittsburgh artist who has done a lot of work for us over the years. He is just as humble as he is insanely talented…anyone who sees the art from Lion will agree with the latter! Anyone who meets him will agree with the humble part.

What does the new album sound like compared to your other albums? 

Chris: On Thrilled [the band’s 2015 release], we stepped into the world of all-out pop. We weren’t afraid to use electronic elements and a lot of synth on that record, and I’m really proud of what we made. On Lion, we stepped back into the world of rock quite a bit. It’s a lot more raw and organic, and the fact that it’s self-produced really comes through in the songs. It’s a return to our roots in several senses, but I really believe that it’s our strongest album in the songwriting sense. I think that anyone who already likes Punchline will love this album, but this is also the album that I’d like new listeners to hear first.

What are some things you do to get ready for a big show like the Pittsburgh record release? 

Chris: Being an independent band, getting ready for a hometown show has a lot of elements. Practicing the set is obviously a huge given, but we also have to put a lot of thought into promotion and making sure that the show is an experience, and not just four sweaty dudes playing songs at the crowd. We honestly do everything we can to make the show a special night for everyone. Maybe a few single people will meet and fall in love with each other, and remember this night for the rest of their lives. Maybe a few other people will drink a bunch of Punchlion IPAs and have some funny and embarrassing stories to tell for years to come. Anything is possible.

Punchline and Dancing Gnome’s “Punchlion” IPA will be released at noon on Saturday, March 31 at the Dancing Gnome brewery in Sharpsburg. The “Lion” album release show starts at 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 31 at Mr. Smalls Theatre — and if you’re lucky, you’ll get to check out both for free! Tag a friend you’d like to take to Dancing Gnome and Punchline’s show at Mr. Smalls on our FB or IG page for a chance to win two Punchlion IPAs and two tickets to the 3/31 show!  Winner picked Friday 3/30 at noon.