"The people have spoked and it's a unanimous: The public does not like it, but we're going to make them like it!" Schwartz announces to ET over video chat, Zooming in alongside Sandoval from Sandoval's Valley Village, California home. "Once you come and experience the Schwartz and Sandy's experience."
The moniker has been a point of contention in the first few episodes of Pump Rules' recently premiered ninth season, with Sandoval all about it (even snatching up the website domain for a steal of $18), despite the fact that Schwartz and his wife, Katie Maloney-Schwartz, spoke out against the branding. But now that hundreds of thousands of viewers have heard the name, the boys are sticking with it.
"We're committed," Schwartz promises, with Sandoval adding, "We've heard people say, 'Oh, it sounds like a Jewish deli,' or whatever. But you know, Red Hot Chili Peppers to me, when I first heard that name, sounded like a mariachi band. But now you have a different association. So when you go into our place, the name will become the place, the place will become the name. That will be the association."
"And by the way," Schwartz chimes in, "Tom's not going to like this, but as long as you come, you can call it whatever you want."
The pair is striking out on their own with a new brewpub in Los Angeles' historic Franklin Village (set to open late 2021/early 2022 depending on how final touches turn out), their first solo venture after investing in Lisa Vanderpump's West Hollywood eatery, TomTom (aptly named after them).
"With TomTom, it's like, Tom and Tom could essentially be any other two Toms, but Schwartz and Sandy's? There's only one Schwartz and one Sandy, and that combination, you know what I mean?" Sandoval muses. "You're getting to know us even a little bit more, because this is more of our love child, essentially."
Lisa is supportive of the identically named duo making moves, but has made it known she thinks they're a hair in over their heads, having not realized all the heavy lifting she put into TomTom before their checks cleared.
"In theory, we know what the workload entails," Schwartz shares, "but it's one thing to know it in theory, and now to be fully immersed in it, and experiencing it. Oh my God, I need a hug."
Sandoval, after offering a hug to his bestie/business partner, notes that the two balance each other out, creating a work partnership that simply feels right. They've also gone in together on a '70s-inspired whiskey label, Toms' Good Lovin', available soon online.
"Yes, we get into disagreements, but we're pretty good at just ironing those out and moving forward, and staying focused on what is important," he says. "Love, friendship, business, and being successful together."
Complicating things a bit are the Toms' significant others, the aforementioned Katie and Sandoval's longtime girlfriend, Ariana Madix. The season 9 trailer teased much drama between Katie and Sandoval, with fiery shouting matches over the direction of the bar now known as Schwartz and Sandy's. While Ariana took a step back when she realized what joining the business would entail, Katie remained invested, positioning herself as a maitre'd (AKA head trainer) at the pub. Where that lands will shake out before season's end.
"It sucks," Schwartz admits of watching his best friend and wife go at it, repeatedly. "And not to mention, in a very high stakes moment. Time is money right now. We're under a lot of pressure -- which we embrace with open arms -- but to have this going on while we are pursuing this new venture, it's been a lot. And I try to mediate, and like, listen -- that's my wife. I love her more than anything in the world. So I have her back. But also sometimes, my friend, Tom, I have a ton of respect for him. He makes good points. He has a point, too. And it's tough being in the middle. I find myself there a lot, though. And I think I do OK with it. I'm a decent mediator. I think this, you'll see this season, I think I sort of lost it a little bit. I did lose it."
"We all lose it," Sandoval adds in his friend's defense. "I mean, look: I saw this situation coming from a mile away, and that's one of the reasons why -- I love Katie, we're great friends, we're family -- but I know that because we have strong personalities, this is why I wanted to kind of keep this sort of just between Schwartz and I, and not bring in everybody else."
"As far as Schwartz and I's dynamic, I do not feel like I steamroll him," he adds, a nod to a conversation that Katie brings to the table on episode 3. She tells Schwartz that he lets Sandoval "steamroll him," an allegation Schwartz confesses to be scared to bring up to Sandoval in fear that he will "steamroll me about steamrolling me."
Sandoval says he and Katie are "in a good place" as it stands right now, but gives the caveat that watching the show back could change all that. The guys play coy on how Katie's involvement in Schwartz and Sandy's plays out long term.
"It's tough to not get affected when you see things play out," Schwartz says. "After nine seasons, you'd think, we are pros and everything, but still, this is our real life. It's real stakes, and this is stuff we genuinely care about."
That "stuff" is more in the forefront of Vanderpump Rules than ever before, with the fourth wall starting to break and show the reality this reality show has created: It's given a crop of unknown servers as Lisa's restaurant, SUR, celebrity status and a host of opportunities that come along with it. Book deals, liquor labels and, yes, controversially named bars.
"I understand trying to preserve us working at SUR, and all that stuff, and trying to make ends meet, and hustling. Get that next gig, the next place in life. We're still doing that," Sandoval says. "But ... I think it's also very appreciative to the audience to acknowledge that, because it's been a long time of not really acknowledging the fact that, yes, we are celebrities, and we have this platform -- sort of celebrities -- and we have all these things that we do that sort of rely on that, in a sense, whether it's Schwartz and I doing like a cocktail ... or Ariana and I doing cocktail demos and virtual events. That's all because of the show. And so, we have to acknowledge that in some way."
Season 9 could make or break Vanderpump Rules in a lot of ways. It's the first season without three original cast members who were all integral to the series' early success: Stassi Schroeder and Kristen Doute, whom the network and production company behind the show parted ways with after past racist actions they took against former co-star Faith Stowers resurfaced last summer, and Jax Taylor, the omnipresent "villain" of sorts who announced his departure from the series, along with his wife, Brittany Cartwright, in December. Ratings are down from season 8, but ticked up slightly between the premiere and episode 2.
"We're always optimistic," Schwartz offers of how long he sees the show running beyond season 9. "We're grateful to be back. It's a good season. Objectively, it's going to be an awesome season. It's dynamic. It's got verve. It's good. Of course, the people who aren't on the show anymore, they were my friends before the show, they're my friends now -- they're our friends now -- and yeah, we miss them, but it's going to be a killer season. We got a lot of cool things we're working on. The new bar. I feel like the show has a lot of room to grow, and deep, deep, well of history and friendship to pull from. And I still think like it has a lot of life."
"And outside of us, there's some very, very heated moments to come," he later adds, teasing blow-ups and blowout fights to come. Some of those are previewed in sneak peeks at the season, notably between Ariana and Lala Kent.
"Lala is definitely not afraid to take shots at anybody, but she definitely is a little afraid to take the backlash that comes with that," Sandoval says, defending his girlfriend. "We all screw up from time to time, and we usually own up to that. Give them... Lala doesn't like to own up to anything, though."
"That's not true," Schwartz interjects, trying to keep the peace. It's worth noting, Lala's come for him, too. The season 9 trailer caps off with this button, courtesy of the Give Them Lala author: "I can't understand you. Oh! It's because Sandoval's d**k is in your mouth."
"That was a metaphor!" Schwartz makes clear before signing off the Zoom