Interview: Pinegrove

By Conor Mackie

Pinegrove are about to have a huge 2016. Last month, they dropped their debut album, ‘Cardinal’, and the reaction has been amazing – check out our very own Glen’s review.

With the album set to dominate way into the year, we caught up with Evan to chat about recording, upcoming tours and his writing process.


So, last night you performed at Run For Cover HQ and the show was streamed over Facebook. How did you find the show? Did it feel strange knowing that it was being live-streamed, and is that something you’d consider doing more of? 

Yes! I think it’s cool that there’s this new feature on Facebook that is so directly applicable to what musicians are doing…. it was pretty obvious from the first that if there was a way to live stream, people should be live streaming concerts. That said, I was kind of nervous upon hearing that we were streaming the show, but truthfully forgot about it pretty quickly thereafter. It just felt like a regular show once I got in the swing of it. Well, a really good show – the audience was great that night

I think I’m a bit of a technophobe, so I’m always slightly nervous about new technology. But I agree that if there’s a way to get shows into the eyes and ears and minds of as many people as possible, then it’s definitely a good thing.

I kind of consider myself technophobic too, or at least bad at technology, and usually the thought of having a camera on me totally freezes me up. But I think since I was in a performative mind-set anyway, it wasn’t so different from the regular approach.

That’s cool. So do you feel you lose that fear of being in front of a camera when you’re performing?

There’s just something about my words being eternally and uneditably marked. I’m constantly looking for better ways to express myself, and I feel easily embarrassed when I listen back on my speaking voice. I think a lot of people feel that way, but I suspect that’s more of a timbral anxiety.

Mine’s less about how my voice sounds and more about how I phrase things or, like, the fluency of my speaking voice. But, yeah, I think that since performing has its own set of rules that I feel like I am beginning to understand, it’s a space where I can more freely do my thing.

The tour with Into It. Over It., The World Is… and The Sidekicks is coming up, and I think it will be the biggest tour you’ve done both in terms of size of the venues you’re playing, plus the length of the tour, right?

Definitely, and we’re going down to SXSW first too, which adds a week or so onto the total. I think it’s gonna be approx 7 weeks…. woo!

Woah, that’s a long time. That really rules. Playing in these bigger venues, are you worried about connecting with people in the same way? 

It might be difficult, especially since I’m thinking a lot of the people in the audience will be hearing us for the first time there. I’m a loud singer though, which helps, and I think I can emote to the back rows.

But, as the opening group and certainly the least known on this tour, I wonder how deeply first time listeners are going to be willing to connect, which is no comment on them, it’s a trust thing — a person, I think, is unlikely to feel deeply in a public place if they have no reason to trust the performer yet. Some performers are very good at immediately earning that trust.

It’s not something I’ve considered a whole lot before, but I think whether we connect with new, bigger audience will probably have to do with a mutual willingness, a reciprocity. It’s my aim, of course, to do my part. All this said, we’ve played way more basement shows than any other, and I think I’ll probably always love that, or playing in a living room with my acoustic guitar.

That’s really interesting, I’ve seen some footage of the basement shows where there are fairy lights all over the place and everyone’s sitting down and singing along.

You’ve been doing Pinegrove for a long time now and there’s been a rotating lineup more or less from the beginning. Is this something that’s going to carry on being the case with the release of the new record, or will you firm up the lineup into a more solid group?

I think it’s more situational than it ever was the plan. All the people we play with are good friends, most of them from Montclair, with the exception of Nandi, who I went to Kenyon College (in Ohio) with. But, basically, as we were playing more and more shows, it became hard for some of ‘em to keep playing with us and also be a full time student, for example.

Pinegrove is my life, it’s all I’m really interested in doing, but I completely understand that not everybody’s gonna feel that way. I think we’d like to have a more regular line up, probably things are going to settle down when a couple of these guys graduate from college.

But as it is we just have a handful of people who know the songs and are our pals, and so basically before the tour we’ll see who’s available, haha! It’s always me on guitar and singing with Zack on drums, and singing too, recently, or just me with a guitar.

So you and Zack are the only two constant members at the minute?

More or less! But we’ll have the same lineup through May – that’s David Mitchell (of Gulfer) on bass and Josh Marre on guitar. It’s the first time we’re really venturing outside of the Montclairian inner circle, but these are also two friends who are terrific players and I’m sure it’s gonna be cool.

Our first band practice is today, if we can get home! [At the time of our chat, Evan was stuck in Boston thanks to a wicked snowstorm]

How did signing to Run For Cover come about? Had you known them previously, or did they get in touch after hearing you play?

Well, we were working already by then with Greg (our booking agent) and he’s friends with all the folks at Run For Cover, and when we finished ‘Cardinal’ he showed it to them and they liked it!

We finished it in like June of last year, the process of arranging a deal that made sense for everybody is a long one, but we’re really happy with how it’s all turned out, and REEEALLY happy to finally show this album to everybody.

Oh wow, I bet you’re itching to get it into everybody’s ears. That’s a long wait. Is there any nervousness at all? I know that it’s being hyped a lot and people are expecting good things!

Yeah, I’m just excited. I’m proud of it, and we worked on it for about two years and I took a long time to write it, too – I started writing ‘Aphasia’ in 2012.

You wrote ‘The Metronome’ way back in 2008. Do you still connect with songs in the same way as you did when you wrote them?

Yes, I think I do. It’s true, that’s the oldest one – I still like that one, but some I do get tired of, but that’s my internal metric for when it’s time to write new ones.

I assume that the way you write songs has probably changed a little since 2008?

I’m always trying to expose myself to new music and literature, always trying to learn new things and develop ways to be a more sensitive artist, a more sensitive reporter.

A reporter in what sense?

A spelunker of consciousness, doing my best to honestly present what it’s like, from my perspective, to be a human being.

In the past, you’ve talked about putting narratives in your songs, but them not being linear. Is this important to you in terms of making your songs accessible? Allowing people to put their own spin on things?

I dont think I really prioritize lyrical accessibility, but I do make an effort to make them melodically accessible. A successful song to me includes a few different layers of interest, and I want all these layers to amplify each other, but also be coherent on their own terms, but there needs to be at least one layer that has some immediacy. Usually that’s rhythm or melody.

Do you have a layer of interest that you focus on the most?

Melodic phrasing I think is the thing I think about most, probably. The shape of the melody, how it lands. I dunno, it’s kind of abstract, it’s an intuitional thing, it’s sort of geometric or, like, spatial.

You said you’ve done recording mostly in your bedroom beforehand – was it different this time?

No, actually this was a lot in my room, too. We recorded drums in a big room at SUNY purchase, then almost all of the rest was at my house in my wooden room with the windows open, incidental sounds bleeding in.

Is recording in your own space something you feel is important? Does it form more of a connection?

Yes, I do like recording in my house.

Why so?

It’s private, I think that has something to do with it.

And is liking that privacy linked to you always searching for the best way to present yourself and your words?

Well, we know what we’re going for and have developed a bit of an internal language for expressing it, so it makes sense to just do it that way. Plus it’s more fun.

Thank you so much for this, it was a total blast go get to discuss your band with you. Hey, I’ll see you in Toronto in April!

Awesome, please do! Thanks so much, Conor.

Thank you, Evan!

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