We’re not wacky-personality guys that try to force people to like our music because we’re crazy…We’re just guys that really like making music and that’s fine with us.
story by Jonathon Simpson
photo by Brad Miller
Pinback’s music is the kind that accumulates a lot of odd-couple/opposite descriptions like “simple yet complex” or “mellow yet intense,” so I don’t feel bad about hoisting my own contradictory labels upon both the duo and its music: easily approachable, often illusive. The music is precise, well-orchestrated simplicity: pop beats, subtle bass, mystery plug-ins and vocals embedded into the music, not embroidered upon it.
Music that doesn’t just benefit from several listens, the best of it is practically predicated on doing just that. Pinback is well-known for its DIY home production, and the process is meticulous. “We’re both pretty much hacks. We just go over stuff so much that it eventually starts sounding alright. We do our own things and make them fit together,” says Rob Crow over the phone while fixing one of his computers used for recording.
Rob is one half of the San Diego-based band (“I’m the fat one,” he says,) along with Armistead Burwell Smith IV (or Zach – “He’s the skinny one.”)
The latter was driving one of the band’s vans to NYC where they played for the October 12 release of their new album, Summer In Abaddon. Rob was to fly there the next day because he had to be there earlier for a solo show and because he “doesn’t know how to drive anyway.” (I can’t report whether Rob, who in his late teens spent some time in a mental hospital, was joking or not. I think he was…)
Both members have one or more back-burner bands or projects but Pinback takes priority, says Rob. “Everything else I write for is easy to do, but Pinback songs take up to a year to write sometimes.” You really have to fish out the lyrics, and when you do – with or without the help of the CD booklet – you might be left bemused, but not unsatisfied. Fun fact: “You can usually tell who wrote what lyrics by what handwriting it is [in the CD sleeve]. I write the majority of them,” says Rob. What you get is music that is good for rainy days, sunny days, car rides, social nights or Bloody Mary mornings – whenever your mood desires music that falls somewhere between ambient and salient.
Live, the band is no less illusive than their records. They seem shy in the lights, kind of humble; just purveyors of music that seem to represent them well. “We’re not wacky-personality guys that try to force people to like our music because we’re crazy…We’re just guys that really like making music and that’s fine with us.” They are not, nor have ever been “wannabe rock-star fuckbags,” says Rob with a laugh. And live, they don’t stray very far from their records – though neither is lost in even the tiniest beep, boop, shake or other effect.
“There’s a lot of stuff going on,” explains Rob. “I don’t know how many plug-ins we use for each song.” It’s interesting enough to see them play, if only to answer for yourself questions like “who sings when and plays what” and “how was that sound made?” Though everything on the record is played and recorded by Rob and Zach, on tour with them are up to three other members, filling in on drums, keys, synths and so on. The last time Pinback played in Chicago, practically the only thing to come out of anybody’s mouth that wasn’t a song was when Rob noted that he had never had so many lights on him, and that it made him feel fat. Then he used the top of an unopened bottle of spring water to pry open another Guinness.
Pinback :: with Earlimart :: Metro :: November 7.