I’m broke. I’m not a rock star. I’m a guy who needs to feed his family. At my best I’m a thousandaire. I’m certainly not right now, but at my best I am…I’ve got THOUSANDS of dollars…I don’t even know if I have hundreds right now.
story by Don Bartlett
photo by Drew Reynolds
This is Rob Crow: He is chatting amiably with a journalist about the new record by his band, the revered and reserved indie rockers Pinback. The sound of his kids playing fills the background, and he occasionally excuses himself for a few seconds to help his wife find something. This is also Rob Crow: He is in the dank basement of a Lower East Side rock club at 3 a.m. When the fog machine finally takes a break, it reveals the guitarist in full Grim Reaper costume, hammering out death metal tunes with a band named Goblin Cock — one of his numerous side projects.
Crow, as it seems, isn’t such an easy guy to peg. He wears the oddity well, though, and it befits his role in Pinback, a band that has never been easily defined. The band’s new record Autumn of the Seraphs picks up where its exquisite forbearer Summer in Abadon left off. The album’s tight drumming and rhythmic bass lines don’t stray far from their earlier work, but the songs do have a more pressing feel. Yet the immediacy doesn’t always lead in the same direction. Early in the record it seems they’re pointed more firmly towards the pop end of the spectrum, with “Good To Sea You” and “Walters” some of the most accessible and melodic songs the band has ever recorded. As the album progresses, however, it inches towards darker territory. “Torch”, in particular, shows the band indulging a deeper, less immediate feel. The result is the sort of quiet, emotional complexity that has enabled Pinback to consistently reap critical praise throughout its lifespan.
inback is the brain trust of Crow and bassist Zach Smith. They have written songs together since their self-titled debut came out in 1999 and if the process hasn’t evolved over the years, it certainly has varied. “It’s pretty much every way that two people could possibly collaborate other than one of them writing everything,” says Crow. The democratic process also found its way into the album’s artwork, a detail that the singer is particularly proud of. “It was done by a friend of mine. I just told him that we wanted it to be with a bunch of dead angels and stuff, and feel free to go crazy,” he says with hazy laugh. “Then me and Zach edited it so we were both happy. He and I always have a different idea of what we want.”
Yet the dead angels will likely be lost on a large number of listeners. The new record was leaked a full three months ahead of its release date, and almost overnight it was all over the file-sharing sites. While Crow clearly isn’t enthused with this development, he does his best to be open minded. “I hope it does good,” he says with nervous laughter. “I’m broke. I’m not a rock star. I’m a guy who needs to feed his family. At my best I’m a thousandaire. I’m certainly not right now, but at my best I am…I’ve got THOUSANDS of dollars,” he deadpans with mock awe. “I don’t even know if I have hundreds right now.”
To that end, the band has bundled the CD with a free 4-song bonus EP. “There were a few songs that we didn’t put on the record even though I think they’re some of the best songs that we had. I think one of them could have been the single, but they just didn’t fit in with the feel of what we were doing on the record.” In a way it’s vintage Rob Crow — taking things that don’t fit well together and somehow managing to make them coexist.
And he seems comfortable with the results so far. “I never really have an expectation; I just hope it will do okay every time,” he says. “So far I’ve been pleasantly surprised. I have all my other bands’ records I can be disappointed in.”
Pinback :: with MC Chris :: Metro :: Oct. 14.