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    Pinback

    Pinback Biography

    When it comes to Pinback's ambiguously addictive music, you can throw out the rulebooks and the news cycles. Like all great rock, Pinback's work, especially its latest release Summer in Abaddon, sticks to you long after the first listen. It refuses to let you out of its seductive grasp, because although the arrangements are crystalline and the vocals lilting, there flows a dark undercurrent beneath everything they offer. Weaned on the angular rock of Slint, Pinback sound pretty, but they've got a hate machine humming and they know how to use it.

    They've used that machine to manufacture their music from the comfy environs of their homes and garages. Which is cool, because the San Diego natives live around the way from each other. Armistead Burwell Smith IV -- known to his pals as Zach -- and Rob Crow may have more than ten bands between them, including Zach and Pall Jenkins' unclassifiable art-punk outfit, Three Mile Pilot. But for now, Pinback is Rob and Zach's baby. And it's a menace.

    Zach Smith talked to Scott Thill, ace music critic for ARTISTdirect and the madman behind Morphizm.com, where you can read this interview in its entirety. Here are some highlights:

    Let's talk about your bass work, which is among the most distinctive in rock. When did you start playing?

    I started when I was 15, so it's been about 19 years now. I picked it up because I was really into reggae at the time, and I was going to form a high school reggae band with my soccer friends. There was already a guitarist -- which was cool because I didn't want to play guitar anyway. And there was already a drummer, although he was using a drum machine. So I picked up the bass. If you think about it, a lot of rhythm guitar is played in the low range, which is the bass' specialty. It's a great instrument to mess around with that way. But a lot of my style just came from being bored.

    It gets boring playing simple notes after a while.

    Exactly. I love traditional bass though. I love to keep the bottom end going when I'm laying down a rhythm track. But there's much more you can do. It has a distinctive sound you can branch out from. And I do think that it triggers something different in the listener, because most are used to the guitar doing everything. So it does give something unique to our sound.

    When did you and Rob first realize that you had this chemistry?

    It pretty much happened right away. Maybe it was just a good period in time to do it, because we used to be roommates long before we ever worked together in Pinback. We had always talked about getting together and doing something just for fun, but I was busy with Three Mile Pilot and Rob was busy with Heavy Vegetable and his other bands. But when I was taking a break from Three Mile Pilot, we started playing and recording. And around that time, the computer was becoming just good enough to record music, although in a shitty way. So I said, "Hey, this will work. Let's just record into this thing! We don't have to go into a studio." The next thing we knew, we had 11 songs that weren't too bad, so we put them out. It worked out well. Timing, as with everything, is always important. And that was a good time for us to get together.

    What do you think about the changes in the industry since that period, the mid-'90s?

    I'm glad the major labels have dwindled to a few, because they still to this day turn out music that's more or less all about the money. But whatever -- I understand their job is to sell product. That's what they do. There are some good bands that come out on major labels, but the majority of it is crap like Ashlee Simpson, shit like that. She's fabricated, but she sold a million records, because there's a machine behind her. But it's not disgusting if you realize that it's not about the music, it's about selling something.

    The sad part is that there are people who don't understand it's product.

    That's the idea. But that's also why Touch and Go is a great label. They let us be ourselves, and they're a bit more visible than other independent labels. It's nice to have more people hearing something different, and not have it pushed on them. Our stuff is played on the radio here and there, which isn't normal in the slightest. But, in a sense, it's nice to expose people who wouldn't normally hear Three Mile Pilot or Pinback on the radio. Whether they hate or like it, at least it's different. If you turn on the radio now, you hear the same song over and over again.

    They've enjoyed a longevity that other indies haven't had.

    It's the way they think. They have a good way of looking at things; that's why they're still around. I've wanted to be on that label ever since I was 19, and the same goes for the other guys in Three Mile Pilot. We loved the bands on that label, so that's where we sent our stuff. Although we never did hear back from them! But it was unsolicited. They were probably like, "Who the hell are these guys? F*ck them!"

    Click here to read the rest of this interview on Morphizm.com.

    Click here to listen to "Fortress" from Pinback's new album, Summer in Abaddon.

    Pinback All Music Guide Biography

    While a rotating cast of instrumentalists find loose assembly under the Pinback name, the partnership of Armistead Burwell Smith IV and Rob Crow is at the heart of the some of the most complex, postmodern indie pop happening on the West Coast. In the first few days of 1998, Armistead Burwell Smith IV (of San Diego-based Three Mile Pilot) and Rob Crow (of Thingy and Heavy Vegetable) formed a part-time recording project under the name Pinback. The simple plan grew more involved while Three Mile Pilot took an indefinite hiatus and Crow put a number of his musical projects on hold. Recording on Smith's home computer, the duo enlisted Three Mile Pilot drummer Tom Zinsor, and by the following August, Pinback had finished recording 14 songs of delicate, canonic pop that was tentatively slated for release on San Diego's Vinyl Communications. However, when interest in the band skyrocketed after a Tim/Kerr label showcase at the North by Northwest Music Festival, the record got tied up in a bidding war that caused a slew of contractual problems and held the record in limbo for almost a full year. When they were eventually cleared from all former obligations, Pinback finally signed with New Jersey's Ace Fu Records, which released their eponymous debut in early 1999, almost a full year after it was recorded. With their long histories in West Coast indie circles and the marriage of the players' diverse musical backgrounds, Pinback scored immediate critical success. The Some Voices EP that followed the next year on Tree Records displayed a slightly more lo-fi and elemental side of the band while building on the intelligently constructed songcraft of their eponymous debut. Blue Screen Life, the band's second studio effort, exuded something more musically pure from Pinback. Gone was the frilly rock nonsense; instead, Pinback went for more of a melodic nature with classic indie flair. Pinback made their Touch & Go debut in fall 2004 with Summer in Abaddon, which saw the bandmembers continue slowly to push themselves a bit further with complex song structure while maintaining their indie pop sensibilities. Two years later, Pinback issued Nautical Antiques, a collection of rarities and B-sides spanning from 1998 to 2001. Their second for Touch & Go, Autumn of the Seraphs, followed in 2007. Though it would be five years before Pinback followed up, their 2012 album, Information Retrieved, found them easily settling into their melodic groove. ~ Nate Cavalieri, Rovi


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