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.