Wenn du als Kind schon den Traum hattest auf der großen Bühne zu stehen und es dann wirklich irgendwann passiert. Das hört sich doch an wie ein US-Teenie-Drama. Nicht ganz, hier geht’s um Evan Stephens Hall und Zach Levine von Pinegrove: Vom Studium ab auf die Bühne. Wie sich das alles entwickelt hat und was wir jetzt vom neuen Album Marigold erwarten können, könnt ihr hier in unserem Interview nachlesen, das wir Ende des vergangenen Jahres per Telefon mit Evan führten.
You and Zack are childhood friends. How long exactly do guys know each other? And how did you get to know each other?
Well, so I guess the story starts actually with our parents, who’re friends and our dads are in a band together. I am not sure, if they were in a band together when we were introduced. We were probably five or six or seven years old. That’s the first time we met each other and started hanging out together. And soon after that we were playing music together, but both of us were drummers, that’s each of our first instruments. Zack plays several others and now my primary instrument is the guitar. I remember us playing double drums together, where he would be taking the left side of the kit and I’d be taking the right side at a family bbq in 1996. Something like that.
From then we went to the same middle school. In sixth grade Zack invited me to be a part of the band. You know, we joined a band together, that was supposed to play cover songs. And then the next year, there was a band that was writing original material, which went on to be called Dogwater. We played from 7th grade to 12th grade – so all through high school. I don’t know if you have the same grade system, but that’s basically the age 12 to age 18.
And then we went to different colleges, both in the midwest of the United States. Neither of us majored in music. He majored in history, I majored in English. But we always knew that we wanted to give the band a shot. The band really started when we graduated college and that was in 2011. So that brings us up to Pinegrove.
And when did you start to realize that this is what you wanna do for a living? This whole music thing?
I think it was clear that there is a really magical and – you can maybe say – conversational connection between the two of us from a musical point pretty early on. We knew that we wanted to be making music forever, but there wasn’t exactly a moment, you know. But I think that, when we were at college, we were having conversations like ‚this is what we’re gonna do when we graduate‘. We kinda expected that it would come easily or something, which was totally naive. We spend probably four years playing shows to nobody. I was just writing the best songs that I could and bringing them to the band and really just kind of leaving no stone unturned.
Our family, especially people who were in the industry told us that we need a manager, a publicist or whatever. We just started booking our own shows and played to anybody who would hear us. And slowly but surely – around 2015, so after 4 or 5 years the band being active, did we start to gain a little bit of traction. And then Cardinal came out in 2016. So, it was around that time it become professionally liable.
You’ve already released three albums: Everything So far (2015), Cardinal (2016) & Skylight (2018). Is there any significant musical difference between your new release Marigold and the other ones?
I think the truth is just that we’re going for similar things, but we are getting better at it. We self-recorded all of our albums. So, you know, we recorded in our house. This one really sounds great, I think. I am really excited about Marigold. In this one I was able to write about patience and empathy. I was really thinking about, what it feels like to be a human being, who is living like everybody in time. There is something about being alive, that sometimes feels really quick and sometimes feels really slow.
It’s also about gratitude. Like if you’re stuck in the traffic jam and things feel endless, I think that we’re likely to get kinda frustrated and wish time would speed up. In the song Moment I try to explore that, by where I say ‚I am in this moment, I am in this traffic, I am in this disaster, I can’t see past it. It keeps on going, but it keeps me asking what’s in this moment.‘ This is kinda how patience is related to gratitude. That’s what I was going for with that.
Is there a planned storytelling behind your new album? Like is there a central theme that you’re following?
I would say yes, but I think I tried to do that with all the other albums, too. So, it’s a little bit abstract maybe the way it comes together. But I am doing my best to have each song kinda speak to the central theme. It’s sort of like the album is a house with many different rooms in it and each song is a room. They all kinda need to be related. Or another way to describe it: the album is a polygon and each song is a side. So you can look at it from that perspective but it does correspond to the whole shape. But with each song you get a different point of view, a different thing, that we are focusing on. Hopefully it ends up being one album.
Your song Phase is about insomnia and anxieties. Are these personal issues that you’ve got to deal with?
Well, yes, sure! But if you’re asking if this is a strict non-fictional document like straight from my journal or something like that, I have to say no. I am taking bits and pieces of my own personal experience, things that I hear, things that I read, things that interest me. And I am trying to put it all together in a way that life is not coherent. Life has no obligations to read coherently, but an album does. I am trying to empathize parts that are in line with to overall messages and to overall experiences of hearing it and I am trying to delete the parts that aren’t. So, I am making selections. With that type of strategy, I can’t widely say that it’s based in reality or something, cause that’s not the goal.
And what does your songwriting procedure look like?
It can start in millions of ways. I usually start with a melody. The melody will be attached to certain kinda sounds. Like if I know that in the melody should be a certain sound, I try to find words, that fit. It’s a little random, but it’s also kind of self-conscious. So, I am collecting these words, I don’t always know what the reason is.
From there it’s kind of a puzzle, where I am trying to fit together words that have those sounds. But then also I need to try to make it make sense…and then I need to make it make sense with the other songs of the album. I write like this for about 80% until I can see what the songs are I wanna go for on the album. And then I go through all the lyrics and documents. If there’s a line here or there that I don’t think is quite strong as the others or there is a line that I maybe haven’t written yet, then I’ll maybe look at an image of another song. And try to figure out, how I can reinvisioned it from this song’s perspective. Consequently, I am trying to write the songs that appeal to me most as a listener.
In 2019 you took some big steps. For example, you’ve signed to Rough Trade Records. How did you come up with this decision?
They’ve been so fun to work with so far and have been completely supportive. Choosing them was really natural. The process for selecting a record label is a mutual one. If you’re having an album done, you take a look; which label is working on projects that you’re excited about or that you’re listening to. And you send some labels your album and see who it connects with and then you have conversations with each. With the conversation we had with Rough Trade I just felt like we understood each other…and isn’t that what everybody is looking for in any sort of relationship?! So that was a really good foundation for that, and it gave me a lot of confidence, that they were the right ones.
Your album is released in a few weeks. What are your plans after the release?
We have two tours coming up, actually three. I am just playing some solo shows in record stores on the east coast of the United States. Then we’re going to play full band on the west coast of the United States. And then we’re gonna be playing full band in Europe. Where we’re also visiting Germany. I think it’s kind of a different experience. We like to rearrange songs for the stage. I think the studio and the stage are both unique. We’re not trying to make it sound exactly like the album on stage. We like to be really elastic with the tempo. We’re just having fun up there. It’s not like we’re improvising lyrics or structure or anything like that, but we really do like to play to the room and play to each other. And every single performance comes down a little differently.
Yeah, it’s so important to see that the band is also having fun on stage. It’s a totally different feeling if you can see and feel that.
I think if we’re tempted to do that, we’d probably take some time off. (laughs)
2019 is over now. What did you learn in the last year?
What a deep question. Wow. Yes, I’ve absolutely learned some things, I am just trying to figure out what I want to say officially from Pinegroves perspective. What did we learn? I think one thing is like always keeping the door open for conversations of any sort between your friends is a really powerful gesture. And I think next year I’d like to be there for my friends. Even more. I am just trying to take my responsibilities seriously for those who are counting on me and for people that I love. And I found that I made that kind of observation before, but the new one is that it’s worthwhile to keep returning too and to check in on.
What are your goals for 2020?
Yeah, I am working on another album. (laughs) I am in the writing phase of that and I just hit that point, when I put together all of the songs into one document and see which songs correspond and which songs fit and which songs don’t. And so, from a professional perspective, I am really hoping to make something that I am proud of and people will connect with.
And from my personal perspective: I’ve been writing fictions like essays and I am really getting into it. I’d like to try to do that maybe a little every day.
21.03. Lido, Berlin
23.03. Hafenklang, Hamburg
24.03. Gebäude 9, Köln
25.03. Schlachthof, Wiesbaden