Pickwick

To hear Pickwick tell it, their popular Myths 7-inch series was merely a group of rough sketches they'd been developing over the previous two years put to wax. That a CD collection of those "demos" held their hometown Seattle's Sonic Boom Records #1 sales spot for a period of weeks in 2011 shows those six songs amounted to something more than tossed off basement recordings. With a successful year of festival invites and an ever larger string of hometown sell-outs behind them in 2012 the band refocused on recording and have a year later emerged with Can't Talk Medicine. Upgrading from the basement used for Myths and setting up shop in their living room, the band's own multi-instrumentalist Kory Kruckenberg served as engineer. The 13 finished tracks include three re-recorded and fully realized Myths cuts and a collaboration with Sharon Van Etten on lead single "Lady Luck."

"A cool thing about this record," says Kruckenberg, "this house has made its way onto the record. We've tried to include the quirks of living here." Guitarist Michael Parker wryly spins the situation differently saying "our record doesn't sound like a lot of other records because it was recorded in this living room." The choice of a carpeted location may have been a double-edged sword, but the use of this unconventional space was fully compatible with the band's own grittier leanings and desire to establish a unique musical aesthetic. By recording to 1/2 inch tape on an 8 track and incorporating found sounds, Kruckenberg was additionally using a canvas that provided for an intentionally different dynamic than a modern digital effort. Why tape? "It's about dirtiness," Kruckenberg explains referring to the distortion that the taping process itself can imbue on a recorded sound. He reports his final results with a grin, "It's raw."

An audiophile's full attention to every detail shows in the final mix: voices and instruments have the space to assert their full identity and tones shimmer in lengthy decay. The percussive clang of the piano hammers in lead track "Halls of Columbia" are incorporated instead of hidden away. The organ drone in "Window Sill" is elevated from dissonant psych clutter to an eerie foundational element. The harmonies of Parker, keyboardist Cassady Lillstrom, and guest Kaylee Cole are at turns sweet, unsettling and epiphanic. It's all orchestrated to support frontman Galen Disston's gospel growl and build on the mood of his words.

"There is a layer to our songs that I don't think very many people have picked up on," says Disston, who prefers listeners delve into their own imagination with his words over providing a literal history of every lyric. What he will relate is that Can't Talk Medicine mines themes of mental illness. "It's about art making you go crazy," he reveals. "We idolize and value that insanity when it's in the name of art." But as his lyrics also imagine it, life in creative overdrive can be nervous, desperate and grotesque. The refrain in "Window Sill" speaks of planning a defiant suicide and Myths crowd favorite "Hacienda Motel" recounts a risque homicide.

Many of the deeper answers about influences and a preference for mystery can be traced to the band's own voracious interest in music that's mired in obscurity. Reissues from Designer Records, the seminal output of the Black Ark. Robert Pete Williams, Alan Lomax, the Walkmen, The Sonics, and Abner Jay are among the diverse list of names referred to with reverence in the living room. 'Famous L. Renfroe as The Flying Sweet Angel of Joy' is a current well of inspiration for Disston who, like his idol Bob Dylan, has through his own deep exploration of American roots music developed a signature vocal delivery.

Pickwick's DIY history of making & distributing their own records continues into 2013 with the Spring self-release Can't Talk Medicine, initially available digitally via iTunes and on CD at your local CIMS-affiliated independent record shop. The Cold War Kids' Matt Maust is guilty of the album's cover design. The band travels to SXSW in March before embarking on a headlining tour of the continental U.S. in April.

The Moondoggies

When Kevin Murphy sent his new album, Adiós I'm A Ghost to me, I assumed the title was just a clever play on words filling the void until he found just the right turn of phrase to sum up The Moondoggies' third full-length release on Hardly Art. It turned out, he already had.

Adiós I'm A Ghost, as a title and explanation of a theme, combines levity with ideas that are no laughing matter. "Adiós I'm A Ghost was, like our [band\ name, a combination of a joke and serious ideas. I heard the phrase on a Phil Hendrie podcast...and it grew into something else for me; being able to have life after death. Because we live and die million times in the big span of being around. We transition. And the Moondoggies lived and died and lived again, but not so absolutely...we just shifted away, shed our old skin and now we're..." Murphy drifts off. " I hope" he says, "this album relays our want to have no form."

To shift shapes, much less become shapeless, the Moondoggies had to change: their line-up, the way they communicated, recorded, and wrote. They would have to push beyond the public pigeonhole of being a bearded band from Seattle singing in harmony to give the breadth of their influences a space in the spotlight. For Adiós I'm A Ghost they drew from a diverse list of musical influences from Pink Floyd to Blonde Redhead, Mississippi John Hurt to Nirvana.

Though they are oft compared to Laurel Canyon crooners or Southern swamp boogiers, Adiós I'm A Ghost is a quintessentially Northwest record. It speaks, with more than words, of tumultuous transformation -- changing pace as often as the weather on a Seattle spring day. Musically and lyrically, it balances light and dark, marrying the boisterous blues of their debut album Don't Be a Stranger, the symphonic sadness of Tidelands, and a temperamental timbre previously unheard from the band. Still present are their signature honeyed harmonies, Bobby Terreberry's bubbling bass lines, Carl Dahlen's chugging drums, Caleb Quick's roiling Rhodes, and lead vocalist and guitarist Murphy's heady hooks. But there's something undeniably different about this record, least of which is the addition of multi-instrumentalist Jon Pontrello to the band.

On paper, Adiós I'm A Ghost took a month to record in the studio and three years to write. In reality, it was over a decade in the making. A band made of lifelong friends, the "newest" official Moondoggie, Pontrello is actually Murphy's oldest musical collaborator. The pair first began writing songs together at 14 on their parents' back porches, playing both punk (in their band The Familiars) and pickin' traditional bluegrass together. Pontrello had been an unofficial 'Doggie since day one, but he'd been unable to commit to the band until he was needed in 2011 to fill in for bassist Terreberry on a tour. When Terreberry returned in 2012 after a year break from the band, Pontrello's passionate performances on stage and his opinions in the studio had become so invaluable, they decided to officially expand from four members to five. "This is the band we hear in our head beginning to be realized," says Murphy.

With new, old blood and a renewed passion for playing together, the Moondoggies channeled the band's beginnings: dingy dive bars and DIY house shows, those damp teenage back porch jams, the hours on end spent improvising in their practice space. In the process of recording Adiós..., songs laid to rest were reborn ("Don't Ask Why" was recorded for a never released album). Others were tirelessly edited until they were just right ("A Lot to Give" has been written and rewritten countless times over the course of years). Others exploded from the electric energy of the studio. All told, the band recorded 21 songs with producer Ryan Hadlock at Bear Creek Studios.

The 12 songs the band settled on highlight their dichotomies: dirty hooks and sweet harmonies, electric edge and plaintive pleas, chaotic collapse and restorative rhythm, nostalgia and newness. Though there is plenty that evokes the band that came before. Those of you looking for something familiar will be wowed by the Crazy Horse deja vu of "Don't Ask Why," and several of the new songs have already become live standards at Moondoggies shows. But as a listener, the most exciting parts of the album are the band's explorations of this undefined territory they sought to inhabit. The surf strut that begins "Midnight Owl" is unlike anything heard before on a Moondoggies record, the upbeat tempo masking a brutal retelling of love at any cost.

As a creative process and a finished product, Adiós I'm A Ghost is the Moondoggies at their best yet; exemplary of their desire to move beyond a self-made mold and embrace a boundary-less existence.

Who’s Going

73

Upcoming Events
Stage 112

  • Sorry, there are currently no upcoming events.