San Diego's post rock-meets-subdued pop duo Pinback has kind of been under the radar for the past five years.
Rob Crow and Zach Smith took a break from recording new Pinback songs to focus on side projects and family, all while taking Pinback out for occasional tours. But the duo returned in late 2012, armed with drummer Chris Prescott for Information Retrieved, which is full of as many muddled messages as it is classic songs like "Loro" and "Penelope."
The obfuscation is part of Pinback's DNA, and its charm. So when we recently caught up with vocalist Rob Crow to discuss the album, he didn't want to give too much away. Instead, we gushed about Star Wars and how midichlorians ruined the prequels.
Rob Crow: Sometimes we have the guy that plays drums [Chris Prescott] and that same guy is also our live drummer.
The size of your touring band has changed quite a bit over the years. How do you make it work with three people?
We use back tracks and visuals and all this other crap. They're the best shows that we've ever done.
I don't know, everybody seems to like it more now. Everybody agrees these are the best shows that we've ever played.
What kind of visuals do you guys have?
Let's see here, all sorts of things. Little shorts for one of the songs. It's kind of hard to explain.
I guess I'll just have to see for myself. Zach has said that it's tough to choose what to play since you guys have so many songs. With that, how do you approach setlists? Do you tend to mix it up?
We mix it up until we've got something that pleases everybody, and then we stick with that for awhile until we do it everywhere at least once.
Are you playing a bunch of new songs on this tour?
Oh yeah, a bunch of those songs, a bunch of old songs. We always make sure we get it all. We play forever, that's cool.
Is your set pretty long, then?
Yeah, it's about an hour and a half.
Are there some songs you play every night?
Oh yeah, of course. "Loro," "Penelope," "From Nothing to Nowhere"...I don't know. I'm looking at a list right now [laughs].
"Loro" is one of my all time favorite songs from you guys, how did it come to be?
"Loro" was from the first record and that's when I came over to mix and [Zach] was like, "Check out this thing I've got." He already had the basic two basses and the drums in there. I was like, "Oh, I can put something over this," so I added the vocals and the piano part, made the chorus and all of that stuff all real fast.
Information Retrieved was your first album in five years. Why the delay?
Zach put out a couple records, I put out a bunch of records. Zach had his first kid, I had two kids...a lot of life stuff happened, good and bad.
How much did that life stuff influence the record?
I don't know, theoretically life stuff is the record. It's a vague mirror to whatever's going on.
Can you explain the song "Denslow, you Idiot?"
There's all sorts of stuff about this record that I'm not going to explain for a year or so. There's a definite scene and a story and all of these hidden messages and things and the reason behind that is to give people stuff to talk about after shows. Usually at the shows, people want to hang out and say hi and don't have much to talk about sometimes, but it's always great to meet new people with all of the clues and stuff it gives people some stuff to ask about. I'll gladly talk to anybody about that stuff at the shows, but to give it all away before anybody even knows that there is a question is like a spoiler. But that song is 100% historically accurate.
Is it about the illustrator?
100% historically accurate.
...or somebody else?
[Adopts a goofy voice] I can't tell you.
You guys were recently on Yo Gabba Gabba. How did that come to be and how did you come up with the song for the show?
It was their song, they just asked us to do a version of it. I was a big fan of the show, still am. My kids love the show, it's a great thing to be able to say, "Hey, check out how cool I am kids," and they're like, "Yeah, whatever." [laughs] They love the show, but they don't care so much that I'm on it. We just had one little part. Their other friends are on there every episode and a lot of daddy's friends are on that show.For a non-music question, I know you're quite the Star Wars fan. How do you feel about Disney making the new Star Wars movies?
I'm super excited, I can't wait. I hope it has more to do with the Pixar line of excellence. Pixar almost always makes something really spectacular. The stories are so great, whenever I would watch those movies when the prequels were coming out, I'd just be like 'why can't these be good'?
The prequels [were] supposed to be the greatest movies ever made, right? And everybody knew they were supposed to be the greatest movies ever made, [but] they're all big steaming stinky piles of poopy guts, but other movies were coming out [at the same time] were excellent and children had great role models and things. It drives me nuts [laughs].
So, you think Disney will have a good, fresh take on it?
I hope so, I can't say, but I have "a new hope" for it. It's not just that they're doing [episodes] 7, 8 and 9; they're doing all of these extraneous films too at the same time that have nothing to do with that. Just more gritty Star Wars universe, please. Ooooh, boy.
You guys put out a new album and you're going to do some tour stuff, other than that, what are some of Pinback's plans for the rest of the year?
Just lots of touring, pretty much. I think we're both trying to finish up some other projects...who knows, maybe put out an EP or something.
Have you been working on some new songs?
Not really. There's definitely some in the chamber. We work on them, so they're some of the greatest songs to one person. At the end, there's a voting process and one person usually doesn't win certain songs. That's what EPs are great for. This is all theoretical, this isn't anything we've definitely planned, but the way it usually can work is that song that you think is the greatest thing ever is finally able to come out and then history will be the judge.
Any more Star Wars thoughts?
The thing that annoyed me the most about the prequels is that there was no heroes, there's no real protagonists. It was like recruitment for the dark side and I've always been a huge fan of the light side of the force.
I still buy Star Wars toys, but I never buy Darth Vader toys or TIE fighters or anything like that. I'm all about the cool guys' stuff, the B-wings, X-wings, landspeeders, things of this nature, Luke Skywalker stuff. I'll go Boba Fett because he's rogue, but I love that there's heroes. Heroes go through a hero's quest and it comes out rad at the end. I admit, it would be nice to have a real hero. The prequels ruined so much of that. All it has to do with is midichlorian bullshit, who cares?
Here's what I'm hoping happens- certain things like the idea that midicholrians make you a Jedi were actually a dark side plot. Who was in charge of making these? It could obviously have been Palpatine with his hand in there somehow. It could make the idea of not having midichlorians as horrible as...I don't even want to say. I'm just saying that if they keep on this track, there's going to be midichlorian-only planets, and that's not right. There's going to be midicholrian-only washrooms.
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And that's not fair.
That's such bullshit. You're going to have you know play the midichlorian panthers and I would totally join the non-midichlorian panthers, and I'll get sunglasses because they'll be silly. Pinback is scheduled to perform Thursday, January 31, at Crescent Ballroom.