Time can be unkind to indie's progenitors. Bands either burn out or fade away, eclipsed by the newest trend with careers measured in years rather than decades. Pinback, the Southern California forerunner of both indie rock and the home recording movement, is an exception to such aging, keeping true to a signature sound and progressive ethos over the course of the band's 16-year career.
At its core is bassist/vocalist Zach Smith and guitarist/vocalist Rob Crow, who grew up together in San Diego, coming together to jam in living rooms and craft an airy, expansive sound rooted in off-kilter instrumentation and lyrical intricacies. That's sometimes the target for Pinback's naysayers, but such criticism isn't lost on Smith.
"[Obstacles] vary record to record, year to year," he says. "As far as music goes, the obstacle you have is you don't want to just do the same thing over and over. Sometimes it's so natural, we definitely have our sound, but sometimes I think we box ourselves in in that sound a bit."
It's a working formula, contrary to detractions. The release of 2012's Information Retrieved, the first Pinback LP in five years, drew criticism for the band's lack of timeliness.
However, in a day and age when the record cycle has been sped up to feed the public's ravenous demand for content, it's not that preposterous, especially when each prior album took four years for Pinback to write and record. It's just one flaw in what Smith feels is a music industry that caters to instant gratification instead of cohesive or conceptual records.
"The whole music world is upside down in the way I view it," he explains. "It's as if it's just a little candy-coated box full of just one song in it that makes you happy. We're still doing tours and going 'Look at this vinyl record I got and how awesome it is. I'm going to read it from front to back now.' You just immersed yourself [then], that's how we grew up as kids back in the '70s and '80s. When you have so much in front of you at the click of a button, it just waters everything down and things that are special slip through the cracks."
Even with such observations, Pinback's own existence isn't made to be concrete either. As both Smith and Crow have any number of side projects operating outside of Pinback, tenure doesn't necessarily ensure a future for the band. Its fate is subject to the whims of Crow and Smith, the latter of whom doesn't seem so concerned with its possible dissolution -- not to discredit the body of work it comes with, however.
"It's always up in the air," Smith says. "You always do a record and then you decide if you want to do it again. It's not as if we're like 'No, we're not doing another record,' but you have a life going, you have changes in it and you do what comes your way that you want to do. That's the thing, as long as we're passionate about it. We've released so many things that we're like 'Do you want to do another one?' 'Well, we could...'[laughs]."
Maybe such tongue-in-cheek self-deprecation is part of Pinback's longevity -- taking the band slightly less than serious, while also exercising other creative options, allows the project to breathe and its members to return to it with clear eyes.
Fundamentally, Smith is aware of what keeps the band moving forward, ever discrediting the influence he and Crow have had on a generation of indie bands that found their beginnings in someone's bedroom. Living room, bedroom, stage -- there's no difference to Pinback, happily making music all the same.
"I get to do what I want to do and it's not for anything else but people being interested," Smith says. "Treat your fans the best you can. We're just regular dudes and we hate the whole pedestal thing that sometimes happens with bands. I'm just some dumb dude playing bass or whatever, just an average guy. That's part of our aesthetic, I think. I like to be a band for the people [laughs]."
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Pinback are scheduled to play Friday, March 7 as part of the Viva PHX Festival. Tickets are $20.