Pickwick Abandons Folk for Gritty R&B
The debut album from Seattle's Pickwick is a shot of gritty, soulful rock 'n' roll, with sharp guitar stabs, light organ fills and a groovin' rhythm section, all hung out on the line of Galen Disston's passionate vocals.
Kyle Johnson Pickwick
But it wasn't always so for the band.
Pickwick's first incarnation was as a mellow acoustic folk project, on the heels of Fleet Foxes' breakout success. But the music, with accordion and pedal steel, felt derivative, and Disston and his bandmates nearly gave up before jumping off in a different direction. It turned out that finding the band's true sound led to a creative explosion.
"Changing up the sound and writing collaboratively was very new to us, and we try to preserve that feeling as we continue. It really aids in the creative process," Disston says. "In the previous incarnation of the band, I was relatively comfortable strumming an acoustic guitar, and now we're pushing ourselves and using instruments that we're not as familiar with. And I'm screaming a lot more, which is totally new to me."
The self-released Can't Talk Medicine, due out on March 12, follows the Myths project, a series of three 7-inch singles that caught the attention of Seattle's influential KEXP radio station. But where Myths was essentially a set of well-formed demos, Can't Talk Medicine finds Pickwick fully formed, a brilliant collection of songs dynamic in their musical construction and raw with emotion. The band describes themselves as garage R&B.
"Sometimes the soul tag gets a little bit misappropriated. We revere soul as a genre and don't claim to be able to emulate anything actual soul artists do," Disston says. "We play the way the '60s British rock 'n' roll bands like The Spencer Davis Group and The Animals and, here in Tacoma, The Sonics interpreted soul music. Those reference points are more appropriate to what we're doing and to where we're headed than saying soul or neo-soul."
The sound grew out of everyone in the band having their say, carving out their own personal style and tossing it all back together.
"Unknowingly, it's been a process from the beginning of this new formation of the band, where everybody's equally contributing in the songwriting," says Kory Kruckenberg, the producer and multi-instrumentalist who joined the band recording the first Myths release.
Kruckenberg, who won a Grammy in 2011 for best engineered classical album, was the missing piece for Pickwick, which also includes Cassady Lillstrom on keys, Garrett and Michael Parker on bass and guitar, and Alex Westcoat on drums.
"As a band, we were looking at getting ready to do some touring and put a little bit more of our lives into the band so a bunch of us moved into this big house together and we have a practice space and that's where we made the record," Kruckenberg says. "We made this house our world when we jumped into preparing for the record."