On a Thursday afternoon, mere days before embarking on a sizeable U.S. tour, Armistead Smith (born Zach Smith) sits at home with his wife and nine-month-old son. Never would one guess from this scene that this humble new dad is half of the legendary indie rock duo Pinback.
The other half, Rob Crow, was unable for comment, but Smith was kind enough to sit with CoS for an insightful half hour to discuss their upcoming tour, Record Store Day release, and the (eventual) next Pinback album.
How is Information Retrieved coming along? What’s the process been like?
It’s coming along nicely! I mean, we have a lot of ideas kicking around for now, more than we’ve ever had. But between this guy (his aforementioned nine-month-old), Rob moving houses, and us switching studios, it’s been hard to come out with anything or record anything. So, as far as ideas, it’s coming along fantastic. But as far as a release date, that’s a little tougher [laughs].
You just announced a pretty huge spring/summer tour. A while ago you were touring old albums in their entirety. Any intentions of doing that on this upcoming tour?
Well, there was the Pinback Presents: The Rob and Zach Show where we played Blue Screen Life start to finish and also This Is a Pinkback CD, our debut.
So, what are you touring then? Any new material?
For this tour it’ll be a little more straightforward. We’re to the point now where we just have so many songs we’re not ever sure what to play. It’s tough to choose from 75 different songs you can play live. Rob actually is doing a Facebook poll right now for votes on what the fans want to see live when we play the shows, so that’ll be interesting. And we don’t really have anything new except for the Information Retrieved, Pt. A EP, which will be dropping later this week.
Right, right for Record Store Day. Can you explain that release a little further?
Well, it’s part one of a trilogy. It’s really kind of sad the way the industry’s going. Records are sort of a dying art. With iTunes, and the internet and everything, it’s like music is this disposable candy. There are like 300 bands to choose from rather than just 30, like it was maybe 10 years ago. I’m not saying it’s bad or anything, but, like the new generation will find one or two songs by an artist, and then it’s on to the next band. The days of going out and buying a vinyl and listening to all 11 tracks while reading the lyrics are dwindling. So, instead of just releasing Information as a whole LP, we’ve decided to do it in three parts. The first this week, the next in November for Black Friday, and then the third will be the actual album, which we hope to have out by February of 2012. [laughs] Or we’ll just say early 2012. We hope it’ll get listeners more involved with the process.
I had the chance to see the “Eye to the Sky” video you guys did for Yo Gabba Gabba. What was that like working with them? Seems everyone who’s anyone is doing it these days.
Oh, yeah that was kind of Rob’s thing. Like I did my little parts, but Rob was kind of the one who took the ball and ran with it. At that point in my life, I didn’t have [my son], so I was like, “Yo Gabba what?”, so it wasn’t really until now that I’m waking up and watching it every morning at five AM that I realize what we did exactly [laughs]. But it was fun. I like that they sort of take the bands that are more “out there” and incorporate them into the show. There was actually one thing in particular that sort of bothered me, though, and that was that they had the song written and sort of just gave it to us to play. Like, I’d much rather write something from the very start and submit it, but I guess they must just have a team of musicians who write these songs and pitch the ideas like, “Hey, let’s see if we can get Pinback to do this one” or whatever. So, it was limited, but we still did as much as we could with it to make it sound like our own.
Such a cult following in San Diego and elsewhere. What do you attribute that to (other than fantastic songwriting, of course)?
Well Rob and I like a wide range of music, and we’ve tried to perfect our Pinback sound over our releases. It’s just about trying to find that niche with that signature Pinback sound.
It’s basically just been you and Rob Crow, but to emulate live what you do in the studio, how many members is it going to take for this tour?
Typically when we go on tour it’s a five-piece band that we tour with. A drummer, a guitarist, and a keyboardist. We’re really lucky that we know a lot of musicians and friends that will come on the road with us and play our shit. That they’ll be willing to learn all the 75 songs, you know? [laughs] I think we’re on our seventh keyboardist now. So, for anyone new to learn the songs, it’s not easy.
Now that festival season is coming up, your name is noticeably absent, as it has been in previous years. Is it a conscious decision to not play festivals, or is that just happenstance?
No, no, it’s not a conscious decision. I’ve actually asked myself that very same question. It seems like we’re that weird, dorky band who likes to jam in the living room, so we don’t get asked sometimes. Also, it’s sort of the hip-happenin’ band who just released an album that plays festivals. You’ve got to have a certain, I don’t know, look or something. We aren’t opposed or anything, we just haven’t released anything in a really long time. So, hopefully when the next album comes out, we’ll be able to get back out to the festivals.