There was a time last year when it seemed possible Pinegrove would never follow up their critical breakthrough, 2016’s Cardinal. Frontman Evan Stephens Hall came out ahead of sexual coercion allegations in a November 2017 note, stating the band had decided to take an “extended period of time off the road” while they dealt internally with the accusations. The decision came at the request of the unidentified accuser, a woman Hall said he’d been “involved with for a short but intense period of time.” Now, though, the hiatus is over, and Pinegrove is back with a new album, Skylight.
Skylight was written and recorded prior to the accusations, and remains largely unchanged since it was tracked in mid-2017. Yet some of the music is remarkably prescient, with lines like “I wanna do much better” (“Light On”) and “I draw a line in my life/ Singing this is the new way I behave now” (“Rings”) mirroring the self-reflection Hall undertook during the band’s time off.
“We wanted to honor that,” Hall said of the alleged victim’s request. “She recognized that we’ve honored it, and has since approved our plan to release an album and play some shows later on this year.”
Take a listen to Skylight below.
In an in-depth examination of the allegations and their fallout, Pitchfork’s Jenn Pelly was able to provide more insight into the situation that led to Pinegrove’s troubled last year. A mediator between Hall and the unnamed victim clarified that the allegations were strictly “verbal and contextual pressure,” and nothing physical. The victim was in a relationship when her intimacy with Hall began, and she feels she was coerced into cheating. While Hall maintains that any interactions were mutual, he acknowledged the validity of the alleged victim’s “right to describe her experience however feels true to her.” “I definitely could have conducted myself better,” he added.
There was some mention of a second victim, Autumn Lavis, though she herself clarified that she never classified the relationship as abusive. “The aftermath made me feel bad about myself,” she said. “But I never felt that he was abusive towards me at all. If someone did have a negative experience, I want to validate that, but mine was consensual.”
It appears that most of this fallout stems from emails sent by Sheridan Allen, founder of Punk Talks, an organization which purports to connect people in the music industry with therapy for free. After learning of the accusations, Allen emailed festival bookers and acts scheduled to open for Pinegrove on tour revealing the allegations and essentially demanding that action be taken — all without the accuser’s consent. Allen has since been taken to task for misrepresenting herself as a therapist and her handling of the situation.
“I made egregious errors and mistakes throughout this situation,” Allen told Pitchfork. “I was acting without any guidance or a board and I have done absolutely everything I can now and in the future to ensure adequate checks and balances, as well as ensuring this will never happen again.”
For his part, Hall said he took an active “full re-inventorying of myself” in the wake of the allegations. He earnestly considered the perception of his actions in the relationship in question, and wants his fans to do the same:
“We don’t want listeners who are like, ‘We don’t care about this sort of thing.’ We care about this sort of thing. I’m way more sympathetic to people who are like, ‘I don’t understand this situation, it seems fucked up, fuck this band,’ than people who are like, ‘I don’t understand this situation, fuck this situation, I love this band.’ We are thoroughly in favor of the dismantling of patriarchal structures, and the movement right now to elevate survivors and victims of abuse. And we are not interested in a listenership that doesn’t care about that.”
All proceeds made from Skylight’s Bandcamp sales will go to Voting Rights Project, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and Musicares, which offers mental health resources to musicians among other services.
Read Pelly’s full article for more about the language Hall used in his statement, how Allen’s involvement changed the way the situation was handled, and more from other members of Pinegrove.