Pinecones' 'Sings for You Now' hits hard
With debut album Athens/Atlanta bandmates simply enjoy themselves
Less is more, as the saying goes. Though much of modern music is at odds with the adage, the rock underground has long been a reliable source for stripped-down sounds. The output of recent buzz bands such as Parquet Courts and Protomartyr echo the no-frills approach of iconoclastic predecessors such as Minutemen and Fugazi, not to mention the godparents of rock minimalism, the Velvet Underground.
On the home front, few recent albums have proven the power of simplicity better than Sings for You Now, the debut LP from Atlanta/Athens-based sludge-rock band Pinecones. A brainy and pummeling effort, the 11-song record hinges on melodic and rhythmic austerity. Guitarist Brain Atoms says Pinecones emerged from a quest to get to the root of what its members loved most about music: simplicity.
"I had fallen out of being super into music," says Atoms, who formerly played in the Atlanta punk band Crater, which utilized a similarly minimalist approach. "[Drummer] Ben [Salie] would make mixtapes, and we would listen together," he adds. "There were all these songs that we bonded over." In the process, Atoms found himself captivated by certain moments. "Just a single sound is enough," he says, "It doesn't have to be this complex composition. I'm in love with just, like, the sound of a guitar."
Singer and guitarist Bo Orr explains that leanness was the band's main focus. "We wanted simplicity and a basic rock 'n' roll theme. We've had songs where there was too much happening. We were like, 'How do we simplify this?' Not for ease of playing, but because simple and repetitious is something we all agree on."
Sings for You Now is trimmed of all fat. On the opener, "Tears from Your Skin," the band spends minutes exploring a single chord. On "Cosmosis," drummer Ben Salie and bassist Ryan Evers lead the charge with a massive groove, while Orr and Atoms' subtle melodic shifts play off the rhythm section's Krautrock throb. Throughout the album, Orr's raspy, insistent vocals provide a volatile counterpoint to the music's steady, hypnotic rumble.
"[It's a] magical decision," Orr says. "You've played a part a few times, and most bands would be like, 'OK, what's the next part?' But if you as a band can come to the conclusion that that's the only part, [that] this is how this song is gonna go forever, until it feels right to stop — that's really cool. There's no pressure, and it eases your mind into being there."
Pinecones' Zen-like approach doesn't stop with their sound. The group's members aren't interested in self-promotion in the traditional sense; nor is there any grand design in place for the future. For the moment, they are happy simply sharing in their friendships and creating art as a highly functioning unit.
"I kind of feel like we've reached our goal," Atoms says. "Us playing music together is just sort of going to be what we do. When we're playing, there's this [voice] in my mind that's like, 'I get to be here, and that's cool, and why not enjoy it?'"