Seattle band Pickwick have been creating a bit of low flying buzz lately. State side festivals, music blogs and indie radio stations have been transformed under the good time vibes of the new soul infused Pickwick sound. Intrigued to learn about the band I shot them an email to find out about life and music in Seattle. Michael Parker answered the call taking time out to answer some questions:
It seems as though Seattle is literally bursting at the seams with great new music and talent at the moment. Is it something that you can sense and feed from as an group?
This is something that we talk about amongst ourselves quite often. We feel so fortunate to be playing music in Seattle. I honestly think that Seattle is one of the greatest music cities in the world and there are very few cities where bands have the chance to develop like you can here.
Living and playing here it’s impossible to not be inspired by the history and the other things that are currently happening all around town. There’s also a culture in Seattle within the music community of collaboration and support that I think leads to a very healthy artistic environment.
The ‘Grunge’ thing in the 90’s put Seattle on the map in terms of a global consciousness, but unfortunately that’s generally what people outside of this city still think of when they think about Seattle music. I say that’s unfortunate because Seattle has always had a very eclectic and diverse music culture. Ray Charles and Jimi Hendrix both honed their chops here, there was an amazing underground Soul scene here in the 60’s and 70’s, great Punk bands, amazing Folk & Country bands, and now Seattle has one of the best underground Hip Hop scenes in America. It’s not just Grunge, it’s NEVER been just one thing. Besides, the Grunge thing was 20 years ago.
All this to say, yes, we definitely feed off of this. I think in terms of music, Seattle offers just as much as a city like New York does but at 1/10 the size. I love it here.
Pickwick have been around for a sometime, growing in size and having been through a bit of a change of sound; how did the final line up come about and how much has it influenced the change?
Basically, we had been a band for a few years without Kory Kruckenberg, our Grammy Award winning engineer & vibraphonist (we feel like proud parents). We sounded more like a Wilco cover band at that time. I (Michael) played pedal steel, Cassady played accordion; it was a completely different band with Alt-Country leanings. We liked some of the songs, but most of them seemed pretty derivative of other bands in Seattle at the time.
After playing a series of shows to our girlfriends and writing a bunch of songs we weren’t very proud of, Galen and I had a conversation about breaking up the band. In a last-ditch effort to try and save the band we tried an experiment that we had talked about a few months before where we incorporated Soul music into our band’s sound. We added Kory to the mix to play vibraphone and hand percussion and it all kind of snowballed from there.
Writing suddenly got a lot easier. It was almost like we figured out what kind of band we were meant to be all along. It freed Galen up to show off what he is capable of vocally and allowed Garrett to do the same on the bass. It was a pretty seamless transition I must say.
It’s funny because recently we’ve become really good friends with Seattle singer/songwriter Bryan John Appleby and after playing a festival with him it dawned on me that those guys are doing what we tried to do with the folk stuff but just couldn’t pull off. We weren’t meant to be that band, those guys were. We were meant to do something else. It’s cool to see things come full circle like that.
Stop me if I’m wrong, but it sounds as though there is a pretty diverse bunch of you working together in the band. Does this make it tricky at times or is it part of what makes the magic happen?
Every single person in our band is essential to the writing process and the way we sound. There are six of us that make up the band and every one of us has a specific role that we play. We often invite people up on stage with us, but at the core we’re just six guys who like to play music in a basement. If one person was to leave I think it would totally change things.
We might not be the most polished of musicians, but I think our chemistry is really unique and that makes what we do special to us. You see great players all the time who write boring songs without any passion. None of us want to be in a band like that, we’re happy with how we operate as a group.
If I’m honest, I may not have not heard your earlier works, yet having watched your live performances via YouTube you guys now seem to be having a lot of fun. Do you feel like this is the Pickwick you’d always wanted?
Oh definitely. Because this was all just a last-ditch effort to keep the band from breaking up, we really do just write what comes out naturally. It’s a lot more organic and true to who we are as people, we’re not trying to be something that we’re not. What you see is what you get.
I know it might sound weird because musically what we do is far from it, but it really is a sort of Punk/DIY mentality of just doing what you do for yourself and no one else. It’s very liberating. The fact that people seem to have a good time at shows is just a bonus.
For the Aussies who’ll be reading how would describe your sound?
That’s always a hard question to answer. What I sometimes tell people is to imagine if the guys in ‘Spoon’ sat in on a session with ‘Booker T & The MGs’ & they recorded in a garage with a crappy microphone…but I’m sure that band would be MUCH better than us.
Your music is perfect for outdoors, sunshine and beach life is this where your influences stem from or is there a more musical related history behind your tunes?
We live in Seattle…what’s sunshine?
Do you have a favorite band moment to date… the one where you all kind of knew this is why you kept on going? Have there been any Walks of Shame?
The first time we played a sold out show where people were dancing & singing along to our songs was pretty insane. I remember looking at the rest of the guys on stage and feeling like all the hard times we had gone through together were worth it just to experience that one moment. It was a very special feeling.
I first heard of your music through another blog (Thanks Heather), how do you feel about people sharing your work online? Blessing or a curse… or a little of each?
It seems like an obvious thing to point out, but the Internet is such an amazing resource to be exposed to new things. Most of the new music that catches my ear these days comes from blogs or online streaming. I think that stuff is great. I will say though that the experience of going to a record store and taking a risk on something you know nothing about is very special. I hope we don’t lose that in the digital age. MP3s are convenient, but there’s nothing like vinyl.
What’s next for the band?
We are planning on working on our debut album in early December. The details are very “hush hush” for now, but what I can say is that we reached out to our dream producer, gave him our pitch, and he said yes. We all pissed ourselves. We couldn’t be more excited to be working with him, he’s been a hero for years. I’m sure we won’t be the same band after he has his way with us.
If people only buy one of your songs which one best encapsulates your sound?
‘Hacienda Motel’ – This was the first song we wrote with this ‘new sound’ in mind and I think it best captures what we do well.