Jonathan and I saw Pinegrove on an unusually cold November night. The concert time was running up against the end of our classes, so we hurried to the bus, backpacks and everything. Jon had spoken to Pinegrove on Twitter earlier, and he showed me on his phone how they’d agreed to an interview after a casual back and forth in the DMs about WJHU. After their set, we stepped outside the venue with Evan, lead singer of Pinegrove, and talked a bit into my iPhone. The following is the transcription of the ten minutes we spent on the cold steps of the smoking section. Evan was very humble, sometimes shy, and very open in talking about everything from Jersey bagel shops, to the band’s new-found indie acclaim.
WJHU: Let’s start out with an easy question, you’re from Jersey, I’m from Jersey, he's from Jersey…so what is the perfect bagel for you?
Evan Stephens Hall (ESH): So Hot Bagels Abroad on Broad Street [in Montclair NJ] is now offering tofu cream cheese. And, I usually do a sesame bagel, veggie tofu spread, tomato, cucumber, cracked pepper, what about you?
WJHU: [EMILY] I like that, I really like that. I’m a traditional taylor ham, egg and cheese on an everything bagel. So actual questions now. In the past few years the bigger bands to come out of Jersey have been like, you [Pinegrove], The Front Bottoms and Titus Andronicus. Those, in my opinion, are the three big ones I would say
ESH: I think it's an honor to be in that group
WJHU: You guys all have very very different sounds, and Jersey has a lot of good music scenes like Asbury Park and New Brunswick and Montclair. What do you think is gonna take for New Jersey to really reach the lime light since we have so many good bands already?
ESH: I don’t know… people are really excited to hear a band that’s hyper regional for some reason… I think that it is about how a band communicates something special about a place for the listener. But, I don’t know that people get excited about any space in particular. I guess your question kind of implies that there are cities that are really popping as far as… I guess, Philly.
WJHU: In my opinion Boston and New Brunswick were this way too you know? I just feel like Jersey deserves its place on the map at this point.
ESH: I guess jersey will just always be maligned because people form New York are a little bit louder but I don’t know if that’s true… louder than me… I don’t people really listen for any specific region, they just listen for regional detail. Does that make sence?
WJHU: Yeah totally… Like in New Friends [from their album Cardinal] you talk about a day you just spent at the Meatlocker [local Montclair venue] and that’s what the song is about. So your lyrics is it based more on things that actually have happened to you or do you sometimes just feel like telling a story? What is your lyrics-writing process?
ESH: It’s fiction. But I think any writer of any sort bases what they write on what they learned as a person. And this is about what I have learned but I squish it into little cubes. It’s not exactly as it was… maybe some of the details that happen to rhyme with other details stuffed into two or three minutes.
WJHU: In terms of your writing is lyrics first or a chorus or do you jam with the band?
ESH: there is no one way, but frequently it has happened for me that while I’m walking around I get a rhythm in my head or a melody in my head. Which is why I think we do a lot of mid-tempo songs… because that’s the pace for walking.
WJHU: [Emily chimes in some lyrics] “walking around…”
ESH: Exactly! Around it and so I character in Cardinal is doing what I was doing. It’s a person that is a lot like me but not exactly like me. But I think that… basically you want something to be narratively propulsive, you want to bring the listener along and I think that it occurred to me that if I was literally propulsive then I might be able to mimic narrative trajectory.
WJHU: [Jon again] and you folks were just in Europe, less than a month ago and now you’re going back for another tour in the spring. How has touring been? Does it get very tiring for the band? Are crowds and touring in Europe very different from the US?
ESH: Yes, yes, and yes. Touring in Europe was very magical but also very hard in certain ways. Well so for the shows were playing in the United States these are places we’ve been to a bunch already and they’re repeat offenders and we’re seeing people that we’ve seen last time like “hey whatsup” and that’s just a very welcoming and warm feeling to recognize people. And the crowds are bigger each time which is cool too. Then it’s a challenge to go back and go somewhere for the first time and go somewhere where you don’t know anybody and people are kind but you don’t know them yet. Really it ended up that we hung out a lot together as a group and these are some of my best friends. It’s a close circle and no matter how close you are it is still going be tense hanging out with the same people all the time. And it was heard in certain ways but also it was wonderful to visit all these new places. It was humbling and magical that we were able to travel through music.
WJHU: Did you have a favorite spot that you stopped at while in Europe?
ESH: Yeah I liked the Netherlands a lot and also Switzerland… all of those places were so beautiful.
WJHU: You folks got signed to Run For Cover Records to release Cardinal. How has it been the change to a label that has, in a lot of ways, come to represent the indie scene these days. And your band is very different in that Pinegrove plays a more country-esque type of music. How has the change been?
ESH: We’ll I think that we owe a lot of our success to Run For Cover and their listenership. There are a lot of dedicated people who are always down to check out anything they’re down to put out which has been a tremendous help to us. And I think it’s pretty cool to be an anomaly on that label because we stick out a little bit. I’m interested in making the very idiosyncratic sounds that sound good to me. So it is…. cool to express that in a community of other very talented artists but we have different plans and different projects.
WJHU: Did you ever plan on being a country-esque band?
ESH: I have been attracted to tanguy-er and American music or Appalachian melodies or whatever you wanna call it for a while. I went to college in Ohio and that’s when I began to acknowledge to myself that it sounded good to me and dig into that. I mean, I don’t write specifically to genre and there is no plan like THAT. But there was a point when I acknowledged to myself that those sounds were attractive to me and I wanted to move towards that. But basically I try to write songs that sound good to me.
WJHU: So that’s about it, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us and you’re a great dude.
ESH: Haha, thank you.
Pinegrove released CARDINAL this year through Run For Cover Records. You can find them on facebook, twitter, and bandcamp.
By jonathan silveira and emily whitney on Nov. 29, 2016, 10:59 p.m.