Where to go from here: An interview with Pinegrove on growth, negativity

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Indie folk band Pinegrove is reemerging with a new album, Marigold, and a national concert run with indie pop band LAKE. Considering that Pinegrove is still feeling the repercussions from sexual coercion allegations leveled at frontman Evan Stephens Hall, the introspective reflection and growth which patterns all of Pinegrove’s previous albums is brought out in full force on Marigold. In an interview with The Daily Californian, Hall talked about where the group sees itself now, the distinction between fact and fiction in his songwriting and his excitement for the band’s forthcoming shows. 

Considering that Skylight was written before the allegations wavered the band, Marigold is the first time Pinegrove has come forth with all-new material reflective of the band reconciling with its past. “As far as the songs I’m trying to write, it’s essentially the same impulse. I’m trying to inspire empathy and introspection within myself,” Hall said, commenting on if Marigold is either a new chapter for the band or a continuation of its previous work. 

A substantial amount of Pinegrove’s musical output centers around the struggles of self-actualization and finding your place in the world. Marigold does not shy away from continuing this tradition, with songs like “The Alarmist” dealing with anxiety and paranoia in lyrics such as “I am being/ An alarmist/ ’Cause for as far as I see/ It’s terrible territory/ And there’s no one/ To reassure me.” 

Most of the lyrics are written in the first person, creating a direct link between Hall the person and Hall the performer, but the vocalist wants listeners to recognize that there is a distinction between the two. “I’m not a song — I’m a person,” Hall said. “I’m making choices about which parts of myself I’m putting into the music, so I can’t claim this is strictly autobiographical or strictly nonfiction.” Hall later elaborated on this perspective, saying, “To me, the main difference between fiction and nonfiction is attitude.”

Pinegrove originally began in Montclair, New Jersey, when Zack Levine paired with childhood friend Evan Stephens Hall to make music. The band has been through several different names and iterations throughout the years, but the two friends have stuck together after all this time. 

Just like Skylight, Marigold was recorded in Pinegrove’s home studio, which is stationed in upstate New York. 

“I’m trying to make something that feels real to me,” Hall said, “(that) feels moving to me, feels challenging to me, and the criteria for that does not include strict fidelity to fact.” At some point, a singer has to fade away into their music to make room for every other part of the human experience, not just their personal reflections.

And it’s this differentiation between fact and fiction, between placing oneself in a void or being part of the world, which plays against Hall’s mind. The knowledge of how much a song adheres to real life and experience is something he is still sorting out. “I am also on Wikipedia (researching the background) when I like a book or a song or whatever,” Hall said. “It’s a tension I haven’t quite resolved.” 

Reflecting on producing songs with an emotional bite, packed with dense literary concepts, Hall also recognized the need to attach these songs to concrete images that center the listener. “The process of talking about what it means to be a human being is kind of an abstract process,” Hall said. “To have visual or tangible details helps ground it and provides a vessel for metaphor.”

Hall touched upon the pervading negativity in life typically associated with the emo tones that influence Pinegrove, but even more than that, with being active in your own struggles. “It’s completely human to have some feelings associated more with negativity,” Hall said. “That’s all part of the natural spectrum. Those types of darknesses are acknowledged in my work. It’s about identifying a problem and making some sort of suggestion on one path forward.”

Musing on the band’s upcoming tour and its challenges, Hall said, “I always get stage fright. It’s a fact of life.” As he previously mentioned, there is always room for bettering oneself, and Hall plans to take that into account on this tour. In practice, Hall said he will not be using alcohol like he has in the past. This crutch was ironic to him because Hall conceded that alcohol never actually helped in the first place, but rather made him sing worse. 

“I think the band is sounding really good right now,” Hall said. “We’ve learned a bunch of new songs for this set. Anyone who has seen Pinegrove before is going to have a brand-new set to enjoy.” Considering how Pinegrove also takes inspiration from LAKE, the show is primed to be a cohesive performance that melds loss, growth and introspection.

Pinegrove will perform at The Fillmore in San Francisco on Feb. 9 at 8 p.m.

Contact Jake Lilian at [email protected].