There’s a kind of yearning nostalgia in the songs of the Pine Barons, an earnestness that never feels forced even though it competes with an eclectic array of elements and influences. The Philadelphia-based band has a sound that meshes atmospheric rock and folk, with intricately layered vocals and a member assigned, in part, to sampling. Like the New Jersey woods they took their name from (though they’ve tweaked the spelling), their music is dense, mysterious and a bit dark.
We spoke to the band about what inspired their latest song (the moody but uplifting “Chamber Choir”), how a childhood keepsake inspired the name of their upcoming album, and how this release is different from anything else they’ve done.
AudioFemme: When I listen to your music, I hear hints of Modest Mouse, Dr. Dog, and Arctic Monkeys, among other things. Are any of these accurate? Can you elaborate on the band’s main influences?
Collin (drums, vocals): I’d say all three of those are accurate to an extent. We all share very similar tastes musically. Influences as far as writing span across many spectrums and genres, somewhat eclectically as individuals. That ranges anywhere from backgrounds in jazz and world music, to punk, indie, pop, hip hop, etc.
A few main influences we all share would be Tom Waits, Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys, Animal Collective, Dr. Dog, Daft Punk, Leonard Cohen, Of Montreal, Les Miserables, and many many more.
AudioFemme: Can you explain the meaning behind your album title, The Acchin Book?
Keith (lead vocals, guitar): I was sorting through boxes from a recent move and found a book that I made when I was about four years old, titled The Acchin Book. Each page had a different picture with a caption next to it. My spelling was horrid and there were even various different versions of recurring words throughout the book, but the only consistent one was ‘acchin,’ which is pronounced ‘action’ in the real world. So that’s where the title came from.
AudioFemme: Can you tell me about the recording process for the album?
Collin: The process was a bit different from our past approaches. There was a lot of pre-production. The Acchin Book was recorded from Spring 2015 to 2016. Up until that point, we’d recorded everything and basically did everything ourselves. [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][For The Acchin Book,] we recorded everything with Kyle Pulley at Headroom Studios in Philadelphia, who also helped produce. This was, in all, a huge learning process for the lot of us because we’d never worked in a studio or with someone producing our work before. That brought us to be able to focus more on intelligently structuring these songs, and slowly weeding out the excess with what fit and what might be unnecessary. The process taught us a lot creatively, and also collaboratively on how to work differently together. I believe in the end, we only wound up cutting two songs off the final product of what is The Acchin Book, and we are extremely excited to finally be able to share what we’ve made with everyone! We’ve certainly learned more patience these past two years.
AudioFemme: Let’s focus on the song “Chamber Choir.” What was the inspiration behind the track? I get kind of sad, but hopeful vibes from it, and the noisy portion at the end is really interesting and unexpected.
Keith: The song was triggered by waking up in a panic after dreaming about someone dear to me being in some sort of emotional crisis and immediately feeling the need to reach out to them. I think if you care enough about someone you sort of share their emotions in a sense; I guess that’s called compassion. But that panic that you might feel after waking up from some nightmarish world is fleeting, so in that instance I didn’t actually end up reaching out to that person. Maybe they did need help, who knows? Thinking about fleeting emotions inspired the rest of the lyrics, because most extreme emotions are fleeting, like a glance at the sun leaving a bluish afterglow.
AudioFemme: I feel like the Philly music scene is often overshadowed by Brooklyn’s. Can you tell me about your connection to and experiences in your local music scene?
Collin: As early as the formation of Pine Barons, we’ve essentially always been a part of the Philadelphia realm of music. Our first few shows were in Philly, and shortly after we embarked on a short tour which brought us to New York and the upper half of the east coast. The end of that tour was the first time we actually played in New Jersey.
Past bands I’ve played in, as well as bands some of our family members have played in have all placed roots in Philly the past decade or so. It was easier to book shows, and play with bands we liked in Philly than it was in Jersey. [Starting there] made the most sense and created the most opportunity. Nobody knows where Shamong, New Jersey is. But most people have an idea of Philadelphia, PA. The Philly music scene has treated us humbly exceptional through our time playing and now living here, and we’re happy to be a part of it. Most of our closest friends all play in bands throughout the city, so in a way Philly has it’s own community of musicians aside from just “bands.”
AudioFemme: Your songs are incredibly layered. Do the studio versions differ from your live versions?
Alex (keys, percussion): There is a lot going on in these songs, indeed! Growing up with these boys has been an incredible experience, but one thing that always broke my heart was when they’d end up sacrificing their instruments to play another instrument. Since joining the band a little over a year ago, I’ve been able to take on most the multitasking by juggling between the Nord, microKORG, sampler, and aux percussion, and I really feel it’s helped balance out the live sound of Pine Barons. The live show will hit you hard in all the right places, whereas sitting down and listening to the recorded album will send you on a vast, euphoric journey.
AudioFemme: Do you have any upcoming plans for the band?
Collin: We’re currently working on another music video. We’re definitely planning to tour; where is the real question. We also have the skeletons written for an entire new albums’ worth of material, which we will start the demo process of this winter, and we are very excited about that!
The Acchin Book is out August 4 via Grind Select. Listen to “Chamber Choir” below!