But after crafting these intriguing four-minute musical episodes, a musician is required to do press to offer further insight into himself and his creation - or at least that's what a journalist hopes. But Pinback is somewhat obdurate, offering little more than monosyllabic utterances and the impression that the members would sooner undergo invasive surgery than provide a detailed answer. If there's a window into Pinback's soul, then Rob Crow pulled the shade.
Pinback developed in 1998 out of home-recording sessions with Crow and Armistead Burwell "Zach" Smith IV. The collaboration later became Pinback's self-titled debut after a spirited indie-label bidding war. Although they tour will a full band, Crow and Smith do all the recording and finished their third and most ambitious album, Summer In Abaddon, last year.
While still one with the plush, rippling indie pop of earlier releases, the arrangements are even more complex and vigorously delineated. The melodies have many turns that can drawn you in and trap you, but with each successive listen they become more accessible. Crow was unable to explain how the group arrived at Abaddon's more organic cerebral pop sound from the oftentimes busy, electronic undercurrent of 2003's Offcell EP.
"The songs just happen," Crow says. "Zach will have an idea, or I will, and we'll build on it."
From the beginning, much of the work has been done on computer using Pro-Tools in either Smith's or Crow's home. But they avoid the sterility sometimes associated with albums recorded directly into digital. They manage the sound well, finding plentiful warmth and staying away from the software's many options.
"We keep it simple," Crow says. "It's rare that we'll use effects other than normalization, and there's hardly any effects on the vocals. I stay away from reverb, even."
Though Pinback became Crow's primary outlet, he's played in a number of acts in the past decade such as Heavy Vegetable, Thingy, Optiganally Yours and Physics. While the process is largely the same, Crow says he simply "knows" which songs are meant for which groups. Crow's reticence extends to his influences and the current state of the San Diego scene.
"I don't get out much when I'm not on tour," he says.
There is little more to discern from Crow. Like that handy door-knocker, Grond, which Mordor used on the gates of Minas Tirith, questions are answered with an echoing thud. Finally, pressed by exasperation and frustration, I suggest that he might help by offering some insight into his person.
"I'm just a normal guy," Crow says. "I like to stay around the house, read comic books and watch DVDs."
Inscrutable mystery or petulant insouciance? Who knows, and, perhaps, who cares? Just as Pinback's energetic live performances have little corollary in the intricate pop of its albums, perhaps Crow's personal aspects are of no more importance than those of actor Russell Crowe. As long as they continue to turn out quality work, who cares whether they've got anything interesting or intelligent to say?
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