The San Diego-based rock band might have a love/hate relationship with the industry, but it hasn’t messed with their music.
There’s a good and bad side to the music industry, and post-modern math rock band Pinback has seen both. “Our motto used to be ‘Fuck the middle man,’” says Rob Crow, who fronts the band alongside Three Mile Pilot’s Zach Smith. “We didn’t want anyone else to go between what we do and the person listening to it.” Crow’s view on the industry makes sense for him; Pinback’s experience with labels has been rough. Their 1999 record debut This is a Pinback CD was released a year later than initially planned, only because of disputes between various labels that were interested in the band. But despite past grievances, Pinback’s first record in five years, Information Retrieved, came out last October on Temporary Residence and Crow says the band’s in a good place. Pinback plays One Eyed Jacks on Sunday night.
When Pinback formed in 1998, Crow and Smith were the oddballs of the San Diego music scene. “Our old bands used to play shows together all the time because they weren’t like anything else,” Crow says. “His band was weird and my band was weird, but they were both weird in different ways. In an era of wanna-be rock stars, neither of us were that.” Crow’s involvement in a lengthy list of bands that included Heavy Vegetable and Thingy didn’t keep him from starting another project when he and Smith first sat down to write music together.
Pinback makes rock music that mellows out in places, a brand of precise and meticulous pop with rough-edged punk tendencies. But Crow doesn’t know how to describe their sound, and doesn’t want to do that anyway. “We don’t have a genre,” Crowe says. “One of the things that we strive for is to do something that sounds like only something we would make. The last thing in the world that I want to do is compare us to another band because it’s pointless.”
Information Retrieved makes Pinback an even less definable band. No track roars in a stadium-rock-band way. Instead, it's Crow and Smith’s strong sense of melody that drives Pinback’s punchy, math-rock sound on tracks like “Glide” and “True North.” Although there’s a five-year gap between this record and the previous Autumn of the Seraphs, Pinback still sounds like the band it’s always been. Even Crow admits that he listens to the same music that he listened to 15 years ago when the band began.
If anything, the production of their records has changed the most. In those early years, it took much more effort for Pinback to release any kind of music. “We mastered our own records, which was a bad idea,” Crow says. “We had the first CD burners and printers, so we’d be trying to make five-page full-color CD booklets on printers. Back then, you could only burn one CD at a time in real time. It took forever. We did just about everything, and then we finally decided that it would be better to find a record label. There’s just not enough time in the day.”
Does Pinback still function as a D.I.Y. band in certain aspects? “In terms of having turned down every major label that wanted to take us out to dinner or lunch,” Crow says. "Yeah."