Pickwick
A&E

Preview: Pickwick to Play the Catalyst

After two scrapped attempts, Pickwick reappears with a follow-up record and a retro-pop sound

Pickwick plays Wednesday, Aug. 16, at the Catalyst. PHOTO: ELLIE LILLSTROM

In 2013, Seattle indie band Pickwick released its first proper record, Can’t Talk Medicine. The album did well, and the band toured, but then they kind of disappeared. Since then, they’ve recorded two follow-up albums, but scrapped both. Now they’ve finally returned with Lovejoys—and a very different sound.

Lead singer Galen Disston says that Lovejoys was done reasonably quickly, but the process leading up to it involved the band spinning their wheels for long periods of time.

“It felt like a waste of time,” Disston says. “We were coming at it from a real heady perspective, like ‘let’s try to mimic this,’ or ‘this could function well.’ All those exercises were totally fruitless. The songs were stale. We got rid of them all.”

Those two failed records were quite different from each other. One was garage-rock. The other was in the vein of alt-rockers Arctic Monkeys.

“It wasn’t genuine. We’re not punks. We’re not garage-y guys,” Disston says. “We love the Sonics. That’s as close as we could get while still being true to ourselves. We can be campy and rompy like the early R&B rock ’n’ roll, but we can’t really fuck with Thee Oh Sees. They’re amazing.”

Lovejoys is a space-y, dance-y record highly influenced by ’70s soft rock, pop and disco. It’s a nice fit for the group, and definitely not garage rock.

Before they started to write it, one of the band members quit, and of course they had scrapped a lot of songs they’d been working on. It might have seemed a low point for the group, but by then it had been so long since the previous record that they started to feel liberated.

“We put a lot of internal pressure on ourselves. Like, ‘Oh, we’re going to lose our touring fan base. We have to get out and build on the touring work that we did nationally.’ As soon as the pressure from all that stupid bullshit was gone—mostly ’cause we’d taken too long—then the songs came again,” Disston says.

The band has switched gears in the past; sometimes it’s worked in their favor, and sometimes it hasn’t. Pickwick’s earliest roots go back to 2005, when it was a solo project by Disston, who’d recently moved to Seattle from Santa Cruz. He slowly built the band up with the members who would populate the 2013 record. For most of those years, the band played indie-folk, and didn’t have much of a fanbase.

Then Fleet Foxes blew up. That put a wrench in Disston’s plans.

“They did everything that I’ve ever dreamed of doing, a thousand times better than we ever could,” Disston says. “Seattle was pretty folky at the time. It was like, what can we do? It led to a more R&B sound. We weren’t afraid to be poppy and fun. That’s when people started coming to our shows.”

That led to Can’t Talk Medicine, which led to some touring. The band didn’t blow up, but they did manage to draw whenever they went out of town, which is why they felt so much pressure to make an even better follow-up record.

Once they were finally in the studio recording Lovejoys, they worked with producer Erik Blood to create some of the textures. Disston says Blood was integral in helping them create the sound of the record. They all discussed several touchstone artists to draw from, like Funkadelic.

“He helped us dial in some of those aspects that were working, and some that weren’t,” Disston says. “I think a lot of the ’70s treatments worked, like the Fleetwood Mac and ABBA touchpoints.”

Perhaps the biggest factor was the band’s new appreciation of ’70s pop music, which prior to the making of the album wasn’t something they connected with. Once they opened up to it, the creativity flowed. Even just enjoying disco was something they hadn’t done before.

“I started to enjoy Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’ in a way that I couldn’t really before, because I thought it was kind of cheesy,” Disston says. “I think it’s all cool. It was like, ‘I guess we can ride the disco-funk line as much as we want.’”


INFO: 9 p.m. Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. $12. 429-4135.

Contributor at Good Times |

Aaron is a hard-working freelance writer with a focus on music, art, food, culture and travel. In addition to Good Times, he's a regular contributor to Sacramento News & Review, VIA Magazine and Playboy. When he's not working, he's either backpacking, arguing about music or working on his book about ska. One thing's for sure—he knows more about ska than you.

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