Interview – The Pale Pacific
The story has been the same for several of my favourite bands: the discount bin. Not because they aren’t good bands, but a certain major chain of stores in Mexico insists on not knowing what gems they have and eventually put a lot of great stuff at very low prices. Which means me and one of my best friends can go and blow our budgets on wonderful music. One of the recommendations from this friend (thanks, Emilio) was a band called The Pale Pacific.
I got Rules are predictable and listened to it with my dad while on the car back from the work. We both loved the EP and talked a few times about this sort of music and the bands and sometimes wondered what made them tick.
Couple of years later and some emailing afterwards, we managed to have a Q & A with Greg Swinehart (drums, backing vocals, stylish clothes) as the news of The Pale Pacific recording new stuff made us all giddy. So, get your dream pop drinks ready and read on…
1.- The Pale Pacific is a rather enigmatic band to me. We know that you have different time-consuming tasks, so what’s the priority of the Pale Pacific in your lives, as individuals?
That’s a great question, one that we’re usually trying to figure out as well. The best I can tell, The Pale Pacific is and probably always will be a band that’s working on a few things at once. We all have a couple things going on throughout the week, but the band continues to be a really important part of our lives. I know for me, it’s something I’m dreaming about a few times a day. A couple years ago, we took a bit of a break. When we got back together we realized what we had together and how much we had missed it.
So we got a new practice space to mess around once or twice a week… With no pressure to produce anything, our minds went a little crazy and we suddenly had our next 5 releases planned out. The first 2 were the live LP and EP we put out last year, the next is a new full length we’re close to wrapping up.
2.- I loved your Free Covers EP (available for free download at their website)! Your version of ‘Walking on the Moon’ is very interesting and different. So, what’s the magic in a cover that a band can add?
We’ve talked about this a lot… There are two obvious ways we approach a cover, either completely rebuilding it from the ground up or faithfully re-doing how the author made it. We personally love the first option, because there’s very little point in covering a song unless you’re giving it your own take. I really miss the days were bands covered each other all time. Jimi Hendrix covered Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band THREE DAYS after the Beatles had put it out. (Paul McCartney and George Harrison were even in the audience.) Aretha Franklin does an amazing cover of ‘Bridge Over Troubled Waters’, and it’s completely her own. I think people should re-interpret each other’s songs more often.
3.- On that note, what attracted you to ‘Movin’ out (Anthony’s song)? I’m curious as it is my fave Billy Joel song.
So that’s a prime example of the second option, where you just play a song to celebrate it in all its glory. We play a pretty faithful version of that song, because we honestly love it… It’s as simple as that. I don’t really understand why I think that’s okay in this case, I typically rail against bands that do that… It feels lazy. But what prompted us to cover ‘Movin’ Out’ was we were out of town to record Urgency, and the day we returned we had a show… That day was coincidentally Justin’s girlfriend’s birthday, so as an apology, we played her favorite song at the show. It was so much fun we just kept doing it.
4.- A major Pale Pacific signature sound in your music is the use of organs. Any particular reason you are fond of this instrument?
We’ve always leaned towards moodier sounds, and organs and the Rhodes piano are so good at that. Our singer Gabe grew up playing piano, and when he first started the band in High School he played a keyboard. So it’s really just a return to what he started with… Plus, it’s hard for us to be a moody little pop band without it.
5.- We saw a Helpinstill organ on your Facebook page and it looks sweet (and strange). How did that one worked out for you? Do you plan to alternate it with the Rhodes?
No, that was just Gabe geeking out over one that he saw someplace. I don’t think he’s planning on getting one, it’s all Rhodes all the time right now.
6.- Your song titles are quite something. The ones I love are ‘We never fight or disagree’, ‘My Life Story in 50 words or less’ and ‘Gravity gets things done’. Are these titles based on your lyrics or based on the feelings conveyed by the music?
All of those titles came from the lyrics, and that’s all Gabe. Every once in a while, Gabe will write a song in the form of a story (like ‘We Never Fight or Disagree’ or ‘the Strangest Second Chance’) and those songs become our favorites, lyrically.
Sometimes the lyrics really have an effect on how we play a song. I doubt we would play so hard at the end of ‘We Never Fight or Disagree’ if the protagonist wasn’t hauled off in a cop car… The relationship is kind of exploding at that point, so we play it like we mean it.
7.- Through your music, there seems to be an intuitive relationship among the members of the band. Is your music the result of a life experience?
Hmm. Gabe and Cameron are cousins, so there’s that. I’ve never thought about how that might help their intuition, but I bet there’s something there. Before we started writing our new record we all played in other bands, filling in for a show/tour occasionally. I was honestly amazed at how tight the four of us were when we started writing again, maybe a year later. There’s just something to playing music with the same people for so long… An enormous part of this is listening to each other. And once we had listened long enough it was much easier to predict how the other guys will play. At this point in our band, after years of writing, touring, practicing, hanging out, we aren’t LIKE family, we actually ARE family. That influences both how we talk to each other and how we play music together.
8.- Digital album, CD or vinyl. What do you prefer and why?
I like it to take up as much space as possible, so I’d have to choose vinyl. I want music to be as tactile as possible… I want the whole experience of grabbing the record, putting it on the turntable, and seeing the artwork to influence how my day is going. I want to listen to records straight through, and flip sides 25 minutes in. I’m jealous of anyone with a big collection, I’ve never been great at that.
9.- Any news about a new album? Been a while since we heard anything new and we hunger for more ditties from you!
THIS is exciting. We’re recording our best record (so far). All the music is tracked, it just needs vocals. Gabe is putting the finishing touches on lyrics, and then we’ll be good to go. It’s the best group of songs we’ve ever written, and they were all written in a practice space one Wednesday night at a time. The songs weren’t done until we could play them completely in the room. We didn’t decide what songs belonged on the album until we had played them all back-to-back in our practice space.
10.- Thank you very much! If there’s a new album coming up, feel free to plug as much as you want on the interview.
Thank YOU! Watch for our new album this year, and we’re really excited about our post-album plans as a band as well… More on that later this year.
11.- Oh, Any clues for the name of the title? Will the release be on vinyl or just good old CD and mp3? A tour,maybe?
I don’t think we’re 100% on the name yet, we’re still bouncing between two different ones. My plan is to release it on all 3: vinyl, CD, and digital download. No tour plans yet, but I think we’d get anywhere people demanded us to go.
Sloucher.org thanks Greg Swinehart and The Pale Pacific for their wonderful music and the impact it has had in our lives. Looking forward to the new stuff. And keep kicking AC/DC.
Words: Sam J. Valdés López