Pickwick marries diverse sounds
Seattle-based sextet thrives on, and finds success in, collaboration
Seattle’s Pickwick has been playing together in various capacities for the past few years, but they already have the experience of old pros. They’re one of those bands that combine wildly disparate styles – melodic pop, fuzz-heavy rock, blue-eyed soul – to create a sound that appeals to a surprisingly diverse cross-section of listeners. They’re frequently likened to the Black Keys, a comparison that isn’t unfair.
Pickwick has been touring extensively in support of their first LP, “Can’t Talk Medicine,” which was released earlier this year, playing live with Neko Case and Okkervil River. Although the band’s roots are in the Pacific Northwest, Galen Disston, Pickwick’s lead singer, says that he was surprised that their fan base extended to the East Coast.
“We were pretty thrilled with the turnout in some of those cities,” he said. “Philly, D.C., New York, Boston – they all sold out in advance before we even got to the venue. It was really encouraging. And those were the first times we’d played in those cities.”
Disston began performing under the Pickwick moniker in 2005 as a solo acoustic act, but he started arranging songs for a full band. Through various lineup changes and a couple of stylistic tweaks here and there, Pickwick developed into the six-piece it is now.
“The group collaboration lends itself to better songs, and it’s more fun to collaborate,” Disston said. “And I think the people in the audience feed off of that because we’re enjoying it together.”
“Can’t Talk Medicine” is essentially a snapshot of the band’s most recent evolution. “We’ve been playing some of these songs for awhile, and we recorded the record on our own,” Disston said. “It took a couple of tries. We had some lineup changes. It took a long time. But I think now we’re proud of what we did and excited for more people to hear it.”
The album itself, which the band recorded in their own living room, marries bouncy pop hooks with grim, often abstract lyrics. Some of the highlights include the commanding opener “Halls of Columbia”; the single-worthy rocker “Hacienda Motel,” named after the site of R&B legend Sam Cooke’s murder; and a beautiful cover of Richard Swift’s “Lady Luck,” which features guest vocals from singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten.
If “Can’t Talk Medicine” reflects the warm, homey vibe of the living room studio where it was recorded, Disston said that the soul of their music is at its fullest – and their sound at its rawest – when the band performs live.
“If people are able to enjoy the record, I think that our live show informs what we weren’t able to capture on the record and where we’re headed,” he said.