When listeners finally get their ears on the new album by The Pink Stones, many will have no idea how hard they worked to make it happen.
The band, which is releasing its album Introducing…The Pink Stones Friday, Apr. 9 courtesy of Normaltown Records, thought they had the whole thing in the bag, save some mixing and overdubs, as early as summer 2019. When they returned to the studio to put the finishing touches on it, they found it had disappeared. The hard drive on which it was stored became corrupted, and it was, in the words of songwriter and founder Hunter Pinkston, “completely gone.”
Rather than tuck away their spurs, they kicked them into action. “We were immediately like, ‘Well, OK, let’s book a week next month and just re-record the whole album.’ I guess that was in September of 2019,” Pinkston says. “So we finished it up and made that 7-inch [Jimmy & Jesus, released December 2019] around that time, too, and just kept working on it and then COVID hit. It was pretty much done before [lockdown], but I went into the studio by myself and did some stuff during [that time], too.”
That they acted so quickly isn’t surprising, considering they’ve never been strangers to putting the work in. They’ve released several demos, the aforementioned 7-inch, one-offs and other things, but mostly they’ve been honing their skills as a live band both locally and on the road. They were quickly becoming something of a house band at the Flicker Theatre & Bar before 2020 said goodbye to live music.
This kind of growing up in public played at least an equal role in their music when it came to being offered a label deal. Pinkston says, “Luckily, it worked out where we took our time and played out a bunch.” “So when we had a record, Normaltown was ready to go with us because we had kind of grinded it out a little bit.”
While Pinkston is the definitive creative lead and songwriter, these guys are very much a band. The core—Will Anderson, Adam Wayton, Logan Brammer and Jack Colclough—are now joined by pedal steel player John Neff, who is known for being a crack sideman but has accepted his Pink Stones merit badge and is counted as a member.
The band’s musical focus has changed some over the years, but is now situated comfortably in the big nest of country music that allows for semi-psych tunes, driving guitar numbers and deeply personal acoustic songs. The Pink Stones’ days of garage rock and sometimes shoegaze-y tunes feel less like phases and more like easily accessible arrows in their quiver. Indeed, both those styles are represented somewhat, and not obviously, on the new album. Pinkston is often a quick writer who will string a song from an overheard phrase, musically or lyrically, and the material on the album was largely arranged by the band and worked out live.
“A lot of those songs we would rehearse them one time and then go play them live. Some of them we wouldn’t rehearse at all,” he says. “I mean, we knew the chord changes, but the actual fine-tuning of the songs came for sure from us playing live all the time.”
During 2020, as the band was isolated and he found himself working more and more alone, he encountered challenges to which he was unaccustomed and was without his traditional sounding board. “I’ve been struggling with that thing where some of my songs are simple country songs,” he says. “I have to find the line between simple and good and I‘m trying too hard to add stuff to songs that doesn’t need to be there. With [the album] there was some deliberation between me and the guys. A lot of the stuff I’ll bring in fully-fleshed and sometimes I’ll be like, ‘Hey, I’ve got these lyrics and I’ve got some ideas but I need help taking it… somewhere.’”
The album’s singles, the sweet soft-psych “Blueberry Dream” and the harrowing “Shiny Bone,” are untraditional for a self-declared country band. Far more typical would have been the honky-tonky “Let’s Sit Down,” maybe the After The Gold Rush-styled “Sweat Me Out” or even the speed-gobbling, after-party-seeking, Buck Owens-ish-jammer “Barroom Blues.” Pinkston says of “Shiny Bone” in particular, “It was nice to have other people tell me they thought we should try the non-typical single as the single.”
Many songwriters will often shroud their direct influences or musical objects of affection, but Pinkston—whose personal tastes include artists as cosmically similar but culturally apart as Kurt Vile, The Grateful Dead, Gram Parsons and Porter Wagoner—celebrates his. “I listen to all kinds of stuff, new and old. One of my favorite things is when I’m listening to a current band and I hear them say something or play something that is a direct homage to something else,” he says.
Things seem to have dovetailed for this band who will now release its proper full-length debut with an auspicious clarity of purpose. But, like everything else in The Pink Stones universe, they’ve come by it naturally and honestly.
“As we played more, it just evolved,” Pinkston says of the point at which they now find themselves. “We figured out what we were trying to do the whole time.”
WHO: The Pink Stones, T. Hardy Morris
WHERE: Southern Brewing Company (Outdoors)
WHEN: Thursday, Apr. 15, 7 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $10
Like what you just read? Support Flagpole by making a donation today. Every dollar you give helps fund our ongoing mission to provide Athens with quality, independent journalism.