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Interview: Texas duo Pinkish Black on playing metal without guitars, raising goats, and Burt Bacharach

 

In attempts to characterize Pinkish Black, various publications have described the gloom ‘n doom duo as metal for “people who don’t like metal” and “synth-goth-wave-weirdness.” Neither of those assessments are inaccurate, or even terribly misleading. How is that possible? Have these two Texans created a style so innovative and eclectic that none of us have heard anything like it before? No, not really.

Granted, we certainly don’t see an abundance of guitarless synth and drums outfits running amok. But as is evident on Pinkish Black’s third and most refined offering, Bottom of the Morning, out last month on Relapse, keyboardist/vocalist Daron Beck and drummer Jon Teague concern themselves with heavy moods — the kind tied to existential paucity, the inevitable extinction of humanity, waking up hungover to a hitherto inconceivable degree on a stranger’s bathroom floor, etc. — as opposed to which subset of heavy music in which to belong. If you’ve ever been sublimely bummed out, sick, or rattled, then you’re already familiar with Pinkish Black. You’ve “heard” something like them before, even if you haven’t heard them before.

Amid an obligatory cross-country tour that arrives at the Middle East Upstairs this evening and hits the Columbus Theatre in Providence on Tuesday, Beck and Teague pulled into a random Oklahoma truck stop to chat up Vanyaland. This particular truck stop was attached to a wedding chapel, and we all thought that was weird. Evidently, people driving through Oklahoma feel the impulse to get married more often than you’d expect.

 

Barry Thompson: I’ve been to Austin and Dallas, but I’ve never even talked to anyone from Fort Worth aside from you guys. What’s it like there?

Daron Beck: Um, it’s cow town. It’s a lot slower moving, with way less traffic than a lot of those areas. It seems like there’re a lot of people in our age group — late 30s, early 40s — who still go out around that area. Then again, a lot of people just stay home and smoke weed.

Hm, okay. Favorite horror movies?

 
 

Beck: I think Dawn of the Dead would be mine.

Jon Teague: Mine, too.

Beck: A close second would be Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Bill Moseley and Dennis Hopper are pretty harsh.

 
 

I know you’ve been asked this a million times, but how would you go about surviving the zombie apocalypse?

Teague: Watch it all fall.

Beck: Watch it all fall apart, yeah. Try to set the soundtrack to it, y’know? Although, my mom and stepdad live on an acreage with a bunch of goats, and they raise the goats. So I could go out there and live off goat meat, I guess.

Wait, why does your stepdad raise goats?

 
 

Beck: It was something god told my stepdad to do. It was a sign from god, to raise goats.

…And that’s what he tells people?

Beck: That’s what he told me and my stepbrother. We live in the bible belt, so that’s common. People get signs from god in Texas all the time.

But… how does one profit off raising goats? Does he milk them?

 
 

Beck: Um, there’s goat cheese, but I’m not exactly sure what he plans on doing with them. I’m sure that they sell at market for some sort of value, but I don’t know what. Maybe he sells goat hair? I have no idea.

Weird. I’ve been finding out about Illuminati conspiracy theories recently. Apparently some crazy people are concerned about goats’ supposed affiliation with the pagan idol Baphomet.

Beck: Oh yeah. I don’t think my stepdad knows anything about the Illuminati, though.

You’ve been around for five years. Do you still find yourselves playing for audiences who are like, “A metal band with no guitars?! How the fuck is this happening?!?!”

 
 

Teague: Oh yeah, that happens all the time. Even locally, people are surprised that it’s just two guys and a stack of synthesizers.

Beck: It’s more apparent when we’re opening for a band like Sleep, or Neurosis, or Eyehategod, when it’s definitely a guitar-oriented band and genre. I don’t feel like 100 percent of any audience will grasp or get on board with what we’re doing, y‘know?

Teague: Some people want to get into it, but don’t always quite get there.

Beck: Some people are looking for something different. Some people just want another Ride The Lightning, or whatever, and we’re not interested in doing that.

Do you play a lot of unconventional time signatures, or is that my imagination?

 
 

Beck: Yeah, we normally like 5/4, 7/8 or 11/8, that tends to be what we favor. It’s not even really intentional. It’s just the grooves we kind of find interesting. I think the hard part comes from listening to Éthiopiques. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard that series of CDs. It’s a bunch of Ethiopian pop. I’ve been listening to those for years, and all the bass lines on those are very slinky, so I try to mimic some of that stuff.

How can we tell the difference between a song that goes into 7/8 because the band wanted to impress listeners, and a song that goes into 7/8 because it’s supposed to, or needs to?

Teague: I mean, you hear a lot of technical metal or prog rock or whatever, that is obviously written while thinking, “How weird can we make this?” Which is great, but it’s a different listening experience when you hear something in a weird time signature and you don’t even notice it. That’s really what I’d rather go for, is to make it where it’s odd but still listenable, rather than just a huge technical maylay.

Beck: If you listen to a song like “Promises, Promises” by Burt Bacharach and Dionne Warwick, that song has time signatures all over the place, but it sounds totally unforced. I feel like we’ve gotten better at that since we started. When we started, we were just trying to mash parts together, and now our songs feel more linear and flowy.

I think I read you talking about Burt Bacharach before somewhere, but I thought you were kidding.

Beck: Oh no, I’m a huge fan of pop music, especially everything from, like, ‘60s to ‘80s, definitely. But Bacharach’s one of my biggest songwriting influences. The guy’s writing prog music, but he’s playing to the masses, because it doesn’t sound like forced prog music. That’s why a lot of his songs went Top 40, because they appealed to that many people.

 
 

Obviously you guys have a brilliant band name. Can you think of any better ones out there?

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats. They’re really awesome.

PINKISH BLACK + INFERA BRUO + DUST WITCH :: Monday, November 9 at the Middle East, 472 Massachusetts Ave. in Cambridge, MA :: 8 p.m., 18-plus, $10 in advance and $12 at doors :: Advance tickets :: Facebook event page

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