Book Lodging

Interview with Galen Disston of Pickwick

Tuesday • March 19, 2013

Today we spoke with Galen Disston, vocalist for Pickwick, an up-and-coming garage R&B band out of Seattle. They played the main stage at Blues & Brews in 2012 and return to Telluride tomorrow to the Sheridan Opera House. Since their Telluride debut last year, Pickwick has released a new album, “Can’t Talk Medicine,” rocked the western festival circuit and has sold out shows across the country. 

T.com: We are really excited to have you guys coming into town tomorrow and seeing you play at the Opera House in that intimate venue – have you been before?

It’s this great historic venue right in the middle of downtown, celebrating its 100th year this year, has some great energy and great acoustics, it should be awesome.

GD: All we’ve seen is at the Fly Me To The Moon and the main stage at the Blues & Brews Festival.

T.com: how do you think you play better as a band - in the larger, festival circuit venues or at a smaller, more intimate venue?

GD: We’ve definitely had some great experiences at both; we definitely feel more comfortable and prefer playing smaller clubs where we can really interact with people and people can get closer to us. People can feed off that energy.

T.com: Your new album just came out on the 12th, I think it’s awesome. I’d love to hear about how it all came together, your influences for the record, and maybe a self-description of how you’d characterize the sound.

GD: The record was a long time coming, the sessions that make up Can’t Talk Medicine kind of unofficially started in December 2011, but the sessions actually on the record came from April 2011 on. We all work full-time jobs, we were touring in between when we could… it took a little bit longer than we would have liked. We also were doing it on our own so we wanted to be able to put something out that we felt comfortable with and were proud of. We didn’t want to put it out before it was ready.

One of the things that’s unique about our record, it was recorded in our house. It’s not an ideal environment. We recorded the drums in our carpeted living room, which isn’t recommended; we recorded the backup vocals in the kitchen. It was all done in the headquarters of the house, where we practice and write songs - and that’s all done in the basement, and all of our meetings and planning happens in the kitchen and the living room. It really is a center for everything we do as a band. 

One thing I thought that was cool, one of our roommates… collects cassette tapes from thrift store answering machines and organizes and compiles all the found audio that he finds, that’s where all the talking clips and found audio that’s on the record comes from. It was cool that that found its way onto the record, too. It’s all part of the character of the house that made up the way the record sounds.

In terms of our influences, I don’t want to speak for everybody because… we all listen to a lot of different stuff… we love a lot of sixties bands like the Spencer Davis Group or the Sonics from Tacoma. We like the Walkmen, I was listening to a lot of Notorious B.I.G. toward the end of the record. It’s hard to kind of pin down what led to each thing, but it’s all kind of in there.

I think our sound gets described incorrectly as neo-soul a lot of the time, and I really think neo-soul is adventurous, kind of trippy soul music from the nineties, like D’angelo and Erykah Badu, which is like amazing music that we can’t touch. I think we’re really more of a rock band that borrows from soulful influences. At the same time were all really interested in garage rock too, like the Black Keyes or a band from the sixties called the Monks or the Sonics from Washington. I think we borrow as much from those early garage rock influences as from soul music.

T.com: It’s always interesting to get the band’s own perspective on their music!

GD: Garage-soul or garage R&B is a lot closer than neo-soul.

T.com: Which instrument do you play Galen?

GD: I sing.

T.com: Wonderful, the instrument of the voice. Any personal influences you’d like to share besides the ones you’ve already mentioned?

GD: I love bob Dylan.

T.com: Have you played any of the songs off this new record on tour prior to its release last week?

GD: Yeah we’ve been playing some of the songs for a while, but this is kind of the set list we’ve planned for this tour, which includes some new songs that aren’t on this record. Yeah the tour’s been great, San Francisco sold out! We were really surprised that tons of people came out to Phoenix and Albuquerque, we’ve never been to those cities. This Monday in Aspen was awesome, we had 200 people. We’ve been very encouraged by this early touring. In April we’re going out to the east coast and Canada which is also our first time, our manager said some of the venues are close to selling out, so that’s unbelieveable.

T.com: Good to hear! We’re super excited to have you out here in Telluride at the Opera House.

GD: We really appreciate any support and we had a great time at the festival. We would love to meet any people who have any idea who we are at the show! 

T.com: Looking forward to it!