Pickwick began with lead vocalist Galen Disston writing folk songs on an acoustic guitar backed by drummer Matthew Emmett. The band grew to five members in 2008, including Cassady Lillstrom (keys, background vocals), Garrett Parker (bass) and Michael Parker (guitar, background vocals), but finally cemented their lineup with the addition of producer, engineer, percussionist and mentor (aka “father figure”) Kory Kruckenberg–a Grammy winner no less for 2011′s Best Engineered Classical Album.
It’s the classic story of a band reinventing their sound, but Pickwick’s metamorphosis was profound, going from a Wilco derivative to an emotionally charged, garage-pop, R&B force. But guitarist Michael Parker would rather you think of their sound as “sex with the lights on.”
The process of transformation allowed the group to “figure out what kind of band we were meant to be all along,” continues to Parker. Listen to "The Round":
Shedding their inhibitions and drawing from influences like Sam Cook, Otis Redding, Spoon, The Walkmen and Cold War Kids, Pickwick decided to go for "low-fi soul" rather than kill the band, which had stagnated in a genre that simply wasn’t for them. And although their name (and typographical choices) may still contain a countrified air, the material is anything but.
Their few recordings envelope a raw, lucid, harmonic bliss that transforms into live shows packed with spirited verve. But don’t think you can easily brand Pickwick as another pack of neo-soul white boys. While they are still defining and refining their sound, discovering that universal lesson of “less is often more,” according to Parker, Pickwick’s new material is instinctive and self-fulfilling, a natural expression that wraps the tangible passion of lead singer Galen Disston’s vocals with a driving bass and drum backbone plus key touches, guitar riffs, and a bevy of hand percussion. The result is intended to be self-liberating and the fact that audience’s seem to relish it as well is just a perk.
The band is hardly solemn though; their live performances are ebullient. Displaying a sense of humor, Parker says, “Up until recently, the pinnacle of our success was our short residency at the Emerald Queen Casino opening up for a troop of John Candy impersonators… it went ok. Lately we’ve been playing bigger and bigger shows and festivals around the Northwest. As a band who has been slugging it out for a few years we feel very fortunate to be where we’re at. In the next month alone we will have played Doe Bay Fest, Bumbershoot, and [an unofficial] MFNW [showcase]. It’s a trip.”
Visiting Portland for their third time in September, Pickwick will be at Rontoms’ free Marmoset Music Party on Sunday, September 11th (the final day of MFNW) appearing alongside PDX favs like Tu Fawning, Dolorean, Pancake Breakfast and Seattle pals Hey Marseilles.OMN had the chance to chat with guitarist and the band’s pseudo-psychologist Michael Parker about Pickwick’s beginnings and future.