In the world exists a staggering amount of love songs. Yet within that abundance, very few modern songs are about non-romantic love. There’s a gap where the music about familial love, platonic love and friendships should be. Pinegrove‘s frontman Evan Stephens Hall noticed this inconsistency too.
“I didn’t have any songs I could listen to that could comfort me about topics like that, so I made them myself,” Hall said.
Pinegrove’s 2016 album “Cardinal” is bookended by two such songs: “Old Friends” and “New Friends,” yet the themes of brotherly love are laced throughout the record.
Following their 2015 compilation “Everything so Far,” the band, consisting of Hall, Zack Levine, Nick Levine, Sam Skinner, Nandi Rose Plunkett, David Mitchell, Josh Marre and Adan Carlo, released “Cardinal” last year to the tune of praise from some of music’s harshest critics.
NPR Music offered up a fitting description for Pinegrove and their musings on friendship and love, calling them “fresh and scrappy at the same time.” Pitchfork said the detailed record deeply focuses on one of the most important aspects of life: “how to make our friendships really matter.”
Riding this wave of success, Pinegrove’s been gaining fans and gaining ground. Now they’re set to play at Panorama Music Festival at Randall’s Island Park on Saturday, July 29, another opportunity for the group to enrapture a new audience, and maybe even initiate the wave.
“People are always so down to do the wave,” Hall said of music festival audiences. “But also I think there’s more a sense that we are playing to persuade some people. I like the challenge of trying to persuade someone that we’re worth checking out until the end of the song, and then persuading them to check out the next song and just measure by measure making it interesting enough for them and emotional enough for them to say ‘Oh I should stay here’ instead of checking out any of the bands they could be listening to instead.”
This opportunity cost is, for many Pinegrove fans, of no concern. The band’s current tour, which includes cities in the U.S., Canada and the U.K., has fans making the trip to see Pinegrove perform at headlining shows and festivals alike, and they linger for the whole set, too.
Much of Pinegrove’s appeal is due to their approachable lyrics and sublime songwriting. While their music has pleased both listeners and critics, the first person Hall must please is himself. At the core of the songwriting process is his own little shindig, but as listeners, we’ve all secured invitations.
“It’s exciting to have a wider listenership than ever before, but it doesn’t really change the process,” Hall said. “These songs have been really helpful to me and they’ve become an irreplaceable part of my emotional process. They’re a universe I’ve created for myself, but everybody’s invited.”
While it’s personal for Hall, he takes a simple approach to songwriting.
“I think inherently it’s a process of simplifying the complex experience it is to be human,” he said. “It’s my philosophy that the more direct the better. And even though we might be trying to explore some sort of complex emotional moods or positions or even just ideas, I try to leave out any extraneous substance.”
Hall studied literature and English in college, which has given him extra insight into language and perhaps inspired the conversational tone of “Cardinal.”
“Studying literature helped me realize that there are melodies in dialogue and when we talk to each other we also sing to each other,” Hall said.
The band is currently recording a new album in an old house outside of rural Hudson, New York. Expect a lot natural and integrated sounds on their next work. They also just finished collaborating on a compilation of Green Day covers, all the proceeds of which will be donated to an environmental advocacy group.
“We’re going to put it out when September ends,” Hall joked.
Aside their projects as a band, the musicians who make up Pinegrove are busy in their own right as well. They push each other forward creatively and professionally.
“There are certainly a lot of contemporaries, not least of all my band members who are writing incredible songs and I find myself listening to them almost the most and being inspired by them,” Hall said. “It pushes me to do better.”