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Since Pinback debuted in the late 1990s, the San Diego duo has maintained a distinctive sound based on the product of two creative minds and bodies joining forces at an opportune moment.
Rob Crow reacted to Armistead Burwell Smith IV's desire to collaborate with someone when the latter's band, Three Mile Pilot, went on hiatus. Crow, who likes to juggle several sonic projects at a time, volunteered himself, and Pinback was formed. He recalls how he jumped at the chance: "I'm like, well, I'm the guy to do that with, because when I get my grips on something, I just don't stop until I like it, until I think it's getting somewhere. That's the joy of it, to try new things."
The act uses the dynamic range of both men's voices to create beautiful harmonies. Not unlike Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson in Supertramp, Crow's deeper and Smith's higher voices meld well with breathy deliveries. Crow's guitar lines shimmer while Smith's bass throbs. Over the years, a rotating cast of several capable drummers have provided a steady rhythm, as occasional keyboard — played by either founding member — has also joined the mix for an extra layer of sparkle. Indulging in melodies with an overall polished sound, Pinback arrived as the antithesis of grunge rock that so infamously defined the 1990s.
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"It's never polished enough for us," notes Crow. "I think we're kind of fans of the Regatta de Blanc-era Police and Drums and Wires' XTC, that kind of sound."
On tour in support of Pinback's fifth full-length, Information Retrieved, released on the Temporary Residence label, drummer Chris Prescott rounds out their live show. Pinback used to tour as a four-piece but tragically lost keyboardist Terrin Durfey to cancer. Despite his absence, Crow assures the keyboard parts will not be missing, since they'll be played as prerecorded accompaniments.
Though Durfey passed away in 2008, the loss remains a rough topic for Crow, who has trouble recalling how long he was part of Pinback's touring band. "I haven't thought about it in those terms," he muses. "The timeline gets confusing for me and depressing, to be honest, so I don't dwell on it."
Though Information Retrieved came out in late 2012, many dates to see Pinback live still lie on the horizon. "We keep touring, keep touring, keep touring," Crow says, already sounding a bit exhausted, "and I try to work on my other stuff in between."
Crow remains busy with numerous side projects, including bands with some pretty strange angles. One is called DevFits, for which Crow mashes up Devo and Misfits songs and sings to a prerecorded mix, karaoke-style, as home videos of his children re-creating Devo videos are projected behind him. Then there's one called Goblin Cock, a doom-metal band whose lyrical focus is children's shows from the 1970s.
"Pinback's the one that makes it so that we can do all the other things, so it has preference over everything else, at least for me," notes Crow. However, any new Pinback material remains a mystery for now, as he and Smith have yet to write any new songs. "I don't know," Crows says with a sigh. "I'm trying not to be concerned about it."