Friday, May 3, 2013

Indie roots band The Pines bringing darkly uplifting music to Chicago

By ERIC SCHELKOPF

On its latest album, "Dark So Gold," Minneapolis-based indie roots band The Pines presents songs that are darkly atmospheric but uplifting.

Comprised of Iowa natives David Huckfelt and Benson Ramsey, The Pines, www.thepinesmusic.com, will perform May 18 at Schubas, 3159 N. Southport Ave., Chicago. The show starts at 9 p.m., and tickets are $18, available at www.schubas.com

I had the chance to talk to Ramsey about the band's current activities, which include making a new album.

Q - Great to talk to you again. Of course, you guys are touring in support of your latest album, "Dark So Gold." I understand that you came up with the album's title before you even wrote the songs for the album. How did that happen and do you think that helped in the creative process of making the album?

We did a tour of England the winter before we recorded "Dark So Gold." I think we were in Scotland when the phrase appeared. It was a heavy winter up there and it was very pretty and lonesome.  

We were never for sure it would be the title. It's rare that little ideas as that sticks around for very long, because we try to stay in the moment, whatever that means.  

But I do think it helped the creative process. It was sort of a guiding light. The phrase holds a feeling and I think it resonates through the record. 

Q - In sitting down to make "Dark So Gold," what were your goals and do you think you achieved them? 

The goal for us is always songs, but there is always this other thing that is hard to name that we have been wanting to capture, a landscape. I think "Dark So Gold" brought us closer to that place. 

Q - Your previous album, 2009's "Tremolo," received rave reviews. Did you feel pressure in following up the album? 

"Tremolo" got some great reviews and was a great record for us, there was a little pressure to hold the bar up for us but not as much as the pressure we put on ourselves to create a record that we are proud of. 

I think for us, since we started, we knew it was going to take awhile to be able to make the record we are wanting to make, and each one i think gets us closer. 


What do you see as the main themes on the album?

I think for me if there is a main theme, it's coping with modern times, the space between cities, the light pollution, the way technology seems to be connecting us but underneath is really separating us on a profound level.

I think these songs are meditations on that. 

Q - Even though the both of you are from Iowa, I understand you guys met in Arizona, where you both lived in a Mexican barrio. Was there a strong musical chemistry right from the start?

Our immediate connection were Iowa songwriters like Dave Moore, Joe Price, Greg Brown, Dave Zollo, etc. And blues music. The Delta blues and the Chicago blues were our foundation from the start and still is our foundation. 

Even though our songs might not seem like blues music, the blues is very mush at the core of what we do.

Q - Some people might think of your songs as being dark or bleak. How do you view your songs?

I think there is a light and dark to the songs. I think there is a darkness but it has to be dark to see the stars - with "Dark So Gold," we did try to explore the pretty, peaceful side of dark.

Q - Alex Ramsey is also part of the band. How is that working? Do you ever worry that sibling rivalries will cause a rift in the band?

Having Alex as a full time member has been nothing but great. He adds another dimension, in his playing and just his spirit. 

I'm so blessed to get to work with him. 

Q - The band opened for Loudon Wainwright last year at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago. What does the band learn from sharing the stage with musicians of such caliber?

We have opened and shared stages with so many great artist of our time. It is always interesting to see how the guide their ship. There is a lot to be learned from the ones that have been doing it for a long time, from their shows to the way they treat people around them.  

We did a couple of shows with Mavis Staples, and we were just in awe at her spirit and her ability to be fully present and in the moment. The music didn't feel like it was just be performed but being created right there. 

Q - What are the band's short term and long term goals? 

In the short term, we are writing and getting ready to record a new record and hope to have it out later this year. 

Our long term goals are to continue to grow as artists.