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July 23, 2013 at 3:04 PM

Block Party countdown Q&A: Pickwick frontman calls nine months of rain ‘inspiring’

Pickwick frontman Galen Disston performs at the SXSW music festival in Austin, Tex., in 2012 (Deborah Cannon/

By Hannah Leone

After a dramatic transition from folk to what lead singer Galen Disston now describes as “garage-R&B”, Seattle band Pickwick released its first full-length album, “Can’t Talk Medicine,” on March 12. Talking to us from a mountaintop in Utah, singer Galen Disston talked blue-eyed soul, Pickwick’s unexpected influences and his expectations for his first Block Party (even though he’s been here eight years!)

Pickwick takes the main stage at 10:30 p.m. Saturday, July 27 at Capitol Hill Block Party.

Q: What’s the story behind “Can’t Talk Medicine?” How did the whole album come together?

A:  It was a long time in the making, but we had a chance to really hole ourselves up in our house, in our home studio. It was a long process and it took a couple different incarnations and we went through a few different members, but ultimately we are proud of the record and we are excited to put out another one.

Q: Why do you like to record in a home studio?

A: I think we are drawn to the grittier and more interesting-sounding recordings, so recording at home to half-inch tape, and not in a pristine studio, was attractive to us.

Q: What inspired the change in your sound a couple years ago?

A: We started writing collaboratively and pushing ourselves. As we started writing together we kind of got rid of traditional song structure and focused on emoting and just enjoying what we were doing. So I think the only common theme between songs we wrote a couple years ago and songs we’re writing now is that we are writing them collaboratively and together and that is what defines our sound and that is continually evolving.

Q: I’ve read descriptions of Pickwick as “blue-eyed soul.” Do you feel that that applies to you?

A: No. I don’t. I think there are a lot of other people who are doing the “blue-eyed soul” thing, but we are more interested in the garage side.

Q: Why is that?

A: In the conventional way I think we are a northwest band, I think we are more attracted to rock and roll and the harder side than blue-eyed soul. Soul music is sort of untouchable in how perfect it is, and then blue-eyed soul is sort of an abomination of soul that we have toyed with, and I think the garage, more classic interpretation of R&B is where we are finding our sound.

Q: Do you see your sound staying similar to Can’t Talk Medicine or evolving to something completely different?

A: Continuing to evolve. I think we have already seen in some of the new songs we are writing the influence of bands like the Stooges, or the Sonics, and just pushing ourselves in a different way. It is kind of early to say what the outcome will be, but we will be debuting new songs at the block party.

Q: What are some of your other influences?

A: We have so many members, we have such a wide array of influences. Tom Waits is an ongoing influence. We have been joking about the folk implosion being an interesting influence recently.

Q: What is your favorite song from “Can’t Talk Medicine?”

A: I really like the Myths and Brother Roland combo. I still like Stage Names. Windowsill is always really fun to play live.

Q: What is your favorite thing about Seattle?

A: Having toured the country this spring, and Canada, I can honestly say Seattle is one of the most beautiful cities in North America. You can just walk out your door, step outside and it is beautiful, you know? And it’s not too hot. I am from California, and I hate the heat. In Seattle it is always breezy, it’s always perfect in the summers when it gets warm. Growing up in California, when it rained it was always kind of unique – it was very different than the constant sun. So I think nine months of rain actually is inspiring and kind of nostalgic for me.

Q: Does the weather influence your music at all?

A: I’ve heard it said that people kind of retreat to their basements and start bands because of the rain, because there is nothing else to do. But I don’t know, I just like it.

Q: Since you’ve been in Seattle, how have you seen the music scene change?

A: I came here during folk and pre-folk so I can’t really speak to the transition from grunge, but I think when I got here the folk stuff was really booming. I think that is one of the things audiences responded to about us: when we tried to fit that mold, we were stunting ourselves and when we broke free of that is when people started coming to our shows and we started understanding how rewarding it could be, just being creative and having people respond to that.

Q: Are you excited to be playing the Block Party?

A: Yes. I think one of the things I am coming to terms with is that being a member of Pickwick at this time is a really incredible opportunity and I am not taking any of it for granted, so I am really looking forward to next Saturday, just stepping onto that stage and being present for every moment of it.

Hannah Leone: 206-464-2299 or

Comments | Topics: Capitol Hill Block Party, Galen Disston, Pickwick


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