Pinback thrives with three-man format

Jun. 28, 2013 | 0 Comments In the Star-Advertiser Friday Print Edition
Rob Crow, left, and Zach Smith are two thirds of the indie rock band, Pinback. (Courtesy photo)

Rob Crow, left, and Zach Smith are two thirds of the indie rock band, Pinback. (Courtesy photo)

By Gary Chun /

To hear Zach Smith of indie rock band Pinback tell it, three is better than five.

The band has streamlined its composition, now made up of bassist/singer Smith, guitarist/singer Rob Crow and drummer Chris Prescott. Smith said the band interacts best live in this formation.

“To be a three-piece band is the happiest I’ve ever been,” an affable Smith (pictured at right) said by phone from his San Diego home.

Pinback stops in Honolulu on Sunday after a couple of nights onstage in Tokyo.


with Animal Mother

Where: The Republik. 1349 Kapiolani Blvd.

When: 7 p.m. Sunday

Cost: $27.50

Info: or 855-235-2867

“We had been used to playing as a five-piece to help fill out the sound, but to be honest, I can’t stand it when a band sounds just like it does in the studio,” Smith said. “Plus, with the larger lineup, fans were saying our BPM (beats per minute) went up and it got more rocky.

“With just the three of us, it’s a bit more subdued and laid-back — it takes off a little edge, and there’s a feel of more space — so I think we’ve found the best of both worlds.”

NUANCE is important to Pinback’s music. The guys aren’t interested in cranking it up to 11 and shredding, but there is a sense of urgency in their interplay in concert; it’s no snoozefest.

The band has built a solid fanbase. “We’ve been touring solidly for the past five years,” Smith said.

Pinback’s latest album, “Information Retrieved,” released by the indie label Temporary Residence, has also earned admiration.

“Pinback is either the quietest rock band working, or the loudest pristine pop band working,” PopMatters’ Matthew Fiander wrote in his album review. “Whichever it is, the fact that Rob Crow and Zach Smith derive so much muscle and power from so little reliance on volume has always been remarkable, and that amazing restraint has reached an impressive peak on (this album).”

Three songs featured from the album — “Proceed to Memory,” “His Phase” (which Pinback played on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” in March) and “Sherman” — are all finely shaped pieces of lyrics and melody.

Reminiscent of the indie rock that came out of New Zealand in the 1980s, there’s a contemplative feel to Pinback’s music. The singing might rise in volume — but never in anger or angst.

This is clear-headed, good-mood music, engaging and inoffensive in the best possible way.

SMITH AND CROW (left above) have known each other since the heyday of the San Diego indie music scene of the late 1980s and early ’90s.

Crow moved to Southern California from New Jersey, “and, in fact, he tells me that he first met me when I was playing in the punk band Neighborhood Watch as a teenager,” Smith said. “He interviewed me for a little zine he was doing at the time.”

The two were roommates before they thought of playing music together. They formed Pinback after playing in their own “outsider” bands: Smith with his friends in Three Mile Pilot and Crow in a band called Heavy Vegetable.

“The great thing back then versus now is that I felt there truly was a community of bands supporting each other. There were only two places to play, and there was a real friendship thing going on,” Smith said. “It was such a special moment in time.”

The inspiration for the band’s name came from a character, Sgt. Pinback, in the cult 1974 sci-fi film “Dark Star.” That slightly nostalgic, speculative-fiction vibe is perceptible in the band’s songs.

Smith has distinguished himself as a fine bass player, strumming or plucking on an Alembic Stanley Clarke jazz model.

“The electric bass was my first instrument, a Fender Jazzmaster. It immediately clicked with me because I saw what it had to offer. Because it’s a guitar, too, you can get really melodic on top.”

All three members now have families back home. Smith said they recently tried adjusting the tour schedule to accommodate for more home visits, “but we ended up hating the staggered stop-and-start, so we’re going back to full four-week stints in September, on the road and on a tour bus.”

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