Published Sep 26, 2018Last November, New Jersey outfit Pinegrove cancelled a North American tour after frontman Evan Stephens Hall revealed he had been accused of sexual coercion. Now, Hall and his bandmates have addressed the accusations and their year-long hiatus in a new interview.
A lengthy Pitchfork feature reveals that the band and Hall's alleged victim came to "a private resolution via a trusted mediator," with the former requesting Pinegrove take a year off from touring and for Hall to enter therapy.
"We wanted to honour that," Hall said in the piece. "She recognized that we've honoured it, and has since approved our plan to release an album and play some shows later on this year."
The mediator told Pitchfork that Hall's alleged sexual coercion involved "verbal and contextual pressure" and was "not of a physical nature at all," adding, "She and Evan had a brief relationship, and she was in a relationship when it started. She felt that he coerced her into cheating on her partner with him, and she felt that she said no to him several times… and he continued to pursue her."
The feature also examines how Hall's statement was instigated by a series for emails from Philadelphia-based nonprofit Punk Talks, which Spin initially reported on earlier this year. The organization's founder, Sheridan Allen, had contacted Pinegrove's label and a Cleveland-based festival the band was set to play about an allegation against Hall.
Parts of the accusations against Hall were said to have stemmed from a conversation between Hall and Allen following a tour in 2016, in which Hall says he was under the impression that Allen was a licensed therapist:
But even by sending that initial instigating email to Pinegrove's label and promoters, Allen was possibly overstepping her boundaries. If Allen's mission was to facilitate mental health treatment, then, as one licensed therapist told me, it would be unusual "to offer that service and then also be engaging in these unofficial accountability processes." Mental health support is a markedly different resource than a community-based accountability process. "It would be incongruent with the mission [of a mental health provider] to approach this person and say, 'You're a perpetuator,'" the therapist told me. "If a therapist is going to engage in reparative accountability work, that would be extremely confidential. Everyone would be consenting to engaging in that."
Hall also told Pitchfork about how his own perspective has changed since releasing his statement:
At first, I felt defensive. I was trying to understand what the accusation was. It really didn't jive with my memory of what had happened," he said. "I take consent seriously. All of our encounters were verbally consensual. But, OK, certainly this isn't from nowhere. If she came away feeling bad about our encounter, feeling like she couldn't express how she was feeling honestly at the time, that's a huge problem. So I have been reflecting a lot about how a relationship that promotes honesty is an active process, and that maybe there are conversations we should have had that we didn't, or maybe there's something else I could have done to make her feel like she could have said how she was feeling. I've been thinking about that all the time.
Pitchfork also asked Hall about the part of his statement about how he "could sense who from the crowd would be interested in sleeping with me based on how they watched me perform." Hall told the site that he included the line because it was both mentioned in Allen's email and was based on something he told the alleged victim in private:
I was noticing people act towards me in a certain way, from the audience. And then those same people would sometimes approach me at the merch table or in person after the set, and be very directly solicitous, or proposition me. This was an observation based on a correlation. I was not objectifying people from the stage.
[…] I categorically do not target fans for sex. Nevertheless, I understand why reading what I wrote would make people reflect on their experiences at our concerts through an uncomfortable lens. And I'm so sorry to anybody who read that and felt uncomfortable. When I really think back about the statement, the language is just so dissonant and horrible. It's not ever what I've meant to convey. We have always prioritized the safety of fans at our concerts, and we always will prioritize the safety of fans at our concerts.
Pitchfork also spoke to Pinegrove member/Half Waif leader Nandi Rose Plunkett about the accusations:
As the only woman in Pinegrove, Nandi Rose Plunkett had a singular perspective on Hall's situation. (A multi-instrumentalist, she left the group's full-time lineup at the end of 2016 to pursue her own project, Half Waif, though she still performed on Skylight; she is currently engaged to Pinegrove's Zack Levine.) Plunkett made her support of her bandmate clear: "I do not think Evan is at all a threat to young women attending shows," she wrote via email. Plunkett added that she has had "many productive conversations privately" about the allegations against Hall, but said it has felt "daunting" to speak in public. "Still, I'm hopeful that the space is beginning to open up for these challenging conversations," she said. "I want any young female fans and fellow musicians to know that I'm fighting for them. I've dealt with a lot of challenges as a multiracial woman and I've been thrust now into the middle of a situation that I never imagined I'd be a part of. But I'm learning a lot from it, having tough conversations and pushing myself and those around me to dismantle the structures of privilege that have built and bound us. In order to grow into a more loving and understanding community, we have to work towards healing through sensitive and open communication. And that's what we're trying to do.
You can read Pitchfork's entire feature here.
Pinegrove will self-release their new album Skylight this Friday (September 28). Initially set for release on Run For Cover, label head Jeff Casazza told Pitchfork that there was "some discomfort expressed" from other artists on the label about the release. He added that Pinegrove have not been dropped from the label.
The band will donate all Bandcamp proceeds from album sales to a trio of charities: the Voting Rights Project, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and musician mental health organization Musicares.