Rob Crow He Thinks He's People
Published Oct 18, 2011It's been over two-and-a-half years since Rob Crow released an album (Goblin Cock's Come with Me if You Want to Live), which wouldn't be a big deal if the So-Cal indie rocker were like any other musician. But considering Crow has produced 21 albums in 18 years with over a dozen bands (including Thingy, Heavy Vegetable and most famously, Pinback), He Thinks He's People almost works as a comeback. The bearded, lumbering man can still pump out sugary, pretty melodies, evident by his trademark start-stop rhythm on "Sophistructure" and on the drum machine-aided "Tranked." Keeping the majority of songs under three minutes, Crow keeps things exceptionally tight, working off peppy strumming and bouncy picking. But there's more inventive and eclectic left-turns on this fourth solo LP, made evident by Elliott Smith-esque sad-sackers "This Thread" and "Unstable," chugging acoustic jam "Pat's Crabs" and the full-flavoured power-power pop of "Build." He Thinks He's People falls comfortably within some of Rob Crow's best work, cleverly incorporating every face and facet of this musician, who remains just as absorbing as he is prolific.
I'm speaking to you from a child's birthday party?
Yes, it's someone in my oldest's first grade class. I've been here for a couple of hours and I still don't know whose birthday it is.
What are your immediate plans once the album is released? Are you touring?
If I do, it won't be until January because Pinback's going on tour in early November in Europe for a few weeks. And then we're doing a few days in December.
For Zach [Smith] and yourself, does Pinback take priority over your other projects?
Yeah, pretty much. Pinback's the mother ship, so we make sure we're on point with that stuff and all the other stuff is fun too.
Has this been the longest break you've taken between releasing albums?
Well, Zach had his first kid and I had another kid, but we're always busy. Pinback does take the longest to get right. I've done many hours of recording with various projects, but nothing has been finished and released yet.
Can you talk a bit about the recording of the new album?
I'm slowly but surely getting better at it, but I'm still a total hack in the studio.
Are you still doing everything on your own?
Well, for my solo records, I do everything and for Goblin Cock, I do everything. For Pinback, we record all over the place. Some parts will be in my room, some parts will be in his room, some parts will be in a studio, some parts will be in a living room somewhere.
When you write solo material, does anyone get to hear it beforehand? Does Zach get to hear it?
No. I'm not really against playing it for people. The people that I would play it for, my friends, I don't think they really care about my music.
What about your children?
Well, they like it. They want to listen to that stuff all the time, but that's when I don't want to hear it. They're like, "Can we play daddy's songs?"
Has getting married and having children changed your outlook on recording and touring?
No, I pretty much have the same outlook on stuff. The whole time, it just gets more and more ingrained; that whole, "this is a good thing and this is not a good thing." Like, the more time that goes by, the more time I wish I had, you know?
Yeah. Is there anything specific that you used to think was a good thing that you don't think is anymore?
No, I've pretty much always known what I've wanted from things and I've done whatever I could to make those things happen.
Speaking of children, the album cover has a childlike quality to it. Who designed it?
I did. That's about my level of drawing.
Have you found inspiration in the simplistic nature of how children appreciate art?
Actually, I think that's a myth; I think they care a whole lot about the intricacies of art and music and don't care a whole lot about just the beat. In that case, you could just play them an 808 and they would care. It's the certain things inside a song that they enjoy that sparks what they like about it and that's the same thing for everyone, no matter what their age. But everyone is different; it's not a question of age, it's a question of personality.
How do you respond when people call you "prolific"?
They're correct. I make a lot of stuff. That's all I do.
Do you feel your material doesn't garner the same attention as someone who puts out an album every three or four years?
I don't know; I hope everything I do is judged on its own merit. I wouldn't be in a position to know how it's judged at all, really. As soon as it's out of my hands, I don't know how anybody takes it or feels about it. I'm kind of afraid of knowing, but as long as I'm happy with something, I'm happy with something, whether people like it or not. What I consider to be my best work would not be what the majority of people would consider my best work.
What do you consider your best work?
The Other Men record is probably the best record I've ever played on.
Did you find that you brought in a new audience with Goblin Cock?
Yeah, I did somehow; it's surprising how many Pinback fans are metal dudes. Anyways, it just kind of worked out that way. Unfortunately, some people know about some projects and don't know about others and that's kind of the way I wanted it. For Goblin Cock, I wanted to put those records out totally obscure; I didn't want anyone to know that I was in the band. When the record came out, the guy who put out the record put it on a sticker on the cover. I had been doing all of these interviews in fake voices and all this stuff all this time and then right there on the cover.
Are you a metal guy?
Oh yeah, totally; I'm a lot of things. Almost every form of art has some really great things to it and some really bad things to it. Except for techno.
Are there more metal guys showing up at Pinback show now?
Always, Pinback shows are a great cross-section of people.
Any idea who will be in your live band for your next solo tour?
I haven't put together a live solo band yet because I still haven't figured out what I want it to be. I want it to be an amalgamation of a bunch of things. I want it to be super-heavy, loud and I want it to have acoustic elements and for things with hard beats on them, I want that to come through as well. And lately I've been in to making films for all my songs and so maybe I'll do a video part for that as well. It could be anything from me playing alone to a bunch of tracks to a seven-person band.
How did you become interested in making films for your live show?
Zach and I started doing something called "The Rob and Zach Show," where we played really stripped down, weird versions of Pinback songs, and so I started making videos for that so we could have a backing track that also triggered live-to-synch video. And now I do that for all the Pinback songs, so that made me really into editing and making things.
They're inspired by each track?
Yeah, everything is synched and sound specific. I also do this thing called the Devfits: a Misfits/Devo mash-up band. It sounds like the Misfits covering Devo and vice-versa, and I have films for that entire thing and I made those films to recreate a bunch of old Devo videos and that helped a lot. Now I'm tapped into that whole thing.
Have you ever thought about directing a narrative short film or even a full-length?
Yeah, I would really like to do that, but I start writing that stuff and I get so spaced out I can't focus on one thing. Everything goes into a whole other thing and then another thing and then another thing.
You wouldn't just film something that someone else wrote?
Yeah, I could do that, that's easy. I'm so used to doing everything myself from scratch that it's hard for me to think, "Oh yeah, I could just do one part of that." If somebody asked me to just play the bass and just tour, I'd totally be into that... if it were a band I liked. I just like to be doing stuff.
So the reason why you're so busy is not because you necessarily have these songs burning to get out, but more because you always want to be doing something?
I guess it's a mixture of both things; it sure would be a load off to just be doing something and not have to make it all from scratch. Every day I sit down and say, "okay, I got to work on something." But even when I'm not doing that I'll be sitting around and think, "I should do this, I've got an idea," and run downstairs and start working. (Temporary Residence)