Pile are set to return with their new album, Green and Gray, later this week. Ahead of the official May 3rd release, the Boston post-punk outfit is sharing an early stream of the entire LP, along with a track by track breakdown.
Marking the band’s seventh record overall, Green and Gray follows 2017’s A Hairshirt of Purpose. Created alongside veteran producer Kevin S McMahon (Titus Andronicus, The Walkmen), the effort is also Pile’s first since amicably parting ways with guitarist Matt Beker and bassist Matt Connery. Touring guitarist Chappy Hull took over full-time for Becker, while Stove’s Alex Molini entered in place of Connery.
Explaining to Noisey what it was like working on new music while incorporating new band members, frontman Rick Maguire said,
“With writing things, I definitely wanted to expand and do new things, but I didn’t want it to seem drastically different. I didn’t want people to say, ‘Oh, this is a completely different band now.’ But now that we’ve done this record I feel like we have more room to get weirder in whatever way that means, just whatever is outside what is the norm for us.”
Stream the whole thing below, followed by Maguire’s Track by Track breakdown. Pile will tour behind Green and Gray this summer.
By now, it’s a well established fact that Pile fans are deeply devoted to the band. But, as excitable as they may be, no one loves the band as much as Rick Maguire, the band’s driving creative force. When Maguire released Demonstration in 2007, the solo offering bared the name Pile, a function of not wanting to put his name on the release, even if he was the only person featured on it. As the years went on, Maguire built a band around him, and with a constant slate of new material, and a never-ending tour schedule, it became clear that he had no off-switch.
On May 3, Pile will release their seventh full-length album, Green and Gray. Seven albums in 12 years is no easy feat, but considering that there’s rarely been a year without they haven’t released something, it’s only fitting that they’ve crafted their most ambitious work yet. But along with Green and Gray comes some fairly noteworthy changes for the band. Guitarist Matt Becker and bassist Matt Connery have left the band amicably, making room for the band’s touring guitarist Chappy Hull to become a full-time member and for Alex Molini of Stove to enter the fold. While these shifts have been gradual, the one that will shock most people is a spiritual one. When Green and Gray is released, Pile will no longer be able to classify itself as a Boston band. Though Pile has been an integral part of the city’s independent music scene, with Maguire, Hull, and Molini all living together in Nashville, in many ways, it feels like the start of a new era for the band.
All these changes aside, Green and Gray feels like a natural outgrowth of the sounds the band was exploring on 2017’s A Hairshirt of Purpose. But while there are more genteel abstractions throughout the record, it also features some of the band’s most disgustingly savage compositions in their history, as Maguire unleashes his pent-up political frustrations in a way that’s direct but not heavy-handed. Yet, at the same time, Green and Gray offers the most transparent view of Maguire himself. Songs like “Firewood” and “My Employer” see him no longer using narrators as vehicles for his own emotions, as he plumbs the depths of his experience and puts the discoveries on full display.
Speaking to Maguire on the phone, as he preps to release the band’s most openly introspective work to date, there was an expectation that, maybe, 12 years of constant work had finally wore him down a bit. But as Maguire shows, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
St. Louis all-stars Shady Bug have been getting quite the buzz around their sophomore release, Lemon Lime — including a spot on NPR Music’s Slingshot playlist last month. We were lucky enough to have them play at our very own Untitled Fest at SXSW, and loved every minute of it!
We had the chance to chat with the Bugs and talk about humble beginnings, local roots, and what big plans lie ahead.
We are also so excited to be premiering Shady Bug’s music video for their track “Blow”! A collection of tiny moments, we get an intimate look at a night full of laughs, nerves, and Canada Dry. Check it out here, and make sure to see Shady Bug on tour in a city near you while they’re currently on tour.
Pile’s new song kicks off on a buzz of frustrated chords like a revving engine. Once the drums come in, “The Soft Hands of Stephen Miller” hits fast and mean, a two-minute Molotov cocktail hurled towards the smarmy Trump aide known as the architect of the administration’s hardline immigration policies. On first pass, the Boston post-hardcore band’s frontman Rick Maguire sings with a fury that sounds inchoate: Na na na na na na, he taunts, before turning to a more salient point: “Stephen, tell me about your great-grandmother.” Miller himself, as the public learned last year, is the descendant of refugees who fled anti-Jewish violence in Europe in the early 1900s.
Not until halfway through this brutally short track do Pile bring in the full force of their guitars, as Maguire unleashes a long, glass-shattering howl of rage. “We’re all railing against insignificance, Steve/But you don’t have to be so vile and insufferable about it,” he sneers. And there’s the career of Stephen Miller in a nutshell: not that of an intellectual rebel but of a cruel, craven hanger-on. Pile came for everything short of his hairline.
The cover of Sharkmuffin’s 2017 release, Tsuki Re-Issue Bonus Tracks, features three smiling, floating mermaid alien grunge goddesses. One is blue, one is red, and one is green—it’s like the Powerpuff Girls just discovered Bikini Kill and poppers.
It’s a fitting image for the self-described “KITTY FUZZ SPACE GRUNGE” trio, who have been churning out playful, rowdy art rock for nearly seven years. It also nods to earlier offerings of theirs, such as the jangly, gnarled “Mermaid Sex Slave” (2013) and “Cat Mermaid” (2018), a brief, ethereal ode to—you guessed it—a cat mermaid. These characters are just two of many that occupy the Brooklyn band’s magical multiverse.
The newest additions are a receptionist-turned-space dominatrix named Serpentina and her genetically engineered “designer baby.” Serpentina’s dystopian sci-fi story unfolds over the course of Sharkmuffin’s latest EP, Gamma Gardening, which is out April 5 on Exploding In Sound Records, and showcases Tarra Thiessen (guitar, vocals), Natalie Kirch (bass, vocals), and Jordyn Blakely (drums, vocals) at their scuzzy, screaming, scattered best. One highlight is the six-minute-long, reverb-drenched “Too Many Knobs,” which pairs their gasped and yelped and barked vocals with cascading guitar solos that suggest something along the lines of hypnosis or mind-control gone terribly wrong.
“Gamma Gardening is our sci-fi rock opera starring Serpentina, a dominatrix that takes a temp job as a receptionist and has an affair with a genetic engineer. They code a designer baby together that can breathe underwater and survive in outer space without a suit. The Atomic Gardening Society finds out and takes their baby away for testing, and Serpentina ultimately hangs herself with a belt,” explained Thiessen in an email to AdHoc.
“To me, [the EP] is about maintaining your human qualities in an increasingly technological world, the feeling of questioning how much of yourself is a product of your environment, and the chaos of robots and humans learning how to coexist with each other,” added Blakely.
“Tarra and I were brainstorming over tacos when I wrote the ‘Receptionist’ bass line,” Kirch adds. “Tarra had just sent me a demo for ‘Serpentina,’ inspired by a serpentine belt that sparked the album’s plot. ‘Designer Baby’ is a reworked oldie of Tarra and mine. ‘Too Many Knobs’ is Jordyn’s nod to societal tech overload. ‘Fate’ tied up the dreamy, galactic energy. Gamma Gardening [is] an EP conjured from oil changes, tacos, and test tubes.”