Pile Interview: “Entertainment & commerce having an orgy in the street”

Photo by Elisabeth Fuchsia.

Pile’s new album A Hairshirt of Purpose is out now via Exploding in Sound Records.

When Rick Maguire, spearhead of post-noise rock quartet Pile and the jewel in Exploding in Sound’s crown, retreated into a cabin into the woods in Ellijay, Georgia to read, think, and record music, did anyone really expect him to emerge with a gentle and reflective collection of break up tracks ala Justin Vernon?

I sincerely doubt it. However, he has emerged with Pile’s fourth long player, A Hairshirt of Purpose and while it’s certainly not a completely low-key and restrained affair, it does possess the most expansive sound that the Boston, Massachusetts based group have explored as of yet.

Portions of the album see the group experiment with violin, viola, piano, organs, synths, and banjo which culminates to create a balance between ferocity and tenderness that has thus far been alien to the roughly hewn chaos of the band. They’ve tempered their anthemic, angular, and riveting post-hardcore/post-noise rock M.O. with an endearing inward peering curiosity to create Pile’s most human, and accomplished, album yet.

We caught up with Rick recently to shoot the shit. Check out what he had to say about the new album, growing up with religion, and SXSW below.

Overblown: This new album, A Hairshirt of Purpose, was written in a cabin in Ellijay, Georgia. It seems to me that the songs are more spacious and reflective than previous material. Is that accurate or am I way off the mark?

Rick Maguire: They may sound that way, but I don’t think that was as much influenced by being tucked away somewhere in the woods as it was by wanting to do something different from the previous record. I had wanted this batch of stuff to be generally mellower and more melody driven. I went down to Ellijay again this winter and did some demos of stuff I’d just written and it’s not spacious or reflective at all, it just sounds like Rush but with considerably less talent.

O: Has your time away from Boston enabled you to value the city more when you do spend time there now?

RM: I’ve scheduled it in a way so that I’m not spending winters in Boston, so that makes me appreciate the city a bit more. Living seasonally seems to agree with me. I like returning to places just as much as I like leaving them, which could by why I’ve taken such a shining to touring.

O: Traditionally, hair shirts are worn by Christian penitents as a self-imposed means of repentance and mortification of the flesh. What are you repentant about?

RM: Oh, there’s plenty to feel guilty about. Plenty to be ashamed of, and I could get into it but there’s a reason I vaguely describe those feelings through metaphor on all the records. Because 1. I’m afraid of putting my cards down and 2. Even if I mustered up the courage to put it out there, I’m not sure I would know how to explain myself properly.

O: Were you raised with religion/are you religious? If so, has that had any impact on your music?

RM: I was raised in a Christian household. And I’m not religious in any real sense. That has definitely had an impact on my writing. It’s not really showcased on this record, but growing up I felt like I would be arrogant and a liar to pretend I knew who or what was pulling the strings, but my family finds peace in it so I used writing music to help reconcile those two elements for me personally.

O: I have to tell you that one of my absolute favourite Pile tracks is ‘Mr. Fish’. And I think it is largely due to the idiosyncrasies of the lyrics. Can you tell me where the inspiration from Darryl Fish came from?

RM: It came from a character about town who always (and only) used to say “best living communication.” I’d seen him around town a couple of times, and that was all I heard him say until he stopped me on the street and told me that aliens lived inside his body and also, that he was in love with me. This was about a 15 minute ordeal and he also told me a number of other things (some of which were gibberish) but I can’t remember them now. And to boot, he looked like a bizarro version of me. It was a pretty strange episode. That’s Darryl Fish, and I was just curious what the world looked like to him so I tried writing about it.

O: You just played an Exploding in Sound showcase at SXSW. How did that go?

RM: It was great. The show itself was wonderful, I was able to see a whole bunch of friends in the same building. Outside the building however, was a mess. Entertainment and commerce having an orgy in the streets. I had been to SXSW before but I hadn’t been on that street.

O: You have quite an extensive tour on the horizon. What is the last thing you do before heading out on the road?

RM: Panic. And then if I have time, I’ll make an appointment to lay in a float tank for an hour and a half, it helps me organize my thoughts.

Pile tour dates:

04/06 Brooklyn, NY @ Baby’s All Right
04/07 Brooklyn, NY @ Sunnyvale
04/12 Philadelphia, PA @ First Unitarian Church*
04/13 Washington, DC @ DC9*
04/14 Durham, NC @ Duke Coffeehouse*
04/15 Asheville, NC @ The Mothlight*
04/16 Nashville, TN @ Third Man Records*
04/17 Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade (Purgatory)*
04/18 Birmingham, AL @ The Syndicate Lounge*
04/19 Tallahassee, FL @ Club Downunder (Florida State University)*
04/20 New Orleans, LA @ Gasa Gasa*
04/21 Houston, TX @ The Satellite Bar*
04/22 Austin, TX @ Sidewinder*
04/23 Dallas, TX @ Three Links*
04/26 Phoenix, AZ @ The Rebel Lounge*
04/27 San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar*
04/28 Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo*
04/30 San Francisco, CA @ Rickshaw Stop*
05/02 Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios*
05/03 Seattle, WA @ The Black Lodge*
05/05 Salt Lake City, UT @ The Loading Dock*
05/06 Denver, CO @ Lost Lake Lounge*
05/07 Omaha, NE @ River City Star*
05/09 Minneapolis, MN @ 7th St. Entry*
05/10 Milwaukee, WI @ Cactus Club*
05/11 Chicago, IL @ Subterranean*
05/12 Detroit, MI @ Marble Bar*
05/13 Lakewood, OH @ Mahall’s*
05/14 Rochester, NY @ Bug Jar*

* w/ Gnarwhal

A Hairshirt Of Purpose is out 3/31 via Exploding In Sound. Pre-order it here.

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