Interview: Alfred Howard of The Midnight Pine

The Midnight Pine is an ethereal folk group based out of California. Their newest record, which is self-titled, is an incredible collection of  tracks that dance the blurred line between blues and folk. The Midnight Pine is Shelbi Bennett on vocals, Alfred Howard as a multi-instruentalist, and Matthew Molarius on guitar PLUS a full band. Al Howard answered some questions regarding how the sound of The Midnight Pine came to be, who their inspirations are and much more. Check it out:

 

MFL: What is the story/concept behind this new album? Are the tracks stitched together with a common theme or does each stand alone?

Alfred Howard (AH): The Midnight Pine songs have always dealt with love and its opposite. There was no conscious effort to tie the tracks together lyrically, but they naturally moved through similar themes. But musically, we tried to bridge the divergent influences with seamless transitions and present the record as if it were one fluid piece. It makes the genre hopping sound natural.

 MFL: Who are your musical inspirations as a band and why?

 AH: Lyrically, artists like Townes Van Zandt, Jason Molina, Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits have always informed our efforts. They usher in a certain kind of specific melancholia we’ve always gravitated towards. Tonally, Radiohead, Wilco, Gillian Welch, Karen Dalton, Timber Timbre and even Sharon Jones have touched the sound. There’s infinity to pull from.

MFL: Midnight Pine has such a unique sound. It’s blues reinvented with a twist of pop, a pinch of soul and a hint of rock. How did this come to be the sound of Midnight Pine?

AH: All of us have very eclectic backgrounds musically, between our members, we probably have about 20 currently active bands that go from hard funk, to psych to alt country. At the Pine, we resolve all those divergences and meet somewhere in the middle, uncompromised.

MFL: If you were to name five bands, past or present, that you think you all sound like, who would they be?

AH:  I don’t really think sounding like anyone is the goal. And I could pick out elements where I’ve heard similarities, but Shelbi Bennett has one of those unique voices. She sounds like herself, and whatever she does, is going to stand on its own.

MFL: How has Midnight Pine’s sound changed over time from the release of your debut in 2012 to the release of your latest record this October?

 AH: We started as a stripped down acoustic act. Just guitar, voice and percussion. Which worked well for those first two albums. There’s a lot you can do with even that line up, but we wanted to explore new terrain, so we added a rhythm section. The drums push more power from Shelbi’s delivery, more dynamic. We also added strings and horns and a second guitar, so there’s more textures, but we were very attentive to leaving enough space, because that’s the most essential thing to our music, room for Shelbi’s voice to flourish.

MFL: What music is buzzing around in your ears currently? Meaning, if I were to hop in your car right now, what would be playing?

AH: Andy Shauf: The Party has been on all our radars. Timber Timbre: Hot Dreams. Wilco: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. The Zombies: Odyssey and Oracle. Charles Bradley: Changes. Radiohead: Moon Shaped Pool. And Run the Jewels 2.

MFL: What kind of venues are your favorite to play and why (dive bars, theaters, coffee shops)?

AH: I love a theatre, but any venue catered to music and listening. If the audience shows up ready to focus in and listen acutely, they’ll be rewarded.

MFL: As a band, what are your top two favorite tracks from each record to play live?

AH: “This Heavy Heart” and “Best Place” from Awake Now. “Buried” and “Always” from Buried. And “Vice” and “Barricade” from the self-titled.

 

MFL: What is on the calendar for Midnight Pine tour-wise in the next year?

AH: We are having a vinyl release show on Oct 28th at The Music Box in San Diego and are part of a special New Year’s Eve show we’ll be announcing soon…We’ll have some shows in the new year we will be announcing as well. 

Thank you to Mike Bell of Far Digital for getting my quesitons to Alfred! You can find all of The Midnight Pine’s music on iTunes and Bandcamp.

 

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