Interview: Galen Disston of Pickwick Opens His Window

I caught up with Galen Disston, lead vocalist of Seattle’s R&B collective Pickwick, on his break from cleaning windows in Seattle Friday afternoon. Galen admitted that “there’s something zen about working with glass. Its a job with a clear beginning and end, and where you can really see your work at play.” We talked the paranormal, the window cleaning business, the past year on the road, and the trajectory of the band in the coming months.

Pickwick is a Seattle project that has evolved from folk into something soulful, bluesy and ripe with rhythm. With two EP’s and a celebrated debut full length “Can’t Talk Medicine” released a little over a year ago, the six piece ensemble seem destined for a long creative career, and continue to attract attention from critics, artists and fans alike.

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Reflecting on the past year, Galen gave a bit of insight into the group’s great success with their first record “Can’t Talk Medicine”, and their series of tour dates over the fall and winter with Austin’s Black Joe Lewis and former Vancouver resident, and veteran singer/songwriter, Neko Case.

“We we’re lucky to be matched up with Black Joe Lewis. We share a manager, and we we’re already big fans. We became great friends along the way. We share many perspectives, and a love for the paranormal.”

Pickwick spent two weeks on tour with Neko, and two weeks with Black Joe Lewis around the US over the past 10 months.

I asked Galen about some of his favourite memories from the tour, including talks with Bill Stevenson (Bass) from Black Joe Lewis at a bar in Cleveland sharing paranormal experiences, or reflecting on eco-feminism with Neko Case. I definitely got the impression that these bands were kind of “kindred spirits”, and who were tapping into something a bit more then Johnny Walker Red in tour buses across the states – whether bantering about Sasquatch, UFO encounters or celestial mysteries of ancient civilizations. But there was still an abundance of beautiful music being made on the road.

I asked if Galen what kind of venue he enjoyed performing in the most over the past year, whether in a big concert hall, an outdoor festival stage, or a small dark-lit club. “Well luckily we’ve had a chance to play in all three kinds of venues. I definitely prefer a small club to see a show, the intimacy that goes along with it, the connection you can feel. But there is an unexpected energy you find from a bigger audience at a festival. That’s definitely something I learned a lot about during the past year – getting used to playing in front of bigger audiences. Lots of interesting things can happen, lots of surprising things can happen.”


-Tall Tree Music Festival-

Later this week Galen and the band will be trekking up to Tall Tree Music Festival in Port Renfrew, closing out the fest on Sunday. We talked briefly on what to expect, and look forward to for the weekend.

Staying up for the whole weekend?

Unfortunately we won’t be staying up the whole weekend, probably getting in saturday night, and then checking things out on Sunday.”

Anyone on the lineup you’re particularly excited to see?

We would have love to have seen Dan Mangan, but we really have no expectations. I’m not too familiar with a lot of artists on the lineup, but i’m excited to find some good surprises this year. I really like that atmosphere of the unexpected.

Any surprises up your sleeve for the Festival? Any new material?

We will have about four or five new songs to share on Sunday, and they may or may not appear on the next album, just some things we’ve been tinkering with. We’re kind of “road testing” them. And yes there may be some surprises.”

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-The Year Ahead-

Looking forward, looks like you don’t have too many dates planned for this summer, is this summer vacation for you guys?

No not a summer vacation, but it will be nice to be hanging around Seattle. 

We’ve been studiously writing and recording demos, compiling ideas and experimenting for the new record, so we will continue with that throughout the summer.

Let’s talk about a second record, any updates?

No dates set yet for the album, but we do have a few shows coming up, so keep an eye out, and we will have some news in the fall, and some dates in Canada.

Q Sharon Van Etten helped out with “Can’t Talk Medicine” any plans for collaborating with any other artists for your next release?

It’s still up in the air but we have lots of friends around here in Seattle that we’d love to sing with, I’m a big fan of a band out of Portland called Radiation City, we’d love to collaborate with them. We are still experimenting with different tracks for the new album, and we will see what each song calls for, but we will definitely be working with other artists.

Anyone you’d love to tour with in the future?

Love touring with great friends, but Mac Demarco would be one, I definitely love his sound, or a band called Helvetia from here in Seattle. Amen Dunes is another really interesting artist out of New York, he just released an album called “love” on Sacred Bone Records, he’d be someone we’d love to work with in the future. But we’ll have to wait and see how it all works out.

I had read that you were doing vocal lessons in Seattle in the spring, make any extra cash?

I made lots of extra cash, but more so its really rewarding sharing vocal techniques, and its’ a wonderful, but exhausting experience. Vocal teachers are really emotional support vessels. You really have to connect with people, working with their confidence and fear. There is a good exchange of energy, but it is so exhausting.

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Pickwick are another music entity that reinforce Seattle’s place as one of the heavy hitters in the music sphere. Collaborative, innovative, honest and connected, Galen and the band have quickly become one of our favourites here at Betty & Kora, we anxiously await for big and bright things to come for Pickwick, and for music in the Pacific Northwest in general. And who knows, maybe I’ll take Galen up on his offer and get down to Seattle and start up that window cleaning business.

Pickwick play this weekend at Tall Tree Music Festival in Port Renfrew, closing out the festival on Sunday night. Stay tuned for more coverage of Pickwick live from the Tall Tree.

 

WORDS: The Lion-At-Large

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