An Interview with Pile’s Rick Maguire

Green and Gray, released today

I’ve become a bit disenchanted with indie rock over the past couple of years. No need to go into my reasons but suffice to say that everything is just becoming a bit uninteresting and clonish. That’s why I find myself covering more and more hardcore and post-punk artists. Let’s face it; I still don’t even really know what indie rock is, after all these decades, anyway.

One of the most seemingly humble, consistent and original rock bands right now are Pile, of Boston Massachusetts. Their discography is virtually immaculate. 2017’s A Hairshirt of Purpose is, in my mind, a genre-defying modern classic. I’ve never talked to anyone that has heard Pile that didn’t straight-out love them.

Rick Maguire’s straight-from-the hip lyrical delivery seems to embody the every-man. The impression that he is exploring the emotional, hidden innards of the grass-roots working class is strong. A man’s man that is just okay with being in touch with all the emotions he incapsulates. And that spectrum is broad. I can say, in all honesty, that I’ve never felt more varying feelings than when I listen to a Pile record.

The new record, entitled Green and Gray, released today. I have to say that straight out the gate, with the opener, “Firewood”, I have chill bumps. This song is constantly morphing through impassioned realms. The feeling that Pile have refined their sound to an exact, quantum specificity is overwhelming. It’s like God told them, “You only have one more song to make. Act wisely.” Luckily, that’s not the case here. There’s a whole record of similar moments.

“On a Bigger Screen”, alternately, sounds a lot like some of the more brutal pieces The Pixies gave us in their heyday. And I say that as a sheer compliment. It’s a dark, almost hardcore tune that drops into an equally dark lull toward the end.

“Hair” is one of my personal favorites in the spirit of “Firewood”. I’ve been puzzling over what the thematic of the lyrics are here. Is the hair literal? Either way Pile are jerking me back in another emotional direction, as they are wont to do.

This is an amazing record. Sometimes words obscure or even ruin a thing. All I can say is listen to it. It speaks for itself. Let it wash over you. It’s a very welcome addition to my spring rotation.

I was able to ask a few questions of front man/guitarist Rick Maguire. He shed a friendly light on a lot of things for me. Enjoy;

It feels like “Odds and Ends” just came out. You’ve been pushing out material very frequently without losing the quality of the tunes. Tell me about your songwriting process.

“Odds and Ends” was just a compilation of past EPs and non-album tracks. We had started to run out of the 7″s containing that material so rather than re-pressing to separate things we just consolidated it onto one LP. But the songwriting process is mostly continuous. I just keep working on stuff, some come quicker than others but I’m usually working on several songs at once.

How do you explain the starkness between your more gritty, aggressive-sounding songs and the quieter more laid-back stuff?

I just enjoy trying to make different kinds of music, I find it satisfying and rewarding to push my creative limitations in a bunch of different directions.

What’s the new record called?

It is called Green and Gray.

The three songs you have released from the new album all appear representative of three different approaches Pile takes to songs. Was this done intentionally to showcase the versatility of the album? Explain?

Definitely. In regards to the record, I thought “Bruxist Grin” was the most easily digestible, “Soft Hands…” was the most aggressive, and “Hair” was (one of) the most subdued. I also hoped that each single would kind of be a surprise to the listener. The first song, “Firewood,” might have been more appropriate as a single because it’s exemplary of the whole record, but I think hearing the first song for the first time in the context of the record is more exciting.

“Keep the Last Light on” is very heavy, thematically. It’s one of the most emotional songs I’ve ever heard. Are there any autobiographical aspects to it? Explain?

I apologize in advance for being vague in what I’m about to say but I just want to protect the identity of the person that the song was written about.

It’s about a person I know of that, by most conventional standards, was very successful. They were young and at what appeared to be the top of their game. They suffered a terrible accident while on the job that left them in a persistent vegetative state. I saw a small sliver of the effect that it had on the person’s family and I wrote the song about that.

What do you enjoy reading?

It varies! I just read a very long book and now I’m reading some graphic novels (“The Green Hand” by Nicole Claveloux and “Black Hole” by Charles Burns). We’re about to go on the road and I think I might pick up some more Raymond Carver, I’m looking for a good short story book and he and Etgar Keret are my favorites in that department.

What do you like to do recreationally, barring the obvious?

I like playing basketball, walking around outside, and laying down in cool, dark rooms. I also like bowling and ice cream. I more or less have the hobbies and interests of an 9-year-old.

Have you ever been compared to Lynard Skynard? If so, reaction?

Once by Terry Turtle from Buck Gooter. I was surprised by the comparison, but I also don’t know much of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s music.

At what age did you learn to play?

I had piano lessons from age 7 to 8 but I started playing guitar when I was 12.

How would you classify Pile, genre-wise, if you had to?

I guess just a rock band.

Any advice for aspiring, young musicians?

Just keep doing it because it’s its own end.

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