Pickwick: Seattle’s indie blue eyed soul
Georgie Woods was a Philly DJ in the 1960′s when record labels like Motown and Stax were putting out some amazing music. He began using the term blue-eyed soul to describe the increasingly popular music that blended elements of traditional r&b and soul music with strong pop influences because it was coming from white artists such as The Righteous Brothers, Dusty Springfield and The Spencer Davis Group. Of course, The Beatles, The Stones and The Zombies had been incorporating elements of r&b, soul and blues in their rock & roll for years, and they regularly covered Stax and Motown songs, but blue-eyed soul was different; it was much more pop than rock.
The 70′s saw their share of blue-eyed soul hits from Hall & Oates (Rich Girl, Sara Smile), Van Morrison, and even David Bowie on his Young Americans LP. The genre re-emerged the following decade with even stronger pop influences, primarily via British artists such as Robert Palmer, George Michael, Lisa Stansfield and Simply Red. That British dominance continues today as pop inspired soul has regained popularity recently, but this time the majority of the success has been achieved almost exclusively by female vocalists (still mostly out of the UK) with Amy Winehouse bagging five Grammys for Back to Black, Duffy’s Rockferry going multi-platinum and most recently Adele’s 21 debuting at #1 on the Billboard charts.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world…
As 2009 was coming to a close, Seattle band Pickwick had been struggling with their sound and their identity as a band, having experimented with alt-country and ambient-folk over their five year existence. An introduction to Sam Cooke’s classic “A Change Is Gonna Come” changed vocalist Galen Disston’s perspective on what he wanted to do with Pickwick and they began to concentrate more on incorporating soul into their performances. The real tipping point came after a live performance where the band had styled a Grateful Dead cover after Sly and the Family Stone’s 1969 hit “Everyday People”. The rest of the band liked the way Disston’s voice sounded on the cover and they were on-board; they began to write songs that worked with more soul styled vocals.
The changes had an immediate effect on the band. They began to enjoy performances more, their songwriting became more of a collaboration and the songs started to flow. “It plays to all of our strengths and we have SO much more fun” Pickwick pointed out recently in an interview with Matt Hart of Mid By Northwest, “We write songs so much quicker… last week we wrote two songs in one practice. Sometimes it just clicks.”
But Pickwick had no interest in becoming true blue eyed soul revivalists. They had been into indie rock for much longer than soul, notably Spoon and The Walkmen, and they wanted to remain true to those more modern influences as well, especially on the rhythm side. The result is Pickwick as we know it today: a unique and infectious blend of pop-heavy blue eyed soul at the core, strong r&b hooks and melodies, and a distinctly indie attitude.
That sound seems to be working out for them. The band is happy and energized and word of their enthusiastic live performances, which are starting to sell out, is getting out there. The press and the Seattle music community seem to be behind them, and they’re prepping for the release of their debut LP (update - the LP is out now and can be heard here). Leading up to that release, and as a tip of their combined XL hat to Motown, Pickwick is dropping a series of five 7″ singles, Myths Vol.1-5. Recorded & mixed by band-member & Grammy Award winner Kory Kruckenberg (Damien Jurado, The Maldives), each single is being accompanied by a release show.
Pickwick is: Galen Disston (lead vocalist), Matthew Emmett (drums, background vocals), Cassady Lillstrom (keys, background vocals), Garrett Parker (bass), Michael Parker(guitar, background vocals) and Kory Kruckenberg (vibes, percussions).