Pinback's Rob Crow Talks His Many Projects, Band Names He Wishes He'd Thought of

Categories: Q&A

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Rob Crow and Zach Smith played Saturday at the Independent
Rob Crow and Zach Smith, the confirmed sci-fi geeks and indie-rock schizophrenics who mastermind Pinback, came to the Independent on Saturday night to present "The Rob and Zach Show," a pared-down version of their darkly enchanting pop reveries. After a set by San Diego glum-pluckers Little White Teeth, Crow and Smith made themselves comfortable with personalized office chairs, a grip of instruments, at least one mic-stand-mounted beer cozy -- and no backing band.

Rob and Zach held court for more than an hour, running through the highlights of their catalog, from a sped-up "Tripoli"  to a new song, from Pinback's forthcoming album on Temporary Residence, that Crow introduced as his interpretation of what a film collaboration between Herschell Gordon Lewis and Jacques Cousteau would sound like. "Because I'm a nerd," he explained after a stage-sigh.

A few songs, such as "Walters," suffered from the lack of personnel ("Where's the rest of the band?" someone was heard to grouse in the men's room. "The rest of the band is a MacBook Pro."), but most were faithful to their on-record standards. Others gained appealing new valences, especially the sublimely grimy "Loro" and the bottom-heavy "Penelope."

We caught up with Crow before the show and, like the youngest child at a Passover seder, asked how tonight was different from all other nights. Find out after the jump...

How is the Rob and Zach Show different from Pinback?

On the Pinback albums it's just the two of us playing everything, and when Pinback plays out we have a few other people doing the stuff we can't do. We change the songs to fit with the live band, so that they sound more like they do on the record. For [the Rob and Zach Show], we took it on a song-by-song basis; some songs are taken completely apart, some aren't, but hardly ever does it sound like it does on the record. We sometimes get the complaint that our live show doesn't sound like the record at all, so this will appease those people, and also those people who don't want it to sound like the record at all.

What gave you the idea to do this?

We kept getting asked to play interesting shows in weird places, but we couldn't get to them financially--it would cost a couple grand to do what people wanted because of all the equipment and people. This is a version of Pinback that we can take anywhere. We didn't call it Pinback because if it sucked we didn't want to cheat people. We've only done one show so far, and it seemed to go over well, but there's a lot going on. We're constantly switching instruments.

Has preparing for this tour helped you think about your songs differently?

Totally. We went back and took all the songs we've ever written and made tracks for them so that we could play any of them by ourselves, if we wanted to. A lot of our old tracks are just missing forever, so we had to recreate them in a way that was more interesting, that would work just backing up two dudes. We souped up a lot of the old ones so they would sound cooler--not in a bad way, but to be more like it would sound if it were being played really loud in your face.

What makes a Pinback song a Pinback song?

If Zach and I wrote it together. That's really the only criterion, since I don't work on all of his stuff or vice versa. One of us comes to the table with ideas that the other might like; if not, we'll keep cultivating them ourselves. I have a lot of songs that wouldn't be worth bringing to Zach, because he'd be like, "what's this klezmer thing?" There are some songs that have traveled around several bands before they clicked--there are old Three Mile Pilot songs, for instance, that I'd hear and go, "hey, I thought I was writing that!"

Do you keep track of how many bands there are between the two of you?

Not at all. That's like an actor keeping track of how many movies he's been in.

Can you try to list them?

Sure. Let's start with Zach: Neighborhood Watch, Plum Daisy, Three Mile Pilot, Systems Officer, Pinback, and I think that's it. I got Heavy Vegetable, Thingy, solo stuff, Optiganally Yours, Physics, Aspects of Physics, Altron Tube, Slow Action Sequence Project, Goblin Cock, Alpha Males, The Ladies, Cthugha, Snotnose, Team SleepCreedle ... sometimes I'll sit in on other bands' records or whatever. There are probably others.

Do you have any joke bands that exist in name only?

Not really. That's my problem--if I think of something that would be a joke band, I have to go ahead and do it. I figure, why be lazy? When I thought of "Goblin Cock," I was like, "hey, that would be a great name for a band--aw man, now I have to do it." Oh, I also have a new one called Devfits: Misfits covers in the style of Devo, and vice versa. So far I think it's a one-man band.

What band names do you wish you'd thought of?

The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza is a good band name.

What do you like to do in San Francisco?

Mostly food stuff--Millennium and Golden Era, and that underground Japanese mall where they have these great crepes in a cup--you can get anything from salmon crepes to sundae crepes. Hemlock Tavern is a nice place to hang out and have a drink, and the Stowaway, with the big giant ship coming out of the front of it. That place has a good jukebox. And Aquarius and Amoeba, of course. Always have to hit those.

Any favorite places to play?

I like 'em all. I just like being in San Francisco.

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