THERE CAME A POINT in Pickwick's brief lifespan where songwriters Michael Parker and Galen Disston needed to address the obvious. "Galen sat me down and said, 'I don't know if what we're doing works, or if it's representative of what we're good at, and it doesn't feel genuine.' And I agreed. We needed to do something we believed in," Parker says.
For a genre so fundamental and seemingly basic in construction, folk music is not easy to fake. And with the latest resurgence of earnest alt-country and roots music in the Pacific Northwest—especially in Pickwick's home of Seattle, where the thick success of the Head and the Heart looms overhead—the slightest hint of mediocrity or worse, plagiarism, is utterly yawn inducing. "We all love that stuff, but what we were doing felt too derivative of the bands we were listening to, and not unique to us at all," says Parker.
The band went back to the drawing board. They scrapped the songs they had and started anew, focusing on the musical strengths of each member. "Galen has this huge voice," says Parker, "but he was basically singing feeble Bob Dylan folk songs. So we granted him the freedom to sing his heart out. And my brother Garrett is an amazing bass player, but he was playing single note stuff," Parker continues. "He was free to get busier on the bass, instead of playing as an auxiliary instrument."
Thus, a more elemental and dynamic group emerged, intent on blazing their own trail through the dense brambles of our region's talent. At first listen, Pickwick evokes fond feelings of revivalist soul, due in large part to the tone and heft of Disston's voice. However, there is a rogue quality to the music, something more experimental that makes Parker wince at such a tidy classification.
The band has put together three 45s—titled Myths Vol. 1, 2, and 3, respectively—and are currently at work on a full-length debut with Richard Swift in his Cottage Grove, Oregon, den of alchemy. It's clear there is still some self-actualization ahead for Pickwick as they finish the album (estimated to be released in the fall) and find their new thrust. Until then, their desire for genuine creation, as well as their energetic live performances, will help propel them to that place.