As Pleasant Grove Returns, its Members Look Back at Some Career Highs and Lows
The band pictured several years ago. Chris Mayes wasn't playing with the band at the time, so isn't pictured.
Courtesy of Pleasant Grove
One of the must-see shows this week is happening tonight at the Kessler. Pleasant Grove will headline and Crushed Stars will debut material from their excellent new record, Farewell Young Lovers. We caught up with PG members Jeff Ryan and Marcus Striplin on the band's history, their best and worst shows, and ever-pressing question of whether they've played in Pleasant Grove before.
What is best show Pleasant Grove has played?
Jeff Ryan: Wow, well there's been a lot of great shows over the years, I mean, I can't count how many times when we were doing a residency at the old Muddy Waters on Lower Greenville in 2002-2003 that we walked away from those gigs feeling like we'd done something pretty interesting or all the shows we played with our good friends Centro-matic, Slobberbone and supporting Built to Spill or Calexico we're all great too. But, for me probably one of my all time favorite shows was playing the Orange Blossom Festival in Germany. At that time, we were signed to our German label, Glitterhouse, and had just done our first European tour and that was our last date, it was a great way to end that jaunt with a few thousand Germans raising a glass as we ended the show with "Nothing This Beautiful." Pretty awesome experience. Marcus Striplin: There have been quite a few that I'd tag as "electric." So, I'll mention one in particular. The Ritz in Austin, 2000. Jeff had not joined the band at this point and Dave Mabry had just left. We were in a pickle with our first SXSW showcase and without a drummer. Joe [Butcher] introduced Ben Curtis to Bret [Egner] and I. He learned the short set and we rehearsed three times. We melted face and it's never been a question to me that he helped propel our sound that night, and that propulsion helped land a deal with Glitterhouse. Bless his soul. I'm not sure if I ever really got to thank him. Thank you, Ben.
What is the worst show you've played?
JR: [laughs] I think all of us would probably agree would be the Liquid Lounge show in 2001. Think it was my third or fourth show as the new drummer, and we all kinda let our hair down a bit and things got a little sloppy. And sometimes, that kind of behavior has led us into the diametrically opposite direction and proven to be an amazing formula for something interesting to happen, but not that night. MS: San Francisco. December, 2004. Galaxies. That is all.
Song you will never hear at a Pleasant Grove show?
JR: You know, we're really not opposed to pulling from the archive and visiting old material and even are doing that for this show coming up at the Kessler. So I think we never really say never to anything. MS: That stupid hidden track on the first EP.
Song you will always hear at a Pleasant Grove show?
JR: I don't know if we have any particular song that we feel that we have to play at every single show, but more than likely you're gonna hear "Solid System" or "Only a Mountain." We still love playing them and they've only really grown with us as we have as a band. They sound a lot different now than they did 10-12 years ago, mainly because, we are a very different band as a unit and individually as musicians. MS: "The Pessimist's Clique."
Easiest Pleasant Grove record to make, and why?
JR: None of them were easy, I can attest to that, and not in a negative way. But that last recording session we did with John Congleton and Stuart Sikes six years ago that at last we're going to release later this year, just happened pretty fast. I remember all of us knocking out a lot of the parts out in one or two takes. MS: The first EP. We recorded in New Melle, Missouri at the childhood home of Matt Pence with Matt Barnhart and Matt of course. It was a lesson in recording and arranging within a simple song construct. It's the session that produced "Nothing This Beautiful."
Hardest Pleasant Grove record to make, and why?
JR: It wasn't hard in any sort of negative way, but making Auscultation of the Heart with Matt Pence at the Echo Lab was definitely a cathartic experience. We kinda pushed each other to dig down and think beyond the instruments and technical side of tracking everything, and just tried to make the best record we could. We were excited about putting these songs to tape. Everything was firing on all pistons. MS: Auscultation of the Heart. Our schedules at the time made it very hard to book daytime or normal hours for that matter. So we were forced to start sessions at 9pm or 10pm recording into the night and wrapping around 5am or 6am. We were forced to focus. When you're laying down tracks in the middle of the night it really shows in the final cut. We bottled well in the woods of Argyle those nights.
Song you think Pleasant Grove should cover?
MS: The Cheers theme. It's so sad and hopeful. I have big plans for this.
Has Pleasant Grove ever played in Pleasant Grove, the town?
JR: Not that I know of, or at least I haven't since I joined in 2000. We did a photo shoot there years ago, but nope, no shows as far as I can remember. MS: Not yet.
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