Pile Interview


PileBoston’s “oppressively loud” rockers Pile have become a centerpiece of the incredibly deep and diverse roster of Exploding in Sound Records. From singer/songwriter Rick Maguire’s first lo-fi solo release Demonstration under the Pile moniker, all the way to their latest 7” single “Special Snowflakes,” Pile have garnered a reputation as an explosive live act and have gained more fans with every release thanks to their distinctive and dynamic brand of gritty and passionate rock. Guitarist Matt Becker and Rick Maguire were kind enough to give me an inside look at how the Pile machine runs, how the project has evolved from the early days, some fun shows they’ve played, and more.

Note: The Impose analysis of “Special Snowflakes” was in-depth and difficult to paraphrase, so if you’re interested, just read it for yourself.

Who are you and what do you do in Pile?

MB: I’m Matt and I play guitar.

Talk about the history of the project. How has Pile evolved and what brought about the change?

MB: Rick put out Jerk Routine in the spring of 2009 as a solo effort, and after a couple initial lineup changes Kris and I joined him. Rick’s old band Hel Toro and my old band Margin Walker played together frequently and Kris and Rick worked together. Hel Toro was winding down and Rick wanted to make Pile an actual band because he had the time and desire to broaden the scope. Pile became much louder and heavier at that point as Rick moved away from the folky acoustics and Kris and I tend to like to play heavier stuff. The unifying element has always been Rick’s core songwriting. That was the lineup for Magic Isn’t Real and Big Web 7”. I left the band for a while and Matt Connery replaced me on bass. We knew him through his old band Mutt. I returned on 2nd guitar a year later and we started working on Dripping.

Where did the name Pile come from?

MB: Originally it started as a bunch random songs and ideas. Rick didn’t really want to put limitations on what genre he was working with or even be bothered with cohesiveness at first. That came later. The whole project was supposed to be open-ended and Pile seemed like an appropriate name. At least that’s my understanding. It was short and easy too.

Your record label Exploding in Sound is rife with great bands, especially in the Boston area. So much so that I often forget just how many bands I love on their roster. Who are some of your favorite bands right now on your label or from your area you feel people should know?

MB: Honestly, I don’t think there is a band on EIS that I dislike. Most of the bands are pretty close at this point but everyone has their own thing going on. In terms of local bands, Big Mess and Soccer Mom are doing cool things, and I’ve been into some new bands like In Print and Life Problem and Lair. We did some shows recently with our long-time friends in New England Patriots, they are always doing something interesting. Guerilla Toss, our dudes in Fax Holiday and Kal Marks, Fat Creeps and on and on. I don’t know there are too many to list I guess, we’re lucky to be surrounded by good bands.

You guys were part of a great festival that Exploding in Sound and Impose put on in Brooklyn with so many great artists like Alex G, Big Ups, Tyvek, Roomrunner, and so many others. What was that experience like and what were some highlights of it?

MB: That show was a lot of fun. Two stages and tons of bands. Dan Goldin (EIS founder) did an awesome job putting it together, as he does multiple times a year now. We got to play outside, which is always nice, while simultaneously always sounding weird. I think the Flagland and Roomrunner sets were my highlight.

What’s a typical Pile show like? How does it differ from the studio version of the band?

MB: Probably oppressively loud. We have a good amount of material at this point so we try to mix it up. We normally don’t write set lists.

We try to track our records as live as possible (not always successfully), in hopes of capturing some of that energy. We don’t have a lot of production frills on our records so ideally it’s true to our live sound. The only exception is the lack of organ/piano on certain songs live.

Pile+1You have been playing new songs on the road for a while now. I’ve heard some of them live myself and can say I am excited to hear the final versions. What can you say about your new record at this point in time?

MB: It will be out in February it looks like, on Exploding in Sound. It isn’t named yet but the writing is mostly done. We record in Omaha in early October, which is an odd thing to tell people.

One of my favorite things about your sound is the constant changing of energy throughout your records, as well as within individual songs and the emotional complexity that often challenges the listener. How does Pile come together to write songs, both musically and lyrically?

MB: Rick’s songwriting is central, so most songs start with ideas of his in varying states of completion. We build around those and figure out the dynamics and make it weird as time progresses. Beer drinking general happens in there as well.

I just read the really interesting write-up on “Special Snowflakes” by Impose. If you’ve read it and care to share, is there any truth to this analysis?

RM: I’m reading it over now and it’s pretty flattering that someone has taken that much time and effort to figure out what I’m talking about. And I’m glad they got that much out of it. Sometimes I’m not sure I know what I’m talking about. For this song, it’s pretty abstract. My only response can be: ‘Yeah, that what it’s about, mostly, not that part or that part, but yeah, you get the basic idea.’ It’s more the mood of the whole thing that’s fairly easy to pick out, and there are a lot of lines here and there that fit a loose story line. In short, it’s about the destructive nature of self-importance.

Who or what are some of your biggest influences, musical or otherwise?

MB: Rick’s dad, as well as the good people of Gary, Indiana. The pride of the Midwest. Touch and Go Records and Dischord Records and pretty much anything Nick Cave does.

What are your plans for the immediate future?

MB: Finish this record and tour forever. US tour February-April and Europe in May, if all goes as planned.

Your label mates Krill wrote a kind of fake concept EP that makes reference to you guys called Steve Hears Pile in Malden and Bursts Into Tears, another stellar release in the EIS canon. This seems to speak to how tight-knit and communal the bands on EIS are. What do you know about this release and what’s it like to have an album that praises your band in a really creative way?

MB: To be perfectly honest, it was a little strange at first. We didn’t know the Krill guys as well at that point but we’ve gotten to know them better, and they are awesome dudes. It’s pretty apparent that it wasn’t so much about us as it was just incidentally involving us. It seems like we were just the subject matter/fodder for Jonah’s very substantive existential questions. It wasn’t about us at all; it was about Jonah’s (or Steve’s) quandary. And I’m way more comfortable with that.

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