In a time when bands are squealing out to be heard above the din, Pine ¶he Pilcrow grab your attention with the gentlest of whispers.
Dublin-based trio Kevin Murray, Hannah Ryan and Rob Campbell create delicate movements with piano, fiddle and cello, but initial thoughts of folk or trad dissipate within seconds of listening. Pine ¶he Pilcrow are more attuned to modern composition, with nods to Nils Frahm, Olafur Arnalds or Peter Broderick.
Their 2016 debut EP is a melancholy, cinematic mood piece, while new song Dahlia, from their upcoming follow-up EP, carries on this singular sound with overdubbed electric guitar shimmers and percussion, and their usual lush vocal melodies.
I caught up with P¶P’s Kevin Murray (piano) to try and pin down their sound.
First up for punctuation nerds, how did you come up with the name Pine ¶he Pilcrow? (I admit I had to google ‘pilcrow’)
We get asked this so often that we started to make up a new answer every time. The real answer is that it’s an anagram of Telephonic Wirp, one of our favourite bands.
You’ve only been together since 2016 but it sounds like you’ve been playing for years. What projects were you all involved in before Pine ¶he Pilcrow?
Performing wise, Hannah comes from a traditional background, Rob is a classical cellist and I have always been a fan of a wistful, melancholic diddy with a sweet hook. It’s because of our different musical backgrounds that we have such a unique sound i think.
How did you meet, and when did you start writing music together?
I met with Hannah about two years before we formed the band. We met through a friend as i had an instrumental song i was working on that i thought might be improved by adding violin. This turned out to be untrue. But cut to two years later and i had a batch of piano songs that needed some strings and called hannah again. I had the initial concept of the sound but it quickly turned in to a band with everyone bringing ideas to the table. One person might come to rehearsals with an idea but it doesn’t become a P¶P song until it has been influenced by each member.
Before performing together, did you have any manifesto? I notice on Breaking Tunes there are references to Tom Waits, Agnes Obel, Yann Tiersen and Nils Frahm (the last two work for me)
The ‘sound’ was originally very influenced by Agnes Obel, Nils Frahm, Olafur Arnalds. I was listening to a lot of that kind of thing at the time and it was a very conscious decision to create a sound in their image. Although it was originally influenced by these artist i think we’ve managed to make it our own. The trad vibe, with folky piano and classical cello?? People can’t really pin our genre down and thats great.
Any surprising influences that wouldn’t be obvious from the music?
I think all 3 of us would surprise you with our influences. We don’t go home and stick on 100 best piano, cello and violin hits! Hannah’s favourite artists are Bowie, Queen and The Pixies! Rob’s listens to Aphex Twin and Nirvana. We’re fans of great music regardless of genre really.
There’s an element of ‘folk’ in PTP, especially with the fiddle. Do you think it’s a loaded term these days?
Em, possibly. It’s something we only think about when we’re filling out forms that need our genre. I do hate saying folk. I like to stick in ‘contemporary’ to shake things up a bit. Keeps people on their toes. It’s probably the same for any band, I’m sure there’s metal bands that prefer to be labeled Viking Metal. Nobody cares about genre when they’re listening to the music though.
You’re more used to playing smaller concert halls, theatres, even churches. How was it playing the festivals last year? How do you grab the attention of the rollover woolly heads?
That’s tough. We are such an ambient quiet band. We are definitely best suited to churches and theatres. But you just have to perform as you would and hopefully catch people’s attention. We’ve had great responses from festival crowds though and it’s a great place to find a new audience.
There is a definite cinematic quality to the music, and you recently performed with dancer Babs Kent. Is visual accompaniment something you’ll explore further?
Yes. We have some things in the pipeline already. We’re going to try and do something very special for our first headline show in The Civic Theatre on June 24. I can’t say much more. Winky face.
The new song Dahlia seems to really crystallise the Pine the Pilcrow sound further. Is it safe to assume the upcoming EP will have that same mood?
For sure. Dahlia is the first song we recorded that we overdubbed some electric guitar and percussion. Because we’re a stripped back band with just 3 instruments, if we add touches of other instruments it really helps dynamically. It’s important that we keep the sound we’ve created but we’re open to developing sonically. Nothing too drastic but sprinkles here and there!
What’s the plan for the rest of the year after the release of your second EP?
Performing and finding new audiences. I think we’re quite lucky in Ireland, especially in Dublin, there’s lots of avenues for unsigned artists, with venues and nights around the city geared towards showcasing aspiring talent. We’ve played some unique gigs over the last year like libraries, churches and house gigs and they’ve been really special. We’d like to do more of those so I think the next tour will be based around more unique venues. The hard part is finding them!
New single Dahlia…
Listen to previous releases at soundcloud.com/pinethepilcrow