RICK MAGUIRE - PILE
Rick Maguire is the singer, guitarist and chief songwriter for the Boston-based band
PILE. Maguire started PILE as a solo effort and released his first album (Demonstration)
in 2007. He released one more record as a solo artist (Jerk Routine) before expanding
PILE to become a full-time four-piece. With drummer Kris Kuss, Guitarist Matt Becker
and bassist Matt Connery cemented into the line-up, PILE built a devoted following in
the New England area and the last few years has seen their profile rise on the national
scene. Their music is reminiscent of latter-day Fugazi and The Jesus Lizard, but
Maguire is equally adept at taking a more sensitive tone with finger-picked guitars and
heartbreaking vocals. The band released their latest LP (A Hairshirt of Purpose) in
March and not only is it their finest release to date, it is easily one of 2017‘s best
records. This is a longwinded way of saying that PILE is simply one of the most
compelling bands working today!
chorusVERSEchorus caught up with Rick over a plate of vegetarian Mexican and we
spoke about his band, solo touring, life on an indie label, and even Donald Trump!
chorusVERSEchorus: So, you’re out on a solo tour right now and I guess that begs the
question: is a solo album in the works for you?
Rick Maguire:Maybe, kind of? It will be a solo record but it will be released under the
same moniker. The guys are taking some time off right now and I’m staying busy writing
and I’m sure we’ll be playing a lot of the new stuff live. I’m working on two batches of
material: one that’s full-band louder stuff and another that is, I don’t want to say singer-songwritery, but more of a studio experiment.
cVc: So how did PILE morph from a solo project into this full-time rock band? Were you
actively looking to start a band or just looking for players to flesh out songs?
RM:I was looking for people who would be compatible touring-wise and then they
became invested in what we were doing. I knew Matt Becker (guitar) quite well; we had
played shows together in different bands and he was interested in playing together. Our
drummer Kris, I actually didn’t know that well but we worked together at a grocery store
and a friend of mine said he played drums.
cVc: He is just unbelievably good! What is his playing history? Is he self-taught?
RM:He played in church and yeah, he’s self-taught!
cVc: Since we’re talking about the musicality of the band; what are some of your
influences? I hear a lot of Touch and Go Records bands like The Jesus Lizard, Slint and
June of ’44. Do any of these bands mean anything to you?
RM:I loved The Jesus Lizard growing up. Slint, I didn’t hear until much later and I’m not
too familiar with some of the other bands.
cVc: What about Fugazi...PILE seems to get compared to them quite often.
RM:I love Fugazi. They are probably my favourite band. For me it’s Fugazi and The
Beatles! Obviously they’re very different bands, but I love how both of those bands
arranged their songs.
cVc: Can you go in to detail about that?
RM:I just loved how all the rules went out the window with each new album. They
always had a sense of song and they weren’t beholden to any formula or way of doing
cVc: Has PILE been wooed by a major or a big indie label? Are you even interested?
RM:I like working with Dan, who runs Exploding in Sound Records, and I’m pretty
skeptical of the idea of moving to a bigger label and everything’s just going to be easier.
It might be easier for a period of time, but it might just fall off...but it’s irrelevant anyways
because we haven’t been approached. There’s room for growth and playing bigger
rooms and things like that.
cVc: Are there certain things that PILE just won’t do? Are you guys all on the same page
from a career standpoint or artistically?
RM:I guess the one thing that we’ve talked about, that we won’t do, is putting our music
in a commercial. Though I’m not sure how I really feel about it now.
cVc: Before recording the new album, you did a solo tour in the South and then you
wound up living in rural Georgia for a month. First of all; how did you wind up there, and
secondly; did you use that time to write the new record?
RM:My folks live in Nashville and they have a place in north Georgia that they normally
rent out, but January is really a slow month and I asked if I could use it. I didn’t write the
whole thing there, but it was convenient to escape some of the Boston winter.
cVc: Do you feel that your stay there influenced the writing in some way?
RM: It may have. I mean, I’m sure it must have in some way, but not in a way that I
could articulate. There’s some mellow parts to it, but I wanted it to be mellower than it
wound up being. I guess when the band organically works out new material it tends to
just come out heavier. That’s why I want to have two records come out, relatively close
together, and have one be mostly mellow and another that is mostly heavy. I just need
the time and no distractions.
cVc: So what is PILE’s writing process? Are you bringing in most of the ideas and then
the guys are writing their own parts?
RM:The precedent was set that I want to do most of the writing, but it’s not like I have to
write everyone’s part for them...it’s not like that. It’s not an ego driven thing, at least
that’s what I choose to believe. I really just enjoy writing and having it be my vehicle and
see where it goes. I think with this project, I just want to keep it as my thing and take
ownership and responsibility of it.
cVc: Can you see yourself playing in another band at the same time as PILE, where
you’re either sharing songwriting duties or maybe you’re only just playing?
RM:I would like to, but I just don’t have the time right now. So much of my energy is just
invested in band writing. I don’t know if it would ever slow down, but I would have to
allow myself to be open to the idea of that happening.
cVc: Is PILE self-sufficient now? Can all four of you make a full-time living from it?
RM: It depends on the individual member. It’s worked for me for the past couple of years
because of the solo stuff and just sort of managing everything. I have a job right now at
a movie theatre where I can work a few shifts a week and still go on tour when I want, or
I can leave for the winter and still have a job when I come back. But the band is starting
to make more money now, so we’re not as heavily reliant on jobs anymore for
income...but it still behooves us to keep extra money coming in.
cVc: So, is the solo touring a way for you to earn some extra cash and just kill some
time between PILE tours?
RM: Sure, but it’s also a chance for me to do something in any kind of way that I want.
It’s another outlet for creativity in the sense of asking myself: “how am I going to present
these songs live?” Not just have it be another guy with a guitar playing these songs, this
way...which is still basically what it is, but just not in a phoned-in kind of way.
cVc: So how are you presenting the songs in a solo format?
RM:I tried doing a kick-drum and it was ok, but I guess it wasn’t adding that much. Also,
I’ve got Elisabeth Fuchsia from the band Footings, who did all the strings on the last
record, doing a handful of songs with me at the end of each set and that sounds pretty
cool. If I could find people to commit to the solo thing, that would be great, but I would
have to plan that out and write songs for it. But, for now, I’m just trying to loop the songs
together better and maybe just little subtle things to keep it engaging and just trying to
figure out what makes that guitar sound best with my voice. Right now I have a small
bass amp and a small practice amp and I use them in stereo and that seems to be the
best set-up that I’ve found so far.
cVc: Here’s a question out of left field. Now that Donald Trump is President, do you feel
more politically motivated than maybe you ever were before?
RM: I would say that yes, I do feel more politically motivated than I ever have in the
past. It’s scary. He’s a joke, his way of thinking is incredibly dangerous and it’s scary.
I’ve had so many conversations with people freaking out and panicking...and I’m pretty
sure that’s not effective. I’m trying to figure out what I can do, personally, to effect things
in a positive way and be the change that you want to see in the world!
cVc: Do you think your songwriting would ever reflect the political environment?
RM:I’ve always preferred ambiguities. I would rather people figure that shit out
themselves...not tell them how to think. I mean, many people are very stupid and need
to be informed, but I don’t know if that’s my job to do.
cVc: Finally, what’s on the horizon for you in the near term?
RM: Well, the solo tour has a few more dates and then we have a full-band tour starting
in September for two weeks and then we go out with Converge for nine dates in