Pinback co-founder Rob Crow returns to the music scene today with He Thinks He's People, a half-hour-long jaunt of an album. The indie rocker's first solo release in over four years, this disc sparkles just as much as Living Well, which is saying a lot. At its core, there's the familiar voice, soaring yet intimate. With this, the multi-instrumentalist goes in a few different directions, sometimes solely acoustic strings, other times incorporating layers of more aggressive sound. Despite the shifting pace, from lullaby-like to more raucous (but always orderly), the record gallops along brilliantly and, before you know it, the last track has passed. Luckily, you can just press play again, letting the melodic music and velvety voice continue to wash over you. This is indeed a cohesive work, best savored in full from start to finish.
Crow set aside some time during a recent visit to Disneyland with his family, stepping away from the rides and costumed characters to talk with Interview. The husband and father of two filled us in on his anti-process process, his abhorrence of fame and fortune, and how he combats haunting thoughts of the endless void.
NELL ALK: How long have you been working on He Thinks He's People, and when did you wrap recording?
ROB CROW: [Five] months ago. I'm always working on stuff. Sometimes, when I think I have enough, I go, "I think I have a record done." And then I work on it some more, until it's right.
ALK: How do you know when it's finished, put the period at the end of the sentence?
CROW: Just by listening. When I think I have ten or so songs that fit together thematically, and kind of sound nice together, I write more stuff that fills in the holes.
ALK: Describe your process.
CROW: I don't really have a process. I just start working and keep going until it's done. Sometimes I'm up until seven in the morning; sometimes it takes 15 minutes.
ALK: So, which comes first, the lyrics or the instrumentals?
CROW: It's rare that I'll write lyrics first. If I come up with some good lyrics, I'll write them down and try to use them later. If I come up with a song title, sometimes I'll write a song based on that. Sometimes, I'll make a whole band out of it. [laughs] I don't really have a process, per se. I just keep going and going and going. Every free minute I have I'm working.
ALK: Have you always wanted to make music?
CROW: Oh yeah. It was the first thing I ever wanted to do. It's all I've ever done.
ALK: Share an early experience?
CROW: I had an uncle of mine write down some chords for me once. On a napkin. Then I learned those chords. Then I could play any Metallica album after that. Back when they were good.
ALK: Did you participate in the high school band at all?
CROW: I'd stay up all night working on recording, so would sleep all day in class. My grades were such that I was not allowed to join the band. And, if I did, I would get stuck playing an instrument and music I didn't want to play. I learned early on that I'd rather not be taught something somebody else's way, I'd rather do it the most organic way I know. So, whatever I end up with, it's something I did myself. That's just the way I do it.
ALK: Are you pleased with People?
CROW: Gee, I'm not sure. I'm so close to it. I like it as a whole. I'm pretty happy with how it flows. There's very little that I roll my eyes at. I'm that way about everything: "Oh God, why'd I do that?" But there's less of this album than any of my other solo records.
ALK: Bravo! So why this specific title?
CROW: I like art that's from the direction of somebody that makes it purely to make it. I don't know if you've ever met me, but I obviously pay little attention to the frivolities of what comes with being an artist, apparently, for most people—in the way they dress and the way they interact. I'll be anybody's friend, but only because I want to be their friend, not because I need something from them. This kind of an attitude sometimes makes it so some people—who want something from me and can't have it because they're not nice people—have an influence that can make things not great sometimes. But I don't care, because those people will be gone in a year anyway. Just trying to stay happy in an atmosphere [of], "Don't you want to be famous?!" No, I wanna make good art.
ALK: So I guess you're not interested in events like the VMAs.
CROW: I don't know anything about it. I only just recently found out they had them. That's one of the bonuses of not paying any attention to that culture. I just ignore all that stuff, so I don't even know about it.
ALK: Any musicians you do respect and would like to work with?
CROW: Yeah, there's tons of people, but I'm very shy. I would hate to collaborate with someone and either find out that they're kind of a jerk or [have] them think that I'm kind of a jerk. I'm afraid to mention any of them. There's so many.
ALK: Anything else?
CROW: I just try to keep busy. I find sometimes, when I put my emotions into records, I don't feel as depressed. It's so easy to get depressed. Sometimes it makes me feel better. Sometimes it makes me feel the same. But, the same squared. So, monumentally the same.
ROB CROW'S HE THINKS HE'S PEOPLE IS OUT NOW. FOR MORE ON THE ARTIST, VISIT HIS MYSPACE.