This first time I became aware of The Finches was during my first visit to SXSW in 2007. I walked into a small, dark bar on the outskirts of Austin for a day show they were putting on. I went equipped with the knowledge that their song “The House Under The Hill” had struck me as the best song I’d heard in years. What I found upon opening the door to that dark little bar, was a band in mid-song performing one of the most beautiful and fragile sets I’d ever seen. Much to my chagrin, the band never released a second album and had started to fade from my memory. We tracked down Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs, who is the one constant of The Finches and were thrilled to hear that there’s new album brewing.
TDOA: Can you talk about the one-year hiatus that the band took a couple of years ago? What led you to “break-up” and what caused you to get back together again?
CPR: Oh boy, the tall and fat of it is that I moved to Los Angeles, away from the Bay. I didn’t realize how gnarly the transition was until I finally started loving it. I had a minor existential crisis and decided, “Oh, PALMS is a good word for my new music — I’ll feel more connected to my new city and I’ll be fancy free!” But the new name was wrong, and I kept returning to what I’d written as The Finches. I longed for a group of male back-up singers and when I’d found them — Gerry Saucedo and Cam Jones — they wanted to play instruments, so all of a sudden, we’re a singing trio called The Finches.
TDOA: The House Under The Hill is one of those songs that ought to be on everyone’s ‘best of the decade’ list. Can you tell us the story of how the song was written and what meaning it has to you?
CPR: I was a really conflicted kid — super introverted at school, but a little hellion at home and around the neighborhood. En route to Grandma’s, I passed by a golden green hill, and ugh, I was blasted by a nauseating wave of nostalgia. I knew something was hiding under the slope, so I pulled out a scrap of receipt and it all streamed out.
TDOA: Do you personally do the artwork for the band?
CPR: Yep. I print those guys from linoleum blocks — just like woodcuts but synthetic and cheap.
TDOA: It’s difficult to find information about the recording of your first album. It has a great, warm feel to it, so I’m wondering who produced it and how you enjoyed the recording of that record?
CPR: Thanks! We recorded it over a few weekends at Aaron’s parents’ house in San Diego with his special-ed-teaching/country-guitar-shredding/sound-engineering dad, David Morgan, and mixed it with our friend, Justin Pinkerton up in San Francisco. Everyone was friendly, family style.
TDOA: When Human Like A House came out, you did a few interviews in which you joked about having “domestic fantasies”. Two years later….how ya doing?
CPR: Ha, I guess I’m close to living the dream; the dream has changed. I share a one bedroom writer’s bungalow built on DW Griffith’s lot… Babylon? I hardly ever drive (in LA!) and the place is filled with 40+ plants.
TDOA: I first saw you at SXSW and loved the show I saw there. Can you talk about your experience at SXSW and the bit of touring you did?
CPR: I had so much fun in Austin!! There was a little too much bustling about for my taste — we played something like 6 shows in four days — but I did slip in some crucial concerts, like Vashti Bunyan and the Stooges.
TDOA: Despite the growth of the internet, distributing music and getting noticed is still a “who do you know business”. Agree or disagree?
CPR: Who knows. I think it helps to know folks in any business — I mean, I’ve seen some heinous PTA politics at a school I used to work at. In a way, music is closer to escaping that drama than any other medium. We can share a song on the internet and anyone with a connection can access it and decide if it sounds good; that’s pretty democratic (at least within the computer-accessing population). The internet is a magical machine and it has served me well so far, though I limit my use these days — too much of a slippery slope once you start following links!
TDOA: I know you’re working on new material. Can you give us a sense of what fans can expect from a new album and when will it be finished?
CPR: Well, we recorded seven new songs that are kind of hard to describe. It’s a standard rock-style set up — guitar, bass, drums, three vocals, sometimes piano, and a touch of vibes. We’ve got a few songs that sound like oldies covers and then a few jazzy “detective” jams and telanovela themes. One song is about five days I spent in Japan. Another is about nourishing your body. Our friend Chris Cohen, of the terrific band, Cryptacize, is mixing it in December, so I’m packing my pennies for a vinyl release just in time for Spring.