Pencildive: Power Trios and the Music that Loves Them
Written by Liam Sweeny on October 24, 2020
There’s a debate, perhaps only in this writer’s head, about genre. What role do we, as artists, play in the forming of a genre? At what point does an artist pushing the envelope from one genre become a whole new genre? And can I declare a genre for my music, or must it be conferred by some external body?
The Glens Falls band Pencildive doesn’t have to worry about that. They’re punk; well, they’re gloom, and don’t forget alternative. Singer Gina De Nardo, bassist Kevin Cardinale, and drummer Zach Hirsch, by any label, are pretty kickass.
RRX: Pencildive has a pretty hard driving sound. At the same time, there are tasty little change-ups hidden in the grooves, breaks up that forceful push in a really good way. When you all formed the band, did you have a concept for the sound you were going for, or was it basically ‘three people in a room?’
ZH: I wouldn’t say we knew exactly the sound we were going for. We knew we had preferences/sensibilities that could complement each other in a nice way. But we weren’t starting totally from scratch — Gina had a personal archive of songs she’d been developing for a long time, so we had a lot of great material to build upon. Also, before we formed this iteration of Pencildive, the three of us toured together in 2017 in different bands. (Gina and Kevin were in Asa Morris & The Mess at the time, and I was drumming for BREN.) So we got an idea of what everyone could contribute musically, we realized we liked each other, and it just made sense to join forces.
RRX: You’re a three-piece band. I’ve interviewed a few three-piece bands. In questioning about the differences, them not being a four (or more) piece, I’d always get back something like ‘we play with what we got.’ So instead of asking you about what sucks not being a four (or more) piece, I’ll ask; what’s the cool part of being a three-piece?
GD: I’ve considered adding another guitar player before solely so that I can run around the stage freely, likely rolling around and screaming. HOWEVER, I really love what we create as the three-piece. Playing, no matter how many bodies are in your band, comes down to energy. Every instrument gets room to breathe, and I love the simplicity of it from a logistics angle. There is something almost blue collar about being a power trio. I guess the Minutemen are the epitome of what’s cool about being a trio, to me; they’re all gods at their instruments, and yet there is something about it that feels very down to earth. Also, packing for tour is super easy.
RRX: You have a new album coming out. Congratulations! We’re not good with cakes, but we’ll put a cookie recipe in your copy of the paper. Jokes aside, it’s a great time having an album out, no matter when you have it out. It’s the product of a lot of work. So I’ll shut up and let you all talk about it.
KC: Oh, it’s going to be rad. I think it’s heavier and also sonically much weirder than our last record. Gina is letting me do a lot of trippy stuff with pedals and effects this time, which is my bread and butter. Music/recording equipment is probably the thing I nerd out the most about. Also, Gina’s songs are the best they’ve ever been and Zach’s drumming is fucked up. I think he came from whatever alien planet they found Travis Barker on.
RRX: You call yourselves ‘punk/gloom/alternative.’ I’m intrigued. I’ve noticed that people are getting creative with genre more and more. Like ‘gloom’ as a genre. Some would argue that’s more joke than genre, but is it really? When enough people decide something’s a genre… so is ‘gloom’ an actual genre, or is it in the running?
ZH: I think the typical genres like alternative and rock are vague, and they don’t really tell you enough. “Gloom” doesn’t really tell you much, either, but at least it gives you something a little more specific/descriptive. It is true that lots of bands are inventing random new genre tags, and it gets a little ridiculous sometimes. So I think “gloom” is both a nod to the fact that we’re all just making shit up, and in that sense it’s kind of a joke, but at the same time it actually feels like an appropriate description of the music. Someone gave us that description on a flyer and we liked it.
RRX: Times like these are tough on bands. Sure, there are the underground shows, but we can’t talk about them. Things have changed, and it seems like the more that people need fresh music to get by, the harder it is to get that music to the people. I found you on Facebook, which took me to your Bandcamp page. How else can people find you?
GD: Our music can be found on any streaming platform (e.g. Spotify, Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, etc.) Instagram is where you can find our updates and juicy stories. Also, if you haven’t already done so, check out our Cricket Man music video that my very good friend Angela Sheil and I creatively produced. It’s really more of a short film than a music video. And please, please make sure to take note of all of the amazingly talented people involved.
RRX: When I write books, or design a cover, I like to leave Easter eggs. Few people ever find my Easter eggs; I’m a good hider. And I know bands like to do this too, hidden cool stuff, or things with insider meanings for the audio faithful. Did you all put anything into the new album that might be seen as an “Easter egg”?
GD: I never really liked Easter. Was Jesus into pastels and hollow chocolate bunnies? The hollow bunny was always such a disappointment. But at the same time a perfect representation of a bizarrely commercialized holiday. In any case, you may hear and feel some common themes in the new album but you must look within to find the golden egg.
RRX: This is where you answer the question I didn’t ask. Is Glens Falls the North Country? Is the Cricket Man real? Educate, enlighten, emote – the floor is yours.
GD: The North Country? Turns out none of us really know. But it’s cold. And that counts for something.
ZH: The Cricket Man is real. He comes to you in your dreams. That’s all I’ll say.
KC: The Cricket Man is very real, and he lives in your deepest fucking nightmares. The shit you don’t even tell your shrink.
GD: The Cricket Man is absolutely real. Those who know, know.