the Pink Stones by Taylor Chmura
Photo: Taylor Chmura / Courtesy of New West Records

The Pink Stones Reinvigorate Cosmic Country with “Love Me Hardly” (premiere)

The Pink Stones recall the hazy, beer-soaked sound of 1970s Tulsa with a fresh coat of pain and a wicked sense of humor on “Love Me Hardly”.

Introducing… The Pink Stones is the debut album from the Athens, Georgia-based band the Pink Stones. The cosmic country record arrives on 9 April via New West’s sister imprint, Normaltown Records.

The new single, “Love Me Hardly”, offers a glimpse into what makes this exciting debut tick. It’s an acknowledgment of the Byrds, Gram Parsons, American Beauty-era Grateful Dead but an appreciation of shoegaze and, perhaps, even accidentally, the strange, spacey beauty of Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno’s Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks. There are glimpses of 1970s Tulsa beer halls and hordes of shit kickers hitting the dance floor. It helps, too, that there’s a subtle but profound sense of humor at work here and that repeated listens reveal the full nuances of the music itself.

There’s a dreamlike state that takes hold of the listener on this song and on the album, some of it down to former Drive-By Truckers man John Neff’s tasteful licks but, really, all of it down to what Grand Funk Railroad once called Good singin’, good playin’. (And good writin’ too.) There’s something to be said for ensembles, and the Pink Stones reveals itself as the kind of band that focuses on just that. This isn’t a band of stars but a band that, somehow, makes stars shine just a little brighter when it plays.

The band’s vocalist and songwriter, Hunter Pinkston, spoke with PopMatters about making the Pink Stones‘ debut and how “Love Me Hardly” came to take on life as a single.

This is your debut album. The introduction.

We started playing with this actual cast of characters three years ago or a little less than that. It took us a while to find our footing and figure out exactly what we were trying to sound like. We’ve put out some recordings before; we did some demo stuff, and then we made a 45. We had been working on this set of ten songs for pretty much the whole time we’ve been playing together. Finally, we just decided we wanted to make a record. That was about two years ago now. We into the studio and cut the record, and then it got deleted. We had to go back and cut it again.

The whole record was deleted. That has to be terrifying.

It makes for a good conversation. We made the record with our friend Henry Barbe, whose dad is David Barbe [Sugar, et al]. Their family has a studio in town called Chase Park Transduction.

We had cut there before, and we cut the whole record there in Spring 2019. We did it all live, then had the idea that we’d come back in a couple of months to do the mixing and overdubs. We were at the end of the break, and on the Friday before we were supposed to go in, Henry called me and said, “Hey, could you step outside. I need to tell you something.” Sure enough, the record was on a hard drive that got corrupted. That was pretty crazy. But, luckily, we went with it, booked another session, and went back and did the whole thing over. And here we are.

Were there thoughts of, “I don’t know if we’re going to be able to top what we did before”?

We were playing live a lot at that time. Probably more than we ever had. So, when we went back to the studio, it was like we had had this period of intense rehearsal. We knew the songs probably better than we did the first time. I don’t even know what those first takes sound like anymore.

There’s this real dreamlike quality to the album. I think some of that comes down the pedal steel but also the sequence of the songs.

I spent a lot of time figuring out all the fine details of sequencing. A lot of my favorite records are like listening to a story. A slow song ends, a fast one starts. I think some of the [sequencing] came from playing live. I just sat down with the list of songs before we went into the studio and imagined a story. At the time, I was listening to more ethereal, dreamy sort of country and some shoegaze too. We were going to name the record something else. Songs About Dreams or something like that because there is a narrative throughout about dreaming, and the sound is really hazy.

You’re releasing “Love Me Hardly” as a single.

It’s probably my favorite tune on the record. It was one that we had a lot of time to mess around with and change up. It’s one of those songs where, with a band with that many instruments and people, everybody gets a little something on this song, which is fun. There’s a groovy bassline, and some fun drum fills as well as blues guitar and pedal steel and organ. I think the whole picture and sound sort of fell together in a way that I don’t think we first intended.

It’s the seventh song on the album.

I’ve been really into vinyl records my whole life. My parents are into that kind of thing. I work at the pressing plant now. Back in the day, the two singles on the record would [often] be the second song and the seventh song. When you had records, the first track on each side would get worn out from people picking up the needle. So they would put the songs right on the inside of the record, so they wouldn’t deteriorate. That’s always stuck in my head.

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