Since 2006, PILE has been a unique force in the world of indie-rock. Started originally as Rick Maguire’s solo project, 2007’s Demonstration and parts of 2009’s Jerk Routine were the only pure documents of Pile’s era as a solo act. Since then, Maguire built a band of like-minded collaborators—the current lineup of which includes drummer Kris Kuss, guitarist Chappy Hull, and bassist Alex Molini—but Maguire’s songwriting and commitment to doing the work always remained at the center. Pile toured endlessly and released albums on a regular cycle, because the machine that is Pile can never stop, even when it seemingly would have been forced to.
“I’ve had the mentality from the outset of this project that we would have to write, release, and tour as much and as often as possible to gain traction and maintain momentum, and while I haven’t shaken that outlook entirely, I’ve utilized the past year and change to reflect on what the decade prior has meant to me. I’ve mostly avoided looking back, but this past year seemed like as good a time as any to do that,” says Maguire.
In 2020, Maguire set out to tour as a solo act, but with all touring plans cancelled he still wanted to find a way to honor that intention. Pursuant of that intention today, Pile are announcing Songs Known Together, Alone, a new collection of songs performed by Maguire that will be released on August 20th on Pile’s longtime label home Exploding In Sound, that serves as a reflection on the band’s beloved catalog. To mark the announce Pile are sharing two tracks from the collection, “Build A Fire” and “I Don’t Want To Do This Anymore.”
In both cases these songs have their genesis in earlier recordings by the band, but Maguire has taken elements from that earlier material and used them to create entirely new compositions. The two tracks are sonically totally unique in the band’s catalog, and the result of an unusual creative process that Maguire explains below.
“‘I Don’t Want To Do This Anymore’ was initially an instrumental on our 2017 album A Hairshirt of Purpose,” Maguire explains. “The idea of adding words to a song that already existed made it seem like a blank canvas. Once I started going down the road, it became almost an entirely different song but I could still use some of the elements of the instrumental track to anchor it. With how open the song became, the attitude of experimentation ended up bleeding into the performance and recording aspects of the song. It’s probably the most drastically different from the original recording and it felt the most malleable because I had to add lyrics. And because of both quarantine and the song’s title, it was open to a lot of possibilities and it felt as though only blanks needed to be filled in, and I could do that as literally or as abstractly as I wanted.”
“‘Build a Fire’ wasn’t even going to be on the record initially. I finished tracking the piano set early and Kevin asked if I wanted to do another so I tried my hand at it even though I hadn’t played it in years. Coincidentally, that song closing the record feels symbolic because it was the first song I wrote for this project back in 2006 and this record does feel like closing a chapter on some of these songs. Not that I won’t ever play them again, but after 15 years, I feel like a different person from when this project started and after all of this I’m excited for the band to venture out into some different territory.””
Recorded with Kevin McMahon at Marcata Recording in New Paltz, New York, Songs Known Together, Alone is the result of three days in which Maguire tore apart songs from Pile’s 15-year career and reshaped them into something completely new. Recorded live and broken into two distinct sets, Maguire’s performances were filmed by Ryan Dight, Adam DePalma, and Joe Fernandes to give Songs Known Together, Alone a complementary visual component. “One day was the guitar and synth set, one day was the piano set, and one day was overdubs and general noise experimentation, some of which ended up on our improv/noise release In the Corners of a Sphere-Filled Room,” said Maguire. When experienced in full, Songs Known Together, Alone takes on the quality of a visual album, a live record, and a fresh experience all at once.
By digging through the material his former self had created, Maguire worked to find new meaning in each composition, both for himself and for the listener. While fans may recognize the shell of each song, what’s contained inside is something completely new: instrumentals have been given lyrics and new arrangements (“I Don’t Want to Do This Anymore”); throat-shredding rippers have been transformed into contemplative instrumentals (“Afraid of Home”); tracks that explored overlapping thematic ends have been pushed together and reconstituted (“Rope’s Length / My Employer”).
“This was an opportunity to revisit the format of performing alone but with material that has been fleshed out by the group. And while solo performances have been a part of the identity of the project throughout its existence, up until this record I hadn’t given it much studio attention in the past 12 years,” said Maguire.
Songs Known Together, Alone is an exploration of what happens when a person’s life’s work is forced to shift, and all that’s left to do is reflect on what’s been built and what they wish to construct in the future. “The band is planning on tracking another full-length in October. This solo release was also a way to explore the studio and to deconstruct songs, which are two aims for the next full-band release,” adds Maguire. Pile’s history may already be written. That is, as long as Maguire doesn’t get another year off the road.
What the press are saying about Pile:
[Pile’s] most satisfying and varied album yet. Pitchfork
Pile’s most ambitious work. Noisey
The fact that Pile is continuing to break new ground on its seventh studio album should come as no surprise, but how far the band reaches on Green And Gray is still remarkable. AV Club
There are clearly intricacies and impressive hooks throughout Green And Gray that show the band is undoubtedly onto something special / UPROXX
The album is rife with melodic insurgency. It fluctuates from seismic, blown-out riffs to opposite extremes of quiet calm, creating a cerebral anxiety that comes and goes. Stereogum
Pile is well-known as idols for their peers…The band balances the acrobatic and the annihilating as it shifts between gnarled melodies and heavy thrashing. NPR
Messy, loud, and rhythmically intense…the tension between softer, sadder moments and the abrasive ones feels vital FADER
It seems apparent that their popularity will only continue to grow…one of the best bands of the 2010’s. KERRANG
A guitar band that doesn’t sound like a guitar band; there’s something intense and brave about them, but it feels feminine, not macho, not over the top Consequence Of Sound