Driftwood Pyre began in the winter of 2012, when producers Liam Watkins (First Communion Afterparty) and Aaron James (Rocking Horse People) found themselves in the midst of the Midwest’s flourishing psychedelic scene. Rising from the ashes of their former projects, they built a studio in the Northeast neighborhood of Minneapolis and began recording what would become the seeds of the band’s defining sound. By the fall of 2012, they had enlisted Joe Werner (Bridge Club) and Jeanne Oss to further develop their recordings, and the final lineup was formed when Courtney Olsen (the Karabal Nightlife) found her way to the Twin Cities. In the time since, Driftwood Pyre has continued to evolve and cement its roots into the Minneapolis psychedelic/garage scene
How would you describe your music?
This is always a difficult question to answer, but I suppose we would classify ourselves as neo-psychedelic garage rock? I might be biased as a member of the band, but I think our music is very emotionally-charged. One moment you’ll be dancing and banging your head around, and the next moment you might be crying thinking about a lost love. I’d guess you’d say we’re pretty versatile.
Tell us about the history of the band.
Joe, Liam, Aaron and Marie were all involved in a previous band (First Communion After Party) but split ways after a few years. I (Courtney) moved to Minneapolis about five years ago to be closer to my family and got ahold of Aaron, who I had built a working relationship with while still in Los Angeles. They just so happened to be looking for a drummer for their new recording project, which eventually became Driftwood Pyre. We all assumed it would be a casual jam-session kind of deal, but we worked so well together from the beginning that it only seemed natural to develop into a live band.
What are your musical influences/heroes?
We all have such diverse musical tastes, which I think gives us such a unique sound as a band. The biggest common factors between the five of us are Bowie, The Stooges, The Stones, etc. But it really ranges from blues, soul, funk, R&B, classic rock, punk…Joe and I are both huge fans of the 90’s Washington D.C. scene, especially the Make-Up and Nation of Ulysses, which is something that he and I bonded over from the moment we started playing together. And then there are times when we have 90’s dance parties and listen to Letters to Cleo and Lisa Loeb. I’d like to think that we all bring our own unique tastes and musical backgrounds to the table.
What inspires you?
Art, nature, love, sadness, loss, life. The human experience in a nutshell.
Do you write on the road, or do you prefer to write in the studio?
Joe writes most of the songs at home and then brings them to the studio, where we all flush out our own parts. He’s incredibly generous when it comes to giving the rest of the band creative control, because I know of a lot of songwriters who have a certain mentality of “This is how I want it to sound, play it this way! Or else!” But we are so comfortable as a band and as and friends that we really don’t even need to communicate verbally at this point. Joe brings in a riff, we start playing along, and within a couple hours it develops into the song it was meant to be.
What is your favorite song to perform live?
It varies depending on the show, the venue, the crowd. One of my personal favorites to play is “The Day Nico Died” because it has such a raw, driving energy to it. But recently we’ve all loved the reaction that we get from “Into Blue”, “The Tide”, and “Strangeways”. “Protozoan” also makes me cry now and then…
What would be your dream tour to be a part of?
Well, if this is a dream scenario…Fugazi, the Make-Up, Bowie, Iggy, Neil Young, Nirvana, Charles Bradley, A Place To Bury Strangers, Spacemen 3, Devo, and Elvis Presley (the Vegas years).
What are your current thoughts on the music industry?
It seems that there are two separate music industries – the BIG industry, and the tiny industry. You’re either a Beyonce or you’re us. However, there are still passionate people out there that are working hard to get bands like ours out to the greater public. We have been incredibly fortunate to have been taken under the wing of EXAG Records – I cannot say enough good things about Greg and his label. They have taken incredibly good care of us! Sadly, most bands aren’t so lucky and have to rely on their own resources to record, print, and distribute their own music. But that’s part of being a creative – you sacrifice for your art. Everyone in the band works day jobs so we can buy equipment and go on tour and pay for our practice space. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
What is the funniest/weirdest experience you’ve had on tour?
We could probably write an entire novel about weird tour experiences, but I’d have to say that randomly meeting the same dog in two different countries is up there.
What are your future plans?
We just released our EP, “Strangeways”, and will be releasing our second LP early next year. We’re planning a Midwest tour for early spring 2018, but in the meantime, follow us online or come out and see us in Minneapolis!