Get To Know: The Pinkerton Raid
Last week, I chatted with Jesse James DeConto of the Durham, NC indie rock band The Pinkerton Raid, while they stopped in Chicago during a short Midwest tour. We're only a few months into the year, but it's already been a busy one for The Pinkerton Raid, who released their third studio album called Tolerance Ends, Love Begins on February 7th. While catching up with Jesse, I found out the highlights since the record's release, which classic rock band he used to cover with his family, the best spots in North Carolina for live music, and much more. Tune in and get to know The Pinkerton Raid now...
Daytrotter and Dayton have been tour highlights
Right before our chat, Jesse and the band had been out in Davenport, IA, recording a session with our friends at Daytrotter. Jesse mentioned the session went really well, adding, "It was great. It’s something that we’ve been wanting to do for a while, so I was really excited. I’m looking forward to hearing the mix when it comes back!"
As far as other highlights, Jesse brought up an epic night in Dayton, OH. "We had a great time the other night in Dayton. There’s a place called South Park Tavern. They have this weekly open mic night, and the guys who kind of curate that, they met up just going there to play their own stuff, and eventually formed a band called Old News....Based on just jamming with each other at this open mic. So they’ve been doing that for years, and now they’ve built this great community of people coming out weekly to hear what’s going on. So, they basically booked us as a featured artist for what’s normally an open mic night, and it was just fantastic. The people were really so hospitable and we sold a ton of records and t-shirts. Just a lot more than on your average show, so that’s always encouraging," Jesse recalled.
While Dayton might have been one of the most special shows this tour, it seems like the band have genuinely enjoyed the whole tour. "Last night we got out and played with our friends, The Sharrows. We played with them on our first Midwestern tour four years ago. One of the guys in that band has this old farmhouse about half hour outside of Madison. We crashed with him when we played that show back then. They’ve got a studio out in the barn, and it’s always good to see them. He and his cousin, Phil Sharrow, whose last name is the name of the band, they’ve become friends and we always have a good time with them. It’s been fun hanging out with friends," Jesse added.
Jesse's dad was performing Simon and Garfunkel when his mom went into labor
A lot of musicians come from musical families, but few have this exciting of a birth story..."We kind of grew up watching our dad play. He actually supported my mom and me when I was just a baby," Jesse says, starting the story. "On the night I was born, he was playing at a bar in Somerville, Massachusetts. He was in the middle of playing Simon and Garfunkel "Cecilia,” and the bartender got a call and told the waitress. So she comes up and kind of whispered to him while he’s playing and singing, you know, that my mom had gone to the hospital...So he stands up and knocks the microphone over and the whole bar fills with feedback. He picks it up and says 'I gotta go, my wife is having a baby,'" he continued.
The whole family is musical, and used to play in cover bands together
While it's clear music has been instilled in the DeConto family blood since birth, Jesse revealed he hadn't always been into writing original music. Talking about his start with playing music, he says, "I came home from college after my freshman year, and [my dad] and my other brother were playing a lot together. My younger brother. They were playing a lot of Led Zeppelin and Beatles stuff from the 60’s and 70’s. My brother was learning guitar. Nobody was playing bass. So I picked up bass. I had been singing for quite a while and touring with that in high school and college, but I kind of picked up that bass the summer after my freshman year of college. Started playing bass and played with my family. My uncle played drums so we had a full band. Mainly just playing those cover songs, and we’d just play for weddings or parties."
While he enjoyed playing other people's music, he also admits that it was challenging at times. "[Zeppelin] stuff is really intense. I was doing a lot of the singing. I really had to work at it. So I felt like I’d enjoy it more if I was actually writing my own songs. And so, that’s kind of when it started. I was probably 23...then it just went from there." Jesse also talks about how pretty much the whole family ended up following him and his daughters from New Hampshire to North Carolina, which is where they formed their first original band. Eventually, The Pinkerton Raid formed, and the rest is history...
Jesse's job as a crime reporter had an impact on the third record
As the story goes, Jesse began writing down lyrics for the third album while he was working as a crime reporter. When I asked about some of most intense stories he covered, Jesse says, "There are a lot of intense stories. The student body president of UNC Chapel Hill in the area where I was working, got murdered. It was like a robbery, they kidnapped her and took her to an ATM to get money out, and then ended up shooting her. Eve Carson. That was a really rough story to cover," he recalled. "Then I covered a trial of a young kid, a teenager, he'd graduated. I think he was 18 or 19, but he went back to his high school in Orange County, NC, and shot up the building. Nobody died, but a couple people got injured. There’s a couple of stories like that. Another guy drove an SUV into the campus at UNC Chapel Hill and injured a bunch of people. So you know, it’s just like, people sort of losing touch with reality and doing some really harmful stuff to other people. When you cover those trials, you get a window into human psychology. It can get pretty intense," Jesse continued.
As far as how much those stories affected the album, Jesse says, "It’s interesting. I don’t know that it inspired the album, so much as that I was going through my own stuff personally, and kind of like watching other people deal with the worst stuff they might have to deal with in their entire lives. That just kind of got me thinking about what was going on for myself. The album title actually comes from this commute that I would have to do, going up there to cover these cases at the courthouse. There’s a traffic sign that says 'Tolerence Ends,' and it just means that truckers are supposed to get off the back roads and drive on the highway, but I found it so provocative, that language. I just started thinking about how it applied to my own life."
They come from a budding music community
"Our area is really great, we have a really great scene," Jesse says, mentioning some of their favorite local acts include The Old Ceremony, Mount Moriah, His Golden Messenger, The Dead Tongues, Brett Harris, and Skylar Gudasz. (Their producer for the third record, Mark Simonsen, also plays in The Dead Tounges.)
Although their list of local recommendations already seems endless, Jesse added, "People probably know about Sylvan Esso, they’re a pretty big deal. There’s a lot of connection with Bon Iver and some of his old friends...like Phil and Brad Cook. He formed Megafaun. They’re involved now with His Golden Messenger. So there’s kind of a big community around those guys."
As far as local venues, Jesse also mentions a fair share. Elaborating on the best places to play, he says, "We play at Motorco a lot in Durham, so that’s been kind of our home venue. There’s a lot of good ones. We love the Pinhook. Cat’s Cradle, of course, in Carrborro. That’s probably the best known. That’s 20 minutes away, and they opened a back room with a smaller space a couple years ago. Which has been really good because The Cat’s Cradle main room is 700-800 capacity, which most bands can’t fill. The backroom is good for us locals to play in." Jesse also shouts out Local 506, The Station, The Cave, and The ArtsCenter, to name a few, confirming that there's lots of awesome venues in their area.
It might be a while until The Pinkerton Raid make their way back to the Midwest, but if you're in North Carolina, it sounds like the band have plenty of gigs lined up! While talking about what's next for the band this year, Jesse mentions, "We’ve got some festival stuff we’re starting to line up. We’re gonna open up this photography festival called Eyes on Main Street in Wilson, which is like an hour east of where we live. We always like to be involved in something that’s celebrating another art form. We've played the past 5 years at a festival called Wild Goose, which is in western North Carolina, and that’s always a highlight. We love that and we end up making really cool connections. A couple of the places we’re stopping on this tour are because of people that we’ve met at this festival. So that’s always good." He also mentioned Shakori Hills Grass Roots Music Festival, saying "It’s really well-curated and draws a lot of great bands from all over the country. They put it on twice a year. It’s kind of one of the highlights of the central North Carolina scene. That will be our first time doing that." Make sure you stay in the loop by signing up for the band's mailing list here.