Rick Maguire, the singer and creative driving force behind experimental US rock outfit Pile, speaks to Headliner about the making of the band’s new album All Fiction, why it was the most challenging record he has worked on to date, and how it left him wondering where to head next creatively…
“There was a sense of finality that extended beyond the record itself,” says Pile’s Rick Maguire, describing how he felt when work on All Fiction, the band’s latest opus (out February 17) was finally complete. Some 15 years and eight albums into their career, Maguire felt that he had finally made the record he’d been itching to make since the release of their 2012 album Dripping. With each and every album since, the cult Boston band have cultivated a sound that not only evades categorisation, but sees Maguire continue to tread an emotional tightrope stretched between pillars of fragile, introspective melancholy and scorched earth riffs and pulverising beats. Yet All Fiction somehow sees those extremities pulled tighter than anything that has come before.
Take lead single Poisons as a case in point. Over the course of four minutes, we hear Maguire deconstruct, reconstruct, and then take a wrecking ball to Pile’s creative building blocks. A couple of times over. The loud-quiet dynamic sees Maguire speak, sing, and bellow his way around a drum beat that veers between pulsating rhythm and the sound of a planet sliding off its axis. A piercing, staccato guitar section somehow knits the chaos together to create something blisteringly thrilling and utterly compelling. Elsewhere, the record incorporates synths and samples to generate sonic textures not previously present in the band’s work. It is unarguably the most ambitious addition to the Pile catalogue.
“This morning I’m looking at our setup for the tour,” says Maguire, joining us over Zoom, filling us in on what he’s been up to since finishing the album. He’s in a bright, talkative mood, almost slightly at odds with what one might expect given the intensity he has always channelled into his music. “Historically we’ve been two guitars, bass, and drums for live performances, and it is changing. The record is very different from that - there are a lot of synthesizers, auxiliary percussion, so there is a lot of experimentation going on with loading samples and doing as much as we can without bringing a laptop onstage and figuring out how all that works. We are working in a way that I’m just not used to.”
The technical challenges and unfamiliarity of the process are, however, something he is very much enjoying.
“It’s exciting,” he says, “and It’s a little bit scary. I did a solo tour early in 2022 and in that I had my synthesizer and a MIDI controller that I controlled with my feet, so I was able to play guitar and activate bass notes through that. So I’m applying some of the things I learned from that into this, but there are a lot of things that are still very different. It’s a bit of an overwhelming process, but it’s been an interesting process. It’s a challenge and we’ll see how it goes. It is nice to try different things out and not just be doing what we’ve always done. I assume there will be more challenges along the way but I’m looking forward to it.”