Abstraction in art is often misunderstood as a pointlessly obtuse, immature form of expression. At worst, it could represent something of a bad prank, pulled at the expense of the wealthy, out-of-touch patron, who will leave the museum unchanged, and that’s a shame. Abstract art is for exercising flexibility, for training oneself to seek new, unique connections.
For Nevada City band Pinnacles, abstract ideas are pulled from the ether of their dense, layered sound. A band member might bring in a guitar line or a chord progression, and singer Robbie Landsburg will vocalize a melody from the music. Often words will spontaneously materialize in his mind and fall into place within the song.
“The abstract nature of the music is born from my perception of what happens in my day-to-day life,” said Landsburg.
It’s these intangible thoughts that lend a distinct, bodiless feel to the music of Pinnacles. In the opening track of their album, Convolve & Reflect, Landsburg chants the phrase, “Halos falling off our heads.” It was a mantra that became tangible in the process of writing the instrumentation.
“When we’re writing a song, I’m often saying gibberish and singing melodies to find where the syllables will fall. Sometimes I’ll hone in on one line and analyze what it means to me,” said Landsburg. “The theme of the song will naturally build from there.”
For Landsburg, this method is the best way to tap into the abstract and forge new connections. He’s applied that spirit of connectivity to his music.
“If there’s an overriding theme in our music, it’s empathy,” explained Landsburg. “How people connect to each other, or don’t.”
He feels that we live in an age where connectivity between people is much easier, and at the same time much more alienating. It’s the paradox of modernity. We’re both close and far away, separated by the roads that connect us.
“I feel this disconnect,” said Landsburg. “I interact through the veil of the internet, or whatever. Culturally, there’s this definite lack of connection.”
In such a bleak social landscape, Pinnacles seek to strengthen their bonds between band mates. For Landsburg, it’s a support group that has helped him through the recovery process from addiction.
“I have a lot of trauma from substance abuse in my past,” said Landsburg. “When you go from a lifestyle where you’re trying to numb yourself, to one where you feel everything, you go from living a fantasy to real life.”
In the process of creating Convolve & Reflect, bassist Jesse Kinseth and guitarist Justin Hunt were undergoing another daunting reality—the approach of fatherhood. While trying to wrap their heads around this new phase of their lives, they also were taking on the writing and the recording of their second album.
“We finished tracking before my daughter’s birth,” said Hunt. “She was in the room as I mixed it. Made for a pretty overwhelming month.”
In the face of such daunting, abstract uncertainty, Hunt said the experience imparted in him a heightened sense of focus. It’s times like these when the concept of minimalism resonates most powerfully with him, as well as the band.
“I’m into the idea of using less to say more. Otherwise you end up in this place where you focus on too much,” he said.
For a band that has, over the last year, put together a tour, an album and visual effects to accompany their live sets, all on their own, it seems this is a valid concern. For Pinnacles, it’s all about reconnecting.
“We try focusing on what we have,” said Landsburg. “It helps us feel better prepared for the uncertainty of the future.”