On its journey to becoming the not-so next big thing, Pomegranate survived the '90s, lineup changes and continental divide
Just a warning: Listening to Pomegranate’s cohesive, textured collection of alternative-rock songs as featured on the band’s latest EP, Ahead and Behind, might not be the best preparation for one of the band’s diverse, high-energy live shows.
“We visit all of those different flavors in our live shows,” says drummer Michael Creason. “A punk song can sit next to a country song can sit next to a roots song can sit next to a jazzy-style song.”
The songs on the EP, however, are spacious and moody, built around subtly complex arrangements, midtempo beats and raw guitar work—all with a ’90s vibe that falls somewhere between a polished Dinosaur Jr. album and the Lemonheads’ later work.
Originally formed in 1993 in Oakland, Pomegranate, whose members now call Sacramento home, watched as a majority of the acts around them broke up. Instead of following suit, the band stuck it out, grounded by its love of playing.
“We’re not looking to become rock stars. It’s about the music. It’s about enjoyment,” says the band’s lead vocalist and guitarist Gavin Canaan.
OK, so it’s easy for a band to claim they aren’t trying to be rock stars, but in Pomegranate’s case, it’s true. In fact, they almost became the next big thing in the ’90s.
During the band’s first year, as it played shows up and down the West Coast, it found itself approached by several label scouts. Eventually, the group recorded a single and sent it to radio stations. The program director of KCRW in Santa Monica heard it, called the band and invited it to Southern California for an in-studio performance and interview.
Afterward, Pomegranate’s phone started ringing off the hook. The band earned so much buzz, in fact, Billboard magazine featured it on its cover in 1994, naming it one of the top 10 unsigned bands in the country. Eventually, the band landed a deal with Treat & Release (a subsidiary of A&M Records).
“A lot of things happened in a very brief time. It was all very exciting,” Canaan says now. “[But] once you get signed and you’re not a massive success right out of the gate, pretty much everybody sees you as ’been there, done that.’”
The timing for the band was seemingly right—this was an era, after all, during which most labels were on the hunt for “alternative rock” and grunge, thanks to the overwhelming success of Nirvana.
“It seemed so real. It seemed like it was going to happen. It’s such a fantasy world,” says bassist Adam Twain.
Six months after signing with Treat & Release, the label folded—and with it it the frenzy around the band. And so the members of Pomegranate continued, releasing albums on its own.
Obstacles continued to get in the band’s way: Pomegranate’s original drummer quit, and Canaan moved to the United Kingdom for his job. He returned to California in 2009, but in the time between, he and Twain continued to write music.
These days, the band is exclusively stateside and, in some ways, still honing its sound. Even with two decades’ worth of diverse material in its catalog, it’s easy to find a common thread in the band’s subtle, intelligent approach to songwriting.
It’s an approach, Canaan says, that may never find a particularly big mainstream audience.
“I always think that that’s the best music that I like,” Canaan says. “[Music] that I can’t necessarily understand right away.”