Bloody good time
The Pine Box Boys turn deadly stories into raucous fun
For the Pine Box Boys, musical murder is always on the menu.
The band’s first show of deadly ballads was at a Fourth of July party put on by a church, of all places. The group formed in San Francisco as the members were leaving previous groups in 2003 and were looking to do something that was a little, well, different.
“It seemed to have a life of its own from the very beginning,” says “Possum” Carvidi, who handles banjo, accordion, piano and saxophone for the group.
Graphic lyrics may seem odd in a church. Perhaps even more so when one peers beneath Pine Box Boys’ sonic lid: Carvidi describes the outfit as “very loud, fast and angry bluegrass music.”
Bluegrass isn’t the only genre that fills up the band’s musical coffin, however. “None of us come from a country background or a bluegrass background,” Carvidi says. “So, right away there [were] influences from rock ’n’ roll and jazz and punk rock and heavy metal.”
The result is a fast-and-furious ambush by the music, paired with lyrics that focus on the darker side of life—these are murder ballads, after all. The lyrics have a “sense of absurdity,” Cardivi says, and as such, should not be taken entirely seriously.
“That’s probably one of our strongest suits, is having this constant contrast between, like, some pretty solemn, serious lyrics and what sounds like really absurd music,” Carvidi says. “It’s a strange thing because people love to get together and dance and party and generally be happy with each other, drinking and what not, but music that is about happy, positive things is quite boring to a lot of people.”
So far, the band has released studio albums that feature juicy titles: Arkansas Killing Time (2005), STAB! (2006), Child of Calamity (2008), Tales from the Emancipated Head (2011) and The Feast of Three Arms (2016).
A majority of its most recent album was written several years ago. But back then the band decided to make an album that reflected its raucous and high-speed live shows, which led to STAB! The group then continually thought about putting out The Feast of Three Arms, only to delay it.
“We didn’t think we were ready,” Carvidi says.
On the other hand, The Feast of Three Arms, Cardivi says, showcases what the Pine Box Boys are capable of in a studio setting. The stars finally aligned for it to see the light of day last fall—the stars being their sense of confidence.
“Maybe 10 years ago, we were a lot more concerned about how it was received and how people were thinking and all this sort of stuff, “Carvidi says. “And at this point, I think we’re a little bit more comfortable that we’re just going to put out what we put out, and if people like it, they like it, and if they don’t, they don’t.”
The Pine Box Boys’ Sacramento touring history also has a more homey tale: The band’s first shows in the area were in backyards, and still some of Carvidi’s best memories of playing live.
“The energy and the feedback was, like, right there in your face,” Carvidi says.
And even for Carvidi, a self-described hermit, that connection with the audience is important.
“Being able to be in front of people and socialize with them and to do something that … makes me really happy, makes them really happy, is quite a gift, for sure.”