Instrumental rock quartet Pistil flowers on 'Emerald Echoes'

Andy Downing

“Emerald Echoes,” the just-released new single from instrumental rock quartet Pistil, is meant to mirror the life cycle, opening with an innocent, almost aloof feel and then growing gradually heavier and more chaotic as it progresses, the music taking on the frustrations and tensions we tend to acquire with age. Before the track closes, however, there’s a brief melodic moment of tenderness, which could be interpreted as an acceptance of death, but that the band attributed to the discovery of love and a natural settling that can occur as two souls entwine. 

Fittingly, “Emerald Echoes” felt like it took nearly a lifetime for Pistil to complete, beginning its genesis nearly two years ago, when the band, which consists of guitarists Kevin Masters and Garrett LoConti, bassist Alex Randall and drummer John Violet, was still in the process of finding its footing.

“When I first started with John and Kevin … I was playing bass and Kevin was playing piano, and we both looked at each other and we were like, ‘What are we doing? We’re guitar players in doom metal bands,’” said LoConti, noting that these earlier, more esoteric experimentations, while ultimately doomed, helped shape the band into a more open-ended musical entity. “We were kind of sick of painting in only dark shades. We wanted to throw some color in there.”

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These exploratory sessions took place casually in Pistil’s intricately appointed practice space, CubeSmart (formerly Morningstar), whose tall ceilings allowed Masters to construct a treehouse, of sorts, complete with a high, hanging hammock. “We would play for an hour and then sit back and listen to what we’d just recorded,” LoConti said. “I had never had that experience of, 'OK, we need to listen,’ and so it was really this constant process that they had to drag me kicking and screaming into.”

This more deliberate creative approach bleeds into “Emerald Echoes,” which moves at a tourist’s pace for a shade over six minutes. Yet, despite the unrushed aura, the song, recorded in its final version with Joe Viers at Sonic Lounge Studios, still feels musically curious, the bandmates poking and prodding their way into previously darkened corners. (LoConti cited early Genesis records as one early source of inspiration.) 

In the months since, though, songs have arrived far more quickly. “Once we got past those initial hurdles and kind of found our way in the band, things became a lot easier,” said LoConti, who added that Pistil has already recorded a full album’s worth of material, though the ongoing concerns with COVID-19 make a 2020 release unlikely. 

For that reason, LoConti and his bandmates have likened these recent months to the more muted middle passage in “Emerald Echoes,” anticipating the arrival of some needed beauty in the months ahead.

“We were talking about how [it feels like] that drawn out, kind of psychedelic, more somber moment in that song because of COVID-19,” LoConti said. “We’re all sort of put on pause, and that’s how it feels in that moment in the song, like we’re stuck in this spot where we can’t go and do the thing that we love. So instead, for now, we have to keep looking inward and each work on our music on our own time.”