Wymond Miles on Pinkku and Sacred Bones
James Cromwell Holden
Wymond Miles (due tonight at Twist and Shout and tomorrow night at The Gothic Theater) hails from Denver's completely unglamorous suburb directly to the east, Aurora. In the mid-'90s Miles started to become involved in the underground music scene in Denver, initially, and most notably, for his experimental rock band Annik. Around the time that band was ending, Miles started the space rock band Pinkku with Matthew Brown and Sarah Bell. The group evolved from a mysterious, otherworldly band into a more Nick Cave-esque project before ending around 2006. From there, Miles moved to San Francisco where he ended up in garage rock phenoms, the Fresh & Onlys. Still in that band, Miles is currently touring in support of his debut solo full-length Under the Pale Moon. We had a chance to spend some time talking to Miles about his most prominent old Denver band as well as how he came to have a couple of records out on the excellent Sacred Bones Records imprint and that label's own Denver connection.
Westword: How did you meet Zimmerman Stein?
Wymond Miles: He came to a Pinkku show when that was Matthew Brown and Sarah Bell and I had instrumental psych rock as the root. He came to one of our first shows. I feel like a friend of a friend invited him. He was the most decadent, Bohemian guy there. I remember he was wearing a full fur coat with the collar popped that went down to his feet. He was hitting all over Sarah, my girlfriend at the time, and just knew gear to no end. He was asking me about pedals and whatever and the next thing you know, we're geeking out about Marshall 50-watt Plexis and stuff like that. We just clicked and he had that real magnetic energy. He almost tricked me into, you, know, "I'm just going to start playing with you." It was a really slippery slope with him where he was just a stranger and then we were really close suddenly.
What was the idea behind Pinkku? The early incarnation was very different from the later version.
I'm still really conflicted about how that turned out. I remember Matthew Brown was the one that came up with the name Pinkku. It's a funny lineage where I'd just started this band after I stopped playing with Annik. I was twenty or so. Then I wanted to do this band that... Basically I was thinking Slowdive. I was so obsessed at the time and I wanted brutal volume to use the intensity of the volume as a tool to sculpt something much more beautiful. I knew I could do the melodies but I was eager to push that. Annik was a pretty aggressive band.
I met Matthew at the Snake Pit. He was in a Jesus and Mary Chain shirt. I went and talked to him and asked him if he played guitar and he said, "Yeah, as a matter of fact, I do." So we started playing and we tried the name Honey for a while. But we became Pinkku by suggestion of Matthew. But that was really it. It was certainly the big shoegaze thing before there were so many neo-shoegaze bands. We really wanted to push the My Bloody Valentine more into the Slowdive rather than the pretty, ethereal element. We had that but we wanted something bigger. That unfolded and Matthew was really uncomfortable with playing really big shows. Like we were playing with Space Team Electra a lot and playing at The Gothic and The Bluebird. I was really thrilled with that but Matthew just felt like he wasn't up for it and that we weren't up for it and so he left.
That's when I met Zimmerman and we picked up from there. I stopped singing then. We were all of a sudden playing incredibly loud. It was more a practicality. I was going through an eight-by-ten Marshall stack with a Fender Bassman and Twin. Orange stacks with Marshall heads and old Ampeg cabinets. It was more out of necessity because I was curious about exploring the volume of it all. So we were [an instrumental band]. Zimmerman broke his hand and didn't play his guitar for I feel like was a year. He showed up to where I had an artist loft off of Larimer or Blake Street and 30th. He showed up and I had a Fender Rhodes piano over there. He had written all these songs on piano that were mostly gut-wrenching tunes. I hadn't seen him in a while and we just thought, "Alright, let's continue this thing."
I really wanted to do a whole new band name. It just didn't feel the same. It wasn't inspired by the same kind of thing whatsoever. But he was pretty insistent that we should keep it. We were offered an opening gig for Sixteen Horsepower through a friend. It was our first show back as Pinkku, at the Gothic, so that's when we met James Yardley, of Snake Rattle Rattle Snake, who's about to play with me now at this upcoming show. We had just met him and it was our first show out as this new version of Pinkku, I guess, with singing with more classic song-oriented tunes. It became another year or two years of drama. But James and I are both excited because our first show together was at the Gothic on a whim a long time ago. Now we're sort of doing it again on a whim opening for [The Dandy Warhols].
Caleb Braaten is from around here so did that have anything to do with how you got hooked up with Sacred Bones?
That's all in the Denver family as well. I started working at Twist and Shout Records. I got hired there as a baby. I was twenty, I think, or twenty-one. I feel like I didn't even drink. At the vinyl store there was this dude that worked over there. He was the manager at the show. He had a Sisters of Mercy shirt and long hair down his back and a beard. I was like, "Oh, there's that old dude." I'd seen him before at Muddy's. I always thought he was cool but I always had the impression of him being ten years my senior but it turns out we're about the same age.
We became fast friends because he was the dude in the Sisters of Mercy shirt but we were both trying to steal each other's funk 45s. He was the most unpretentious, easy going guy. So me and Caleb just worked at Twist and we stayed in touch over the years. We lost touch for a long time. He's the guy who went to New York. I went to San Francisco. We left at similar times: six-ish years ago or so. He'd reach out and touch base with me. He was one of the guys when I had a Myspace page up for what was [some of the material that would make up the] Earth Has Doors EP, but with a different vibe. He reached out and said, "Hey, I think I'm going to start a label. Would you ever be into doing anything for it?"
Slowly, as the years unfolded, I was in the Fresh & Onlys and we're all hanging out at the Woodsist/Captured Tracks festival in Brooklyn. His label is doing really well. He was just always the guy, right there, saying, "Whenever you're ready to put something out, I want to do it." So there was almost never anybody else. I'd sent it around to a couple of other people with labels. But then I realized, "What am I even doing? Caleb's the guy that's been asking me about this for years now." I was just so busy with the Fresh & Onlys, I was in school, I had a kid and couldn't focus on doing this. So basically I stopped school and had a hole vacant to squeeze this in.
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