Galen Disston, lead singer for the soulful Seattle rock band Pickwick, trades in two creative escapes: his music, a lifelong ambition and an art form with infinite possibilities; and the intricate craft of watch building, an endeavor Disston–whose band’s new record, LoveJoys, is out June 10—began only recently.
“My obsession with watches started about a year and a half ago,” says Disston, seated at a garage bench cluttered with watch parts, tweezers, and bent screwdrivers. “I think that getting into watches is an escape into a different kind of world.” But what is he escaping from, or toward? “I’ve been recording this podcast lately about my fears around the Seattle music scene and the state of it and my anxieties with it,” says the reflective, big-voiced singer. “I learned through the process of making this record that a lot of my subconscious fears were manifesting as singing nonsense.” So he sang, purging internal gibberish, until LoveJoys’ lyrics materialized.
For Disston, life is almost always on some edge. For a husband, father of two, and front man for a band not short on local attention but not yet a money machine, there are a lot of anxieties around finances, being able to follow creative muses and keeping a family intact. But in Pickwick’s new record—the first since 2013’s Can’t Talk Medicine—the singer found some sanctuary, some salvation. “Once we figured out where we want to go and what that escape looks like, we allowed for that,” he says. “We fostered it, gave into it. And the record wrote itself very fast.”
LoveJoys imbues itself with a sense of searching, a feeling that each song will lead down a dark, cold brick corridor to some secret cigar-fueled poker table where everything is at stake—like on the heartbroken “Thought It Was You,” where the singer laments, “I thought I had something when I had you/Now I don’t know what to do.” Other times, the album can feel like a drug-fueled party where people with disco heels and deep mascara wonder if flight is really possible—like on the dire “Ammonia.” The record positions itself well into the mire and the barrage of life and, in the face of it, offers a barrage of sound right back.
“Music has always been cathartic for me, especially onstage,” says Disston, who has performed as Pickwick since about 2005, before expanding the project with another handful of members, including lead guitarist/songwriter Michael Parker. “I can’t bullshit people. It’s hard for me to go on autopilot. I have to get in touch with whatever’s inside. We’re dreamers trying to orient our life.” That orientation, for Disston, can come through song or through the simple pleasure of putting a wristwatch back together in synergistic completion. The two acts may not be that different: “With these watches, there’s no battery—it’s just stored-up kinetic energy,” says Disston, who works as a high-rise window washer during the day. “It fascinates me, to see all this work happening in harmony. It’s like magic.”
Neumos, 925 E Pike St., 709-9442, neumos.com. $15. All ages. 8 p.m. Sat., June 10.