dave van patten
Pine Hill Haints attracts an audience that likes songs about the cursed nature of the world—people that have gone to the dark side and found it uplifting. Real weirdos and rebels gather around this band and its junk instruments. The rawness feels natural and natural feels honest. People who believe in things you’re not supposed to believe are drawn to Pine Hill’s spooky bosom and folklore. Alabama’s self-proclaimed punk band makes music that embraces doom and the great lonesomeness of life in order to find everlasting joy. This basically makes Pine Hill Saints a good band for the end of the world. What luck—they’re playing Los Angeles on Judgment Day! Daiana Feuer speaks to singer Jamie Barrier as the band crosses the Arizona desert and lets him in on the fact that doom awaits him in California.
Do you know that the world is supposed to end on the day of your show?
Jamie Barrier (vocals): Someone told me that last night. Can you tell me about it?
This 80-year-old fundamentalist Christian radio guy called Harold Camping marched into Washington D.C. with a posse of disciples holding Bibles and said he had mathematical calculations which indicated that Judgment Day is Saturday, May 21, and the world will end at 6pm in every time zone. So the world will end in Alabama three hours before it ends in Los Angeles. Some great natural disaster is going to travel around the world—I guess, at the same speed as the sun, and it’s the end of the world.
So this should be a great show. Do you play in a band? What’s it like?
See, that’s the stuff I want to see. See, it’s the end of the world! One of the things I enjoy about my band. Sometimes it’s terrible. I love that. It’s really weird. There’s a lot of end-of-the-world people that show up to our shows. “I follow Bigfoot all over America” kind of people, or “UFOs talk to me at night, and I love your band.” It’s kind of cool. I have been in a lot of bands and none of them have had anything like this niche fan base.
What do you think pulls them together?
I guess just the way that our music is arranged and the way it’s done. Not with standard instruments to begin with. I love drums, bass, and guitar, but I don’t care at all about that. This band is off that. It’s not real loud so a lot of those older burnout types will come. They probably did acid watching Jimi Hendrix and somehow they’re not dead. A lot more of those types.
Maybe they’re all a bit morbid.
That’s probably true. Anything from a folk perspective, like, a lot of of the time you are singing from a prisoner perspective, it will draw a certain type. That’s why I love coming to California. It’s only through Karate Kid movies that we’d seen it growing up.
How many times have you been here now?
Phew, a bunch. Sometimes we might as well have not come at all, maybe. But the past few times has been real good. Maybe it’s building up.
Or maybe it’s all gearing up for the end of the world on Saturday.
I’m all about that. I’m glad you told me about it.
Why are you all about “that?”
“That” kind of stuff?
The mystery. Just anything that in a weird way gives faith to the human race. It’s like go to school, get a job, get good retirement, play golf, die. So anytime you meet anyone who has busted that mold, it gives you faith in the human race. In Alabama the artistic types leave as fast as they possibly can, gone by the time they’re 18. But one time I went to get coffee and these kids had built a boat in Minneapolis and they rode all these rivers all the way down South and it dumped them in my town. That gives me faith. We’re not entirely evil.
How is it not evil to like dark stuff?
Because it’s an honest thing. Sometimes you can have all these moments laying in bed thinking about dying. Like old Appalachian music, death is predominant in a lot of the songs because it’s an honest thing. In consumer society it’s like, “He dies because he didn’t do jumping jacks—he had high cholesterol.” But on the other side, if it’s an honest approach, it’s not evil. Anything supernatural makes you wonder what happens after death. The supernatural aspect opens up questions that gives you faith. I don’t know much about the Day Of The Dead but there was a corner in a museum about Los Angeles Day Of The Dead and I loved it—a celebration. It’s this whole Halloween I’ve never heard of. I would love to witness that.
What are you waiting for?
I don’t know!
Why do you stay in Alabama?
I love Alabama too much. I enjoy it. I like forests, creeks. I like my family. I like the music. I like L.A. and everywhere else as well. I’m not saying we are better than nobody else. It’s just where I’m from.
Have you ever seen a ghost?
Possibly. But I don’t think I want to get into that.
Let’s just leave it at this, anything is possible.
Have you ever not seen a ghost but said you did?
I would never lie about it. Have you ever seen a ghost?
Maybe. It’s possible.
What about when you wake up from a nightmare and someone is in your room? Is that a ghost?
Exactly. There’s a term for that. A few times I’ve heard people saying my name in a nightmare and I wake up and I can still hear them saying my name.
Ever seen a person?
Not in my room. My wife has. She’s seen people sitting on the bed.
Do you remember a time from childhood where you were terrified but thrilled by it?
I remember reading about that band of ghosts that would come in the air riding horses and they would run people into the woods by themselves and steal them, make them disappear, like in a great hunt. Then I remember walking down the gravel walk with my brothers and hearing all these dogs in the woods and I was scared to death and I loved it, running as fast as you can through the woods, and it was the most awesome thing in the world.
Does your band share a philosophy about the music you make?
Our similar interests or philosophy would be a do it yourself attitude. That’s our biggest similarity. We all like hip-hop. We all came out of a similar punk rock background. It’s like the best band I’ve ever been in as far as hard work.
Do you feel like you’re going to work?
Kinda but it’s nothing like a job. If you play more than 200 shows a year it can be a job but I love it right now.
Have you ever been hurt on the job?
Yeah, we had a bad van wreck and my wife got her face cut up. She has a little bitty scar on her lip. We’ve fallen off of drums or chairs. I broke my hand in Mississippi, but it wasn’t nothing like that van wreck.
Did you flip?
Did the van flip?
What? I think I’m going out of range.
Did you think you were going to die?
[And the phone turns to static. The Pine Hill Saints have entered the nowhere stretch of road between Phoenix and Flagstaff. A few minutes are spent pretending to wait for a call back but really trying to come up with a succinct question about dying and the end of the world that could fit in a text message... ]
L.A. RECORD AND THE NEW L.A. FOLK FEST PRESENTS THE PINEHILL HAINTS WITH RT N’ THE 44S, HIPPY RIOT AND BOMBON ON SAT., MAY 21, AT THE DARK HORSE, 901 E. 1ST ST., DOWNTOWN. 9 PM / $8 / 21+. GET ADVANCE TICKETS HERE! LARECORD.COM/SHOWS.