Pickwick was formed in 2008 when singer Galen Disston began writing songs on his acoustic guitar while drummer Matt Emmett kept time in the background. The duo settled on the name as an homage to ‘The Ostrich,’ an obscure dance song written by Lou Reed and released by Pickwick Records in 1964. With the later additions of Emmett’s childhood friend Cassady Lillstrom on keys, Kory Kruckenberg on vibraphone, and brothers Garrett and Michael Parker on bass and guitar, the six-piece began playing shows in small clubs around Seattle.
By the beginning of 2010 the band was in a state of disarray. Frustrated by the direction the music was taking, the band began having discussions about throwing in the towel and going their separate ways. Up until that point, band members had little to do with the writing process and simply added color to Disston’s songs. Ultimately, the band decided to throw out all of their old material and start over from scratch with a new collaborative approach to songwriting. This rebirth allowed the band to take a new look at their individual and collective strengths, as well as look to new places for inspiration.
Raised on indie rock and a love for lo-fi garage bands, the members of Pickwick found themselves entrenched in underground gospel and blues recordings from the 1950s and 60s as well as popular northern soul artists. This new reference point combined with a renewed appreciation for UK bands like The Animals, Spencer Davis Group, and The Zombies helped the members of Pickwick cultivate their own unique take on garage rock, gospel, and 60s-era pop while interpreting those genres through a modern lens.
Along with a shift in musical aesthetic, Disston began exploring darker, more complicated themes in the lyrics of his songs. Contrasting stories of murder, mental illness, and confused sexual identity with major chords, three-part harmonies, and church organs. This unlikely pairing quickly became a mainstay of the band’s approach to songwriting. “I’ve always been drawn to music that seems a bit schizophrenic,” says Disston.
Inspired by a new burst of creative output, the band wasted little time to self-release their music. Instead of waiting to record a full-length record, the band decided to do things on their own terms, putting their music out exclusively on vinyl with three installments of a 7-inch series. Each 45 was accompanied by a record release show at a different club in Seattle. With the release shows under their belt and a series of DIY live videos gaining attention online, the band had cultivated a strong local following by the middle of 2011.
By late 2011, Seattle independent radio station KEXP caught wind of what the band was doing and began playing the band’s music on-air. By the end of the year Pickwick’s 7-inch series ‘Myths’ was voted the #9 record of the year by KEXP listeners alongside artists such as TV on the Radio, Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, Wilco, Adele and Radiohead.
The band released their first full-length album Can’t Talk Medicine in early 2013.