Introducing… The Pink Stones is psychedelic alt-country flavored with tangy telecaster and sweet steel channeling Cosmic American vibes that also echo the No Depression-ism of Athens 25 years ago. Beginning with Albany, GA native Hunter Pinkston, The Pink Stones was formed with various classmates at UGA and has evolved to include Will Anderson, Logan Brammer, Adam Wayton, Jack Colclough, and pedal steel maestro John Neff (Star Room Boys, Drive-By Truckers, Hank Vegas), a player synonymous with the Athens scene who’s played on some of the most iconic albums to come out of the city. Tripping and spinning across the Americana landscape, ITPS was recorded (er… twice) with producer Henry Barbe (son of David) at Chase Park Transduction Studios, nearly derailing through a series of unfortunate events that included the COVID-19 pandemic. But as ’21 eases through spring towards summer, Hunter and The Pink Stones are gathering momentum and primed to write the next verse in the Athens music pedigree. Introducing… The Pink Stones will be available on April 9th from Normaltown Records. Pre-order now and see The Pink Stones LIVE as part of the Lost Art Music Festival in Douglasville, GA on June 11th & 12th!
AI- Let’s talk about the Pink Stones and how you put that band together. How long have you guys actually been an entity?
HP- This summer will be like four years since the first time I really thought of and recorded anything under that name. The first stuff was a lot different. It was just me and an acoustic guitar really. And then over the next little bit, we started playin’ with the whole country ensemble thing and grew into more of a real band.
You started off initially playin’ more of a punk style, hardcore style of music. I love the line, in your bio about a “B-side epiphany.” You picked up a cassette tape, The Lemonheads doin’ Gram Parsons “Brass Buttons”, and the flip side was the original Gram version. I don’t know what I think is the best part of that story– that you found Gram Parsons or that there is a cassette tape involved!
My brother-in-law works at a record store and has since I was pretty young, and my parents were into music and all that kind of thing, but he was always showin’ me stuff. With hardcore music, there’s like this weird thing where certain stuff just kinda creeps its way into the community. And The Lemonheads are a big one, I guess, ’cause Evan Dando is sort of a punker or whatever in a way. I guess I really liked The Lemonheads at that point in time. So I found that and got it and then yeah, didn’t really know much about Gram Parsons at the time. I’d heard of him but that was sort of the big ticket for me getting back into country music as an adult after not payin’ much attention to it throughout my teenage years.
Well, there’s not a whole lot of difference, I think, in the emotion of punk music and country music. Certainly, it is exactly what it intends to be. I can see how that transition, stylistically, might be different, but as far as emotionally, not so much.
You went to UGA, you were in the business program there, so music was not necessarily the direction you were heading? Unless perhaps the business end of music was where you were going?
I actually studied communications and music business, yeah. It was specified in music and David Barbe, long-time Athens fella, he was my teacher and mentor through that program. When I came here, I was doin’ journalism and I was playin’ in the hardcore bands and stuff and really just needed to go to college and get out of my mom’s house. I got into UGA, so that’s how I ended up here. I did journalism for like a year and then realized that if I did communication, it’d be faster. I tagged in the music business thing because I was playin’ in bands and wanted to learn more about that. That’s where I met the majority of the dudes who play in the current formation of The Pink Stones– Logan [Brammer] who plays B-Bender Telecaster and sings, he was a classmate. We actually met at a music business thing outside of school. I was doing sound, which I never, ever do, and just happened to be doing it (laughs)! He was there, and we started talkin’ about like Bob Dylan and Fender amps from the ’60s and ’70s. Honestly, this is kind of crazy, I haven’t really told this story during this whole album cycle thing, but I met him at that, and then like a week later was gonna be The Pink Stones first show in Athens at Flicker. This dude that I’m still friends with, he was gonna play lead guitar for me– and he had to bail right before! Something came up! And so I called Logan, who I had just met a week before, and he came to the show and played and he’s been in the band ever since!
When did you meet John Neff? I actually know Neff. He and I go back a few years. I haven’t seen him in a little bit, but he’s one of those guys that has endured in the Athens, Georgia, and overall Georgia music scene for a long time. How’d you meet him?
I work at Kindercore Vinyl, which is the pressing plant here in Athens. I’ve worked here for a little over three years. We share the factory with WaterMan, which is a water bottle distribution company that is owned by Gregory Reece. Redneck GReece, and John has worked for him forever! I guess when John moved to Athens, it was to play in the Redneck GReece Deluxe band. So when I first started workin’ up at Kindercore, every morning we’d have coffee, and me and him just became buddies. Eventually, one night we were playin’ a show with some bands that had Neff playing steel, and that morning I was like, “Hey, do you just wanna set up and play with us too?” And he did (laughs)! And the rest is kinda history, I guess, as they say! He’s one of my best buddies now and back then we were just work acquaintances that both got off on the country music thing. As it goes, the more time we spent together, we just became really good buddies.
I think you will agree with me when I say that you never know how good your songs are until you hear John Neff playing pedal steel on ’em.
Oh, absolutely! Oh, he’s the man! I always wanted to have a steel player, you know? We did the band for probably like a year or so without Neff. We were always talkin’ about it and Logan started doin’ the B-Bender thing, which is sort of like pedal steel, but there is some difference. We just finally were like, “Let’s get this dude to play with us!” I literally cannot imagine making another recording without John on it. So you’re absolutely right!
Well, let’s talk about this recording you got comin’ out on April 9th. If I got the timeline correct, when I was goin’ back and lookin’ at the ascension, if you will, of The Pink Stones, it looks like the tail end of 2019 is when you guys were really startin’ to pick up some steam, get some momentum goin’. And then all of a sudden, the bottom fell out of everything. Especially the music industry. When were you guys puttin’ this record together over at Chase Park and what had been the original plan?
Yeah, you’re definitely right. The end of 2019 and beginning of 2020 was us starting to hit our stride a little bit and playin’ a lot more and getting more comfortable with our sound and just being together as a band. We had been working on this record. Some of these songs are pretty old and some of them are fairly new. Obviously, new in a relative sense since it’s been a year since we made it. I mean, longer than a year, but you know, COVID kind of turned everything around a little bit. But we were workin’ on this in the summer of 2019. I believe that’s the first time we went into Chase Park and did the record with Henry Barbe and then took a few months off to play a lot of shows. We were gonna go back and do some mixing and when we got back to the studio, the hard drive with the whole entire album on it had been corrupted. So all of the album was completely gone!
Oh my God (laughs)! It’s not funny– but that’s ridiculous!
Oh, I’ve learned to laugh about it! The immediate impact of the situation, I was just telling this story the other day, I was here at work and Henry called me and it was like Friday and we were gonna go into the studio Saturday morning. He called me and he’s like, “Hey, I just went up to the studio to get some stuff set up– and the whole entire album is gone, man.” He’s one of my best friends as well, so it was one of those weird things where you would expect to be like shocked or mad or whatever, but I was just kinda like, “Okay, whatever. We’ll just make it again sometime.”
That must’ve been in the tail end of the summer. And then we went back in September, I believe. That was right around my birthday is how I remember that. Went back to the studio, we re-tracked the whole album, live-tracked the whole thing. We do the thing live track, and then add some stuff at the end to just bring the whole thing together. While we were doing that, like straight up, maybe the day before I went to the studio, I had this idea of, “Since it’s gonna take us a while to make a whole entire album, let’s just go ahead and cut some other stuff while we’re there.” So that’s how we did the Jimmy & Jesus 7-inch that we made. We just cut that during the sessions for this album. We finished it up over the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020 was when all the final tweaking for the album happened. And then I’ve known George [Fontaine Jr.] and all the New West people and Normaltown people for a while now. We had been kind of flirting with them about doin’ the record for a while and then once we finally finished it up, they were interested in it. And here we are today!
You’ve picked an amazing time to be a musician, especially in the state of Georgia. What was runnin’ through your mind? What was happenin’ when the pandemic shut everything down? Here you are, ready to release a record, don’t know what’s gonna happen, you’ve got all eyes on the state with all the would-be political chicanery happening– is this something that was influencing what you were doing this past year? Or have you just really been champin’ at the bit ready to introduce The Pink Stones?
It was very strange for all of us. John, everybody, all of us have played in bands for quite some time and this was probably the first time since I was a very young teenager that I have not been constantly playing in whatever format. It was a mixture of things. It was to get to take a little break there for a while without any pressure, you know? ‘Cause it’s one thing to just stop playing and then everyone’s like, “What the hell are you doing?” But with COVID, obviously, I would never want to ever do this ever again, but it was nice to have a little breathing room in between trying to tour and do all that kind of stuff. Maybe two months and that feeling was gone and I was already ready to jump back in it! But it was a crazy year all the way around with COVID and all sorts of crazy human issues. And that transfers over into politics a little bit as well. I’m a pretty young dude. So I learned a lot about myself and a lot about the world in the past year.
How old are you?
I’m 24. I’ll be 25 this year. I’m definitely ready to get back out there. We were givin’ everybody a taste of The Pink Stones right there before COVID and then had to take some time off, but we’ll get back in there soon, I think.
This is somethin’ I’ve spoken to with a lot of different artists in different stages in their careers– how do you see the business having to evolve because of this last year? I don’t imagine that we can go back to doing it the way that it was done before. I feel like to a degree, wherever you are in the hierarchy of the music business, the playing field has been leveled, whether you’ve got a major label contract or whether you are just a straight-up independent musician. I feel like with nobody being able to tour, everybody’s utilizing the same avenues in order to get their music out. Which means that when things do open back up, there’s gonna be a lot more artists, a lot more bands trying to make use of the same old tried and true resources. I think that’s got to change. What about you?
I think a huge thing that a lot of people already knew, but were re-introduced to this year is that buying music and buying things from bands and record labels is extremely important. Obviously, money is just hard to come by for most people. That’s always been a thing. It’s hard to go to a show and be able to buy a record or a shirt ’cause it all costs money! But I think that this year, with working at the pressing plant and also doing a proper album cycle, I think for the fans and for the musicians and bands, people are starting to realize like, “Oh, shit! There’s more to it than just goin’ a show every now and then or listening to music on Spotify all the time!”
You just have to be more actively supportive of the things that you want to see exist. If you really like a band, but you’re not willing to do the smallest things to show your support, that’s how stuff goes away so quick. That was the thing with COVID. Everyone had to stop playing and most bands, the modern music industry thing is just tour all the time and never stop playing because the only way you can make money is if you play because no one’s going to buy your record! Hopefully, it’s seeming that people are understanding how important it is to actually invest in music a little bit. I’m not shaming anyone because I’ve definitely not bought records because they were expensive, but it is important to do that when you can.
I’m glad you brought back up workin’ at the pressin’ plant ’cause I made a note of that and wanted to ask you how that’s been lookin’ through the pandemic. You kinda get an on-the-ground look at the actual physical production of music. Have you seen that ramp up with artists?
Yeah, this year has been pretty crazy for us! We have pretty much doubled our production. When COVID first hit, we were in and out a little bit and working less, just tryin’ to be safe and everything. Once we figured out how to work safely, yeah, our production has ramped up! It seems like people are buying records from us and people are buying records from the people that are making records with us and it’s really promising. The whole vinyl thing resurged years and years ago now, which is kind of crazy ’cause I remember being a teenager when the whole vinyl thing was happening again. It seems like people are wantin’ their records, which is really awesome because it gives people work and it makes bands money and it’s exciting! I was wondering what would happen, but our stuff has been pretty hot up here! Which is great!
Being involved at Kindercore as you are and about to release an album, I can only imagine that you have got some dynamite, good lookin’ vinyl comin’ for Introducing… The Pink Stones. Tell me about it!
That is absolutely correct! My buddy Taylor Chmura, who did all of the layout on the album– he didn’t paint the album cover, but he did all the text and stuff on there– he is the lead press operator here at Kindercore and one of my good buddies and he’s great at pressing records! We did about a thousand copies that are all different, pretty much. A couple of them are similar, but all sorts of crazy colors to match the album art, which is pretty groovy lookin’. We actually just pressed them on Monday of this week! So all week, I’ve been poppin’ out of my little pressing situation to go over and check out those records. They look great and they sound great! Huge thank you and shout out to New West and Normaltown because they made this whole entire thing happened for us and it was great to get to do the records at Kindercore and have a hand in doing that! I’m very excited and humbled and proud! Can’t wait for people to get some copies of that record!