Pile’s Rick Maguire On Aging, Religion And A Trump Advisor

Over the last 12 years, Pile has become a noise-rock institution, achieving their cult following by releasing seven records in quick succession, while also aggressively touring. After a recent lineup change, Pile relocated from Boston to Nashville, where they shaped the critically-acclaimed, full-length Green and Gray. We caught up with songwriter and guitarist Rick Maguire to unpack his thoughts on aging, religion and Stephen Miller, a senior advisor for policy for President Trump.

LEO: Several of the tracks — ‘Firewood,’ ‘My Employer’ — deal with age as juxtaposed with comfort. How has age and experience shaped Green and Gray?
Rick Maguire: Playing with new people on a project that’s over 10 years old that sort of came into it. I do feel like for the most part that, while I’m proud of the work that we’ve done before, our best work is ahead of us just because we’re all in a place where we’re very much committed to it. And I’ve also, on this most recent record, I stopped drinking, I stopped smoking cigarettes — just the kind of taking care of yourself stuff. I was listening, just very recently, to an old live recording, and I was like, ‘Man, I think that we sound a lot better than we used to.’ So that is encouraging, too.

Is the line, ‘I used to think there was just one puppeteer pulling on all the strings,’ an allusion to religion, or is it just about the pull between our shared interconnectedness?
It was a religious thing. Yeah. I think you’re the first person that’s gotten that or maybe the first person that’s asked. 

Yeah, I’m in the Bible Belt, man. Are you a religious person?
I grew up in a Christian family. I don’t know how to feel about it. Some of it’s absurd and some of it makes a lot of sense to me. But, for the most part, there is a lot of tradition that don’t make sense to me anymore. I can’t pretend that I know what’s going on. When policy is made because of it, that’s really stupid and dangerous, but from a cosmic sense, I have no idea.

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The song ‘Soft Hands of Stephen Miller’ bluntly addresses its subject. Can you talk a little bit about that?
If I’m frustrated by someone or something or some public figure or if it’s just someone in my life, usually I can see some sort of angle from their perspective, and then there is a level of empathy, and I can turn whatever frustrates me about them — I can point that to me. I can relate on some kind of level. But with him there’s no… and that was the thing… I’m hesitant to put people’s names in it if they’re not 100% sure that they are as vile as I think they are. But he wins the medal.

With the line, ‘My desperate attempts to cheat death and time,’ how important is it to be remembered?
Realistically, it’s not that important. It’s not important at all. I need to do what is happening, to just be conscious of what’s happening instead of leaving some stamp, because everything is impermanent. It’s not as important as it used to be when I was a kid.

In regard to ‘A Bug On Its Back,’ can you speak to the state of empathy in the world, at least from your perspective?
That’s right on. It’s sort of like related to the Stephen Miller thing. Basically the way that he views people and the way that a lot of people view people. Like this thing happening at the border and what’s going on there. It’s a general what do you do, but it’s a… it’s not just immigrants, it’s any person that isn’t really given a fair shot, or they’re blamed for their situation or whatever. It just seems I remembered like empathy is in short supply these days. 

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