Band: Pins of Light
Shane Baker – Vocals and bass
Jake Palladino – Guitar
Ravi Durbeej – Guitar
Phil Becker – Drums

Interview Date: May 3, 2013

A little over a year ago, on a night of pajama laden boredom, I was lazing around browsing through my Twitter feed when I noticed that Black Cobra (a band that I love) was playing with Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine (I had never seen Jello live) at 9 pm.  It was 8:30 pm.  I shot up off the sofa and decided that I could make it down to Thee Parkside before the show started.  I walked into Thee Parkside just as the opening band took the stage.  I recognized one of the dudes from being a patron at his place of employment at the time, where his coworker had recently told me that the dude was in a band that I would like. There was also a guy with an amazing mane, shredding it on the guitar. The drummer had kind of a maniacal manner, giving it everything he had. The singer/bass player’s husky vocals were floating over the forceful tunes.  I was drawn in instantly. This opening band was Pins of light. I was super excited that I left the house that night; just seeing Pins of Light was more than worth the effort. From that moment, I was hooked and full of questions for these guys.


Pins of Light at the Elbo Room in SF on May 3, 2013

Pins of Light at the Elbo Room in SF on May 3, 2013


The Scene

In the past year, Sean and I have seen Pins of Light play around town quite a few times in the past year opening for some of our favorite bands, at skate events, and just because we think they rule.  We talked to Shane and Ravi about doing an interview, we were happy that they agreed. We arrived at the Elbo room a little early and waited for the guys to finish up sound check before their show with Pierced Arrows and The New Flesh.  We stared at the Ms. Pacman machine,  sipped our drinks, and helped a mother and two daughters from Israel find a different place to go.  They were looking for dancing. We had to inform them that tonight’s show would be a head banger with no Euro techno gyrations happening.  Once Pins of Light finished up sound check, we piled in their van, Slug, outside of the Elbo Room because it was the nearest quiet place to talk. Slug is your typical band van inside and out. It was a very pleasant San Francisco evening and there were a lot of people walking the streets, so we had so we had to shut the door.  I was pleased to find that that Slug didn’t smell like farts, BO and stale beer when we got in.  It probably smelled like two of those things by the time we got out. I began firing off questions.  Little did I know, I would leave the van with a gut ache from giggling so hard as I got the answers to many of the things that I wanted to know about these guys.  We covered the basics, like how they met, how Jake’s hair makes everyone happy, and a host of other fun stuff. There was so much guffawing going on during our conversation, you would have thought that we were at a comedy show.

What is in a Name?

I started off by asking about their name.  I did a search online for Pins of Light and the first result was a link with something to do with provoking thought and conversations about God, so I wondered if the band was really preaching the gospel or something. Shane indicated that they “don’t mean to be non-Christian”, but it is just a coincidence that Pins of Light sounds like it could be a holy reference.  Their former drummer, Von, came up with the name. According to Ravi, pins of light are like when you get hit like a boxer. You get hit – pins of light. Sean pointed out that hearing the band’s music is like getting hit in the head. Shane responded, “The only good part about getting hit in the head – the stars you see.”

And They Come Together

They each appear sort of shy, so I was curious about how they met each other.  Jake indicated, ”We’ve all kind of known each other loosely through the music scene.” Ravi said they met in the Mission, Shane said, ”Just hanging around” and Phil agreed.  Okay, that makes sense – you meet people having drinks in the mission music scene.  But, I really wanted to know what brought them together as a group.  Their sound is so cohesive that really I wanted to know how the magic began.  I found out that Ravi and Von (the former drummer) started the band, and after that “I just cherry-picked people I liked,” said Ravi. The hanging out over years has allowed them to lay the foundation for building the band.  They just genuinely like each other.


After seeing Pins of Light a few times, I thought I would sit down and read the lyrics.  I will admit that I was afraid that they wouldn’t measure up to how I felt just standing there feeling the music pulsate through me.  Shane’s voice is clear enough for you hear their lyrics, but it just a different experience when you read them chilling in your crib without the music then read them again while you listen to the music.

Shane writes the lyrics and he filled me in on how it works with these guys, “Mostly lately,  Ravi comes in with some riffs, and then we all put ‘em up on blocks, and Phil’s been doing a lot of arranging, too.  Sometimes, he’ll take ‘em home, and cut ‘em up, and bring ‘em back, and say, ‘This is how we should play it.’ We’re like, ‘All right.  Let’s do that.’” I wondered how they came up with they lyrics.  They take you on a journey through the past, present and future.  There is that familiar release of angst, but of the grown up variety. I called it “grown man angst”, which is the mature version of teenage angst. Shane told me, “It’s just whatever pops in my head.  Usually the songs start where I just sing nonsense stuff over it, and then take it home, and change it around so that it makes sense.  Yeah, there’s some – I don’t know – mythological elements, some personal elements.  For a long time, I tried to make it so that every song could be about ancient aliens if you thought about it long enough.  Like every song is about some kind of astronauts who crashed here, and are stuck, and they’re gods of some kind.  But still, it’s from personal points of view.  But then, it doesn’t have to be that, either.  All sorts of stuff.  I’m really into that – anything kind of mysterious, and epic, and interesting to me.”

Ravi, who admits to being very critical of everything, said that he has never asked Shane not to say something because they are always stoked on the lyrics. Shane kinda blushed and replied, “It’s hard not to embarrass everyone.  You gotta just listen to the band, and see what everybody has in common mind-wise, and then you write about something like that, as a group consciousness.  That’s the way I always approached it.”


Phil’s Drum and the Set List

Jake’s Hair

Since I have hair that people find interesting, I usually don’t, ask to touch, ask generally about, or reach out and cop a feel of anyone’s hair because I find it to be totally f’n annoying when people do that to me. For the first time in my life, I wanted to do all of those things to Jake’s hair from the moment I saw it whip around while he was playing.  Ravi made a hair joke that gave me the window to get some insight on those amazing locks.  Shane said, “I like to think about it when I’m feeling down, and it makes me happy.”   I have to agree, it does make me happy when I see it. Phil said, “I like when he head-bangs and I can feel the wind cooling me off.”   Shane replied, “You can smell a little bit of shampoo or conditioner.”   Ravi agreed, “It always smells good, too.  It’s coco-nutty.” Shane pointed out that,  “Everyone in the world is into it”, which made me feel better about my fascination with the hair.  I got to smell it and touch it.  Trust me it is as soft as a cotton ball and smells like a spring breeze.  Don’t walk up to the guy and fondle his dome though, I am telling you it sucks when that happens.


Shane and Phil don’t have that he didn’t have nicknames and Shane is kind of sad about it.  It came to light that Ravi has an alter ego name the Brown Planet.  I knew about Jake’s nickname, Puppy Breath. Before we got to find out more about this, Phil asked, “Where is Puppy Breath from?  Did you lick a dog?”  Jake explained, “I was on a road trip with a bunch of people, and I was really sick the first couple of days, and I was – the burps that were coming out of me smelled like farts. Well, Delson actually said, ‘and we’ve got Puppy Breath over here’ and it just stuck.”   Shortly after Jake told this story Delson walked up to Slug (the van) and says, “What ups?”…weird, right?

Epic Shows, No Tour, and a 7″

Pins of Light have opened for a slew of amazing bands in the last year or so. I have been to a few of the shows (check out the past posts), so I wondered which one stood out for them. Shane pointed out that they “got really lucky with being asked to play some awesome shows”, but the band agreed that the show with the Melvins at Great American Music Hall was “extra special”  “like the holidays”.  They also said that opening for Big Business was rad. They have been killing it around here, so I fully expected that they would head on the road with one of the awesome bands that they have been playing with.  I know some of the people back in the Midwest would go nuts if they saw these guys.  When I asked about touring there were some side-glances and chuckles followed by Jake saying sarcastically, “We are going on a ginormous tour in Reno.” Even though these dudes aren’t hitting the road, they have some sweet gigs lined up in SF and  a 7” coming out on Alan Forbes label, Valley King Records very soon.

Dicks or Not Dicks?

It was absolutely awesome sitting down and talking with these guys.  I have had the opportunity to shoot the shit with Ravi at the various bars where he works, chat it up with Jake at some skate events, and drunk talk Shane’s ear off at the Hemlock and exchange pleasantries with Phil out and about since I saw them play for the first time. When I asked if I could interview them for this blog, the agreed right away.  Ravi told us that they don’t really do interviews and the would typically say,  “Fuck that.  I’m going to Casanova. You know what I mean?  I’m trying to think…It’s a) lazy, and then b) ‘cause I’m a dick.”   I must say that I was in shock, these dudes don’t seem to be dicks in the least. If they are dicks, I appreciate them not acting like it when they sat down shared their story with us.



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