Evan Stephens Hall is obsessed with the ampersand.
The frontman of the Montclair, New Jersey, band Pinegrove thinks his infatuation with the symbol dates back to a James Joyce class he took in college. When referencing narrative layers in Joyce’s work, his professor, Kim McMullen, said, “It’s never ‘either/or.’ It’s always ‘and.’ ”
Her words stuck with Hall.
“I think that’s really a pretty good way to approach life too, because you’re approaching it without expectation of any type of hierarchy as far as what’s good or what’s meaningful or what’s real, you just kind of take it as it comes and things are real and true not to the exclusion of other things,” says Hall, 27. “It’s important to open the complexity and beauty and sadness of the world with open arms.”
One doesn’t have to strain to see how that outlook is reflected in Hall’s music. Pinegrove isn’t confined to just one genre, it’s indie and rock and alternative and country all at once. Each song on the often-praised “Cardinal” embodies multiple feelings, and utilizing dynamics is a key element of what makes each track so emotionally moving.