Locals River van den Berghe and Colin Burris met at the Teen Center behind the former Saturn Cafe site years ago. Van den Berghe was 12 years old and played in the band DogBone. Burris was 13, had a Mohawk, and was there to see his older brother’s band, the Lost Boys. They saw each other a lot at gigs at the 418 Project and Vets Hall, then started their own band.
A few years later, as students at San Francisco State University (SFSU), their musical relationship resumed. Now their current indie rock band Pardoner is set to release their third album, Came down differenton Bar None Records, to a lot of media buzz like rolling stone, Pastry and NRP.
“We started playing music together again, jamming, hanging out, still playing music together somehow,” Burris explains.
As of 2015, Pardoner’s original lineup included Max Freeland (guitar/vocals), Trey Flanigan (guitar/vocals), Will Mervau (bass), and van den Berghe (drums). The members all knew each other from participating in SFSU. Van den Bergh and Freeland played with Burris in a punk band, but spent a lot of time listening to edgy, dissonant bands like Polvo, which inspired them to write material for Pardoner.
With Pardoner, they found a sweet spot of catchy hooks, jarring riffs, and hard-hitting groove-based beats. There’s a push and pull to Pardoner’s music that feels like it’s tearing and melting at the same time. This continues with Burris, who took over from Mervau in 2019. Each band member puts a unique stamp on every track, which is why the songs are so intricate and layered. There is almost an internal competition in the ratings. Sometimes the members will hear what everyone is contributing to the song, come up with a weird idea that shouldn’t work, and see if they can pull it off, adding something new to the symphony of sounds.
“Everyone puts their own little twist on the song, whatever the idea is,” Freeland says. “I feel like even when the song starts with one person’s idea, everyone definitely has their own thing.”
The band played as much as they could in the Bay Area. After a series of concerts and a few DIY tours, the independent label Father/Daughter became interested in the band. They released the band’s 2017 album hello uncontrollably, giving Pardoner its first dose of media attention. Given the meaning of the band’s name (pardoner is a medieval term for the person who grants pardons to the church) and Freeland making a few references to “going to hell” in its lyrics, several music bloggers have defined them as obsessed. by religion. Corn Came down differentwhich features songs about boss frustration and other topics, makes it clear that they have a wider range of concerns.
“It’s classic youth stuff,” Freeland says.
Came down different was written with more separation. Freeland and his wife had moved to Canada. He and Flanagan wrote much of the material on their own in 2019. At the end of the year, Freeland went down to the bay so the band could flesh out the tunes in the same room. In February 2020, they recorded them at Atomic Gardens in Oakland.
It was going to be a big year; they had booked a spring tour with the band Dumb. At the end of the tour, the band would drop Freeland off in Canada and then return to the Bay Area. But with Covid-19, not only was their tour canceled, but Freeland was also stuck in the US until August due to travel restrictions.
“It was probably the smoothest tour planning I’ve ever done. It was so sick,” Freeland says. “It all just fell apart. We had a ton of really cool shows and it was a bit sad.
So in a way Covid-19 didn’t impact the band as much as it did the others, since Freeland was already living far away from the other members, which showed them that they needed to focus more on tours and records.
“I miss playing shows,” Freeland says. “But it’s like, man, we were playing too often.”
“Came Down Different” will be released on May 14. For more information see facebook.com/forgive2.