The Long Fight is Pike 27’s first full-length album since the veteran Cincinnati band reformed when singer/songwriter Dave Purcell returned to Cincinnati in 2013. The ten-song collection centers on the friends, ideas, and life-affirming moments that keep the darkness at bay, while furthering the smart pop and indie rock hinted on by their late 2015 EP, Calling Out.
Noted producer/engineer John Hoffman (Vacation, Lung, Leggy, Wussy) and veteran engineer Gary Shell recorded The Long Fight at Ultrasuede Studio throughout 2016. Several tracks on The Long Fight feature key contributions from singer Beth Harris (The Hiders, Perfect Children), cellist/singer Kate Wakefield (Lung), keyboardist Chris Comer, and horn players from The Cincy Brass and The Blue Wisp Big Band (Dominic Marino – trombone, Sean Fitzpatrick – trumpet, and Phillip Hilger – saxophone). Purcell explains that the expanded studio lineup was responsive to the feel of the new songs, which harken back to the big soul-meets-bright pop of Elvis Costello’s Imperial Bedroom.
Purcell: “This was the first time we felt comfortable expanding on the lineup in the studio. Beth, Kate, and the others really changed the complexion of the record. John (Hoffman) and Gary (Shell) are so creative and were vital in helping us blend in their contributions without losing the nature of who we are as a band. The recording process helped us continue to evolve.”
That evolution was first heard by most with the band’s 2015 return EP, Calling Out. The EP earned significant airplay on WNKU, Lexington’s WRLF, and other regional stations for the track “Underneath the Trestle,” a reverent, look back at hearing R.E.M.’s “Radio Free Europe” for the first time on WVXU’s late-night Nightwaves college rock show. It’s no surprise that the new disc leverages some of that wistful songwriting as well.
Notably, The Long Fight is the first full-length album from by the band since the highly-regarded debut, Falling Down Hard (2001), which earned multiple local music awards and nomination, notice from influential music magazines like No Depression, rave reviews and solid sales in Europe (via a key distribution deal in music’s pre-Napster days), and kudos from Americana stalwarts such as Robbie Fulks and Jason Ringenberg (Jason & The Scorchers). While that version of the band was known for its swaggering, boozy take on Americana, time and a host of influences changed the band in more ways than one.
Purcell: “When I wrote the songs on Falling Down Hard, I was deep into an Americana phase and was influenced by living in Chicago and hanging out in the Bloodshot Records alt-country circle. But my core has always been smart, passionate rock (R.E.M., U2, Bowie, Elvis Costello, Graham Parker), and shortly after we released FDH, my songwriting moved back in that direction.”
Live, the band has changed form as well. After the album was completed, Purcell “fired himself as lead singer,” as he likes to joke, and returned to the drums, his first love. Former drummer Dave Killen left the band to focus on graduate school, but will remain in Pike’s extended family to sit in. As a result, the band invited Dan Mecher, an accomplished songwriter and frontman (Turnbull AC’s, Denial), to join the band. Mecher holds down most of the singing – including a handful of his songs, which fit perfectly with the band’s existing catalog – while Purcell drives the backbeat.
The Long Fight will be released on Friday, Nov. 10 (Bandcamp, Shake It, Everybody’s Records, all streaming outlets), with a CD release show to follow on Saturday, Nov. 11 at York Street Café in Newport. Mike Tittel and Lauren Bray of New Sincerity Works open the show at 9:00pm. ($10 cover with CD, $5 without).