On Wednesday, September 6th, I opened Pitchfork to see a face I hadn’t seen in almost a year: Evan Stephens Hall of the indie rock band Pinegrove. I have been a fan of Pinegrove since I first heard their album Cardinal, an outstanding synthesis of vulnerable lyrics, roots rock instrumentation, and an infectious punk energy that seeps through the whole album. As I fell in love with the music, I also grew to love their message. The members of the band formed connections with their audience, emphasized the importance of their concerts being a safe space for fans, and donated much of their proceeds to organizations such as MusiCares, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and the Voting Rights Project. I even found solace in their lead lyricist, Evan, a fellow bibliophile whose dismissal of stereotypical frontman antics was a refreshing break from the neverending onslaught of testosterone-driven rock music.
But I soon came to resent him just as quickly as I had fallen in love with his music. In November of 2017, Hall released a confusing statement on Facebook describing allegations of “sexual coercion” by a fan-turned-romantic partner. The relationship, he said, lasted a “short but intense period of time”, and he detailed some of the complicated inner-workings of the relationship. He also addressed a comment he had made onstage about studying “who from the crowd would be interested in sleeping with me based on how they watched me perform.” This disgusting comment shocked me because for as long as I had been a fan of the band, I would never have taken Hall to stoop to the level of a groupie-shagging rockstar stereotype. At the end of the post, Hall announced that Pinegrove had decided to cancel the tour scheduled for that winter, as well as shelving their album Skylight.
I was much more devastated than I had anticipated, and I refused to listen to their music as I couldn’t bring myself to support an abuser. At the same time, Hall’s influence on me as a musician is undeniable, and I was constantly reminded of that when writing songs. In other words: I loved the art, but I couldn’t separate it from the artist. Hall’s songs are often very autobiographical, and because of that, I found them to be inextricable from Evan as a person. Some of my friends, however, didn’t have this same struggle and continued listening to Pinegrove even though they knew Hall was not the person we once thought he was. I couldn’t seem to understand how they could just skim over something so important to me, and I looked to other examples for answers.