A band that has remained together for 25 years is a rarity. Pine Hill Haints is a band from Alabama that has remained intact for 25 years and continues to go on as strong as ever with the music they label “Alabama ghost country.” By phone, Jamie Barrier (guitar, vocals) discussed the band’s beginnings, the new album, and how the band members filled their time during the pandemic.
Americana Highways: How did it happen that the band formed in a cemetery?
Jamie Barrier: I played in a band with my brothers called The Wednesdays. We played in the house where I lived my whole life, but I never sang in a band. I couldn’t sing and play guitar at the same time. When I moved away from home, I was determined to keep playing music. There was a cemetery right next to my house where I would sit in a chair and practice. More or less, that’s how it began. The band all skateboarded together. We would spend a lot of time in the cemetery. A lot of time, we would sit around playing. That was kind of the birth of the band. It was called Pine Hill Cemetery.
AH: Did that help you with singing and playing guitar?
JB: It did. Tremendously. I still struggle with it, but yeah. That’s where it all came from.
AH: What do you think is the key to the band’s longevity?
JB: It’s the love of the music. I love playing. My wife loves it too. Secondly, we got people offering us gigs.
AH: With the variety of instruments, it must be easy to try new things if you want.
JB: It is. It can be limiting in some ways, but yeah, that’s the way I look at it. It frees us up to do a lot of things.
AH: Especially the accordion. It can take you in a variety of directions.
JM: Exactly. We’ll sometimes tour and play without it. But in the past, when we did without it, we had to do a lot of the same type of songs to keep the energy alive in the session. With the accordion, it allowed us to do slower songs, waltzes and different stuff, and it would keep the power and the energy. A lot of times, you’ll do a slow song and lose the listening audience and the dance floor. The accordion really helps sustain. It’s a beautiful instrument.
AH: How is the new album different than previous albums?
JB: On the one hand, it’s not at all, but you’re always evolving whether you know it or not. That’s a good simple question. You just hit me between the eyes with it, and I don’t have a good way to answer it. Most anything I’ve ever done has come from the punk background. Most old punks say, “They don’t play as fast as they used to. They don’t scream as much as they used to.” To some people the album may appear like that. If it’s different, I feel like we’re better. I feel like we’re always improving and finding ways to say what we want to say.
AH: How have you filled your time being unable to tour for the last year?
JB: I have a small label called Arkam Records. One of the silver linings was that so many people were online, I had the best year I’ve ever had with my label. I would have whole days where I was shipping. Taking orders, packing them up, and shipping them out. I spent a lot of my time on my own label, getting stuff done. In that sense, it was good. We managed to play once or twice a month during the pandemic, but we spent a lot of time at home. I went way out in the country and spent a lot of time at the creek, swimming, and hiking, and whatnot.
AH: Did you have a hard time getting together to record because of the pandemic?
JB: We did two recordings during the pandemic, and it wasn’t that hard at all.. The first album was made at Christmas, about a month before it all really hit. When we made the record, nobody had any idea what was to come. Another winter night on planet Earth. April is when I guess you could say it reached Alabama. Everybody was locking down. In July, we recorded another album for a Japanese label. It wasn’t so hard to do. We just got together and did it.
AH: What would you be doing if you weren’t making music?
JB: I have no idea. I’d like to say I’d be writing books. As early as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with music. I don’t even know how to answer that one. I love everything about what I do. I love sitting somewhere and writing a song, drawing pictures in a notebook related to it. I love pressing vinyl, designing album art. I love a Friday night where you start to feel the cool weather and you’re loading your amp into the back of a van to play a gig. I love the load-in as much as the show. I love standing by the merch table to buy records and all the other stuff I have for my label. Talking to people about different things. I love the late-night drive listening to country music at one in the morning Everything about it, I enjoy. I don’t enjoy feeling like your whole year is mapped. It feels like you lose control of your life in some ways, but when it’s happening, it’s enjoyable. One of the good things about the pandemic is that it was nice to put it all to a stop and not feel like my life is getting pulled from me. I enjoyed that. I love the road. I’ve always enjoyed it. It’s hard work, but you gotta love it. I did a lot of skateboarding. Skateboarding is about the only area of my life where it’s like the pandemic never happened. You go out and skate, have a good time. All of a sudden you realize that for a couple hours you haven’t thought about it.
The band’s new album The Song Companion of a Lonestar Cowboy will be available everywhere on May 14.