Bindley Hardware Co. is a rust-belt Americana band from Pittsburgh, PA. They draw influence from classic country, folk and modern alt-country, as well as from the original Bindley Hardware Co., its namesake hardware store owned and operated by frontman Jon's family during Pittsburgh’s industrial boom in the early 20th century. “To be able to make music or have any kind of creative endeavor that identifies where you’re from is really important. [...] Things in Pittsburgh inspire me every day. The Bindley Hardware Co. has such a rich history and I’m kind of making it my own,” Bindley said.
Bindley Hardware Co.'s debut album 'Ever Satisfactory' transcends a simple description
To call the Bindley Hardware Co. a country band is accurate in the same way that the Ohio is a river or JuJu Smith-Schuster is a Steelers rookie.
The real story is so much more complex. Jon Bindley, the lead singer and mastermind behind the band's debut album, "Ever Satisfactory," creates music that transcends a simple description and hearkens back to a different era of music.
"I love Gram Parsons," says Bindley, who will release the album on Nov. 17 with a show at the Allegheny Elks Lodge on Pittsburgh's North Side. "He called his sound the cosmic American music. It was country, but there's something else in there. It's interesting that people associate country music with a certain kind of thing, but country music in the city is pretty cool; it goes through the lens of Pittsburgh."
Bindley, who grew up in Forest Hills and Greenfield, describes the music as "Rustbelt Americana," and it's easy to make comparisons to bands such as the Jayhawks and Uncle Tupelo. But there's also an unquantifiable element that partially stems from his family history. The band name is taken from a hardware store his great-great uncle owned in Shadyside from 1880 through 1910 that is now the site of an apartment building.
"It's more mysterious than anything else," Bindley says. "It's something I didn't know about until later in life. It's so long ago … It's a great story about how Pittsburgh has changed and we had to reinvent ourselves. How can I take what was good about that time, which was quality? I love the whole aesthetic behind it. It's really helped give me a vison."
For "Ever Satisfactory" Bindley assembled a group of musicians that includes guitarist Christopher Putt, bassist Ryan Kantner, Waylon Richmond on mandolin and fiddle, keyboardist Greg Marchetti and drummer Brian Ganch (who has since moved to Scotland), with guest appearances by fiddler Abby Adams and vocalists Shane McLaughlin and Angela Mignarelli. They produced a recording that reflects Bindley's rekindled interest in the area after living in Nashville for a few years.
"I think embracing where you're from as an artist, it's the only way that works for me," he says.
Bindley realizes that country music in an urban setting is not always met with open arms unless it's a Kenny Chesney stadium concert. Despite that obstacle, he finds that once people hear the Bindley Hardware Co., preconceived notions tend to disappear.
"Genre-wise, good songs are good songs," Bindley says. "A lot of people are averse to twang … and people have knee-jerk reactions. I'm definitely conscious that it's going against the grain a little bit in Pittsburgh. You tell people you're in a country-rock band, sometimes they look at you funny. But who doesn't like Johnny Cash? You ask people, 'you like Johnny Cash, and they are 'oh yeah.' Well, that's country."
The release party also features performances by Molly Alphabet and Dylan Rooke. Admission is $10.
Bindley Hardware Co. gets roots rocker Jon Bindley back to his roots
Being an aspiring roots rocker, Jon Bindley moved to Nashville back in 2012 to try his hand in the clubs there while paying his dues in the kitchen of a Mexican restaurant.
It didn’t take the Greenfield native long to learns the ups and downs of Music City.
“It’s like Transplant City and it got to the point where it felt a little disingenuous,” he says. “You know, everyone’s wearing a Stetson hat and has cool tattoos and loves Townes Van Zandt. That’s like your boilerplate Nashville guy. It was like emo songs with pedal steel. I was slinging hash at a Mexican restaurant and every cool, hip songwriter guy would come in and pontificate at the bar about, like, ‘Oh, here’s what the Americana thing is all about.’ I got pretty over it.”
It wasn’t all bad, though. He struck up a friendship with Fred Koller, a veteran songwriter/bookstore owner with writing credits on more than 300 songs for such artists as Jerry Lee Lewis, Billy C. Wirtz, Jeff Healey, John Prine and Shel Silverstein.
“I would go there and hang out with him and he helped me access this other part of my brain as a songwriter,” he says, “like using humor in songs and understanding that there’s nothing you can’t say in a song if it’s said the right way. I used to be very precious about what good song content was and wasn’t, and Fred kind of broke me down and helped build me back up.”
Mr. Bindley’s Nashville adventure was as a member of Bear Cub, an alt-country band led by Jessie Hall that had built a big following in Pittsburgh. Bear Club started to splinter pretty quickly in Nashville and Mr. Bindley started fine-tuning his solo work. Since returning in 2014, he’s had his biggest success with “Three Rivers,” a song the Steelers play on the Jumbotron before each home game.
“In Nashville,” he says, “there was nothing to write songs about. I started thinking about my crazy Greenfield family and my history here and all that stuff, and I thought, that’s what songs are made of. Taking roots music and getting back to my roots.”
He takes the next step now with “Ever Satisfactory,” the full-length debut from Bindley Hardware Co., a band/collective named for a pair of stores his ancestors ran in Downtown and Shadyside in the late 1800s/early 1900s. It’s country in the way that the Stones were country on “Beggars Banquet” or “Exile on Main Street.”
“I’ve always been a songwriter first and foremost,” he says, “so I’m really drawn to all the different things you can do in a good, old classic two-and-a half-minute country tune.”
Recorded at Treelady Studios with producer Dave Hidek (Wreck Loose, Molly Alphabet), “Ever Satisfactory” finds Bindley Hardware Co. in Jayhawks territory on the opening ballad “Honey, Baby,” going to the honky-tonk on “Alright Already” and settling into traditional country with fiddles and steel guitars on “Queen of the Upper Middle Class.”
The roots rocker “Jaywalking” came to mind during his commute to work for Saturday Light Brigade Productions at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.
“It’s about everybody’s tendency to want to self-destruct and how we rely on other people’s empathy more than we realize. I drive down East Ohio Street all the time and people just blindly step off into the street. It’s such a human thing. There’s so much boldness in that. A pedestrian is like, ‘I have the right of way,’ and it’s like, ‘Well, you can have the right away but still get hit by a car.’ It’s kind of embracing that humor and quirky human quality.”
A clear standout is “Easy Game,” a sassy country duet with Pittsburgh’s Angela Mignanelli that carries with it some mystery from that bookstore in Nashville. The idea was spawned by a demo left behind by Sylvia Price, a songwriter who drowned in the ’70s.
“Fred and I would think about these songs and reinvent them and there was this part: ‘I’m not easy game, but I can be tamed.’ I didn’t like the verses, but thought one day I could make that a cool classic country duet. Then a year or two ago, I met Angela and it clicked that she has the perfect voice for this, so we rewrote it together. I wanted to make sure I gave Sylvia credit, so I wrote her name on the album, and I tried to find her family, but there’s a mystery element there.”
Hitting very close to home is the chugging country rocker “Down the Run,” in which he is given mama’s warning to stay away from Run — the Greenfield Run.
“My grandparents were part of that old-school Irish upbringing,” he says, “and there’s a lot of drinking and fighting, and the Run is a characteristically tough place to me. I’m a huge Jim Croce fan. It struck me as one of those songs, a cautionary tale, with rough characters.”
And how has it been received?
“My Greenfield family loves it,” he says, “because of the portrayal of them as tough.”
Scott Mervis: firstname.lastname@example.org.
BINDLEY HARDWARE CO.
With: Dylan Rooke & Red Coal, Molly Alphabet.
Where: Allegheny Elks Lodge #339, 400 Cedar Ave., North Side.
When: 7 p.m. Friday.
Admission: $10; See Bindley Hardware Co. Facebook page.
The Local 913: Bindley Hardware Co.
Gaining a reputation for being a fantastic live band is one thing, but Pittsburgh rock group Bindley Hardware Co. has managed to translate their energetic live performances to tape.
“We try to do most of our recording as live as possible, so the success of the live shows is able to translate to our recordings. It’s not always an easy thing to do. I don’t think we always get it down. Anytime you can translate the live vibe onto recording, even just to get the sound of the air in the room somehow into the recording so it’s not sterile, you want that.”
Jon Bindley grew up in Pittsburgh knowing that his family at one point ran a major hardware company in the city during the industrial boom in the early 20th century. Bindley, who moved back from Nashville in recent years, refers to his music as “Rustbelt Americana”
“I left Pittsburgh and it took me leaving and coming back to appreciate how much I love living here. To be able to make music or have any kind of creative endeavor that identities where you’re from is really important. It inspires me. Things in Pittsburgh inspire me every day. The fact that there’s a history; The Bindley Hardware Co. has such a rich history and I’m kind of making it my own.”
He’s planning on a full album release in the fall, but in the meantime, Bindley Hardware Co. has put out the energetic, “All Right Aleady!” featuring a fiery piano.
“Greg Marchetti is playing the keys there. Greg also plays accordion. It’s kinda like that old school Jerry Lee Lewis-rock n’ roll-piano. People don’t usually think of piano as a rock and roll instrument, but it is! Greg rocks it.”
Bindley Hardware Co. could just as easily be where you go to get paint to touch up your pole barn or a replacement for a rusted tractor bolt as what it actually is: a self described “rust belt Americana” band.
The band recently released a brand new record that searches its way around the band’s influences hinging on artists that paved the way for this style of music like the Jayhawks and Uncle Tupelo and blending it with the songwriting of Gram Parsons.
We caught up with frontman Jon Bindley for a quick-fire interview. Check it out and stream the new record below.
RLR: Something I like to inquire about to all artists I talk with is how they come up with their tunes. So, what does your writing process look like?
JB: My writing process is seldom the same way twice. Sometimes it starts with a turn of phrase, other times I’m chasing something more inexact. It’s important to me that songs can stand on their own lyrically and so the economy of language is important to me, I don’t like to waste words.
RLR: That being said, how do you bring ideas together as a band and how do they typically start?
JB: I’ll usually start with a verse or a chorus part and keep playing it with the band until i feels right, for me once you’ve got the “thesis” of a song down then its born and rest can fall into place if you let it come to you. Having a band is great because I always find myself wanting to impress them with what I come up with and its a great motivator. Ya gotta have people around that can bounce the ball back so to speak.
RLR: Its always interesting to hear from folks form different geographical areas about their community and thats kind of the point of RLR…community. So what is the community like where you all call home musically speaking and what does it mean to you as artists and just people?
JB: Pittsburgh is so unique and especially so when it comes to the music scene. We’ve got a vibrant and supportive community among fellow artists and that is what matters most. I think Pittsburgh music is in a golden age from a quality and variety standpoint. Economically, we are still trying to establish our identity as a “music town” and it can be difficult for Pittsburgh bands to get national recognition for whatever reason. I think that will come though, so long as we all keep working hard and doing it the right way. Pittsburgh is an under-dog down in a lot of ways and the musicians here should not be underestimated
RLR: From said community, what are you digging lately from your peers and fellow songwriters?
JB: Local peers I dig:
Buffalo Rose, Molly Alphabet, Paul Luc, Wreck Loose
RLR: What are your hopes for the release?
JB: My hopes for this release is for it to be given a legitimate chance to stand amongst some of the top indie Americana releases of the year. I know that is a lofty goal, but I think this record really holds up. I hope that its only the beginning for us.
November 27, 2017