Three Mile Pilot Resets Controls for Heart of Art-Rock Credibility

THREE MILE PILOT, the band that fractured into Pinback and The Black Heart Procession at the turn of the century, is back with an EP composed of the “odd men out” from the group’s 2010 reunion album, The Inevitable Past Is the Future Forgotten. What’s more, the trio is hitting the road for a handful of rare live shows.

“Three Mile Pilot is definitely a ‘when the stars align’ band,” Armistead Burwell Smith IV, who plays bass in both Three Mile Pilot and Pinback, told Wired, noting the reunited group’s polarity reversal with the odd, moody pop of the bands that followed in its wake.

Smith, drummer Tom Zinser and guitarist/vocalist Pall Jenkins will tour to support the new Three Mile Pilot EP Maps, which was released late last month by a indie label Temporary Residence Ltd. The tour, which starts Friday in Los Angeles, will give fans a chance to get up to speed on one of experimental rock’s best-kept secrets.

“We’ve infused what we’ve learned and crafted from being in Pinback and The Black Heart Procession into the new Three Mile Pilot recordings,” Smith said. “Maps songs like ‘Long Way Up’ (available as a free download at left) and ‘This Escape’ show their Pinback and Black Heart Procession faces, while songs like ‘Wires’ maintain the more traditional Three Mile Pilot aesthetic.”

That aesthetic is hard to describe. It has veered from the raw bass-and-drums-only punk of 1992’s Na Vucca Do Lupu to the sci-fi rock of 1995’s Chief Assassin to the Sinister, both available this month from Temporary Residence as limited vinyl reissues. Next, it roared into the maritime rock of Another Desert, Another Sea, then seemingly retired in the mournful two-disc post-mortem, Songs From an Old Town We Once Knew.

“I love the innocence of Na Vucca,” said Smith. “The songs get very crazy and at times make me cringe, but we were 18 years old and some of my favorite bass lines I’ve ever written are on that album. But it’s really easy to see our songwriting grow over the course of all three.”

Three Mile Pilot’s rhizomatic outgrowths continue when Smith and fellow San Diego sci-fi and comics geek Rob Crow release Pinback’s next full-length, Information Retrieved, on Oct. 16. “Rob and I just finished it,” Smith told Wired. “It took a while, but we’re stoked.”

When he’s not co-piloting Three Mile Pilot or Pinback, Smith is prepping the sophomore effort from his solo outfit, Systems Officer, for a 2013 release. That and stroking his favorite UAD Apollo Soundcard computer audio interface — “near-zero latency is awesome,” he said — and spending perhaps more late nights playing Sid Meier’s Civilization V while his son sleeps than he should.

“I can’t fucking wait until the new Hobbit movie by Peter Jackson comes out!” he said.