For musician Christopher Pifer, it would be understandable that he has taken a hiatus for the past two years.
However, Pifer ran in the opposite direction; start a solo career and release two albums with pandemic-related titles that go far beyond this point in sound and storytelling.
“Due to the pandemic, when I was doing the performing arts, all my livelihoods instantly dried up,” said Pifer. “But I didn’t want to get stuck.”
Pifer is a former Albany resident and graduate of State University of New York at Albany who has played with several bands from the metropolitan area over the years, including 500 Hats.
He also shared the score with The Figgs and later formed a group with Guy Lyons (former Figgs member) called Blockhouses.
“We were a New York band, but we played regionally, including Saratoga and Albany. I have a pretty strong connection with Albany because I have been there all year round. I was not a temporary apprentice, – said Pifer.
For the past two decades, he has lived in New York and toured around the world with bands such as The Kowalskis, Sir and Frances Farmer My Hero. He also works in sound design for theater productions.
“I’ve always been a co-author. One of my great joys working in both music and theater is collaboration, especially in music, ”said Pifer.
During the pandemic, the chances of cooperation have been greatly reduced. Towards the beginning, he drove home to Indiana to be with his parents and help them. His father, who suffered from multiple sclerosis, died last summer from COVID-19.
In the midst of all this, Pifer turned to music, releasing an album called “Suicide Mission” last summer and writing what eventually became “The Social Distance”, his final album.
“I wanted to keep some creative energy and ideas, so I just started writing songs spontaneously,” Pifer said.
He traveled between Indiana and Cold Spring, New York to record songs with Todd Judis of Roots Cellar Recording.
“It was such a big space that we could socially distance ourselves, and only he played the drums and I played the rest,” Pifer said. “But it just gave me the opportunity to travel and still be creative.”
It was a different approach to the recording process.
“Usually in a band you write songs. … … you are going to rehearse songs live. The songs will change and take on different dynamics as you go, before you arrange to record them. When you go into the studio, you rehearse the songs so well that you can just rehearse them, spend a few days in the studio and record the whole record if you are really prepared, ”said Pifer.
With both solo recordings, he would come into the studio one or two days at a time, investing money in recording each song.
“It was just a different way of doing things. It seems to be a common thing during a pandemic. … … I just felt like it was what it took to really survive, ”Pifer said.
Many of the power pop songs on “The Social Distance” are related to the pandemic, but they are not so closely related to this topic that the album is in danger of losing relevance. Pifer often writes based on his own experiences, and the first song on the album, titled “In the Social Distance,” tells him more about the fact that he misses his wife Rachel than about the rules of COVID-19, as Pifer sings:
Never forget your way
I yearn for the dawn of a new day
wait there on the horizon
Now I see you on social distance
“Meet Me at the Bar,” an uplifting track that appears later on the record, speaks of the same feeling; looking forward to meeting my friends. Surprisingly, but in these songs, and throughout the disc, there are notes of optimism. Pifer seems to be focusing not on the melancholy of the moment, but on the expectation of a better future.
This can certainly be heard in “Something to Believe In,” a raucous and unifying song written during the welcoming speeches of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
While there weren’t many chances to perform songs from the new album live and in person, that could change in the coming weeks as Pifer works to form a core band alongside a few regional musicians who can join in and perform when the core members can’t.
This weekend he will team up with Pete Hayes, drummer for The Figgs for the Bike MS New York campaign, to raise money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society. It’s a tradition that Pifer began taking part in seven years ago, and he rides to support Hayes, who has multiple sclerosis, and in memory of his father.
In addition to cycling, the team also performs.
“We’re not just a team, we’re a band, and of course the band only plays once a year to raise funds for the Multiple Sclerosis Society,” Pifer said. The Maybe Sump’MS will perform on Sunday, December 19th at The Players Theater in New York.
The race kicks off Sunday in New York, and Pifer hopes to raise at least $ 2,000. To learn more about the campaign, visit mssociety.donordrive.com. To listen to Social Distance, visit chrispei.bandcamp.com.
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Categories: Entertainment, Life and Art