Pinegrove Prepping Return After Sexual Coercion Claims Against Singer
The band is self-releasing their new album 'Skylight' on Friday (Sept. 28), with profits going to several charities.
Ten months after New Jersey emo band Pinegrove went on hiatus in the wake of claims of "sexual coercion" against lead singer Evan Stephens Hall, a lengthy profile in Pitchfork reveals the methodical path the band has taken to re-emerge following a long period of reflection. That reckoning has included the alleged victim communicating with the band through a mediator and Hall entering therapy, as well as shelving its Skylight album and going into radio silence.
The alleged coercion is described as "verbal and contextual pressure," according to the mediator, who added that the accusation is "not of a physical nature at all." The alleged victim requested anonymity and would not speak to the Pitchfork writer on the record for the story.
In the midst of the roiling #MeToo movement in late 2017, which has resulted in allegations of sexual misconduct, harassment and assault against dozens of prominent figures in music, movies, politics and the culinary world, the founder of the organization Punk Talks said she reached out to the band's label and tour promoters in November 2017 after speaking to an alleged victim of Hall's.
That victim allegedly described "predatory and manipulative behavior toward women attending Pinegrove shows and women he [Hall] has been sexually involved with." The alleged victim was not named, and the Punk Talks founder said this person was "NOT THE FIRST" [her emphasis] one to level such allegations, leading her to recommend, as a "mental health professional," that Hall step away from music and receive therapy. Several days later, an internal email sent to the Punk Talks team reportedly said that if Hall did not enter therapy and stop performing, "the original victim and another identified victim plan to speak publicly, which we support 10000%." Punk Talks describes its goal as connecting "music workers with affordable/free mental health treatment services."
After the two opening bands who were slated to tour with Pinegrove, Saintseneca and Adult Mom, spoke with the alleged victim they decided to drop off the tour.
In the wake of the allegations, Hall subsequently posted a lengthy Facebook post detailing a brief, intense relationship with the woman who accused him of sexual coercion, after which the group canceled their scheduled U.S. tour. At the time, Hall, who did not name the person, wrote, "The time we spent together was complicated. I believed we were mutually in love and we said it to each other often. But she also sometimes expressed reservation —she was dating someone else, and the dissolution of that relationship would have yielded intense personal and professional consequences. We talked about it thoroughly, endlessly. It was convoluted, heavy, emotional. This whole period felt like an impossible situation with no right answer, but we were working through it together."
The FB statement went on to say that after the woman broke up with her boyfriend, she and Hall spent several weeks together, she met his parents and they discussed moving in together, stressing that he never "threatened her, I never leveraged anything against her. I believed all of our decisions to be based in love." He admitted, however, to "monumentally" misreading the situation and said he was revisiting other relationships he's had and the "unfair power dynamic" he may have exploited in interactions with fans.
The Pitchfork piece was written by Jenn Pelly, an avowed fan of the group -- she chronicles getting a Pinegrove-inspired tattoo from the band's guitarist Nick Levine last summer -- who began it as a profile, before it turned into a chronicle about coming to terms with the allegations against an act she'd come to see as a "positive force within our ever-awakening music world. Where the pop-punk subculture of my youth could be hostile to young women, I saw something like true progression at Pinegrove shows and in their Twitter stream."
In it, she marvels at Hall's openness and honesty, describing how he gushed about a female musician he'd just met, and then written a song about, calling him an "open book, an intellectual chatterbox, a compelling storyteller. His personality met the honesty and high-wire energy of his songs." Regardless, she did not go for the full "Pinenut ink" at the time -- the two squares some of the band's superfans get tattooed on their bodies -- because she knew "not to put that much faith in a male public figure, even if his songs have saved you."
The piece notes that the alleged victim did not want her allegation made public, and that the Punk Talks efforts to publicize it was done without her "knowledge, support or permission." It also features the alleged second victim saying that she felt Punk Talks' founder had "misrepresented" her prior relationship with Hall in internal Punk Talks emails, noting that the group's founder later apologized for misunderstanding their conversation about Hall, but never corrected the error. The complex, confusing nature of Punk Talks' past interactions with Hall and the reported murky nature of the group founder's mental health bona fides initially led Pelly to consider abandoning the lengthy profile.
"But to ignore the story ultimately felt like a denial -- of nuance, of truth, of the complications of the world we live in now, where these stories are objectively not all the same," Pelly wrote. Visiting with the band a year later, Pelly reported that the Pinegrove was gearing up to step back into the spotlight following the alleged victim's request that they take a year off and Hall enter therapy. “We wanted to honor that,” Hall said. “She recognized that we’ve honored it, and has since approved our plan to release an album and play some shows later on this year.”
Even so, the allegations hang over them in a way that Hall continues to deal with: [via the mediator] that Hall had "coerced her into cheating on her partner with him, and she felt that she said no to him several times...and he continued to pursue her." Hall maintains that their relationship was mutual, but acknowledged the alleged victim's right to "describe her experience however feels true to her...I definitely could have conducted myself better."
After a year of reflecting, reading, skateboarding and taking walks, Hall and Pinegrove are planning to release Skylight on Friday (Sept. 28) on their own, with all proceeds from Bandcamp sales going to the Voting Rights Project, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Musicares.
Click here to read the full Pitchfork story. A spokesperson for Pinegrove said the group had no further comment at press time.