burned bright before it burned out. After releasing a sizable catalog (an EP, four singles and three LPs, plus assorted compilation cuts) and touring with the likes of Archers of Loaf and New Bomb Turks, injuries and road fatigue ended the band in 1999, after only seven years.
Then, after a 10-year quiet, Pipe’s original lineup—singer Ron Liberti, guitarist Mike Kenlan, drummer Chuck Garrison and bassist Dave Alworth—reunited in advance of Merge Records’ 20th anniversary festival.
And they kept playing.
“Everybody’s playing as well if not better than ever,” Liberti says. “People are in such different mindsets now than we were back then.”
The famously rowdy Chapel Hill band is now working on its fourth, as-yet-untitled LP. The new record will be the first Pipe LP in 17 years and the first ever to feature all four founding members. (Kenlan initially left Pipe after only a year to focus on his other band, Small 23. He was replaced by the Bad Checks’ Clifton Lee Mann.)
The new album is well underway at the Seriously Adequate Studio of Carrboro producer Alex Maiolo. Only some overdubs and vocals remain. Liberti is hopeful for a fall release, but he says, that’s still in the air. The band plans to send the music to a few labels.
“Time turns differently as one ages a little bit,” Liberti says. “Back then it was like, ‘Oh, we recorded, let’s get it out yesterday!’”
Still, the band isn’t over-thinking the recording, which pairs songs that were written in Pipe’s early days but never recorded with ones written since the reunion. “There’s something spontaneous about Pipe that I want to make sure that we capture. Sometimes if you start thinking about these minute-and-20-second songs too much, they start turning into other things,” Liberti says.
Liberti says playing with the band these days is “like riding a Pipe,” even if the perspective has changed.
“I’m not an angry young man anymore, but I still like yelling about things,” he says. “They’re just different things now.”
Pipe plays with Flesh Wounds and Wesley Wolfe at Chapel Hill Underground Friday, May 9. They'll join B-Side Project and Static is a CIty at Motorco Saturday, May 24.
In the ‘90s,