If you can't tell the difference between dance music and music that you can dance to, Pistachio will be happy to give you a quick lesson on the contrasts between the two.
The Oakland, California-based trio, which is performing a free, all-ages concert at The Blu Pig on Friday, July 24, at 7 p.m., writes songs that are eminently danceable. Yet guitarist Antony D'Avirro said the band's natural and loose sound is about as far from the regimented thump-thump of electronic dance music as you can get.
“Obviously, we're nothing close to that,” he said. “Calling it dance music might mislead people ... It's mainly music to make people dance.”
Pistachio combines indie rock with 1970s soul, funky grooves, Latin influences and the improvisational skills its three members picked up while they were studying jazz at the University of California, Berkeley.
While their style isn't rooted in any one genre, D'Avirro said there is a unifying factor behind the band's music.
“It is groove-y,” he said. “The term 'indie disco' is thrown around quite a bit.”
The band's members found their sound by melding an eclectic set of influences together.
Before he came up with his current finger-picking style, D'Avirro immersed himself in punk, while bass player Devin Hollister grew up playing ska. Drummer Zach Briefer rounds out the trio with a musical background in blues and classic rock.
All three Pistachions attended UC Berkeley for their respective degrees in biology, etymology and business/ anthropology, although their interests took shape around the school's jazz program, which tightened their skills as musicians.
“I think that we all approached jazz from our rock backgrounds,” Briefer said. “It was a way for us to become better players, but our hearts have always been in playing in a rock band.”
Hollister and D'Avirro came up with the idea for the band “somewhere off the shores of southern Mexico,” following a months-long sailing trip that took them from the San Francisco Bay to the Gulf of Tehuantepec.
The pair played their first-ever show at an Italian restaurant on the edge of the gulf, and when they returned to the Bay Area, Briefer teamed up with them to record the full band's first EP, “Tehuantepec.”
Right around that same time, they came up with a look that is every bit as distinctive as their sound.
To start off with, D'Avirro and Hollister stayed up all night making papier-mâché hats that resembled pistachio shells. They also painted their faces green – picture the shade of Margaret Hamilton's face in “The Wizard of Oz.”
However, they soon found out that it was hard to hear through their hats, so their choice of attire morphed a bit – although D'Avirro said they still make an effort to dress up for their audiences.
“We just think that if you're going to see a performance, it should look like a performance, and not like somebody just got out of bed and got on stage,” he said.
It's understandable, though, if their eyes are slightly bloodshot by the time they pull into The Blu Pig, which is located at 811 S. Main St. Pistachio's “Out of the Shell Tour” will take them across eight Western states in just two months.
Hollister said they sent out emails to more than 350 clubs around the West, with the hope that they could swing through places they've always wanted to visit.
“We do it all by ourselves,” he said. “It's a labor of love for us.”
They've already stopped at the Grand Canyon on their way to Briefer's hometown of Tucson; Silver City, New Mexico, is their next destination.
They'll have some time between their shows in Taos, New Mexico, and Moab, so they plan to use it by exploring the area around Canyonlands National Park.
“We're excited to come to Moab,” Briefer said. “We've heard great things about it from our friends who have been to the (national) parks.”
But after their break here, it's back to business and on to their next show in Dillon, Colorado.
Briefer said they've been writing songs for the past eight months, and once they're done with their tour, they eventually plan to record a full album of new material at a friend's house in Colombia.
For now, listeners can hear the new song “Jungle Diary,” on the band's website at pistachiotheband.com, where they can also find more information about Pistachio and its upcoming shows.