.San Jose Indie Rockers Try the Pie Release New Album

Try the Pie return with thoughts on eternity

Life rarely presents second chances. Imagine, then, the surprise felt by San Jose indie rock group Try the Pie when their producer texted to say she wanted a second go at recording their new album, A Widening Burst of Forever.

“Grace reached out to me and was like, ‘hey, I think we can do this better,’” recalls Bean Tupou, Try the Pie’s founder and singer/songwriter. “I thought, ‘Again? Re-record? Interesting.’ I’d never done that before. It’s almost ceremonial: you record something in that time and that’s it.”

Yet, there was something to the offer. In between the first recording and the second, the band had toured the East Coast, settling into deeper pockets with the songs. As people, too, the band were finding better pockets for themselves.

“In the first recording, I was in a really sad place, because my life was changing a lot,” Tupou says. “But in November 2019 my life had changed for the better. It really felt different. By the time we recorded, the songs felt really locked in. It was such a special experience.”

A Widening Burst of Forever is out this Friday on Philadelphia indie label Get Better Records. The album is a high-water mark for the band, an intoxicating, dream-like indie rock odyssey that lives in the porous boundary between the self and the universe.

An eerie wind blows through eye-dilating opener “Asleep on the Lawn,” followed by the plaintive strum of Tupou’s guitar. Then, a command: “dig way down / in the softest ground.” Tupou describes the song as “moving into the unconscious”—a sign of things to come.

“That’s why it’s flowered with childhood memories, of the sun on your eyelids when you’re closing your eyes and it’s still super bright,” they say. “The song is about tapping into that place and about what you find there.”

Consciousness, or the problem of it, haunts A Widening Burst like a spirit. “Any theory of consciousness that people have, I’m always down to hear,” Tupou confesses. In the flowing, lightly Sonic Youthy “Theories of Consciousness,” they unfurl a skein of ideas: consciousness is “a small sprout of violent ivy,” a “self-anointing altar;” it is “inside the sky” and “in the back of the head.”

But consciousness isn’t just an abstract concept: it is social as well. Tupou says much of A Widening Burst is about “making sense of my gender and my specific experience with loss and cultural lines.” The beautiful, waltzing “Kumala” they describe as the record’s one true love song. Kumala is the word for sweet potato in Tongan (Tupou is Tongan-American), a word that passed between distant cultures prior to western colonization.

“The sweet potato is one of these evidences in history that Oceanic people were traveling long before colonialism and trading with each other,” Tupou says. “Kumala” the song flickers hauntingly, slow-dancing with the shadows it casts. “Sonically, [it’s] where I’d like to be in my lovelorn country campfire cowboy fantasies,” they say.

Though they now live in San Francisco, over the last decade plus, Tupou has played a major role in the South Bay underground, founding or contributing to a variety of bands, including twee-punks SOURPATCH, indie rockers Crabapple and underrated emo group Plume. However, Try the Pie has been around longer than all of them. It was Tupou’s first musical project, begun when they were only 19.

“It was even before SOURPATCH,” they say. “When I was 21, I recorded an album by myself with a friend’s laptop. I had friends who made little demos for themselves and I thought, ‘I could do that.’”

These days, the band is rounded out by bassist Bailey Lupo, lead guitarist Laine Barriga and drummer Nick Lopez, musicians with their own storied histories in the South Bay scene. On tracks like epic closer “Home Movies,” all three contribute to the maelstrom, Lopez’s beat winding tighter as the squalls of feedback overlay.

Though many have been rocked by the tumultuous last two years, Tupou has found that returning to performing music live comes with a sense of renewal.

“I’ve realized I’ve grown so much,” they say. “The things that used to make me anxious and worried just aren’t there anymore and the things I care about are so refined and clear. It makes me want to write more music from this new place.”

Mike Huguenor
Mike Huguenor
Arts and Entertainment Editor for Metro Silicon Valley. Musician and writer, born and raised in San Jose.

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