Evan Stephens Hall (born May 6, 1989) is an American singer-songwriter and musician. Hall is best-known as the frontman of indie rock outfit Pinegrove. Born in Montclair, New Jersey, Hall grew up the son of a musician father, and took instrument lessons locally. During his time at Ohio's Kenyon College, Hall co-founded Pinegrove with drummer and childhood friend, Zack Levine. Pinegrove rose to fame in the mid-2010s with its breakthrough album, Cardinal (2016), which attracted broad critical acclaim. The band has released four albums so far; its most recent, Marigold, was released in January 2020.
Evan Stephens Hall was born on May 6, 1989 in Montclair, New Jersey, to Tracey Stephens and Doug Hall. Hall's mother briefly operated a women's shelter and was involved in social work, but now works as an interior designer. Hall's father works in commercial music; he is best-known for composing the jingle for financial company J.G. Wentworth. Hall's interests growing up included skateboarding—Hall aspired to be a professional skateboarder as an adult, but suffered a concussion in his teens that sidelined his interest. Hall spent several years camping at Geneva Glen co-educational summer camp located in Indian Hills, Colorado; he was later hired as a counselor in the years before founding Pinegrove.
Hall grew up friends with Levine; both boys’ fathers are in a cover band together—Julie's Party, a roots rock outfit covering acts like Bonnie Raitt and Little Feat. Hall grew up taking lessons at Montclair Music Studio, first learning the drums, then bass, and lastly the guitar. He and Levine began playing music together at seven years old, forming their first band, the Pug Fuglies, in the sixth grade. The next year, the duo began playing together in Dogwater, a grunge band, which they focused on throughout high school. During that time, the duo played many shows at Montclair's Serendipity Cafe, and have expressed the positive impact playing their music in a welcoming and encouraging space has had on them.
After graduating high school in 2007, Hall attended Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, from which he graduated in 2011, majoring in creative writing with an emphasis in poetry. During his tenure there, he also developed a love of semiotics and modernist literature. He worked at a recycling plant through college, which became the namesake of the Pinegrove song "Recycling".
During his time at university, Hall co-founded Pinegrove with Levine. The group built a grassroots following in the early 2010s with a stream of extended plays and do-it-yourself house concerts. They issued their debut album, Meridian, in 2012 via online music platform Bandcamp. Viewing a move necessary to gain notoriety, the band relocated to Brooklyn, New York. Hall had a difficult experience in New York; in an interview, he remarked that during that period, "everything in my life was falling apart." He found the frenetic nature of the city unenjoyable, and worked excessively to make ends meet. After nine months, Hall returned back to his parents' home. For the next several years, he lived at home in Montclair, working part-time at a bookstore and focusing on songwriting. He took frequent walks around his neighborhood and Brookdale Park.
He distilled this productive period of writing into Cardinal, Pinegrove's 2016 breakthrough album. During this era, the band signed to Run for Cover Records, an independent record label from Boston known for its association with fourth-wave emo acts. Cardinal was widely successful, acclaimed by critics for its tone and sincerity. Pinegrove quickly developed a large following of fans and played over 200 shows that year. The band headlined several nationwide tours, consistently selling out mid-sized venues. The band "seemed poised to enlarge its audience significantly," at this moment. In November 2017, Hall posted a lengthy statement to the band's Facebook regarding an accusation of "sexual coercion" against him. Further reports revealed that Hall had a brief relationship with a member of the band's touring team who accused him of utilizing "verbal and contextual pressure" sexually. Philadelphia-based mental health nonprofit Punk Talks was involved in facilitating Hall's statement, had done so "without [the accuser's] knowledge, support or permission". The situation—resolved via a private mediator between the two—resulted in Pinegrove taking a year-long hiatus at the accuser's request.
Skylight—the band's third full-length—saw release in 2018, and received a muted but positive reaction from fans. The band has continued to tour, selling out a nationwide tour between February and March 2019. Later that year, the band announced they had signed to British indie label Rough Trade for their next effort, 2020's Marigold. and "The Alarmist". The band is currently on tour domestically, with European dates to follow in April 2020.
In 2017, Hall contributed a solo cover of Green Day's "Burnout" to Earth Day: A Tribute to Green Day, a tribute album; all proceeds went to the Hurricane Maria Community Relief & Recovery Fund.
Musical style and songwriting
Hall's influences on his songwriting split between music and literature, owing to his tenure at Kenyon studying English. On the sonic side, Hall has cited Stephen Steinbrink, Ben Lerner, Greta Kline, and Phil Elverum as inspirations. Hall's earliest musical influences included alternative rock mainstays such as Radiohead, Green Day, and Nirvana. In terms of literature, he has also noted novelists James Joyce, William Faulkner, Virginia Woolf, and David Foster Wallace, as influences on his work, as well as the short story author George Saunders. Hall has specifically cited Woolf's The Waves and Wallace's Infinite Jest as inspirations, commenting that "they made me feel ambitious, in that they have such a specific worldview, and made me question what I have to offer."
Hall has referred to Pinegrove as "language-arts rock." As a songwriter, Hall has emphasized simplicity and immediacy, viewing complexity as something of a defense mechanism in art. To this end, Hall has depicted himself as a "student of pop music," praising famed hitmaker Max Martin as "arguably the best songwriter of our time." He aims for a conversational tone in his lyricism, believing it expresses meaning more directly. His lyrics frequently touch on themes of communication and loneliness, and more general concepts such as primary color, and geometry.
- With Pinegrove
- Meridian (2012)
- Everything So Far (2015)
- Cardinal (2016)
- Skylight (2018)
- Marigold (2020)
- As Evan Stephens Hall
- Earth Day: A Tribute to Green Day (2017) (song: "Burnout")