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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

After Transition, a New Beginning for Zach Pietrini and the Broken Bones

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“Life is one big transition,” Willie Stargell once said. Songwriter Zach Pietrini understands that better than most. Last summer Pietrini and his band the Broken Bones released their third album, Death and His Many Faces, an album filled with transitions.

Subject-wise, Pietrini’s lyrics tackle the heavy subject of death and the ways we come to terms with these sudden transitions in life. The songs focus on the many forms of death, whether it’s physical, spiritual or emotional death. While the band’s Americana folk-rock sound keeps things from getting too gloomy, the lyrics are full of honest soul searching.

“At the time that I wrote a lot of those songs it was kind of a mourning process in a lot of ways. My grandpa had recently died. I said goodbye to a few friends,” says Pietrini. “So I was shoved into these things and was figuring them out. The album was my grieving process for a lot of these things.”

Songs like “Sons, Death, and Their Orphaned Daughters” and “My Immigrant Heart,” for instance, were written about the loss of his grandpa, who Pietrini says was “close to me and fundamental in raising me.” There’s also plenty of life and desire to make each day count with a song like “Love Worn Old,” “a brutally honest love song” he wrote for his wife.

Before the public had a chance to hear these songs, though, the band itself went through a number of transitions. The group started in Chicago, where Pietrini was juggling working at a coffee shop and a church as well as playing music, releasing albums in 2007 and 2009.

Eventually Pietrini got to a point where he found it hard to make all those things work, even after scaling back. A job opportunity brought him to Milwaukee, a move that was complicated by the album he had recorded while still in Chicago in early 2012.

“It was kind of weird. It was like a ghost album in the sense that it came out and the band was in Chicago and I was up here,” he says. “We weren’t doing anything with it. I didn’t know what to do with it once it came out.”

Fortunately, with a new version of the band he was able to keep moving forward. In the past few months they’ve found increasing opportunities to play shows. They’re hoping to secure a record deal by showcasing Death and, if all goes well, plan to record a new EP this year.

While the band’s lineup has changed from when it initially started around 2007, Pietrini is confident how things are going. “In a very short time we've tightened things up,” he says. “For some of these members right now, they’ve only been playing a couple months.”

Pietrini says the band plays best on the live stage. Many times they kick off shows with “I Want to Live,” a song he wrote after a teacher he knew had passed away. “It’s about how important it is for me to leave a mark on this world in this life,” he says. “Investing and building things that matter. Just not wasting time.”

Death and His Many Faces is streaming at zachpietriniandthebrokenbones.bandcamp.com.