Don't be too quick to call Pinna a jam band. The Columbia trio inevitably has to deal with the label, considering much of what they perform is based in improvisation. But what they play isn't the far-out type of passages that many direction-less jam bands produce. As guitarist and vocalist George Fetner says, listen closer to experience how they buck that label.
"Most people who've seen us remark that we improvise smartly, like jazz musicians," he said via email. "There's a direction and shape to what we do."
Pinna plays Jan. 14 at Remy's on Hilton Head Island. The group was born and raised in South Carolina, Fetner spending some of his childhood on Hilton Head.
Pinna started as a collaboration between Fetner and a former keyboardist while they were studying composition and music together at the University of South Carolina. They sought ways to incorporate improvisation more into their written music. The name comes from the anatomical name for the outside part of the ear, or, in their view, the first part of the ear the music hits. Their sound draws on jazz, blues, funk and a healthy dose of classic rock.
The band has gone through several incarnations since forming but has finally settled in as a trio and went on their first tour this summer.
They got to meet one of their idols in person when they opened for George Clinton of P-Funk fame at a Columbia New Year's Eve concert. They played homage to another of their inspirations, Led Zeppelin, by performing the entirety of the band's second album live earlier this month.
"Covering Led Zeppelin II was a thrill," Fetner said. "Learning all those tunes really opened up a lot of doors to their, and, as a result, our music."
Fetner returns this weekend to the town he once called home. He lived on the island for about seven years, attending Hilton Head Prep in his middle school years. His family left for Charleston when he was 13, but he found some of his performing roots locally. He took classical piano lessons starting at age 7, but, really, he was making up songs in his head before he ever picked up an instrument, he said. He moved on to musical theater, singing in a middle school musicals.
"When you're that age, it's something your mom tells you to do and you say 'OK," he said. "She certainly knew I belonged on the stage before I did."