Pinkerton Raid Loves Birch Beer and a Bonus Episode

Pinkerton Raid Loves Birch Beer and a Bonus Episode

When I think about [Squamscot Birch Beer] I’m so full of nostalgia from my childhood growing up in New Hampshire.

Music conjures up memories from the past, but it’s certainly not the only thing that bubbles up such recollections. On the latest episode of Bubble Bottles, Jesse James DeConto from the band Pinkerton Raid shares the sense of nostalgia connected to birch beer from Squamscot. This non-alcoholic specialty soda is a mix between cream soda and root beer. DeConto recounts feeling a sense of freedom and independence while heading off to the corner store with his own money to buy baseball cards and a Squamscot.

It came in glass bottles, which made it feel antique.

When DeConto and host, Sloane Spencer, finish talking about specialty sodas, they dip over to partner podcast, One Hit History to talk about his favorite one hit wonder, “Somebody That I Used To Know,” a 2011 hit for Gotye that features Kimbra on guest vocals. Two podcasts for the price of one!

I was fascinated by the production of it…The way Gotye and his team interwove acoustic instruments with samples and synthesizers was fascinating.

Thank you for your 5 Star ratings and hilarious reviews of our podcasts in your favorite podcast app. They make a huge difference in spreading the word.  You can leave reviews for both Bubble Bottles and One Hit History with this double feature episode. We appreciate you.



Thanks to Charles Hale for this episode’s show notes. You can follow his radio show Ajax Diner Book Club and look forward to his upcoming episode of One Hit History.

AI Transcript

Sloane Spencer  0:07  Well hey y’all, let’s learn Spencer and you found us here at our new podcast called bubble bottles where we talk with music people about their favorite carbonated beverages. Thanks so much to everyone who has joined us in our launch. It’s only been a couple of weeks and y’all are digging what we’re doing. We also have a partner podcast called one hit history where we talk with music people about their favorite one hit wonders. We’re gonna give you a double shot episode today starting with our bubble bottles conversation with Jesse James DeConto of Pinkerton raid. And at the end, we’ll add on our conversation about his favorite one hit wonder stick around. One of my favorite things to talk about backstage with musicians and music people is about their favorite beverages. Often when folks travel, they’re looking for something new and different in those regional brands. And regional beverages can be quite special or memorable, not always in a good way. So we’re talking today with Jesse James DeConto of Pinkerton raid and when I first saw at my favorite music festival albino skunk Music Festival in Greer, South Carolina, they can be found at Pinkerton They’ve got a new single called magical flying rowan tree with an amazing animated video as well. Jesse James DeConto. Welcome.

Jesse James DeConto  1:22  Excellent. Yes. Really good to talk with you.

Sloane Spencer  1:25  My pleasure. So we were talking a little bit about favorite beverages. So I’ll just hit you with the big question. What’s your favorite carbonated beverage?

Jesse James DeConto  1:34  There’s a small soda company, I’m going to use the word soda, which is going to tell you already that I’m from the northeast,

Sloane Spencer  1:41  you’re not from Atlanta.

Jesse James DeConto  1:43  There’s a small soda company called Swampscott in New Hampshire, and I love their birch beer, which is you know, kind of a take on root beer and cream soda somewhere in between. I love I should say I loved it really in the past tense because it’s been a long time since I actually had it but it’s just so when I think about it so full of nostalgia from my childhood growing up in New Hampshire. Now I’m down in Durham, North Carolina. But that was the first thing it’s funny. You know, I like I don’t even really think about beer being carbonated. When you ask What’s your favorite carbonated beverage? It’s like, okay, it’s got to be some kind of soda. And you know, immediately swamp Scott, you know, I knew it was local, which just even back then to me made it cooler than Coke or Pepsi or whatever was coming in plastic bottles, it came in these glass bottles, which, you know, felt like antiques. To me, it has a lot to do with where I would find it because it represented some level of growing independence for me, like a preteen, maybe 1011 1213, when like, I remember this little convenience store called Lundy’s kind of general store that had been in my little town in Brentwood and Hampshire for decades, you know, I could walk to it from where I would play Little League, they and they had Swampscott. And they you know, I could also like buy baseball cards there or buy something sweet. It just represented this time when I like maybe I had a little bit of birthday money. Or maybe my parents gave me a little money. Maybe I babysat or something like that. It was something I could buy for myself in some settings. And I wasn’t dependent on anyone. And I was just like, with my friends and just walking around. And I think that combined with the uniqueness of coming in a glass bottle and being made in New Hampshire, all of that sort of made it seem really cool to me.

Sloane Spencer  3:38  What a great story behind the beverage and what it means to you just sort of the memories associated with that.

Jesse James DeConto  3:46  Yeah, I guess I just had to pick a flavor for you. Because you asked, you know, they probably made like 50 different flavors. And you know, I’d try them all. I just loved that flavor, root beer. And, you know, that was their kind of special take on it. And, and that was another thing about a birch beer it was so there. It was so specific. I always loved birch trees the way they look. And so I just associated with that. And so that’s the one I I sort of lean toward.

Sloane Spencer  4:13  The localization of it, of course, is always important to a story. My personal like flavor preference has always been weird ginger ale and weird root beers, regional, local, whatever. And so I mean, I’ve been obsessed with this since I was like in early high school. So I’ve been researching this forever. And birch beer is an interesting one because it’s primarily like Pennsylvania, north to New Hampshire. It follows that northern Appalachian region, you know, all the way up essentially in it’s truly made from distilling from Birch trees. And because birch trees have different species, and I’m not a science person, different versions of trees like darker and lighter birches, you get different brews from the distilling of it and gives very different flavor profiles and so the is still very much a hyperlocal decision where there are different places that have dark birch beer or lighter birch beer. And this is still a thing that’s made. So cool.

Jesse James DeConto  5:09  Yeah, very interesting. There are different local companies that make this. And they’re

Sloane Spencer  5:15  very different from one another because the trees themselves are different based on where you are so awesome, they can still make it this way. So because there are not enormous amounts of birch trees available for distilling for birch beer, it’s still very localized. It’s not something that’s been commodified on a national level. And that alone is interesting to me. But one of the things I learned researching this program that was shocking to me is that root beer is no longer made from SAS, Birla and or SassaFrass, because they learned that both of those are toxic. This has happened in my lifetime. So we used to make root beer from real sassafras or from sarsaparilla. We will make tea from that until they know it causes liver toxicity. And that’s so all root beer that you get now is a safe chemical invention flavor, which is stunning to me.

Jesse James DeConto  6:07  It doesn’t surprise me that the big companies but you know, putting it in two liter bottles at the grocery store are doing that, but I pretty sure Swampscott made a sarsaparilla Yeah, you know, flavor, which just sounded way cooler to me that.

Sloane Spencer  6:24  Oh, I totally bought it because of the name. You know? Right. That’s how I got into all of this. Right. And swamp Scott’s a great example of that the the spelling for someone. I’m from Georgia originally, you know, I look at the word and I’m like, How do you even say that words like SQUAM?

Jesse James DeConto  6:40  Cot right?

Sloane Spencer  6:41  Yeah, yeah. I looked up a recipe of how to make birch beer. Not that I’m ever going to do that. But I was just curious what else went into it? If anything, because I really am not super familiar with birch beer. I’ve heard of it. But I don’t believe I’ve ever had it and goes back, like all the way back to the 1600s. There are documented recipes of it in the Northeast of the United States. I guess we weren’t the United States yet at that point. But documented recipes. Of course, it was fermented at the time and they produced an alcoholic version of it. And frankly, I’m surprised that it hasn’t taken off again.

Jesse James DeConto  7:10  Yeah, yeah, that makes sense. People are making alcoholic root beers.

Sloane Spencer  7:15  They are and I’m really disappointed about it. Because now I have to really read labels carefully know what I’m getting. Yeah.

Jesse James DeConto  7:21  That’s right. I love a local This

Sloane Spencer  7:23  is for you and just the time of life. And you know that instant memory things sort of like scent can bring you back to a very specific time and place in your life. Certain products can as well.

Jesse James DeConto  7:34  Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. There was just so much joy, I think in going to these little corner stores, especially where I could buy baseball cards. Right. A lot of times you know that the swamps got what I get with the baseball cards.

Sloane Spencer  7:48  Absolutely. Well, Jesse James to Konto of Pinkerton raid. We’re looking forward to your new single magical flying row intrigued by that more about the band at Pinkerton Thanks so much for joining us on bubble bottles and talking about this swamp Scott birch beer, y’all. If you’re living up in New Hampshire area, you should definitely check that out. Thanks so much for listening and leaving those hilarious reviews and five star ratings in your favorite podcast app. Believe it or not, it makes a huge difference. If you love what you hear, share the episode with a friend. And Y’all come back now you hear one hit history is a comedy podcast. We’ve done slightly less research than your average Wikipedia contributor are loose with the facts and your mileage may vary. Hey y’all, it’s Sloane Spencer, you found us at our new podcast one hit histories where we’re talking with music people about their favorite one hit wonders. And we have been all over the place in what favorite means, but also in what one hit wonder means a lot of these folks have very interesting careers in other areas or other parts of music sometimes it’s like wow, how did you have such a big hit and then I’ve never heard from you again. Today we got someone fun that I first saw at my absolute favorite music festival on the planet albinos current music festival in Greer, South Carolina. It happens twice a year and I absolutely adore it. Part of a group called the Pinkerton raid. It’s Jesse James decanter. You can find them at Pinkerton, I got a new single on the way what happened? Tell you a little bit about it. Hello.

Jesse James DeConto  9:17  Hey, slow thanks for having me. The magical flying round tree is our single but I’ve been just playing around with fantasy or very non literal storytelling and song, you know settings in a different universe. It’s a very personal song. A lot of my recent songs are very much grounded in family experiences. But a lot of times I just use that as a jumping off place and then go somewhere very distant. It’s kind of a superhero story, but it’s set in the age of when people believed in magic and witchcraft wasn’t witchcraft. It was like medicine, just being human and being alive and so are there’s a legend myth about this tree, the Rowan tree, it only grows in very cold climates. So like here in the south to find a comparable plant, and we call it down here a mountain ash, to find it, you know, you have to go up to the very highest peaks in Appalachia of any grows all over Canada. But a lot of these myths come from Scandinavia, the British Isles. And the idea with this row and tree is that it creates a window into the magic world fairy world, it’s supposed to be protective. So people would plant them outside their cottages that sort of ward off evil spirits. And then there’s an extra powerful type of row and tree that when it grows on the side of a cliff, or it grows literally in the crook of a branch of another tree, then it’s even that more powerful. So the song imagines a child as the embodiment of this magical power of the row and tree. The video is an animation of that idea of a child protecting his family with his magical joy. The animator is a woman named Lainey Chandra oh two she’s Greek. We she and I sort of bonded over the animation in the Book of Kells feature length movie. And when I was telling her about the kind of nature spirituality behind the song, she said, Oh, you know, I’ve always wanted to do animation in that style. And so that was sort of a jumping off point.

Sloane Spencer  11:29  Wow, that’s very exciting art. So you’ll definitely can find out more about the band at Pinkerton So you’ll be definitely in the know about magical flying row entry, you don’t want to miss out on all of that, for sure. So this podcast talks with music, people about their favorite one hit wonders. And most of the time, the styles of music are very different than the style of music the person works in. That’s not always true. But that’s most of the time true. So we’ve talked a little bit offline about this particular song hit us with it, what’s your favorite one hit wonder,

Jesse James DeConto  12:02  Somebody That I Used to Know by go ta It really blew me away when it first came out. You know, I was in the middle of making my first record around that, too. So I was just fascinated by the production of it, because it just felt like this very groovy pop song. But the instrumentation is just so interesting and unexpected. I feel like it’s sort of set the stage for the move toward electronic music that followed. That’s almost become cliche at this point, the way that that goes Jay and his team interwove acoustic instruments with samples and synthesizers. It sounds very, very organic to my ear. But yeah, a lot of it’s not and and that’s I think what I love about it,

Sloane Spencer  12:49  the song was released 2011 2012. So the the release, and then when people actually get their hands on it, the album was called making mirrors. And so the thing that I’m particularly interested in because I’ve worked in radio for so many years is often folks release, like a radio version and an album version of songs that’s been common for decades. But in this particular case, it’s not just the length that is different. The production of the radio version that people know, and the album version that people know are significantly different. It’s still completely recognizable. But those layers are like a whole different song.

Jesse James DeConto  13:23  Oh, wow. You’re you’re educating me here. I didn’t even know that.

Sloane Spencer  13:26  It’s really interesting in there, maybe 30 seconds different in length. And then there’s also the vocal play with Kimbra as well.

Jesse James DeConto  13:35  I didn’t talk about that. But I love the vocal production on that song. That’s more than anything. What gives it this really big pop sound? You know, it’s gorgeous.

Sloane Spencer  13:44  The very first time I heard this song, I was fascinated with how they produced it. He mostly did all the work himself. The interesting guy to talk about briefly, he was born in Belgium to a Belgian family who then moved to Australia when he was two. And he’s known by a variety of names. So his given name was a Belgian version of Walter so Walter de Bakker. And then when they moved to Australia, his parents anglicised it to actual Walter and then he was called Wally as a kid, but the Go da or go Shea, depending on who you talk to. He’s used both publicly as well is where the French origin of the Belgian version of his name comes from, like, super confusing.

Jesse James DeConto  14:33  Wow. So it’s related to Walter in some way, similar to

Sloane Spencer  14:36  Mary go Shea’s last name except that it’s ga u L. th, er, and hers does not have the L. So it’s part of that same origin, but through the various different languages, the pronunciation changes, and I love the fact that he has both official pronunciations out there. Right. These are the kinds of things that radio people obsess about, because we try to get it right and then Like, okay, there’s not a right there’s both

Jesse James DeConto  15:02  and then you will have someone call you out or go down that rabbit

Sloane Spencer  15:05  trail every time. So how did you first stumble upon the song?

Jesse James DeConto  15:09  I must have just heard it. Come on commercial radio. I can’t really remember. But it seems like it was everywhere back then. I mean, that xylophone melody, just the very beginning really grabbed me. Yeah.

Sloane Spencer  15:22  So go da slash go Shay, Somebody That I Used to Know, you have to have the vocal version with Kimbra in there, because that contrast is just essential to it. But the song was a huge international hit like 11 international awards, three Grammys here in the US just a massive, massive song worldwide, which is not always the case with wildly popular tunes, especially one hit wonders. They often have a geographic region where they’re wildly popular, but rarely internationally like this.

Jesse James DeConto  15:50  I was just looking it up because I was curious, and it’s almost hit a billion streams on Spotify. Unbelievable.

Sloane Spencer  15:55  Lyrically, it’s an interesting song to me as well, mainly because it reminds me of a 1980s one hit wonder song, lyrically and Okay, so if you are a Gen fellow Gen X, or you’re going to know exactly what I mean, everyone else is going to be rolling their eyes so hard, they hit the back of their head. Lyrically. It’s sending the same message as Don’t you want me baby? Yeah, it’s a presentation is so much more glamorous.

Jesse James DeConto  16:21  Yeah, right. Right. Yeah, it’s like much more indirect, which is a function of the 30 years younger,

Sloane Spencer  16:29  human interactions. And how folks then deal with seeing one another when they are no longer in a relationship is the essence of the song. And pretty straightforward when you read the lyrics. But when you’re listening, you can get wrapped up in the sound and not even catch that. That’s what’s going on so much.

Jesse James DeConto  16:46  Yeah, yeah, that’s right. I came to this song, just fascinated by the music. And, you know, Somebody That I Used to Know, just as a conceit is just so understated. You could sort of fill a lot of gaps if you want to in your mind. You write the lyrics, you know, if you read them all, but then it becomes pretty clear, but it’s dense enough lyrically, that and because the music so interesting, you don’t necessarily pick that up on Listen,

Sloane Spencer  17:14  you really don’t I probably heard it 20 or 30 times before I really paid attention to what he was saying other than the hook. And it was like, oh, wait a minute here. And really, when I first paid attention to it was when cameras vocal comes in. I was like, Oh, I didn’t even realize that’s what this song was about. Wait a minute here. We ought to mention Kimber quickly. Kimberly Johnson is mostly kind of an avant garde jazz vocalist based down in New Zealand, well known in the Australian music scene. Not so much here in the states however, but has a vibrant career there. You can find it cameras music camera easily there. Go da or go Shay is geo Don’t you? It’s a weird one. It’s all good. I got a weird name. We live with these things. So Jesse James to conto of Pinkerton raid. Thank you so much for sharing with us about this one hit wonder that you enjoy. Oh, thanks. Stick around. Yeah, you can find out more about other folks we’ve talked with in there fantastic one hit wonder songs at one hit You can support us at Hit history. Thanks so much for listening. Take it easy. Thanks to Jacob for our theme music you can find his catalogue at Jacob That’s Thanks so much for our graphic design and logo from Keith Brandon. You can find his work at thinking out loud


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