In the simplest of terms, Pillars reeks of Cleveland in all possible ways. Their album Abandoned, released earlier this winter, displays a harmony of respect and knowledge of their craft and those that came before them. With said respect for the past, they are not afraid in the least to do something that makes zero sense at all, and stand behind it firmly.
“I’m a big believer in cross-pollination,” Guitarist and Singer Zach Germaniuk says. “When you listen to the record you’re going to hear anything from Eastern European folk to black metal, and everything in between. When you start mixing the pot like that, you have to play with others open to exploring.”
Pillars is a trio that met in the most organic way possible. Zach, a metal veteran coming from the Akron/Canton area, made a name for himself with the band Red Sun. Bassist Beth Piwkowski blazed her path as a college radio host on WCSB. Drummer Mike Burrows is just that: the drummer. The man plays everywhere with everyone, and he does it well.
Zach and Beth met in an interesting combo of events. Zach turned on his radio at 7:30 a.m. on a Tuesday to the absolute pleasure of hearing Weedeater. “Who is playing this,” he thought, “I must know this person.” Just about that time, Beth tuned in to her neighborhood watch discussion board to find some non-idiotic suggestions from some dude named Zach. Messages exchanged and soon enough they were jamming on a few songs Zach had written and the rest is Pillars.
Before Pillars, Beth was in a string of “stupid” punk bands that never seemed to cut the mustard. She also jammed with foreign exchange students from all around the world, having to learn different time signatures and scales on the spot. Her most musical memory was playing and singing at church in her youth.
“If you look at the history of rock and roll, that guy playing guitar in clubs all week is sure as hell playing at church on Sunday,” Zach says. “That’s where the soul comes from.”
Mike met Beth through the Beachland Lottery League, an annual event in which musicians are randomly paired up to perform together. It’s undeniably and unanimously agreed amongst the table, one of Cleveland’s finest gems. Pillars was in a sort of bidding war for his talent, and they won.
Zach is a public defender in the Slavic Village area of Cleveland. “I have a hard time seeing the little guy get kicked around constantly,” he says, tying his career and music together with a single thought. Mike works with autistic children around the city, and showed up to Pillars first practice with the entire demo memorized. Beth studies the history of what has happened here over the last two hundred some years. Pillars may be the most Cleveland band there has ever been.
“If you want to know what we stand for just read the lyrics, it’s fairly blatant,” Zach blurts out. “If you look back at the roots of heavy metal, it’s really talking about topics that rock and roll was not supposed to talk about. It’s resistance music, it’s protest music.”
“We have a real skepticism of power, the whole ‘if you don’t get with the program you don’t deserve to live’ idea,” Beth adds.
This is a very socially conscious band rooted deeply in their Eastern European lineage. However, the band does have one bone to pick with white metal artists: stop being racist. No matter how many Slayers or Motorheads try to justify the use of Nazi imagery, it will never be okay for a band that has seen this city for what it is and what it can be.
“We make a lot of aesthetic choices as a band to go against the use of European symbols as a sign of racism in the metal scene.” Zach and Beth both agree that diversity needs to be celebrated rather than compartmentalized. No more iron crosses okay? Okay.
When it comes to Pillars, you’re looking at a band that comes around once every few years. Get the album. See the band. Look them up. Listen closely.