Beloved Cincinnati Indie Pop Band Pomegranates Return for Post-Thanksgiving Hometown Concert

After reteaming earlier this year for a triumphant set at the BLINK festival, the group is set to play the Woodward Theater on Friday, Nov. 29, with Sylmar, Grand Ace and Leo Pastel

click to enlarge Pomegranates peforming as part of the 2019's BLINK festivities - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Pomegranates peforming as part of the 2019's BLINK festivities
Pomegranates — featuring multi-instrumentalists Isaac Karns, Joey Cook and Pierce Geary, and drummer Jacob Merritt — were one of the Cincinnati scene's most passionately loved and respected outfits during their initial seven-year run in the mid-’00s/early ’10s, producing five studio albums and a live reputation that helped earn them plum opening slots on a number of high-profile national tours. But the lack of broader, more sustaining success and the grind of the road proved to be too much and, with the unfathomable disregard within the industry for their final recording, the band dissolved in 2013.

Toward the end, Pomegranates had briefly rebranded themselves as Healing Power, the intended title of their last album, but after the band's demise, they were contacted by a fan in West Virginia who implored them to reconvene to play a wedding. The wedding gig became the springboard for the limited cassette/CD release of Healing Power and two final shows at the Southgate House Revival in 2015. After that, the members once again amicably went their separate ways and continued pursuing their various musical ventures.

click to enlarge Pomegranates at BLINK 2019 - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Pomegranates at BLINK 2019

But Pomegranates has become a bit like an old girlfriend that is never quite forgotten. The quartet regrouped for a spectacular set at this year's BLINK festival and is in the midst of rehearsals for their next comeback show, set to take place at the Woodward Theater on Nov. 29, with Sylmar, Grand Ace and Leo Pastel opening.

When we caught up with the band recently via email, Merritt hinted that the practices have been so successful that the band may possibly be considering a long-overdue return to the studio to record new material.

CityBeat: So what's everyone been up to since Pomegranates turned out the lights?

Joey Cook: It’s been wild. After Poms ended I turned 30, (I) got a full-time job, got married and bought a house. I've had some of my highest highs and lowest lows over the past few years. I released 3 solo albums and a spectacular fake live album as Joesph, with my friends Pierce and Devyn (Glista). I’ve been learning a lot recording myself and others at my home studio, The Eyebrow Palace; hit me up, I want to record with you. It’s been busy and amazing and terrible and exciting!

Jacob Merritt: I currently run Sabbath Recording in Columbia-Tusculum, working with artists from all over the country. I want to help people feel really valued, understood, and challenged to refine their purpose - things I learned with Pomegranates that are really important for bands to experience. I also work part-time for a company that does sound design and music composition for everything from film to radio.

Isaac Karns: In the time since the band ended I got married to my wife Emily and we have an amazing 8-month-old son named Moses that keeps me busy. I've been hiking and gardening a lot and generally doing things that are tough to do when you live a transient lifestyle and play over 100 shows a year. I also operate a recording studio in Over the Rhine called the Marble Garden where I compose and write music for licensing libraries and produce/record for other artists; I've had the pleasure of working on projects with Carriers, Lauren Eylise, FLOCKS, Sylmar and had the rare opportunity to do some remote tracking for The National's I Am Easy to Find on two tracks. I've also released a scattering of singles and one full-length album.

click to enlarge Pomegranates at BLINK 2019 - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Pomegranates at BLINK 2019

Pierce Geary: As far as music projects I've primarily been spending my time helping Joey create the live version of his Joesph project. We've put out three records and some other weird stuff. Joesph is this very fun, very expansive project that completely focuses on Joey's imagination. It's been a terrific way to continue to play music and build something that is nourished by creativity with someone who is obsessed with creating something that's bizarre but also designed to be cherished.

I've also been able to focus more on my publishing project, Kith and Kin Press. I've been traveling quite a bit the last couple years to zine fests and art book fairs making friends in the DIY publishing community around the region. Honestly, the spaces where people are buying, trading and selling books they made with their friends to other people that get what they're doing are some of the most absurdly inclusive and loving spaces. I've been so grateful that I've been able to spend time working in that world.

CB: What prompted this latest Pomegranates “reunion”?

IK: We were offered a spot to perform at BLINK and to be asked to be part of such a cool event as that was very special in and of itself, but for me personally the opportunity to do something that we all still love to do, and realizing that Pomegranates and these songs still mean something to a lot of people and brings them joy in their lives was what sealed the deal. The fact that someone like Rob Mason reached out and gave us the opportunity and context to realize that was very special and we are very grateful.

JC: Blink 2019 was incredibly fun and affirming. Then Dan (McCabe) asked us to play Woodward Theater and that sounded fun too. I wouldn’t say we’re “back together,” but we are taking it a show at a time, and talking about how we can make different things work and on what scale.

JM: The band seemed to come to a halt in a cloud of discouragement, interpersonal hurt, and probably a degree of burn out. We all have grown a lot as people and are much better at communicating now, and have talked out a lot of that stuff. Being in a serious/touring band in your late teens and early 20s while still maturing like we were can be a real challenge. We also have a small fanbase and new people discovering us that have been pretty persistent about wanting to see us again, and everyone was up for taking a first step back into playing music again. Our ambition and 'strategy' for being a band now is much different than what we were trying to do before we stopped for a while. Kinda taking things as they come, and making sure we have fun. Isaac mentioned something recently about the band serving our lives, not the other way around, which makes a lot of sense. I think theres a common hope that we record some new songs in the near future. We'll see!

click to enlarge Pomegranates at BLINK 2019 - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Pomegranates at BLINK 2019
PG: Getting the chance to play Blink was, essentially, the instigating event for the band playing together again. It seemed fun and like something we could pull off without stressing ourselves out. All of these things proved to be true. The show was tremendous fun and when we got approached to play another show we had to figure out what putting real energy into this band might look like for each of us. For me, I moved to Cincinnati from Brooklyn in 2013 to play in the band during a weird transitional time for Pomegranates. About six months after I got here the band had broken up. I stayed in the area because I have family and friends here and I was too depressed to make a huge move again. Seeing Pomegranates active on any level means a lot to me. Pomegranates always has fans that care so much and so fervently want the band to succeed, even if that just means playing shows when they can and putting out music when the music reveals itself, if you know what I mean. It doesn't feel like a second chance but something similar. It feels like returning to an old house you used to live in but all your old furniture is gone but you get to fill it up with what suits your current life and style. It feels like new wine in an old bottle. It feels like the best kind of recycling. Mostly, it feels fun and like something we can take our time with to make more art that interests all the participants - the audience and the players.

CB: What's been the general feeling of playing together again after this relatively long hiatus?

JC: Pomegranates was the first band I was in, and the only collaborative band I’ve been in. I do feel something magic when we play together. I think we’re all a little out of shape from the time off, and kind of finding our footing again, but it’s been really fun and nice! I keep finding myself grinning during practices. That’s a good thing.

JM: For better or worse, after Pomegranates I never joined another band, and only play on people's records in the studio. I played music for so long with Joey and Isaac, and loved their approach and sonic flavor so much, nothing else has really felt right. I'm really enjoying playing music with the whole bunch again, and glad to be doing stuff with Pierce, my longest musical companion dating back to college. It's a fun dynamic! Everything feels very natural.

PG: Playing together again has been refreshing. It's such a uniquely good experience to play with three people who have a palpable music rapport. They feed each other in ways that enrich the whole ordeal. They love what each other brings to the table and they know each other's strengths. The encouragement to play to those strengths and to make the best music possible makes for a really playful and loving space to create in. There's been more laughing than I've ever seen in the band before and the impetus for making music seems to be because making music is exciting. It's an adventurous thing to do.

IK: It's been a whirlwind of emotions for sure. There were definitely some butterflies waiting to go on but then once we take the stage, for me personally, I go into a headspace that is very comfortable and is pretty intuitive and natural. I don't think about it too much and I just let go and be myself. It's nice that we've put in enough hours of performing and playing over the years that I know we are going to bring our best and leave it all on the field, but it's nice that it still resonates with an audience. That is super humbling after being away for so long. It feels nice to do something with the other guys that we've done so many times and the space between walking on stage and hitting your last note is this wild ride that you share with them and it feels good to share it with them again, even after all these years, to come together a little older and a little wiser and use the weird, specific craft that we've honed to bring something good and beautiful to the world.


Scroll to read more Local Music articles


Join CityBeat Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.