Find the Right Lens: The Adobe Collective’s Endless Search for the Perfect Sound
DESERT Magazine, January 2020
In 2011, Lieutenant Tim Chinnock found himself at a troubling crossroads. A newly minted Navy doctor of pediatrics living in San Diego, Chinnock was exhausted, drained, and fighting a crisis of confidence unlike any he’d ever faced. Could he be the doctor he thought he would be? His family linage hovered over him like shadow; both his father and a grandfather became doctors who dedicated their lives to pediatric health care. For Chinnock, after spending thousands of hours of study and practice in the field of medicine, he was unsatisfied and restless. He’d had a creative outlet years ago, by writing songs on guitar and piano, but his musical equipment had long since been pawned.
After confiding in his mother-in-law about his doubts, she found a solution in the form of a $100 guitar.
“I was sharing my worry about how I was going to be able to go out and be a doctor,” he said, “and out of the blue, my mother-in-law handed me $100 and said something like, ‘I know playing songs and writing was really important to you and you haven’t been playing the guitar in a while. Why don’t you go out and buy a guitar?’ So, I took the money and bought a cheap guitar and started writing songs again.”
Not long after, Chinnock was transferred to the Marine Corps base in 29 Palms, with his wife Faith by his side. They purchased a house in 29 Palms, a 1930’s adobe with enough character and history to fill a homestead diary. While Chinnock wrapped up his service obligations (he was honorably released in 2015), he continued to quietly write songs when he could. Faith, who has a background in music, began to collaborate with her husband, adding vocals and keyboards to his songs.
“As I was writing and learning songs again, Faith was there all along,” he said. “She was listening very closely as I worked on stuff and it just came natural for her to sing along, especially since she comes from a very musical family and grew up singing harmony with her family.”
Faith’s father was a blues harmonica player who played with a trio of musicians. Tagging along to all of his gigs as a kid, Faith became immersed in the world of live musical performance.
“At the time, it never struck me that I could be on my own path,” she said. “When Tim started writing songs, I found myself humming along and I found my place in the music really easily. [Now I try] to blend in with him musically, as if I’m almost in his subconscious.”
Inspired by their house, they named their nascent band The Adobe Collective and invited a rotating cast of musicians to write, record and perform. Influenced by groups like Wilco, Fleet Foxes and Calexico, two rootsy albums quickly followed: The Adobe Collective (2014) and their second record Take Heart, Take Care (2016).
The band’s new record All the Space That There Is, continues their musical desert journey (in addition to Tim Chinnock and Faith, Caleb Winn (bass), Chris Unck (guitar, lap steel), and Tyler Saraca (drums) fill out the lineup).
“Right after our second album came out, I was working on a few songs [for the new album],” he said. “As time went on, I wanted to make this project more of the collective that I thought it could be when I started it. This album was more collaborative than previous albums in the sense that I was asking other members of the band their opinion about how the songs should go.”
Unlike their two previous albums – spare, introspective – the new record finds a band pushing itself beyond its Americana influences. Primarily recorded over the course of a few weeks at Unck’s Hi-Lonesome Recording Studio in Joshua Tree, the group worked late into the nights, experimenting with both the songs and the sound.
The result is a dense, meticulous document of a band in its prime, with the familiar pedal steel and acoustic guitars the group is known for sitting alongside a louder, grittier statement. In songs like “Doing it to Ourselves” and “Blind”, you can hear the swagger of early Dandy Warhols. The closing of the song “Never Tell” collapses into itself, like a Radiohead jam torn across a desert landscape. Other tracks, like “Warm to Me” and “Taking Time” are quintessential desert anthems, with enough open roads and lovers lost to fill Wonder Valley.
“Living in the desert has no doubt influenced the music,” Chinnock said. “It’s unlikely that I would’ve started a similar project anywhere else. It’s the energy of the place. It’s the apparent barrenness that actually turns out to be a vibrancy, if you find the right lens through which to view it. It’s the wide-open night sky to float ideas into and the musical lore of the area.”
As a live band, The Adobe Collective push the songs beyond the confines of their recorded origins. Tim’s lyrics and guitar lines stretch and elongate. Faith’s keyboards twist and weave, riding the line where all could be lost. While Winn and Saraca keep the bass and drums in the pocket, guitarist and pedal steel player Unck emerges as the band’s secret weapon, a versatile pro whose guitar seems to be an extension of his being.
“This is a really interesting time for our band,” Chinnock said. “This current lineup feels like it’s the one that could go somewhere. The players are dialed in and excited about what we’re doing and how they get to contribute artistically. In so many other bands, they were just told what to play. We’re out there traveling and playing the music and we’re getting really good responses from the crowds.”