Pilot Speed: Trading In Their Shoegaze Soundscapes For Melodic Rock Hooks

artist: pilot speed date: 04/07/2009 category: interviews
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Pilot Speed: Trading In Their Shoegaze Soundscapes For Melodic Rock Hooks
Toronto-based Pilot Speed came onto the global marketplace of melodic rock's landscape in mid-2006 with the worldwide release of their sophomore album, Into The West from the American label, Wind Up Records. Previously, the band's albums had been released by Canada's Maple Music Recordings, a label that in the past discovered such laudable artists as Radiohead, Gome, My Morning Jacket, and Tegan and Sara. Pilot Speed's extensive touring and commitment to writing original material since their inception in 1999, then under the name Pilate, have garnered them a loyal following of staunch fans. The band is the product of lead singer/pianist/lyricist Todd Clark and bassist Ruby Bumrah who determined that they had similar goals. Bumrah introduced Clark to guitarist Chris Greenough and drummer Bill Keeley who joined the band, and since then have been traveling together and found greener pastures with each new album. Pilot Speed's forthcoming album, Wooden Bones, due out in April 2009 from Wind Up Records, has the pensive melodic rock piping relatable to Snow Patrol, arousing ambient-pop soundscapes reflective of Coldplay, and synth-textured rock hooks akin to Dredge. Working with Pilot Speed on the recording are famed producers Dennis Herring, Gregg Wattenberg, Ross Peterson and Kevin Killen. Unlike the band's previous album, Into The West, the band's new offering, Wooden Bones, is less epic sounding and more melodically catchy as Clark surmises in a recent press release, "It can be easy to write long, sonically intricate shoe-gazing music, but to create more compact songs, and do it well, can be very satisfying." Though Wooden Bones veers the band towards making songs lined with more catchy melodic rock hooks rather than the vast meandering instrumentals of Into The West, it also streamlines the band's songs to focus on the themes of Clark's lyrics, which make observations about the frailty of human life and the uncertainty of this world to keep people safe. Pilot Speed's lead singer, Todd Clark speaks to Ultimate-guitar.com about the band's forthcoming album, Wooden Bones and their upcoming tour.

"We were fortunate to work with very talented producers and engineers and it shows on the record."

UG: What motivated the band to make Wooden Bones? Who came up with the title of the album and what does it mean? Clark: For myself, the focus on this album was writing songs. That sounds simple, but it was important for me to take the conventional framework of the song, and create something unique and inspiring. We kind of moved away from the long drawn out epics preferring instead to focus on the bones of the song itself. Wooden Bones was a lyric long before any thought had gone into it becoming the album title. It coincides with a theme that is very present on this album, that of the fragility of our lives and our precarious place in this world. What was it like working with Dennis Herring? Did he create a collaborative setting for the band, or was he very decisive about what he wanted everyone to play and how the songs would be arranged? We worked with many people on this record. Dennis, Gregg Wattenberg, Ross Peterson and Kevin Killen. The bulk of the record was done however with Kevin Killen. We were fortunate to work with very talented producers and engineers and it shows on the record. Did many of the songs go through a re-write before they were recorded? Did you have some songs that turned out completely different from the direction that they were headed in originally? Songs often change in the recording process. I would say the song that changed the most from our demos was Up on the Bridge. Songs stayed the same, but it's attire definitely changed dramatically. For the most part though, most of the songs stayed true to the demos. We spent a lot of time on the songs themselves, re-writing verses, choruses etc. until we had it right. We really wanted to have the songs sorted out before we headed into the studio. When you were recording the tracks on Wooden Bones, did the band have to make sure that they could play these songs live? Are there many preparations that need to be made in order to perform these songs in concert or any changes that need to be made in the arrangements to make them work in concert? There wasn't actually a whole lot of thought to playing live while we were recording and writing. The goal was to write and record a great album. I didn't think it necessary to entertain any other guidelines such as how do we play this live. Having now worked on these songs in the live sense for a bit, I don't imagine there will be any problems. How does the band work out their timing? Do you spend a lot of time practicing to sound tight, or is everyone really intuitive to what each other are playing so a minimum amount of time is spent on rehearsing? We will be rehearsing a lot for the upcoming live component. We have a lot of work to do, and playing live is it's own beast. We have not done it for almost 2 years, so as I said, there is work to be done. What was the inspiration for the song Put The Phone Down? How did you get your ideas to play your part on the track? How was the songwriting process for the track worked out? We really built this track up from nothing. I wrote the song in a mate's basement and elements of that demo made their way onto the final master. It was an interesting process. The track has a fractured quirkiness to it that came from the way we put it together. But really the bones of the song were all from the beginning.

"Songs often change in the recording process."

What goals have the band set for Wooden Bones? Where would you like this album to take the band? The short term goal was to make our best record to date, I believe we have done that. As far as goals down the road, I think we are all prepared to work as hard as we need to. There's definitely a whole lotta stuff in this game that you can't control. In the end the people decide, I guess. For me, I think it's important that we step up to the next level. Hopefully this album does this for us. Has the band worked out the song list for the upcoming tour? Can fans expect to hear some songs from your Wind Up Records debut LP, Into The West? Have you worked out which songs you want to play for the encore? We are currently working through that process now. There will be a mix of songs for sure. You can expect Alright, Into Your Hideout, and Barely Listening for sure. And then a lot from the new album. Are there any plans to provide fans with a sole acoustics set or unplugged session during the concerts? Are there any Pilot Speed songs that you feel would sound great played solely acoustically rather than electric? In the past, we have played Don't Stare acoustic and it seemed to go over well. [There] will definitely be some more of this on the upcoming tours. Haven't decided what yet, but it will happen. The songs on this album will lend themselves more to acoustic renditions I believe. Being more conventional in their structure, they should be a little easier to present. Has the Internet been essential in launching the band, or have you found that being signed to Wind Up Records and opening for major artists actually helped launch the band more? All have their place for sure. The Internet is obviously an amazing tool of communication. It seems more now than ever, that word of mouth is the key. And technology has allowed people to create their own niche listening experiences. Now we rely on the listener more than the label to spread the word. Probably the way it always should have been. The smarter labels have realized this and have stopped trying to manage listeners. They now seek to work in the model created by the fan. That being said, we are very lucky to have a record contract with a good label that understands the above. Record label horror stories are plentiful; we have been quite fortunate. Interview by Susan Frances Ultimate-Guitar.Com 2009
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