A Delicate Sense of Balance
By Rahul Menon
03 July 2014
Post metal geniuses, Pelican, are set to make their return to Australian shores this month, and it promises to be a delightful run of shows. The beauty of the genre is that there is something in it for everyone and, Pelican being among the top bands in the business, you are guaranteed to have a great time.
I had the opportunity to have a chat with guitarist Trevor de Brauw and we discussed the album Forever Becoming, the band’s writing process, and the upcoming tour.
Pelican has been a little busy with a few shows, and Trevor says the response to the album release and shows have exceeded their expectations.
"We had a new album that came out in October last year, and we did a brief tour of the US in support of the album. Then we went into hibernation for the winter and then we just did another US tour last week! The response has been really awesome. We didn't have a whole lot of expectation with this record because it was sort of a transitional experience for us. We had a line up shift and this is the first album in a long time that we wrote approaching the band as a passion project rather than a lifestyle. From about 2004 to 2009 we were a band full time. We were touring constantly and recording new music. From 2009 on we've gotten jobs and resumed having normal lives outside of the band. We went into this whole process kinda pursuing it for the joy of making music instead of aspirations of tours and selling records and any of that. We didn't really have tremendous expectations of how it was going to be received. Expectation free. We just feel really fortunate that the act of creation was its own reward. Luckily a lot of people enjoyed the record too and the shows we played have been really awesome. We feel like we are in a very fortunate position and very grateful for it all."
Coming to the writing process, Trevor said a lot of the stuff takes place individually as they are located away from each other.
"Well the writing for this past record was mostly between Bryan (bassist) and myself. We were working on germinating song ideas and working on it at home. We live in Chicago and our drummer Larry lives in LA. So we made the recordings and sent it to him. He would come up with drum part on his own and then he came to town 2 or 3 times during the writing of the album. We did like a block of 4 days of practise or something and sort of worked out the songs as a trio. Near the end we asked our touring guitar player Dallas Thomas to join the band and he assisted in finishing the songs. He helped us pass those into the realm of reality and helped us tighten the bolts into the other songs and we went into the studio not long after."
Then we touched on what would be the essential elements of a Pelican track.
"Well a part of the goal of our music is to take over the senses and help ourselves and the audience lose the sense of self consciousness, which is in part why we want our live shows to be really loud [laughs]. It dulls all the other senses and you are able to turn yourself over to the music more. In terms of our songs, we want each song to encapsulate a journey. So even though there are no lyrics and no narrative, we want the song to have a narrative feel - we want the song to start at one place and take the listener somewhere else. I prefer playing live. The studio is fun to hear your songs realised in a way that you can listen back to them, but to me it's not the same as the communion with an audience. I guess the goal of the music is to lose self consciousness - and that is the entire opposite of a studio environment [laughs]. Studio environment you are hyper conscious of everything, so it's sort of the antithesis of our goal in way. But it is a necessary part because it helps you realise the songs as compositions and once they reach that point - that's when you can build a live experience."
Now the band is set to return to Australia in a few weeks to kick off their tour and the band is really excited to get back.
"We are incredibly excited. It's been a really long time since we were last there. We were supposed to come a few years ago but the tour fell through kinda last minute so we feel very gracious we are able to come back now. We loved our shows in Australia last time, so we are looking forward to it tremendously!"
So what is a perfect live experience of Pelican?
"For me it's just being able to fold into it. Not really think too much. It sounds so corny but [laughs] I just want to feel it, feel it and not think about it. I want that to be the experience of other people as well. For us it used to be harder to get to that place because we used to tour a lot. We were touring like 5 months out of the year. When you are touring that much, the show doesn't feel that precious anymore; the show loses its energy because it is recurring. A sense of non novelty to it. But now, we tour like 4 to 6 weeks out a year! Each show has a sacred quality to it. We know it is rare and it doesn't happen all the time. We are not in a position where we can take it for granted anymore because we don't get to do it that much. So now it's easier for us to get to that place, and let it wash over us."
Coming to the off stage vibe of the band while on the road, Trevor says the party days are kinda behind them.
"We are all in our 30s now so our diehard partying days are long behind us [laughs]. Our idea of a party is going back to the hotel room, having a few beers and relaxing. We are getting in a couple of days before the first show in Brisbane, so we can relax and rehearse, and I think we leave pretty much right away after the last show. We have our jobs and other obligations back home so we are not able to like hang out and make a vacation out of it unfortunately. The shows are their own reward!"
Over 10 years in the business, with five albums down, Pelican have had a pretty good career, although at the moment, they term this as a passion project. I then asked Trevor what are the goals for the future.
"We just want to continue to push ourselves harder as musician and keep writing records. We're not holding to a timeline anymore like we used to when we used to be touring all the time, the requirement of having new products [laughs]. For us right now it’s just about chasing music that is as creative and interesting as possible, kinda like scratching our own itch. There is a shared feeling that we want to do stuff in place we haven't been before. We have been to a lot of places, but there are a lot of places where we haven't been to yet. Hopefully we get to do more of that down the road."
So what is it about Pelican's music that keeps the band wanting to keep doing what they do?
"I think the adrenaline. There's something like, I hesitate to use the word, aggression - the music doesn't come from an angry place. I think the part of what drives us to make this music is that there is this common feeling for each of us that can't be expressed in any other way than music. It's something like anger or some anxiety/ sense of non resolution and stuff. By pursuing this music that has a certain dark energy to it gives us the ability to express what is within us. That sense of adrenaline that comes from it... Music is too important, an itch that won't go away!"
With that we reached the end of the interview, and Trevor gave the following message to the fans in Australia.
"We are unbelievably excited to have the opportunity to come down and play in Australia again. Many apologies for that that have been waiting for us a long time to get back. Hopefully it will be worth the wait, it certainly will be for us!"
Pelican’s Australian tour kicks off on July 24 in Brisbane with further dates in Melbourne, Sydney, and Perth. For more information on Pelican, check out www.hydrahead.com/pelican.