Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bruce Soord of Pineapple Thief Talks About the Band's New Album and Musical Direction

The band Pineapple Thief has amassed an impressive track record of albums and acclaim over the years. Their new recording Someone Here is Missing (KScope) came out yesterday. It’s a further development in the band’s evolution and should get the attention of a new group of listeners. Gapplegate Music recently had a conversation with band principal Bruce Soord. He spoke rather eloquently on the making of the new album, the direction the band is taking, and the big picture ahead.

GREGO EDWARDS: Did you have any idea ten years ago that you’d be where you are now as a group? You’ve developed an extremely loyal and zealous group of fans. Have they bolstered you all in your determination to keep going, seemingly on the brink of a much wider audience?

BRUCE SOORD: Yeah, I keep trying to rewind my brain to where I was 10 years ago, alone in the spare room of my mid-terraced house with a sampler, crappy synth and a very slow and unreliable PC. I remember a recent blog post where I imagined going back in a time machine and telling myself what I’d be doing in 10 years time (ignoring the paradox of meeting myself of course). I wouldn’t have believed me. So yeah, I’m thankful.

GREGO: Did you have an overriding vision of the music you wanted to make when you first started out? Has it changed? How, if so?

BRUCE: I always wanted to fuse ideas and genres within the rock envelope without making it sound contrived. I think my vision has always stayed the same: the music has to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Whether that is because of a lyric, a beautiful series of notes or a kick arse heavy section it really doesn’t matter. It’s a personal thing to each listener who “gets it.”

GREGO: It seems that your new album Someone Here is Missing keeps the sort of spacey and original sounds you have always featured so effectively and adds a crisper, more compact approach to the song form. Do you think? If so, was that change deliberate or did it just kind of evolve over the years?

BRUCE: It was definitely deliberate. When we took the songs on the road I realized how much I needed to strip the arrangements back so they worked live. A lot of the time I tended to hide my less successful compositions behind layers of sounds and “ear candy” production. Strip it all back and a song should work with just me and my guitar. That was the rule for Someone Here is Missing – it had to work as a song when I “hummed and strummed” it.

GREGO: When you are in the studio do you have a particular sound you aim at for each song or do you experiment until you are happy with the sonic direction? Or both?

BRUCE: I’d say both. Most of the time I go into the studio after mulling over the arrangement with my acoustic guitar for a few days, carefully thinking where I want to travel with it. But often, I’ll end up taking a completely different path by accident and end up with a totally different sonic experience! “Waking Up The Dead” is a prime example. The bass and beat came by accident and the song appeared without very much effort at all.

GREGO: Was it therapeutic and/or symbolic to sum up the first phase of the group on the 3,000 Days anthology album? Did you feel like you were entering a new beginning for the group after that was compiled?

BRUCE: I think it really helped me sculpt a new sound for Someone Here is Missing. After compiling work from seven albums it really hit home that I needed to move on to a serious new territory, away from the layered, gentle melancholia of old TPT. I still love that sound, but I needed to try something new to keep the passion going.

GREGO: In the studio how do you tend to lay down tracks on a song? Is there a kind of standard grouping of live instruments/rough vocals for the first step of a song or does it vary?

BRUCE: I always track some basic drums first to play along to, then lay down guitars and vocals – that’s when I know whether a song is going somewhere great or should be sent to the “crap_bag” folder on my studio PC. Once I have a basic arrangement down I usually leave the studio and run the parts over and over in my head. Sometimes I can try out ideas in my head without the need to be sitting in the studio. It’s good fun but can drive me a little crazy. I can’t even go shopping without my songs.

GREGO: Where do you see Pineapple Thief going in the second decade of its life??!!

BRUCE: For the first time in my career I can see the music really getting out there to a new generation of fans, young and old. That has always been my raison d'ĂȘtre, not to make tons of cash (although that would be nice!) or to be mobbed every time I stepped out my front door, but for as many people as possible to hear the music. It’s frustrating for me to hear fans telling me how they’ve only just discovered us. How many more people like that are out there?

GREGO: By the way, the cover art for your new album is just stunning. How did the idea come about?

BRUCE: It wasn’t my idea – it came from Storm Thorgerson and his studio. When he offered to do our design (which was a great moment for me) he invited me up to his studio to interrogate me on the meaning of my songs. He and his team then sketched a series of ideas while listening to early demos of Someone Here is Missing very loudly. One of the sketches was the “post-it man.” Before I knew it I was on a train to London to be covered with post-its. . .

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