Interview: Pelican – Trevor de Brauw

In support of their first release in three years, ‘Ataraxia/Taraxis,’ I had the opportunity to sit down with Pelican guitarist Trevor de Brauw at their EP release show in Glasgow. Read on as we talk about their EP, taking a break in 2009 and their future album.

EspyRock: Let’s start by going back to 2009. You have all said that as a band you had hit a wall with touring and combined with family issues, it was just time to step back for a while. Was it nice to finally step back, take a breath and look back on what you had achieved to that point with the band?

Trevor de Brauw: I think it was very necessary because we needed time to recharge our batteries. In a lot of ways we lost the sense of what was pleasurable about the band because it started to feel more like a job. I wouldn’t say it felt more like a job over a creative endeavour but there was definitely a point when we were not having the same sort of – in the early days of the band, when we were new to touring, every show felt special. The feeling of communion that you have with the audience, that you’re sharing an experience with them was a lot more present. When we started touring constantly, that’s when we started to lose the feeling of that. You could be in Glasgow two years in a row but it wouldn’t feel special to be in that new environment and you wouldn’t have that same sense that something precious is happening like music should always have. So yeah it was definitely necessary for us to scale back and focus on our own personal lives which, in many ways, we had neglected for many years. Your personal life is where all your creativity comes from too so from a creative standpoint, it was also necessary there.

Was it a challenge transitioning from being on the road constantly to being home and working regular jobs again?

There were things about it that were hard but I think for all of us, we were ready for that.

What kind of work did you move into during that period?

Larry [Herweg] and Bryan [Herweg] both had part time jobs at Whole Foods and they just went full time. I was interning at a publicity firm and when I had time away from the band I was able to step up and become a full time publicist.

Do you need those jobs to help fund the band to keep you moving forward or do you earn enough from touring to keep the band afloat?

The band doesn’t cost anything. It’s not like we have to put money into it anymore luckily, well not since the early days anyway, but it’s not something we make money from. Everything just keeps the band running on the road. For a couple of years we were able to make a living, not a great living but a good one.

At least enough to cover the bills.

Yeah like that. In 2009, combined with the exhaustion and also in the sense that we were on tour all of the time, people didn’t buy a lot of merchandise. They knew they could get it next time or in some cases they have it already, so our income really started to deplete. It no longer became sustainable.

Was that a worry when you were picking your time to make a return? That thought that maybe fans will have a lot of merchandise and may not feel the need to buy more, possibly making you reconsider whether it would be smart, financially, to step away from your jobs and back to this?

When we approached stepping away from the band full time we all chose endeavours, in our personal lives and professional lives, which allowed us time to come back and do the band. We’re never going to be able to go back to doing it the way we were when we would go out on the road for four to six full months out of the year and I don’t think I’d want to. We’ve now got a balance in our lives and that’s important.

Let’s talk a little about the EP, ‘Ataraxia/Taraxis.’ I should congratulate you as this is the official release day for it.

Thank you. Yes, today is the official release and I suppose tonight is our unofficial release party for it [laughs].

‘Ataraxia/Taraxis’ had a core theme like other records you have released but for Pelican, do you base the music you’re writing around a theme or does it start with a riff?

It generally starts with the riffs for us. We have one or two figures that stand out and then we’ll build the structure from there.

What made you decide on the theme for this album?

Do you know the meaning to it?

Yeah, just wondering on how you came to it.

Well the last album [‘What We All Come To Need’] was about the struggle of trying to keep hope in the face of hopelessness and with this one we could sense that there was a lot more darkness to the music. In general we choose our themes after we’ve written and recorded the songs so we can get an idea of what the songs mean to us and this time around it’s really about the struggle between positivity and negativity and trying to keep the balance in your life. The darker side of the music just built that bridge of one against the other and it became quite easy to move from there.

Am I right in saying that two of the tracks [‘Lathe Biosas’ and ‘Parasite Colony’] were actually unfinished tracks from the recording of ‘What We All Come To Need’ that you decided to finish?

Yeah that is more or less accurate. They were riffs that existed in a skeletal form and leading up to the recording we thought we would have more songs and some extras left over, like we always wish we would, but we never really finished. So we had some ideas kicking around over the last two years and we finished those and decided that once they were finished we wanted to make a 7” because we knew the gap had really been growing between releases. So we were toying with the idea of just releasing a 7” with those two songs but as it had been so long since our last release, it would make sense to bookend those songs with something that made it feel more like a complete listening experience. That’s how we generated the two other songs.

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Michael is the owner and creator of EspyRock. He is your general all round geek; sports fan; TV show fanatic. You can find him sharing his thoughts on his personal Twitter account. Contact Michael on Twitter or via Email.

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