Melancholic progressive rock band The Contortionist, who hail from Indianapolis, have released a video for the track ‘Primordial Sound’, taken from the album Language (eOne), an album rated 9/10 by Ghost Cult on its release earlier in the year (review here)
The band, who are currently on tour round Europe with Protest The Hero, teamed up once again with director Corey Norman who had worked on the bands previous video, to produce a consciously stripped down and minimalistic video focusing on the band members performing the song.
Guitarist Robby Baca states “I had so much fun writing that song! I can’t wait to share this video with everyone. The director did a fantastic job for us. The visual elements are extremely important to us and this is a video that we feel exemplifies the overall vibe that we are going for.”
In the final part of 3 part feature on The Pineapple Thief and their excellent new album, Magnolia (KScope), songwriter Bruce Soord spoke to Ghost Cult Magazine about songwriting and side projects…
“It does take a long time, you can’t force it. I have a guitar lying around and when inspiration is dished out then I just pick up the guitar and go. The thing is if you don’t get that magic, that spark immediately then its not going to come if you work at it, you just have to put it aside and leave it for the time being.
“I think it was about 18 months, the song writing. It was a real labour of love.”
The song writing process for Magnolia in actual fact began shortly after the previous album All The Wars (Kscope) was finished giving an indication of how long the process is. Of course this period of time did also see the realisation of Soord’s long awaiting Wisdom Of Crowds side project with Jonas Renske of Katatonia fame. “That has been gestating for a long time, about four years, so that was something I was dipping in and out of with the guy I was writing with. That wasn’t so hard because they were pretty much finished, we just didn’t have the vocals, so getting Jonas down to sing was relatively easy.”
Speaking of Wisdom Of Crowds, and cementing Soord’s reputation was one of prog’s most active components, he confirms that there is more to come from that particular project: “There will be a WoC 2, hopefully next year depending on their time with Katatonia because I know they are planning on the new album… It’s going to be a different this time because Jonas is writing as well. He has already sent me some stuff and ideas, so it’s actually started.”
If this wasn’t enough to have surely earned Soord some time with a cup of tea and slippers, he has also recently finished touring with Katatonia as guitarist on their unplugged tour in support of their stripped down effort Dethroned And Uncrowned (Snapper), an experience that Soord is very appreciative of. “It was great fun, for one the Katatonia guys are hilarious to be on tour with and two, not being the frontman, just the guy at the back who does acoustics is just so easy. It was so relaxed, I could sleep easy.”
This experience touring with a band with a more overtly metal audience (one that is still shared with the prog crowd), plus expressing elsewhere his admiration and love for the likes of King Diamond and other extreme metal acts shows Soord as music lover with a wide taste. Unsurprisingly however it is clear that Prog is where his heart resides the most, and there is one musical venture that he is keen to explore. “The thing I am quite keen to do, whether it will ever see the light of day, is a solo album that’s just me but very much designed for the studio and is a lot more cinematic. Not symphonic, but something very progressive in the sense of long pieces not worried about the verse, chorus song structure and delving into the broad influences I have without worrying about how we are going to do this live.”
Clearly Soord is one of the most musically passionate presences in contemporary rock and prog, and this is perhaps why it is so easy to find that emotional connection to his music; not just because of the familiarity of his music’s tales and feeling, but because he is a hungry music lover, just like the rest of us.
In part 2 of our 3 part feature, The Pineapple Thief frontman Bruce Soord spoke to Ghost Cult about the positive impact of change on their new album, Magnolia, which is out now on KScope.
The shorter, more to the point song durations on Magnolia do hint at the band feeling rejuvenated and refocused and a prime factor for the band’s returning sense of energy according to Soord (but not a direct influence on the song’s shorter structures) is the arrival of new drummer Dan Osbourne. “When he came in he gave us all a massive kick up the backside because we… I wouldn’t say we were resting on our laurels as we didn’t have a laurel to rest on, but I think we were going on a tough time, and some things happened that led to previous drummer (Keith Harrison) leaving. Dan came in and brought such an energy.”
The presence of brand new personnel can often reignite the spark within a band and Osbourne was certainly no different. “He listened to our entire back catalogue and reminded me of stuff that I used to do that I had forgotten about. There’s a lot more guitar on Magnolia and a lot of lush layers that I used to do that maybe I had let go of, especially on Someone Here is Missing (Kscope) which I guess was a lot more brash and raw, so we have sort of gone back to more lush arrangements. And I think he brought in a lot more quality control and attention to detail in terms of production. He’s been a really good shot in the arm.”
In fact, the addition of Osbourne to the fold is something that Soord describes as being of huge importance, despite his previous work in vastly different musical realms. “His background was pop session work. Obviously he has a knowledge of the music industry and he has a studio in his flat, so he knows what he is talking about. It was nice to get him from a completely fresh perspective, kind of like Phil Collins when he joined Genesis, its like this guy comes in and shakes it all up.”
Soord continues: “He started asking questions and pushing me further than I would normally push myself, which is a perfect attribute of a producer, getting better results out of me.”
With his pop history you might expect that Osbourne was influential in giving the album a more accessible direction, but Soord points out that the song writing began long before his arrival, in what turned out to be a drawn out and arduous process. “It does take a long time, you can’t force it. I have a guitar lying around and when inspiration is dished out then I just pick up the guitar and go. The thing is if you don’t get that magic, that spark immediately then its not going to come if you work at it, you just have to put it aside and leave it for the time being. I think it was about 18 months, the song writing. It was a real labour of love.”
With their 10th album, Magnolia (Kscope), Brit prog rockers The Pineapple Thief have given quite possibly their strongest and certainly most instant and catchy album to date. In Part 1 of a 3 part series, Ghost Cult looked behind their new found immediacy and greater critical reception to find a darker undercurrent of loss and despair for frontman and creative leader Bruce Soord.
There is very little in life that can offer as much emotional and nostalgic resonance as music. Even the most casual of fan will surely have an attachment to certain songs or albums for personal reasons, whether as a reminder of a past event or person, or perhaps as comfort through hardship and adversity; sometimes it seems like a band or artist can spell out our emotions better than ourselves. With their combination of melancholy but overriding positivity, modern progressive rockers The Pineapple Thief are a masterclass in creating music which has can hold poignant familiarity for all.
Latest album Magnolia makes a perfect archetype for their simultaneous blend of both the somber and the uplifting, from the punchiness of ‘Alone At Sea’ through to the closing, heart tugging ‘Bond’. In reality this album holds real emotional gravitas for frontman and main song writer Bruce Soord, written in the wake of the passing of his long and close friend Steve Coe, as Soord explains.
“Sometimes I’m tempted to apologise for the subject matter, the stuff that inspires me to write songs, I’ve made no secret that it’s the darkness that inspires me. When things happen that you can’t put into words, that’s when I pick up my guitar, and obviously when Steve passed away it wasn’t like ‘Wow I’m going to write some songs’ I just found myself writing and the best stuff unfortunately comes from then.”
The tragic passing of someone dear is an experience that anyone can affiliate to, and Soord offers that this is as much a reasoning for the making of such songs as his own healing process: “I think also these universal experiences that everyone goes through, this means they can relate to it. It’s not exceptional, unfortunately life can be pretty shit for people. The reason I write about that stuff is because it’s like therapy for me and I’d like to think its therapeutic for other people who listen to it.”
In hindsight, perhaps the most moving effort on Magnolia is the strikingly fragile closing ballad ‘Bond’, which is clearly Soord speaking directly to his friend. “When someone dies it’s such a strange feeling, there’s nothing you can do, it’s the most final thing in life. It’s that emotion that I found most intriguing, so the final song ‘Bond’ was me desperately trying to find something positive about the death of my friend, and that song is about taking everything, all the experiences he has given me, and taking it forward.”
Despite such tragedy however, 2014 sees The Pineapple Thief in their strongest position to date with Magnolia being received extremely well by both the media and an ever growing fanbase. With Magnolia being the band’s most direct and accessible album to date with only one song exceeding the five minute mark, the question is posed as to whether this album has been an eye opener for a wider audience?
“I think it has, and it will be a slow thing.” Soord offers, before clarifying that it wasn’t necessarily his intention to do so. “People always talk about crossing over as if people are desperate to do it but it really doesn’t cross my mind. I think some of the more cynical people will look at the album and think ‘Well, they are just trying to be more commercial and trying to sell more records’ but that honestly wasn’t the case. If by not scaring people away with ten minute songs, if that gets us more listeners then great, but it certainly wasn’t something that we did on purpose.”
There should be no doubt by now of the ability of rock and metal to reach new and distant climes across our planet. Progressive rock, additionally, has stretched its hand beyond the Western world into more unexpected territories. Testament to this is Dubai’s own Empty Yard Experiment with their melancholy drenched take on modern prog.
Debut full length Kallisti (Independent) shows a wealth of ideas and varied influences. Predominantly it shows a sonic likening to Porcupine Tree (particularly on the likes of ‘Greenflash’) but also points towards Tool worship in its sense of dynamic shifts and even shades of grunge’s raw, demon ridden angst. Where Kaillisti really shows its strength is in its despondent atmosphere almost throughout, encapsulated through its slow pace for the vast majority, only picking up its stride in a few, more immediate songs. Instead much of the album is built upon subtlety, on a construct of mostly instrumental tracks layered with spoken samples.
As effective as conveying tone as the album is however, it does lack familiarity throughout. The few songs where it does hit the throttle are the musical highlights, otherwise on its own merit there seems to be a few too many instrumental passages which lead to nowhere. Ultimately this feels like the soundtrack to a film that doesn’t exist; showing real merit for a background piece but not as a main act in itself. The few instances where it picks up the momentum are where this album is strongest and shows that they have a knack for penning a riff and a strong tune. Elsewhere it shows a plethora of ideas and exudes ambiance, but not enough substance to be as special as they could be.