Pelican Might Not Nest in the IE but It Sure Does Like Coming Here

By Lynn Lieu

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Posted June 20, 2012 in Music
Metal, post-metal, showgaze, shoegaze metal? What? Bands are continually crossing genres and then crossing those genres. And while it makes things interesting, it’s becoming really hard to tell someone what a band sounds like. In 2000, Pelican hit theChicagomusic scene and brought on a whole new genre that even in this day and age it’s hard to categorize. Somewhere between instrumental and what others have described as shoegaze metal, Pelican nested. So when I got the opportunity to ask Pelican’s Trevor de Brauw what the heck its sound is, I took it—and if you’re still confused just check out the upcoming show at The Glass House on Saturday.

Can you tell us about the new EP? Is it something fans expect or is there something different?
A little of both—the EP was both a chance to finish up some songs that weren’t ready in time for the last album and to try out some really different ideas for us. The reception from fans so far has been really positive, so I think we’re barking up the right tree. 

I hear you have a full-length in the works. Anything you can tell us about that? Is it similar to the EP?
Yeah, writing is underway for that. The EP gave us a little bit of a kick start; we’d been working really slowly for awhile, but working on the newer songs with a different approach really got the juices flowing again. It’s too early to say whether it will be really similar to the EP, but my feeling is that it will be a new chapter for the band altogether. Not in terms of being a radical deviation from our sound, but I do think the song writing is going in a bit of a different direction.

I read some where that you guys don’t consider your sound to be strictly metal. And I’ve heard you guys described as shoegaze-metal. How would you describe your sound?
I’m at a bit of a loss for that, I’m afraid. All of us are voracious music consumers and it plays out in the myriad of influences that we touch on in our songs. We definitely have some of the riffy-ness and heaviness typical in metal, but also tend toward the atmosphere and emotive qualities that are not always present in that genre.

I know there a few bands like Isis and then Tortoise that have been compared to you guys. Can you give me a basic description of your soundscape? What’s out there as far as shoegaze-metal (if that’s what you want to call it) and even instrumental shoegaze-metal?
When I think of bands that are successfully merging the atmosphere of shoegaze and the heaviness of metal I tend to think more of Jesu and Alcest than I would us. There’s definitely a lot of instrumental bands that we get compared to, like Russian Circles, Mono, Explosions in the Sky and so forth, but I think those bands tend to focus more on the emotional heft and atmosphere of their songs than we do—we have a lot of the immediacy of punk in our blood and I tend to think of our songs as being concise and direct. Bands like Fugazi and Husker Du often come up as a point of reference, internally, and I think merging some of the melodicism and immediacy of that sound with the heaviness of metal is more or less the key to what we’re doing.

Also what is it like being an instrumental band? Is there technically a front man? What is the band dynamic?
It’s great—we’re very egalitarian with no one competing for the spotlight. Everything we do is in service of the song.

What is the writing process like? You don’t have to deal with lyrics but does that take a way or add to your music (your opinion)?
Generally one of us will bring a loose structure to the rest of the band and we’ll collaborate to flesh it out to a full entity. I think our experience as individuals is that spoken language is a very imperfect method of self-expression. Music fills that need in our lives; instead of lyrics our songs contain messages in the melodies and structures that we would not be able to communicate by any other method.

Was there any initial decision process that led to being an instrumental band?
When we started the band we had no intention of remaining instrumental, but none of us wanted to sing. We didn’t have much luck tracking down a singer and soon we had a bunch of songs and felt the need to start sharing them, so we booked shows. The songs went over well in the live environment without singing, so we knew it was safe to proceed as we were. Before long we were crafting songs with the thought in mind that they were instrumental and began to fill every nook and cranny with notes, filling the spaces where a singer would usually go. In the end I think it worked to our favor since many folks that would not typically gravitate to heavy music latched on to what we were doing since we didn’t having someone imposingly screaming over the songs.

Is there anything else you would like to tell us?
That we’re happy to be coming back to the area—we played the Glasshouse in 2006 and haven’t been back since, so it’ll be nice to be back. Thanks so much!

The Glass House, 248 W. Second Ave., Pomona, (909) 865-3802; www.scionav.com/metalshow. Free with RSVP. 1pm-6pm. 


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