November 2002 - PELICAN

Since I've started with the webzine I received a lot of unsigned music from very unknown bands. Some of this underground releases are just boring and average, and there's really no need in releasing them to a bigger audience. Gladly, the self-titled CD-EP of PELICAN belongs not into this group. This ultra-heavy American instrumental outfit knows to grab my attention with four tasteful compositions, that are full of deep emotions and hypnotic rythms. Melodies are something important in PELICAN's music and a hint of psychedelic makes the music more fascinating. And the don't forget to wrap all this up into a massive heavy sound that will make you forget time. So, read this interview, where the whole band was involved and check out the mystizism behind PELICAN.


Hello! For me,your four-song CD was one of the best surprises of 2002. I've never heard anything of PELICAN before, so please give us a insight in the early days of the band. When have you started and what is the musical background of different band members?

Laurent and Trevor have been playing in bands together for six or seven years. Four years ago Trevor got together with Larry to do a grind band called Tusk. Though Laurent is a guitarist, he was asked to play bass in the group. After a couple years of this being our primary band, Laurent started to miss playing guitar. Out of nowhere he wrote a bunch of songs and suggested we start doing another band, Pelican, enlisting Larry’s brother Bryan to play bass. After a year of rehearsing we started playing out.

What was the intention to form the band and was it planned to play as an instrumental outfit?

The intention was really just to have an outlet for the songs Laurent was putting together. We all appreciate playing in a slower band where there’s more space for sound and structural exploration.

Is the self-titled CD-EP the band's first release?

Yes. Fortunately we decided to postpone recording for the first year of doing the band, so by the time we recorded we had the best possible selection of songs. More than a couple songs were painstakingly arranged just to be thrown away that first year.

How is the response for the CD? Have you received a lot of feedback for it?

The response for the CD has been tremendous -- far greater than we expected! Right away awarded it “album of the month.” Soon afterward a local newspaper called New City started writing us up and before we knew it lots of new faces were showing up at shows, and the CD was selling out at record stores around town. It’s only been four months and we’re already about to sell out of the initial pressing of 500.

I think, that your overwhelming sound is very physically and visual. You can almost touch it, when it comes out of the speakers and that's only on my stereo, so how must it sound live What do you want to achieve when you play live and how important is sonic intensity for you? How does the audience react to your massive heavy music?

There’s no question that our live performances are extremely loud. It’s almost always the first thing people say about our band. This first came from us turning up at practice to be heard over Larry’s thunderous drumming, but it grew to be an aesthetic. We’re glad you say you find the music “physical” as this is primarily what we attempt to achieve. In absence of vocals, it’s important to engage listeners in an active way. In our case, the sheer volume of our performances physically engages the audience - willingly or not.The vibrations of sound literally fill their bodies. Some favorite comments were one woman who said she grew so used to the physical feeling our of sound that when we stopped playing she felt nauseous, and one fellow who said he looked down at his feet and saw them moving involuntarily in rhythm with Larry’s double bass. In a way, the need to elicit physical participation in an audience mirrors the way club culture attempts to force audience participation by bombasting crowds with subsonic bass and unrelenting thumping drums - it becomes impossible not to lose oneself in the rhythm of the music and actively participate through dance. But we elicit a passive reaction:We’re not looking for people to dance but to lose themselves in the waves of sound washing over and through them.

Let's talk about your concerts a bit later. To go back to the self-released debut, the sound is definitely very brilliant and powerful. You've recorded and mastered the tracks at the MaximumMac Studios. How long did you needed for it?

The songs were recorded by our friend Sanford Parker at Seraph Studios in one day. We took a day to mix it about a week later. Then we brought it to Doug Ward at MaximumMac Studios to master it. It didn’t really take all that much time since we’d been rehearsing these songs for so long.

What kind of equipment does the band use? Is it important for you, to take special amps and/or effects etc.?

As volume is such a fundamental concern for the group, we have taken special care in selecting our gear. Laurent plays a Sunn 2000S head through a Mesa cab; Trevor a Mesa Triple Rectifier through a Mesa cab; Bryan an all-tube SVT II through an SVT cab; and Larry plays on a nine-piece double kick drum Ludwig kit. Bryan and Larry were both playing on lesser equipment when the CD was recorded - the sound is much fuller now.

Although you have a lot of mighty and über-weighty riffs in your songs, it seems as if you're also focused on small interwoven beautiful melodies, which enriches the melancholic mood of the songs. How important are melodies for you?

Melody is a crucial aspect of our music - even more so in the songs we’ve written since the EP. This ties back to our existence as an instrumental band. Typically the singer is the band member that audiences empathize with and are drawn into the music by, and this is because of their control of the melody. To make due without a singer, we have to create compelling melodies that function the same way a singer would. Many bands have proved that heavy music can be very effective and emotional without melody, but it limits the range of emotions one can articulate.

Another important aspect is this dynamic and hypnotic element in your music,mixed up with a bit of psychedelia. Can you agree?

Very much so. This is not so much a part of the song writing process as it is a separate phenomenon that occurs live. Many friends and listeners have described going into trance-like states during our sets. Because the immense volume diminishes the ability to focus on much else, the audience succumbs to the music. Our songs are somewhat structured like lines of thought, an idea that burrows into one’s head and develops one small detail at a time, arriving at conclusions only after every possible option has been examined. This is something the best psychedelic musicians (Can, Terry Riley, Ash Ra Temple, La Monte Young, etc...) were masters of.

You've played together with bands as Isis, High On Fire or Knut, f.e.How much gigs have you played in the past, and what were some of the best evenings, that you still remember?

Of course playing with Isis has been cool, as they have been so cool and supportive of us. One real standout show, though, was a show that our friend Lexie set up for us at a local dive called The Mutiny. Lexie was working at Thrill Jockey Records at the time - she was the first person to try and step up for us and get our name out to record label people. She wanted to set up a big show for us, and it looked kind of like it wasn’t working - we were the headliners (though not many had heard of us at the time), the two opening bands were even less known than us, and the venue changed only days before the show. All this aside, there was a great turnout and everyone hung around to check us out. We played every song we knew and everyone was into it. It was a triumph for a young band.

Somewhere I've noticed, that you've played a few gigs in mid-October in the USA.How much people are coming to a PELICAN show and how were this gigs?

We played a tremendous show with Isis, Dalek, and the Oxes a few weeks back that drew several hundred people - it was a great night and a great crowd. However, this was very atypical for us. We seem to draw somewhere between fifty and eighty people when we’re the primary band on the bill - depending on what club we play at.

The whole cover-layout is very tasteful with its silver-shimmering cover and the informative inlay. Who's responsible for it?

Our friend Andrew Furse took the photograph on the cover, which was manipulated using a Canon 1100 color copier by another friend Peter Nilges. We then had our buddy Rob Doran silk-screen the covers. It was a combination of the band’s ideas and the ideas of our friends, really. We’re very happy about the way it turned out.

The CD is a self financed release. Have any label shown interest until now,or are you planning to release further material on your own?

One of our earliest shows as a band was with Isis in the Fall of 2001. After we played several members of the band approached us, and told us they were into our band and wanted to hear a recording. At the time we had nothing but an empty promise that we’d send something when it came together. When the CD came out, we remembered their interest and sent them a few. Right away Aaron got back to us and expressed interest in the band and said Hydra Head would want to do a rerelease of the CD and our next full length. We can’t imagine a better home for our music, so we immediately agreed.

If people are interested in ordering the CD-EP, where can they get it or is it sold-out? If yes, do you looking for a re-pressing?

The band pressing is so close to selling out that we’re not encouraging mail orders anymore. The Hydra Head reissue will be coming out February 11th. Interested folks should contact the label.

I was a bit surprised, as I've checked out that you've got no homepage.What's the reason for it? Do you want to create one in the future?

We’re currently collaborating with a local artist on a webpage. No one in the group is particularly technology-savy, which explains the long absence of Pelican internet resources. We’ve also delayed because we’ve wanted to be sure that our webpage is not standard fare.We want it to be something that reflects our music’s feel of ambiguities and stream-of-consciousness. More than simply informative, we want it to a be a free standing work of art.

For me personal, a band as PELICAN or Isis f.e. breaks over the boundaries of Doom and Noise, and together with other musical elements, the result is very refreshing and inspiring. Ok, it's still rock music in its widest meaning, but very open-minded. What do you think about?

Pelican is gifted in that our particular intermingling of influences has created a music that doesn’t appeal to just one specific crowd, but to a multitude of tastes. Some of our listeners have shared with us that we are the only “heavy” band they are into, while others have told us that they are excited that we are one of the few out and out metal bands in Chicago. We consider the greatest music to be the sort that can be personalized by a great number of people - it taps into universal emotions and musical concepts that all feel some connection to. At this point in musical history it’s very hard for anyone to fathom truly new musical ground that might be covered. The only real borders that remain to be crossed are the intermingling of different influences. It is crucial to the longevity of any musical style that it be open to evolution, which typically implies that elements of other styles become incorperated into the sound.

What do you think about bands as Godflesh, Earth or Isis? Do you feel influenced by them?

Besides all being great musicians, the artists you mentioned share a common thread of incorporating melody into massively heavy music and developing epic song structures through repetition and subtle changes. It would be foolish to claim we are not influenced by this approach to music.

Although there's on one side a big difference between PELICAN and Khanate or Sunn 0))) or Teeth of Lion rules the Divine, it seems as if you've got much in common with this heavy droning way of creating monolithic sonic sculptures. Do you see this connection or don't you feel any kind of relations to this bands?

Insofar as we share a common interest in experimentation and utilization of noise to express musical ideas, there are parallels between us and the groups you mention. Some people find the Pelican CD to be very “drone” oriented, but we never really conceived of the music in this way. This is not to say we don’t appreciate being grouped with bands we’re fans of, we just didn’t consider this approach when we wrote our songs.

Do you have a philosophical approach with your music? Are you personal interested in politics, religion and/or philosophy?

There is no single philosophy that the members of Pelican collectively espouse. One consideration is that our music is rooted in ambiguities and creating space for interpretation, something which much modern music (and other media forms) neglects. Consider Weezer’s most recent material (compressed to the point where every nuance of every instrument has been pressed into one single sound pounding out the speakers) against the Velvet Underground’s early records (lo fi and trashy, only very close listens will reveal some of the details buried below waves of distortion and drones). To make sense of the Velvets, one has to pay close attention and contemplate the connections between instruments. Although Pelican is very much interested in a high standard of production (we want clarity of every instrument in our recordings), the absence of vocals and the trance-inducing nature of the repetitive music creates space for creative fulfillment by listeners. Because none of our songs is meaning-specific, space exists for listeners to delve within and make sense and meaning out the music internally.

Although 2002 isn't over, I like to ask you how this year was (and still is)for PELICAN. Are you satisfied with it, and what your plans for 2003?

2002 was the year we saw our music released. The CD has had much acclaim, earned us a deal with Hydra Head, and a gotten us a good degree of local notoriety. It has been a fantastic year for the band, and next year will only be better. 2003 will see the rerelease of the EP on Hydra Head, the recording and release of our first full length, and our first tour. Needless to say, we are extremely excited about the year to come.

Thanks a lot for your time and interest in answering the questions. I wish you all the best for PELICAN and good luck for the future. At least, if you like to add anything than feel free to do it.

Nope.Thank you very much for the opportunity! For band contact mail