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Blind Pilot

Recorded at Type Foundry Studios in Portland, Oregon (which singer-guitarist Israel Nebeker calls “a neat place in an industrial area by the river”), Blind Pilot’s latest album, We Are the Tide, perfectly showcases what NPR calls the band’s “…sturdy, gorgeous songs.”

And indeed they are. Nebeker, his co-band founder Ryan Dobrowski know how to structure a tune, setting down a foundation first and then crafting memorable choruses and thoughtful verses atop. This time around, the studio was part of the process.

“Type Foundry is an old building, and the materials it’s made of are still quite basic,” Nebeker explains, “wood, brick, and steel. I’ve noticed that artists of all kinds will go to great lengths to surround themselves with spaces that feel ‘real’ as far as in the materials and functionality when they are creating. It’s odd, because art is maybe one of the most immediately impractical parts of our culture, but artists seem to be drawn to places that were created for the most practical purposes possible. But that said – the space felt great, and we were quite at home in it.”

Recorded took about a month (the band broke for a bit of touring in the middle) and resulted in ten concise, eclectic songs. “Half Moon” has an elusive feel, as if the ghost character in the lyrics can’t quite decide whether to stay hidden from earshot or not; “Get It Out” adds unexpectedly peppy percussion to what would otherwise be a classic shoegaze number; and “Get You Right” takes its cue from indie-Americana music, with a dash of banjo seasoning. It’s a set that on the surface, appears to be carefully constructed with plenty of instrumental experimentation to keep things interesting – but it’s actually just a result of the band’s innate sensibilities after a half-dozen years of working together.

“There’s no secret,” Nebeker chuckles, “I just was drawn to certain instruments and wasn’t really thinking about what realm of music they belonged to. I don’t think of my own songs in terms of being any particular type of songs, either. They were just instruments that felt right to me when I imagined them in my songs.”

Musical preference can be a subtle thing, Nebeker continues, but forms the groundwork for what an artist will create.

“I think that’s how it goes a lot of times,” he says, “it becomes the basis for a whole structure or form.”

Following his instincts left room for more impromptu moments in the studio, as well.

“My favourite moments were always the accidents,” he says. “Recording is just like any other creating, where you set out to do one thing and work hard toward that – but in the end, the best stuff is what you didn’t plan on. There were oftentimes a lot of people in the studio, trying out lots of different parts and instruments and tactics. It was a lot of big messes that would sometimes get frustrating, but then we’d stumble upon something so interesting that it became a new focus.”

Surprisingly, there wasn’t a particular focus to the album, either – at least not in the beginning. But as the album progressed, Nebeker says that a common thread became apparent.

“To me there’s a theme to these songs, because they represent a string of events and advice to myself from a certain portion of my life,” he explains. “I don’t know how much the specific themes I was going through really need to communicate literally, but there are at least some general repetitions in sentiment.”

“Almost all of the songs deal with being at a point,” he continues, “a precipice, where things could sway many different ways from here. I hear themes of facing death, of facing decision, and of realizing the importance of finicky circumstance – but also of the things one can still always hold tight to – place, home, who you are regardless, things like that.”   – Kristi Kates