By Callum Doig
England’s prog rock scene has been a long runner thanks to classic acts such as Genesis, King Crimson and Yes. Thanks to their influence on this current generation, this has led to the birth of many groups that has included The Pineapple Thief, who will be releasing their eleventh full-length ‘Your Wilderness’ this month. With the album’s release date just days away, I chatted with frontman and founder Bruce Soord about the changes that were made in the process of the record, such as having Gavin Harrison of Porcupine Tree involved and evolved in their sound.
“I remember when I started to think about the next record, and I said to the guys ‘What are we gonna do?’ because the last record we did which was Magnolia, I really felt that the culmination of that period for me, was more of commercially bent progressive rock, I would say. So we had to do something different if we wanted to keep it fresh. So, I did change a hell of a lot of things when it came to recording and writing. On the other albums, I was a real control freak. I would get the demos up and play bass, program drums and the songs would be pretty close to finished other than having the rest of the band play.
So, for this album, I took a completely huge step back and allowed everybody to do their thing. It was terrifying for me. But, it was the only way for The Pineapple Thief to have a new identity going, and it took the band to a completely new level, especially for the eleventh record. As well as the fact that Gavin Harrison was drumming and recorded in his studio, our bass player Jon Sykes tracked all of his bass in his studio about 200 miles away, and such. It wasn’t an old school way of recording where you go to a studio for six weeks. It was quite remote, but thankfully, it all came together.”
Even though most recording sessions are usually hectic, Soord and co. felt the process that this time; it wasn’t the case when they went underway for Your Wilderness’s planning. Matter of fact, it was a better course for them, especially with the results of each other’s involvement in the making of the eleventh full-length.
“Every album is stressful when you record because you desperately want it to be as good as it can be. You’re always on the edge. But with this one, I wrote the songs and kept them basic. Then, I sent them off to the band, and it was the opposite of being stressful because I was putting my feet up during that time. Then, it was all put into the mix, and it all sounded perfect – better than what I could’ve done. And the good thing about it is that I have people around me that I can trust and can perform better than I can.”
Recording aside, Soord and everyone involved The Pineapple Thief feel that this was a complete record, especially because of the fact that it sounded more like an actual band than a solo project.
“The Pineapple Thief started out as a solo thing for the first five or six records, which was just me in my studio at home. But, this is the first time where it feels like a band. It’s not something I created; it’s something that the whole band formed. The other key thing is that Gavin’s drumming has just taken it to a new level and has given the band a shot in the arm and made us all step up a bit.”
According to Soord, the concept that he had placed in Your Wilderness can be interpreted right through its cover. While that’s true, it just so happens that the songs composed in this package give out extra detail in what Soord and the crew put together.
“I remember when I sat down and wrote the record, I wanted, for the first time, to have concept running through it. If you look at the front cover, it’s got a picture of a mother and a child looking out in the wilderness. The feelings that invoke for me is that the wilderness is the life, and the child is the future. As a child, the future is a terrifying and daunting prospect to look out on what could turn out and will become. The mother is thinking of the future of her child, and I think that sums up the concept. The songs begin with ‘In Exile’, which is dealing with separation and estrangement. It kind of processes that anyone who’s close to someone and the reconciliations that they may go through. It just follows the relationship between two people.”
With Your Wilderness flowing in more natural procedures, Soord explains the situation of how the earlier work in which The Pineapple Thief once created was all very controlled and schemed before their latest achievement was incarnated.
“It used to be very contrived because I would be a control freak. I would send out songs and demos that were pretty close to being finished, arrangement-wise. But, I changed it for this record. The songwriting process begins with me on acoustic guitar. And for this particular album, I used a baritone acoustic, which is fairly unusual. But, it gave me a sort of a new twist on songwriting. And this time, I just let the band do the thing. So, Your Wilderness was very much, the least contrived record that I’ve done. So, you never knew how it was gonna turn out and what was gonna happen in the end. You know, Gavin changed it quite remarkably with his drumming and Jon came out with bass lines that I have never dreamed of doing. And one of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t have this process with all the other albums before.”
That being said, Soord feels that because of this, it’s been able to help him be able to trust his bandmates and other musicians with what they’re able to create when the collaborate with him on a record.
“It’s made me sort of focus on what I’m best at, which is song writing and doing vocals. As much as I love guitar and come up with nice lines, Darren (Charles) is a much better guitar player than me. So, it kind of takes that focus away, which is a positive thing for me and it’s just really good for the band. You can see that the band are more enthused about the record, because they feel like they’ve got a bit of ownership to it.”