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Pallbearer are a hard-working U.S. band that ever serious music lover should know about out. Since there 2012 album Sorrow And Extinction put the Little Rock, Arkansas, band on the map their unique mix of 1990s sounding alternative rock and modern day doom/sludge has seen the band steadily rise to new heights.

Their 2014 follow-up, Foundations Of Bureau, charted in the Billboard Top 100 while also earning a Best New Music and Band Album Of The Year nods from various music publications while the album was also listed by Rolling Stone as one of the albums of the year. Now with the release of their brand new album Heartless Heavy caught up with Brett Campbell the voice behind Pallbearer.
Brett admits that the band didn’t want to rest on the laurels of Foundations Of Bureau and again they wanted to push themselves. “We were essentially just trying to build on what we had done before,” he explains. “We want to continuously challenge ourselves as songwriters. Particularly with Foundations, our last album, we were trying to incorporate more elements of progressive rock and more progressive song structures because we are all really big fans of 1970s experimental music and progressive rock and we are really trying to push ourselves to kind of push ourselves with the template of our sound. So with Heartless I feel that we have spent so much time together on the road and just generally with each other we have gotten more comfortable with expanding our sound and our roles in the band and have been able to incorporate more of these complex ideas that we have always wanted to try and to strive to with the band. So this album is a compilation of a lot of the goals that we have had as a band from the beginning but probably didn’t have the skill to pull off until now.”

So where did Brett’s love for 70s music come from was it something that he explored when he was a child or was it something that he has fallen in love with later in life. “I really got into it as a teenager,” he says. “Probably about the same time that I was getting into metal. I grew up with a lot of old school country music because that is what was listened to where I am from. I’d hang out with my grandparents and they would listen to Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash and George Jones and stuff like that, so I think that story-telling thread of Pallbearer comes from that old country music, each song telling its own story. But when I was a very little kid the first thing I ever loved was classical music which of course has very sweeping, complex structures – not pop songs obviously. But then I started delving deeper into music as a teenager and one of the things that interested me in metal, aside from the outlet of frustration and aggression that you have as a teenager, was its open-endedness. Like in the sense there were so many sub-genres of metal that are all kind of different to one another but were all considered metal and then even within that you have the real left-field stuff within those sub-genres, bands that were really unique with experimental and really weird sounds. In the same way that metal seemed to me at the time was really free and limitless to me progressive rock had that feel to me as well. The idea that you could create these really imaginative and challenging song structures, that would also tell a story within themselves – within the music, and also that tendency towards that grandiose and majestic structures within stuff like Yes and Genesis, that epic feel really appealed to me as well – metal has a lot of that as well. So those two have always been the main striving forces in all areas. The epicness, the complexity but also the heaviness of metal and the density and the freedom of progressive rock and also the emotional directness of also classic country music.”

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With storytelling such a big emphasis with Pallbearer’s music Brett talks us through how the tracks come together. “Musically sometimes a track will take a matter of hours to write and then other times it might takes months and even years. There have been songs where I will write four or five minutes of and then I might have to come to it because we don’t know where it is going, and that might be coming back to it a year or so later and then it just clicks. Or we might work on it over time and still never be able to figure it out or maybe it will just click eventually. So songs always take time, sometimes it takes a lot of work and requires a lot of revision and sometimes they just flow massively. I don’t think one way is better than the other it’s just determining what is best for the song. But lyrically that is the last thing we do, like we do the lyrics last – after all the melodies, even the vocal melodies are worked out before the lyrics are written and typically what I will do is take melodies that I have come up with and find rhythms in the melodies that I have written and I won’t write words to them until the words start to form an idea and then those ideas kind of become a stream of consciousness kind of thing and then I will just go back and re-edit it until it tells some kind of story, but the lyrics themselves just seem to come from the music. It’s a combination of what kind of story I feel the music is trying to tell on its own and whatever is going on in my life or the world around us, stuff I’m reflecting on. It is a combination of how I feel and what I am thinking about and what I feel the music is trying to tell as a story.”

One of the things that Pallbearer did differently this time was stay at home and record the album in Little Rock so going on the Dave Grohl theory of cities and towns imprinting themselves on an album does that mean that there is a little bit of Little Rock in Heartless? “Oh certainly there is, it’s inescapable,” says Brett laughing a little. “I think there is a little bit of Little Rock on each of our albums even though the second one wasn’t recorded here. We needed new equipment really bad because we’ve never really had super-high dollar amps or anything, so we’ve always just kind of used what we could afford, so as a result of that our equipment was constantly breaking down and it would have to be in the shop every six months or so, so we were always cycling through our back-ups. By the time we ready to record we were pretty much on the back-ups of our back-ups, all of our gear was in disarray and barely working so we definantly needed new equipment so this kind of goes back a long way because our EP from last year was an experiment to check out a studio in our neighbourhood that the three of us lived in, not even a mile away from where we lived, and we wanted to check it out to see if it worked for our purposes. They had all the equipment we needed to record analogue and on paper it seemed all nice, and that is why we did that EP – to test the studio. We ended up really liking it and liking the results of it, the EP was recorded really quickly for the way we tend to work and the engineers were really nice to work with so before Heartless we bought all new equipment for us to record with and to do that we were able to use the money that we saved by recording in town. So we had new equipment we can use now and in the future and we didn’t have to worry about hotels, we could record and then go home and sleep in our own beds. So that certainly relieved a lot of stress and recording in itself is normally pretty stressful with the way we go about it, we’re perfectionists as much as we can be, so recording here in town was beneficial all round and it was with better quality gear than we have ever had before.”

Written by Dave Griffiths


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