Kylesa Talk Twisting Through "Spiral Shadow"
Mon, 25 Oct 2010 12:21:01
Kylesa twist and turn down on a new path on Spiral Shadow.
Due out October 26, Spiral Shadow is as dramatically dangerous as Static Tensions, but there's an ethereal darkness to the album that sits somewhere between Kid A and Superunknown. Certainly, there's no shortage of the pulverizing polyrhythmic fret wizardry that Kylesa have conjured so well on records past, but there's also a warm darkness to the watery tones of "The Distance Between Us" and the beautifully destructive riffing on the ten-minute plus "Spiral Shadow." This is Kylesa at their heaviest and most hypnotic yet, and it's one of the albums of 2010.
Laura Pleasants of Kylesa [vocals/guitar] sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview about making Spiral Shadow, thinking of songs visually and some of the artists that shaped her.
Did you have a complete vision for this album when you went into the studio?
Phillip [Cope, vocals/guitar], Carl [McGinley, drums/percussion] and I got together in January and started to write. Phillip and I talked about themes for lyrical content. We also spoke about the fact that we've been a band for a long time, and this will be the last record of a decade. We've grown a lot as musicians and together. We weren't like, "Okay, let's go in this direction." We knew we wanted to make a cool headphone record with lots going on. I knew I wanted to do more open, trippy guitar parts. We wanted to take a song like "Unknown Awareness" with the atmospheric, trippy elements and do more with that. However, it wasn't super calculated. What we were writing came naturally. I went down to Savannah and completely focused on writing music. I felt what I was writing was honest, and I liked what I was doing. I knew it was different, but it felt right. We did have a vision for the record as far as sound. We wanted to make it more open-sounding, whereas Static Tensions is very dramatic and tight-sounding. This record is more airy, and everything opens up a lot more.
It's a very unpredictable record because anything can happen in these dangerous lush soundscapes.
We knew we wanted to do that; we just weren't sure how we were going to [Laughs]. Everything progressed in a natural, organic way. I had massive notes before I went into the studio. I knew we had a lot to do in a short amount of time. I had notes as to what amps I was going to use for certain parts, guitars I wanted to use and all of the settings on the effects. All of that was worked out in my head but, of course, there was some experimentation as well. Happy accidents also happen in the studio. The songs often take on a life of their own, and they change. That certainly did happen in this case.
Do you think of music visually?
I'm a very visual thinker, even when it comes to music. I think of it in a visual sense. It's got to touch all of my senses. I want to somehow be able to share that with the listener.
What's the story behind "Dust?"
The mix on that song came out really cool. Phillip worked on that in response to one of the songs that I had been working on. He came up with the vocals. He's got this really cool, deep voice that I didn't know he had. It was really Phillip's mixing that made that song so awesome. I went in and started playing guitar. I came up with the melody in the middle, and it had this neat tone to it. He had the bass really distorted. We did a bunch of airy guitar parts. It was originally Phillip's vision, but I added my guitar sparkles over it [Laughs].
What's up with "Spiral Shadow?"
I worked on it for a long time. Getting that laid out, for whatever reason, took me awhile structurally. I wanted to go back to this classic rock structure and have those tones. It was an intense song for me. I wrote it for my mother who has been struggling with cancer. I wanted to write this epic song for her, but I wanted it to incorporate these warm classic rock tones. Originally, we were going to have that song last, but I think it really works where it does. It takes you on this journey later on in the record, but it doesn't end the record. You still have more of a journey to go.
If this album were a movie or a combination of movies, what would it be?
Interesting! We always do think in visual terms. I would say it'd be a montage of a lot of different stuff. When Phillip came up with "Don't Look Back," I was like, "This riff reminds me of driving a car. I need to be in a car listening to this." That would be a driving song. There are landscapes, cityscapes and lots of colors. I don't know if I could give you a specific movie.
Do you tend to read a lot when you're writing?
Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don't. I was reading some Cormac McCarthy when I was writing this. I like his writing style a lot.
Which records shaped you?
When I'm writing, I do go back to records that really affected me or give me inspiration. Black Sabbath is one of my favorite bands. I always go back and reference Pink Floyd and jam on them. For this particularly record, I did go back to a lot of stuff I grew up on that I maybe hadn't listened to in awhile. I loved Alice In Chains and Soundgarden when I was younger. I loved The Pixies. I was listening to a lot of that for sure.
Have you heard Spiral Shadow yet?