Blind Pilot‘s new recording And Then Like Lions drops this Friday (August 12th), after a five-year gap since their second album, We Are the Tide, in 2011. (You may have heard the title song from We Are the Tide as the soundtrack to Corona commercial lately.)
The new record was written in response to grief. Blind Pilot frontman Israel Nebeker’s father, North Coast-area painter and teacher Royal Nebeker, passed away in 2014, and writing and working out arrangements for new songs was a way to explore loss and renewal in the collective environment of the band. Nebeker says his father was profoundly influential in his music.
Nebeker: “He was definitely my biggest mentor in songwriting even though he didn’t write songs, because as soon as I was old enough to start getting interested in writing … he kind of opened the door to talking about creative process in general and that was a conversation that was ongoing from then on. We really loved riffing off of, ‘Oh yeah, that’s really how it is with me too, with songs or with painting.’”
DC: What’s an example of something in common, that was similar between painting and songwriting?
Nebeker: The idea of intention was one, where you go at it, meaning to say one thing, and then it gets turned around and it surprises you and becomes something totally different. Yet it still has that intention in there, it’s just more. There’s part that you work towards, to make, and then part that’s given.
Once Nebeker brought the beginnings of songs to the group, they set about writing and arranging them, with the band’s typically lush instrumentation and swells of choruses. Bassist/backup vocalist Luke Ydstie told us the key to that was also intentionality:
Ydstie: That’s a really interesting process. It’s a lot of what we talk about when we’re working on these songs, is the intention and emotions behind it and how we can best make it sing and be what it wants to be. Sometimes it just falls into place really easily and we do the right thing for it.. and other times we just have to keep working at it for such a long time… We really have to think about what the meanings and the emotions are to make it land right. It doesn’t work out otherwise.
Listen to the full interview with the band below and download mp3s of the performance - including a bonus song, “Joik #3.” (After we talked about the song during the interview, the band decided to play the song before they finished.) Watch all of the performances in the player above.
Blind Pilot plays August 19th and 20th at the Liberty Theater in Astoria, and October 20th at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland. You can also see an exhibit of work by Israel Nebeker’s father, Royal Nebeker, at Augen Gallery in Portland through August 27.
Audio recording and mixes: Steven Kray, with assistance from Hakeem Hasworth, Randy Layton, and William Ward
Editor: Jarratt Taylor
Videographers: Jarratt Taylor, Nate Sjol, Chase Amen
Production assistance: Nick Hennessy
Executive Producer: David Christensen