Sunday 5 September 2010

KYLESA - Between Silence and Sound

Year of 2009 was a breakthrough for Savannah-based rockers Kylesa. They have released their self-titled debut in 2002 and later hit with another two decent full-lengths “To Walk a Middle Course” in 2005 and “Time Will Fuse Its Worth” in 2006 but only after “Static Tensions” was let out in March 2009 the band received the well deserved praise. Combining southern and sludge heritage with hardcore punk and psychedelia they created an original and recognizable swampy sound. Vocalist and guitarist Laura Pleasants explains the details.

“Static Tensions” sound compared to “Time Will Fuse Its Worth” is better, the writing is on a higher level, the whole thing seems to work as a very natural creation. How would you look at “Static Tensions” comparing it to your previous records?
Laura: I think it sums up some of what we were doing in the past while forging ahead with new ideas. I think it’s more refined than our past efforts. The song writing is better. The production is better.

Does the fact you have two drummers make the whole process of writing more of less difficult? I love the fact that you do not try to just fill the songs with the wall of blasting drums. You have the clear concept of using it. When I listened to Kylesa for the first time I didn't even realize you have two drum sets.
Laura: Well, no, because we still write songs. When we wrote “Static Tensions”, Phillip Cope and I wrote with Carl McGinley and we wrote with drum parts in mind but those said parts didn’t dictate the nature of the song. With the structure, we wanted good riffs and flow with vocals to match accordingly – we wanted to use the drums as a force and as a dynamic. I think it’s pretty apparent that there are two drum sets on “Static Tensions” – especially if you listen to the album on headphones. We didn’t have two drummers until 2006’s “Time Will Fuse Its Worth”.

Playing live you have the passion, the energy and the noise. Two drum sets give you that real driving force. Would you say drums are the crucial part of your sound?
Laura: No, I don’t think they are the most important element but maybe that’s because I play guitar. They are a very important element, especially live because of that added volume and force. There is without a doubt, an added intensity to the music with the two kits. But, they are one  part to a bigger whole. I think emotion and energy are probably the most important elements to Kylesa. It’s the way we shape the passion and energy that makes us who we are.

There is a bit of sludge, stoner, hardcore, crust and even punk in your style. Would you consider yourself as a metal band or rather an unidentified mix of many sub-genres of heavy and loud music?
Laura: We are of the latter for sure. I consider us a heavy band: heavy in sound, heavy in tone and heavy with emotion.
Phillip used to play with Damad between 1993 and 2001. Could you say what did you and others in Kylesa were up to before you get the band started and how did it all happen?
Laura: The original line up of Kylesa was the former members of Damad minus their singer, Victoria. I was going to school and playing in a few punk bands. I quit the last punk band due to musical differences and the fact that I was concentrating on my studies. I knew all the folks in Damad. I went to a lot of their shows. I became good friends with Brian Duke and Phillip and started hanging out a lot. Phillip and I started to jam around 1999 as I was looking for people to play seriously with. He broke Damad up in 2000 and asked me to start a band with him. I was into it because I liked his ideas and I wasn’t having any luck with anyone else around town. Carl, who has been our drummer since 2005, was born and raised in Savannah and is about 10 years younger than Phillip so he grew up on Damad. I was in school when I met Carl and I think he was about 14 at the time and I was maybe 19. I booked a show for his band Unpersons, who then sounded like the Germs. Of course the Unpersons grew tremendously over a few years and became my favourite Savannah band. They were leaps and bounds ahead of their time.

There are some good bands around Savannah. There are Baroness, Black Tusk and many more. Could you say some more about the city, the people that live there, the climate, the scene?
Laura: Savannah is very small. It is a port city, a college town and a tourist haven. Their used to be a decent scene there when we were starting out but it has since died down (I should also note the importance of Circle Takes The Square and the Unpersons as important bands). Black Tusk were another band to grow up listening to Damad and early Kylesa. I met James May (the drummer) when he was about 16 and we used to hang out a lot way before either of us were in bands. Baroness came a little later on around 2003. I met John at a Kylesa show. As far as the city goes, it’s a beautiful old southern town. It has the oldest historic district in the country. It’s beautiful yet there is an ugly underside. It has a very strange unique vibe and sometimes can be very oppressive. The heat in the summer is overwhelming. That’s when the crime seems to skyrocket the most. I have a love/hate relationship with Savannah.

Alex Newport of Fudge Tunnel and Nailbomb have produced “To Walk a Middle Course” album. How did you get to work with him?
Laura: We were interested in using a producer. I think Prosthetic Records had the idea to use him. It was an interesting experience. By far the best studio experience for me was when we did “Static Tensions”.

You have an outstanding cover arts. You have some stuff done by the famous Pushead. John Baizley of Baroness designed the artwork for “Static Tensions” and some of your  merch. You have done some covers for Kylesa yourself as well. I love bands that pay attention to how their albums look like. Do you?
Laura: The artistic representation of our band has always been important. I went to the art school in Savannah and Phillip grew up with this art school in his town thus, being surrounded by artists. It’s always been an important factor. I love looking at cool cover art, you know? When I was a kid, I would buy cds/records based on the cover art if I didn’t know who the band was. I love the really weird/odd ball art the best.

Is it hard to be a leader of a band and being a woman at the same time? Is it easier for a man? I think you have to prove so much more when you are a chick. People at first might think you probably are doing all those clean vocals and adding that little bit of sensitivity to a band. All this is crap but I think people like to make judgements a lot.
Laura: I want to make it clear that I am not the leader of the band. Phillip and I are equal creative partners. That said, it can be difficult being a female in a very male dominated scene. It can get old sometimes but I just do my own thing and don’t think too much about it. It’s not like I can compare it to being male in a band because I’ve never had that perspective.

You have covered Pink Floyd song “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” (originally from 1968 “A Saucerful of Secrets” album). Is music of 70s important to you? It is a big part of your inspirations?
Laura: Yeah it’s very important. I’ve been listening to music from the 70s since I was in middle school. Pink Floyd is a huge influence – especially early Floyd.

You have also covered EyeHateGod for the tribute album “For the Sick”. What does that band mean to you and the underground scene in the US?
Laura: EyeHateGod is a hugely important band for the southern sludge scene and the sludge scene in general. They are pioneers!

Whom did you play with in last 12 months?
Laura: I’ve been pretty happy overall with the bands we’ve toured with this past year. Some include: Skeletonwitch, Black Tusk, Mastodon, Intronaut, Torche, Amebix, Birushanah.

Metal press in Poland is not very much interested in other genres of metal except black, death and thrash. Yes, there is a lot of people into prog tech stuff but sludge, stoner and doom is more of a margin. I think most of the time sludge and stoner is more identified with hardcore and is naturally rejected by strict metal heads. I hate that but what can you do? Do you think it is also a case in the US?
Laura: I think early on our style of music was a bit rejected. It wasn’t punk enough for punks and it was too weird for metal heads. That has changed drastically over the past 5 years. It’s quite accepted now in the US and has strangely become popular. But like everything that gets popular, it will soon be rejected again.

Kylesa interview was done in November 2009 and published in Polish in 2010 in “Struggle Zine”. It's the first time it's published in English.

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