The monolithic Pelican is back with a brand spanking new full-length entitled Forever Becoming (Released in October through Southern Lord recordings) and a new tour to accompany it. Recently, guitarist Trevor de Brauw spoke with Rock And Roll Fables about the challenges that awaited the band on album number five, how new guitarist Dallas Thomas is working out, and why it took so damn long to put out the album. Read on for more below:
It’s been over four years since your last full-length with only one EP in the interim. What caused such a gap between full-lengths?
When our last album was released in 2009 we were doing the band full time, touring constantly, and just generally following a constant cycle of writing and recording between tours. But at the end of that album’s tour cycle we were getting the feeling that that lifestyle and career path was not sustainable- we were on the road five months a year and scrounging for part time work when we’d get home to just barely scrape by. It was obvious that things had to shift; so we stopped touring and put the band on hold for a bit while we figured out how to make it work writing, recording, and touring-wise in a less time consumptive manner. The process of recording the EP was instrumental in that, actually, it kind of acted as an impetus to get moving again as well as laying a blueprint for how to make it work.
This is the first album without Laurent Schroeder-Lebec in the fold. What does Dallas Thomas bring to Pelican?
We’re all self-taught and have almost no music vocabulary at our disposal. Dallas is an actual musician who knows music theory. He has a distinct sense of when things work and when they don’t and knows how to communicate it effectively. I can tend to be a bit imprecise and non-committal about how I play specific parts, but Dallas is very into regimentation, so he reigns in some of those bad habits of mine.
Besides the new line-up, what sets Forever Becoming apart from other Pelican releases?
It’s the first album where Bryan and I acted as song writing collaborators. We’ve always tended to start the songwriting process as duos within the band, but over all these years Bryan and I never worked together at that stage of the process. It gave us occasion to really challenge each other and develop a different kind of musical rapport. I think it lent the material a reinvigorated sense of urgency.
You released “Deny The Absolute” early as a single/7″ on The Mylene Sheath with a different version ultimately appearing on Forever Becoming. This is the third album in a row using that approach (“Ephemeral” and “March To The Sea” come to mind as other examples). Do you tend to pick songs beforehand that will have two versions?
This is something we’ve always done. In part I think it stems from an impatience with the songwriting process- writing an album takes a long time and we get anxious and want to hear some of the stuff recorded earlier than later. Every time the song or songs we do early are more a matter if which song was fleshed out earlier than others. I think it also taps into our relationship to music as fans and collectors. Some of my favorite records of all time are EPs- the best ones are succinct and leave you wanting more, which is a really nice feeling in a way.
Pelican has been on a variety of labels over the years (The Mylene Sheath, Hydra Head, Southern Lord). What’s the appeal of mixing up labels and do you think there will ever be a permanent home for Pelican?
We’ve had the fortune of working with friends, for the most part. What’s been so tremendous and great about Hydra Head and Southern Lord is that both are musician-run labels, so they have full sympathy and trust in the vision we’re trying to achieve. Generally it’s nice to work with a few different people here and there just to get a sense about how people do things differently and maybe catch the attention of different people that might be following one label more closely than another, but the priority is always to work with people who want to help us fulfill our vision.
What is your proudest moment since starting with Pelican?
I think the first time our local daily paper Chicago Tribune wrote a feature about us was a big standout because our parents all took real notice. And they compared our music to yoga, which was sort of odd, but it made my dad really stoked since he’s very into yoga.