Idiot Pilot change it up with a few new additions
When they released their debut album, “Strange We Should Meet Here,” in 2005, Idiot Pilot turned heads with their unique amalgamation of screamo and electronic rock, as well as the fact that the entire band only consisted of two members. Now, vocalist Michael Harris and multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Daniel Anderson are touring in support of their latest release, “Wolves.” The Chronicle spoke with Anderson in between tour stops on the 2008 Taste of Chaos tour to discuss the band’s past, present and future.
Your new album, “Wolves,” technically came out in October, but there were a lot of delays in production and physical copies weren’t available until February. What happened?
There are so many elements in releasing a record, especially on a major label. Those machines are so big and there’s so many people working at them that it’s pretty easy for them to not be communicating as easily as like, a small indie label that has 5-10 people working. Every time something came up, something else would halt the project, but all of our ducks are in a row now and our plan of what we want to do with this record is very well defined now, so it’s all going very well.
There’s a very noticeable change of sound with “Wolves” compared to your first album, “Strange We Should Meet Here.” Was this calculated or organic?
When we were recording “Wolves,” I was listening back to it and was like, “Wow, this sounds like ‘Strange’. part two. I mean, we didn’t really define exactly where we wanted to go, but I really did think it was similar. As we went in, it really started to change, so I think those changes are organic and the way it came out is a whole other thing. The only thing planned was we had talked about bringing in our different influences. Our influences have changed, and we wanted to showcase them. With me, I liked the idea of taking the post-rock anthem, like an Explosions in the Sky song or a SigurRos song and comparing and combining that with the U2 anthem or the pop anthem. There are a lot of similarities between those two things, but there aren’t a lot of people who notice them. It’s the sort of contrast we were going for.
There were a lot of different, interesting people who contributed to the new album. What was it like working with Chris Pennie from The Dillinger Escape Plan and Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker from Blink 182?
It’s a really amazing thing to be able to grow up listening to these bands and then to be in the position that you’re working with them. It’s such a blessing; we’re very fortunate in the way that’s worked out. With Chris Pennie, especially, when we found out we could work with him we gave him a call and I wasn’t actually sure, just because he was in Dillinger, what he would think of the music, but he’s such a musician at heart. He was really into the songs and he brought so much to the table. It was awesome.
Ross Robinson and Mark Hoppus have co-producing credits on “Wolves,” but both come from wildly different musical backgrounds. Was there any clashing in direction between them, and if so, what effect did it have on the album?
We only actually spent about a week with Mark, and his credit should be more defined as “pre-production.” We came out to Burbank and went to his studio for some organization and to throw out ideas. It was more like hanging out for a week and going over the songs and getting his thoughts on them. After that, we went to Ross’s and worked over there for like six months, really delving in and getting into the songs, so the conflict was never really there. The time periods didn’t line up and their jobs were very different. We were really excited about having them both involved, because a lot of our band has to do with contrast of different ideas and putting together things people wouldn’t necessarily think would work and experimenting and changing people’s ideas of that. It was a good, literal example of us bringing together two very different kinds of music, which is something I think we’re good at.
For a long time it was only you and Michael Harris performing live, with a two-person stage dynamic. Recently you’ve added a live drummer. What was the thought process behind that?
We knew when we ended “Wolves” that it was a different way of presenting the band. With that evolution, you have to consider how it’s going to affect different aspects of everything. We felt that what we were trying to say with “Strange” was defined by how we presented it live. The two-person-and-a-computer thing was very intentional and very much related to the idea behind that album. The idea behind “Wolves” was a slightly different idea, so it presented itself to the evolution, in a more traditional context, of having a drummer. The way that it was created to be presented just lent itself to that, so that’s what we did.
Do you feel it compromises your performance in any way?
No, I mean, it actually kind of adds to it. I think that if we were, for instance, trying to do the message we did with “Strange” and only did songs off that album that it probably would, because that’s an important part of the meaning of that album, the fact that the band was half man, half machine. That was very intentional. The point of “Wolves” really doesn’t have anything to do with that, so it doesn’t really change it. I think that as a band, we’re very open to change and we’re very experimental and sometimes the most experimental thing that somebody can do is become more traditional. That doesn’t necessarily mean we want to go back or perform the old way, it just kind of depends on what the third record is going to be about.