State caught up with Pilotlight a couple of hours before they took to the stage in The Button Factory to launch their debut album, The Post War Musical. It’s a collection of songs that has taken the four guys (Andrew, Gavin, Mick and Terence) nine years to get to the point of release. Following various other bandnames, charting Irish singles and countless gigs around Ireland, they changed their name to Pilotlight in 2006 and like so many Irish bands before them, relocated to find the streets that were lined with record label gold, in London. The start of 2008 saw the beginning of the work to begin recording and releasing the debut album. But why did they feel the need to make the move to England?
Gavin: I suppose we just wanted to be cooler (laughs)… We decided it had gone as far it could possibly go in Ireland, people weren’t biting and I think we always thought to ourselves we would get picked up (by a record label) and people would financially support the band, which wasn’t the case. So we decided we’d give it a go over in London, where we basically started again with no fanbase, where nobody would turn up to the gigs and it was a test of the songs really. So if we started to fill places out. It was good for the confidence of the band because we knew it was the songs and not our mates coming to the gigs.
Mick: When we were releasing singles here (in Ireland) it was still very much about selling hard copies. Now even the last couple have been download-only singles, it’s changed so much. Definitely things like iTunes are such a big deal for us when we’re releasing the album, that’s the first ‘go-to’ place that we’re doing and putting the album into shops isn’t as big a deal anymore. We used to spend five or six hundred euro on posters for a gig and to be able to send out a Facebook invite to all of your friends saves a fortune. For a band like ourselves, still trying to make a name for ourselves, it’s a really big deal.
Terence: More power has gone towards the artist with regards to promotion and doing it yourself as the actual cost of recording has gone down considerably and on the other hand, the record labels don’t seem to have as much money to fund a band doing an album.
State: If the band were then offered a deal from a record label now, would it be something you would still want?
Andrew: It does depend, but the useful part of a record label is the distribution aspect of it, promotion and PR and what they get you along with the album. With recording the album like we have done, I don’t think we would be happier if a record company had got involved. I’m delighted and quite proud of what we’ve achieved and ultimately we got to decide what was on the album and how things were played so if anything I think a record label is good for after you’ve recorded the album as opposed to giving us some money to record.
Mick: At the end of the day we want our music to be heard by as many people as we can, it’s the ultimate rock and roll cliche, so if that means having a label that can promote it then I think that’s a good thing.
State: Tell us a little about where and with whom you recorded your collection of songs.
Terence: We did it with David Odlum. We had a hitlist of producers we’d like to work with and David’s name just kept popping up for everybody, as we’re obviously big fans of the bands he’s been in (KÃla, The Frames, Mic Christopher) and the artists that he’s produced before (dEUS, Josh Ritter, Ham Sandwich, Mundy, The Frames)
Gavin: Everything he’s done we’ve all loved; although we’ve all got very different tastes in the stuff we listen to but what he does, his approach to how he makes the album, there was just no bullshit, he pushes you harder to get the best out of you, he makes you realise that (at the time) this is the most important thing in the world, and it’s about the songs, it’s about the music. Not having a label involved and our naivety to the whole process just made us make an album of songs that we all go ‘that’s great’ and then if anyone else thinks that it’s great, then that’s amazing.
Mick: We recorded it in Black Box Studios, set in the heart of the French countryside, and that in itself is brilliant because it’s a live-in studio, away from home, away from any distractions. The amount of musical gear there, it’s like a playground, it’s all vintage analogue gear, it’s all really warm sounds, it was just amazing. As regards to how the album sounds, for people who’ve never heard us before, there’s a lot of light and dark and contrast and what we find to be very beautiful parts and then there’s nice aggressive bits as well. It’s like an aggressive cuddle.
Video: Bite Your Nails
The Post War Musical on Itunes.
Photos of Pilotlight in The Button Factory by James Goulden.