Interview: Pirate Signal
We connected with Pirate Signal, an indie rock band from St. Louis, for an exclusive interview to discuss their recently released animated video "Mr. Grey", the music scene in their hometown, their EP "Abolition" and much more.
After reading our Q&A with the band, be sure to stream/download the "Abolition" EP and follow them on social media to stay up to date on all things "Pirate Signal"!
Congratulations on the release of your new video "Mr. Grey", as well as the EP that it comes from, "Abolition". Tell us about the development of the EP and why you choose "Mr. Grey" to make an animated video for.
We recorded Abolition last year with Jon Heisserer of Asthmatic Recordings and Jason McEntire of Sawhorse Studios. Jon did the bulk of the recording, Jason did the drums initially and then we brought it back for him to mix. Both of them offered some fantastic insight and advice, and Mr. Grey was probably the song we had the most fun with.
It’s got a bit more depth and layers to it... lots of keyboards and strings and harmonies. The guitar tones and Brett’s solo are just crazy and interesting. But from a basic song structure and writing standpoint it’s also catchy and pretty easy to absorb, so we thought it was an obvious choice for a single.
How did you connect with the animators of the video and how did you guys come up with the video treatment?
Matt Basler is another local musician that our singer Josh has known for years, they’ve played in bands together in the past. He is one of the most entertaining people we’ve ever come across and over the last few years he’s just constantly working his ass off promoting bands he’s playing with, or his solo stuff. He’s got a fantastically weird sense of humor and a very unique style. He had made several videos for various bands, our favorite being a stop motion animation buddy-cop drama acted out entirely by Peeps (the marshmallow things) for his band Tok’s song Cult Hero.
He and Matthew Sawicki were looking to make more videos so it was an easy choice. From there we pretty much left it to them. We figured the song was weird enough that it should mesh perfectly with their style and they did not disappoint. It blew us away the first time we got to see it.
The EP has six songs, but were there other songs that were recording during sessions and not included in the final cut? If so, will those songs be released at some point and why didn't they make the EP?
We had a BUNCH of songs ready to go but made a conscious decision to spread it out over more than one release. It just makes more sense to us to try and keep cranking stuff out consistently. We do all probably prefer full length albums though, so the idea was to do 2 EPs that would together be arranged like an A and a B side. So the ones that didn’t make the cut weren’t at all axed because of quality or popularity. It was more of an artistic decision of what songs would work together on each half, and it was extremely difficult to choose which songs to put on the back burner.
But... now we’ve got enough for a full length ready to lay down so... we’re going through that process again and making plans to start recording in another month or two.
Tell us about the indie rock scene in STL. Would you say that locals are supportive of homegrown talent?
There’s a small-ish but super supportive scene in South City STL, mainly made up of all the musicians and their circles of friends. There is certainly no shortage of talent and it’s not hard to get a great turnout to shows if you promote and work at it. We’ve also thankfully got some local radio stations and publications that are pretty involved. But at the same time, the general population of the St Louis area can seem kind of oblivious... DJs and cover bands have a much easier time. Nickelback is really popular. So... it’s not perfect but we’re definitely grateful for what we have.
Describe the band's creative process when it comes to writing/recording new songs. What typically goes into the creation of a new Pirate Signal song?
A lot of times Josh will send us a demo he made on his phone on Garage Band... sometimes they’re pretty complete, sometimes he’ll have maybe a verse and a chorus, some of the lyrics and vocal ideas. We’ll work on it at practice, all debate and kick ideas around, mess with the groove, the structure, add a bridge or some other kinds of transitions.
Other times Brett and Austin will get together and just start jamming on ideas and if they like where it’s headed then Josh will start figuring out vocals and lyrics and I’ll write a bass line. We don’t really have any sort of “process” but I think that helps keep things from getting stale. Every now and then we’ll stop and say “yeah that works but it sounds way too much like that other song we just wrote.” We don’t wanna be too formulaic or predictable. It also helps that most of us can play other instruments so it’s easy to offer ideas to one another. Josh will have a specific drum fill in mind, or Austin will suggest a change to a vocal melody or a bass line. It’s definitely evolved into more of a group process than it was in the past.