Rock / Alternative
"Heart-wrenching," "sweepingly-epic," "meticulously-crafted," "virtuoso-caliber," and "poetry-like" are but a few of hyphenate accolades used to describe Pilot Speed and their explosive American debut INTO THE WEST. Put simply, this Canadian quartet's soaring, incandescent muse will knock music fans of all stripes on their collective ass. Indeed, with a Juno Award nomination, a Top-Twenty Canadian album, one Top-Ten Canadian radio single, and a Much Music video award, Pilot Speed is primed to invade their behemoth neighbor to the south.
Pilot Speed's genesis, however, doesn't actually begin north of the border, but rather far, far west, over the South Pacific. "New Zealand is a funny place," explains Pilot Speed's lead singer-songwriter Todd Clark who was born and raised in Wellington, the island nation's capital. "You have to be somewhat of a chameleon to survive there." For Clark that meant picking up a Stratocaster copy at the age of 12 while digging on legendary down-under bands like Crowded House, the Split Enz, and the Finn Brothers as well as seminal British acts like U2 and Radiohead and emulating classic blues rock guitarists like John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and Eric Clapton.
At age 16, Clark's father was transferred to Canada and Todd suddenly found himself in the more urbane confines of the Toronto suburbs. In 2000, after leaving the University of Western Ontario's music program, Clark placed an ad on a musician's website seeking like-minded musicians. Enter bassist Ruby Bumrah, of Toronto's Ontario College of Art & Design, who recruited fellow alumni, guitarist Chris Greenough and drummer Bill Keeley. "We were lucky we all had similar frames of reference and yet our own eclectic likes and dislikes," explains Todd. "Ruby was into Depeche Mode, The Smiths, U2. Bill and Chris were into stuff like Radiohead, Pink Floyd and Neil Young, and I was starting to get more into American songwriters like Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits. Each guy has distinct qualities and talents that make our band incredibly unique."
Witness the band's estimable 2001 EP, FOR ALL THAT'S GIVEN, WASTED, recorded in Todd's basement and presaging the band's heartbreaking melodic sound. The six-song EP quickly sold out its initial run and helped establish the band on the Canadian music scene, leading to shows with acclaimed Canuck bands like Broken Social Scene, DFA 1979, and Hot Hot Heat. After an incendiary performance at Canada's 2002 North-by-Northeast music conference (Canada's SXSW), where the band received the Best Unsigned Band honor, the quartet inked a deal with Canadian indie MapleMusic Recordings.
The band's brilliant 2003 full-length debut, CAUGHT BY THE WINDOW recorded with producer Joao Carvalho and mastered by Greg Calbi (Dylan, Patti Smith), captured Clark's powerful and emotive croon and the band's fragile-to-ferocious dynamics. The rapturous "Into Your Hideout" (#4 on Canadian Rock radio ) and the poignant "Melt into the Walls" (#3 video on Much Music) led to critical and commercial acclaim as well as tours across the U.S., Australia, and Japan.
The conundrum so many Canadian musicians face is that once they attain a certain level of success they have to look outside their homeland to continue cultivating their careers. In 2006, after recording breathtaking material for INTO THE WEST, Pilot Speed signed with Wind-Up Entertainment. The forward-thinking deal encompasses recording, publishing, merchandising, and touring. "We played a couple of showcases in America," Clark explains, "and we just connected best with Wind-up."
INTO THE WEST, recorded at Vancouver's Armoury Recording Studios with Carvalho, is a revelation. The scorching first single, "Barely Listening," with Clark's explosive vocals backed by Greenough's staccato, lashing guitar and Keeley and Bumrah's driving, lock-step rhythm is emblematic of the album and already a Top Twenty radio hit in Canada. Elsewhere, the ethereal, groove-filled "Knife-Gray Sea," the rapturous epic "Don't Stare," (complete with sparkling glockenspiel and chimes), and the agonizingly beautiful title-track will each leave you exhilarated and awed. "I'm really proud of the band on this record," says Clark, "we really pushed ourselves."
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