"It's seasonal, you know, and very much a natural, organic occurrence." Todd Clark, lyricist and vocalist for Toronto rockers Pilot Speed, or Pilate as they were once called, is discussing the creative process, and in particular, what went into the making of the band's brilliant new work, Self Control for Life's Speed.
"For myself, there seems to be a long period of absorption over the summer and into fall where I am just taking in pure life-stuff experience. Then comes an introspective winter of hibernation and digestion, when stuff rolls around in the subconscious mind. That is followed by a furious activity of re-birthed expression, where I'm running around trying to get it all down before it disappears. "Come to think of it, I really don't have much control over that entire process. Maybe that is what we were able to capture on this last album; that to everything there is a season."
Whatever Pilot Speed has been able to capture with the new work, it has captivated fans and critics since its release this past April. The band's third CD, and first since 2003's Caught by the Window, has turned heads and raised ears around the world. Clark and his band are currently touring the country, alongside Welsh rockers People in Planes and Halifax's Wintersleep.
Clark believes that the biggest reason for the band's soaring International reputation is due to the tremendous time and effort that the band put into the songwriting. "At the end of the day, it's all about the songs really. There were many inspirational moments for all of us throughout the making of this music, but greater time and effort was put into molding and crafting the work. This recording has endured its fair share of blood, sweat and tears."
Songwriting, Clark theorizes, is a little like playing cupid. "We did our best to create those relationships," he laughs, "[I think] music is very feminine in that it works from the heart at a deeper place of emotion and intuition. Whereas words are more typically masculine because they come from a rational and cerebral head space. A good marriage, like a good song, has to work on many levels in order to succeed. Both the male and female elements must be paired in such a way that there exist mutually beneficial elements of respect, trust, hope and communication. And, of course, a little space every now and again helps as well."
Space is something that Clark and his band mates are finding themselves again wrestling with while on tour. "Playing live is such a different experience for the band that it requires that initial period of re-adjustment to the outside world. After being trapped in the figurative darkness of writing and recording for so long, to be abruptly thrown out into the traveling light of day is always a bit of a shock and we usually spend the first while just rubbing our eyes.
"After the last tour we revisited some of our live shows that had been recorded and that afforded us a different perspective on both the material and the concert experience. We made a very conscious decision with this record and tour to get away from any type of musical uniformity and to mix things up with a little more ear candy. And that has worked quite well for us, especially as we are touring with two other acts that come from the same philosophy in that regard."
Clark confesses that being on the road may be necessary, but isn't always easy. "I have mixed feelings about leaving my cozy little cocoon back home. But I know that this is where we have to be. It's part of the process and part of the business of music. Still, traveling anywhere across Canada is a vital experience, especially after the long slumber of a cold winter. And when those new colours and flavours of spring bloom into the summer and autumn months and the land and its people are alive with so many beautiful sights and sounds, you begin to realize how much there is to soak in before the winter returns. It's seasonal, you know."
Please visit www.pilate.com for more information on the band and their new worldwide name change to Pilot Speed on future recordings.
Writer: Stephen Clare