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Pelican Explain Use of Vocals on New Record

01/15/2010
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Sammy O'Hagar of MetalSucks recently spoke with Pelican drummer Larry Herwig. They talked about the band's new record What We All Come to Need, the band's decision to move labels from Hydra Head to Southern Lord, having members of Sunn O))) and Isis do guest spots on the record, and his approach to drumming (including the criticisms he's received in the press). An excerpt follows:

...what led you guys to have vocals on Final Breath? What led to that decision? We've always, as a band, said that we were never opposed to it. Even when we started the band, we never set out to be a strictly instrumental band. It just kind of happened that way out of our general laziness of finding someone to be the singer. I remember when we started the band and during that first year of songwriting and rehearsals, after practice we would sit down, eat and talk about who we were going to get to sing, who was going to find somebody and who do we know in Chicago and blah blah blah. We were brainstorming who's going to be this possible vocalist. Time went on and we just kept writing songs. Over a year's time I think we had 6 songs written, and we were still kind of at the same point and were like "we don't have anybody. No one's found anyone. No one actually looked for anyone either." We were like "let's just play a show and see how it goes." We played a show and it worked, so we just kind of went from there. We were like "well, here's 5 songs that we spent a year writing," and playing for people just to see how they would take it. They liked it, so we were like "okay, it's working so let's just do this." That's how it stayed. The whole time we were doing it, we were planning the instrumental movement and were like it was so powerful. We were like we're just a band dude. We just wrote a bunch of songs. We honestly thought we would have a lead singer. We talked about it and no one did anything about it. Here we are, 9 years later, and we're like "man, if we're going to do a song with vocals, this is the song to do it." It was a song that Bryan wrote, and it was very simple as far as the structure and patterns. We were like "this is the one, so if we're going to do it, let's make it this record." We always wanted to make the records a little bit different from each other. I thought that was a great way of making this record different from the last one by having someone actually singing on a song. We didn't think people were going to expect it. Al, who is a good friend of ours, did the vocals. He's in The Life and Times who we toured with back with Mono in 2006. We've been friends ever since. We love his band, and we think he has a great voice. We approached him with the idea, and he has a healthy ego and he's like "f**k it, I'll do it. Send me the s***." He cranked that out in no time. We sent him the rough tracks from the actual studio as soon as they were done, and a few days later he had sent us back his studio tracks. He did them in Chicago in a separate studio, and he sent them back via WAV. file. We kept mixing from there. I didn't know what to expect. He had high hopes, and in our minds, he totally blew us away and exceeded our expectations. I think it made the song really cool. Real people dig it.

Yeah. It's interesting at the very least. Do you think that's going to be something that when you guys are writing and arranging from now on that you guys might keep as an option of including a vocalist? Yeah I think we'll keep it open. So far there has been some mixed reviews. I just read one last night, I think it was Iann Robinson or something, and he has a website where he reviewed Slayer and didn't have very many nice things to say about it. He got to our record and got all gushy up until that song and was like, "You guys don't need to do that." It like totally bummed him out. There is definitely mixed feelings. When I play the record for other people, that was the song that really stood out to them. I remember playing the album to Aaron Harris from Isis. We're just sitting there going track by track and that song came on, and his eyes lit up and said "that's f**king amazing, dude. It sounds so good." There are people who think it's awesome and people who don't. It's still pretty early to say, but I'm definitely not opposed to it and I like how it came out. We have to keep in mind too if we're going to play it live it becomes complicated. If we start doing more songs like that and getting more singers involved or even getting Al involved again, it's like how are we going to do that as a band and never perform those songs live. Right now it's like how we're every going to play Final Breath unless we coordinate with Al to take him on tour with us or something. It's kind of complicated. I could see us probably doing it again. All the guys in the band are really psyched on that song. I would say on the next record that we release will probably have another song like that. I don't think it would be a whole record of songs with vocals, but why not throw in another one and try it again.
- read the full interview

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