With last week’s release of their third studio LP “Church With No Magic” Pedestrian caught up with PVT multi-instrumentalist Dave Miller to discuss the rigors of touring, recording in the same post code and litigious “self righteous pricks”.
Let’s start with the song writing process for the new album. What’s changed since “O Soundtrack My Heart”? Well the fact that we were in the same hemisphere made a big difference (laughs). We did it almost entirely in the same room. The fact that we had played 150 or 200 shows between the last record and now made a pretty significant impact on the writing too. Just for the simple fact that we know how to play together really well. But from song to song it varies. Sometimes we would just jam out ideas and record twenty minutes of audio, then chop it up and find ideas from that. Other times we’d demo things and just record them in the studio. Then there would d be other times where we’d write a song in a room together like a normal band in rehearsal.
Probably the most obvious change to the sound is the inclusion of Richard’s vocals. Was there a particular moment when he decided to explore that part of his songwriting or was it a more organic thing? It was definitely more of an organic thing. In our initial sessions, which were pretty much jams, we were recording and it just so happened that Richard had a vocal mic and he would play with ideas on that as much as he would a guitar or keyboard or bass guitar so that started it. Then we felt if we were going to include vocals it’d be all or nothing, you know? There’s no point in doing a couple of songs with a full vocal and the rest instrumental – it doesn’t really make sense. Though there are great albums like “Another Green World” which have vocal tracks and instrumentals but it was more about the album flow and wanting to have a sole entity as an album.
It’s interesting because with the inclusion of vocals comes that extra dimension of meaning or context for the listener – was that a difficult challenge for Richard? Yeah everything takes time. But he definitely worked hard at it. I guess it’s the first full album he’s written so it was certainly a new experience for him. Certain vocal lines or lyrics Lawrence and I might comment on but it was mostly his bag.
Because the writing process was three of you in a room as opposed to sending files back and forth do you think it’s a truer representation of a point in time or the three of you as a band? Definitely. That was another theme of the record. It was a more “of the moment” thing. We wanted to capture something that happens once and just roll with that. There’s mistakes in there and there are things there that we could have fixed in Pro Tools but in the end we felt that it would be truer to what we’ve been doing over the last few years to leave them in there. It makes things sound a bit more live and a bit more human.
Have you introduced any new gear into the mix? Let me think…I play the occasional drum pad now but that’s not really that exciting. Richard has probably bought a few pedals but other than that I don’t think so.
So you’ll get to bash out a few drum pads live now. Yeah, yeah. (laughs) But it won’t be anything too complex, mainly because I have a pretty good drummer sitting next to me and it would silly to try and compete with that.
And are you an honorary Pike yet? I think if I was in Sydney for Christmas I’d be invited around for Christmas dinner for sure.
That’s good to know. We kind of talked earlier about songs changing on stage the longer you live with them. How exactly do they evolve after hundreds and hundreds of shows? It’s got a lot to do with the vibe of the night, whether it’s a big thing, a packed room or a festival. Or if we’ve all drunk a lot of booze beforehand or if we’ve had two shit gigs in a row and we want to make this one a good one. When I say shit I mean bad vibes or empty rooms or whatever. The mood of the people on stage and the mood of the crowd dictates all of that. Basically we can push and pull sections and add bits and pieces and eliminate bits and pieces. And we might remember something that worked from the night before or try something completely new. Just keeping things interesting for us and for the audience as well. It’s funny actually, a common thing people say when they hear “O Soundtrack” live is “I really love the record but you guys live are way better” which I take as a compliment.
You mentioned bad vibes – what was the worst gig you’ve ever played? I reckon one of the worst shows we’ve played was in Liverpool where the support band blew up our bass amp and the promoter decided to put on two extra bands which meant we were playing at midnight or 1am on a Wednesday night in an absolute shit hole of a venue. There were people coming up to us saying “We’ve traveled from Manchester to see you guys but we have to go to catch the last train back to Manchester” so that was annoying. Then when we finally got on stage the monitors blew up and the bass amp that we ended up sharing with someone else blew up in the last song. I was so annoyed with the promoter. I was speechless. Words couldn’t fathom how pissed off I was. When you know people put in the effort to come see you and you are inhibited by other people it’s pretty frustrating.
I’m so sorry to have made you relive that memory. Best show then? Playing the Warp20 Paris show was pretty great. We played in this amazing theatre type venue in front of a pretty big crowd. I got the feeling that people wanted to see us play or had seen us play before because the reaction was really great. Playing in Russia was fun and quite odd as well. We played at this festival in St. Petersburg and it was the first time we’d been to Russia and we got a surprisingly great response.
Back to the record, is there an internal quality control filter that lets you know when a song is done? There are moments when you’re self aware. Like there was a moment in the recording process when we realized that the record was really dense and layered and we needed tracks that had less going on. So we wrote some songs that didn’t have 32 channels of drums or whatever. As far as knowing when it works well you always have to consider the end goal for a particular song and all three of us generally think a song is done at the same time so that’s a pretty good indication. There are times when you might add things or change structures and it doesn’t work out and sometimes it can days or weeks to realize that. But for us, it’s probably different for other bands, we generally have to stew on things for a bit and live with them for a while before we can decide whether it’s how we want it.
What’s the most frustrating thing about the name change? I think it was frustrating that it happened in the first place. We couldn’t really work out why a band that had never released an album on a label, had only put out three EPs or something, had never played outside their hometown and who’d been playing for ten years and never progressed – why they would even bother to do that.
And they hadn’t taken up issue with the band name prior to “O Soundtrack”? That’s the thing we don’t really know because it’s all just second guessing. We couldn’t really understand why at first but we eventually came down to two conclusions. They thought they were going to make it and this was a preemptive strike. Or they wanted money out of us. Which is the American litigation system, just playing someone to keep quiet. And obviously we didn’t want to do that, just the thought of playing some self-righteous pricks to keep a name that, to be quite honest, we weren’t entirely in love with, just seems ridiculous. So we got to learn a little bit about how unfair American litigation law is but I’m kinda thinking new record, new things.
Dave thanks for your time. Thanks man.
Title Image Provided by PVT