The Chicago-based instrumental post-metallers have returned to the UK after an exceedingly long wait and a new EP under their arms. Guitarist, Trevor de Brauw tells BringthenoiseUK all about what they’ve been up to, how they wrote the EP while their drummer was sunning himself in California and what on earth Ataraxia/Taraxis is about!
BTN: Pelican – where have you been?
Trevor: Well to be honest we reached a point with the band where we weren’t able to make a living from it so we all went into the work force. On the last album, which came out in 2009, we’d reached a wall with touring anyway. Money wasn’t working out and also it was starting to take a psychological toll, being away from home so much, so what we’ve been doing really is taking some time off from the band and working out new ways of writing and recording, and taking things at a different pace.
BTN: That does seem to be pretty common with bands at the moment…
Trevor: Yeah we reached the 10 year point, and thought, if we’re not able to make a steady living from this at this point, it’s time to re-evaluate the way that we’re approaching things.
BTN: So is that the reason you decided to release an EP this time, rather than another album?
Trevor: Well, that has more to do with our approach to writing. Since 2006 we haven’t been living in the same city, and when we were touring a lot we were playing together a lot more than we are now so we had a lot of time to work on songs. But in 2011 we played about 5 shows in total, 2010 we played about 10, so now we don’t have as much time together to work on new songs. So this EP came together a lot slower than we’re used to. So the idea around doing an EP now was to clear the coffers and get some of the songs we’ve been working on for a while out into the world. And also to try out new working methods and figure out how to write the next LP coz we’re really ready to now now, we’ve got a lot of creative energy kind of floating around. We want to write and record the next record now.
So, some of these songs on Ataraxia/Taraxis were built in ways we’re not that familiar with, namely through file sharing. In the past we’ve done our fair share of writing and recording ideas and sending them back and forth but two of the songs, the two title tracks, on this EP were literally built in the studio using bits and pieces that we were recording here and there, much different from getting in a room and playing songs together. But I think we’re at the point now where we’re able to understand each other’s playing well enough that we’re able to construct a song without necessarily all standing together.
BTN: So will this be your approach to writing the next album?
Trevor: We don’t want to sacrifice the songs we need to learn by standing and playing together but I think the EP could act as somewhat of a blueprint and the LP could turn out to be something 50/50. I think the difference in how we would approach doing a full-length record, though, is that with the EP we never set foot in a studio with Larry (Herweg, drummer). I’d like to do something more like, if we built a song by sharing files, as we have with the first and last songs, that would be the demo and then we would recreate the song in the studio. But I think that it was an interesting compositional method.
BTN: You mentioned the first and last songs, Ataraxia and Taraxis. They’ve become the title of the album. Why? What were you thinking?
Trevor: Actually the first song we wrote for the album was Lathe Biosas and Laurent (Schroeder-Lebec, guitarist) had titled that one early in the process. And lathe biosas is related to the ancient greek philosophy of Epicureanism. Many people use that term nowadays to refer to a lifestyle that is about imbibing in pleasure as much as possible but, in its origin, Epicureanism was about the seeking of pleasure, but the idea of pleasure was much different. It was about avoiding anxiety and fear and living a life that was as simple as possible. The contradiction of lathe biosas is the idea of living simply, according to the original epicureans, was to withdraw as much from public civic live as possible, so while that can seethe the anxiety it also gives the forces that create the chaos of modern life a bit more power and reign because they’re lacking that voice of dissent.
The tile of the EP is a little bit of a paradox. Ataraxia is literally the absence of anxiety or the single goal of Epicureanism, to live free of anxiety. Taraxis is its flip. So kind of the inherent contradiction of the EP is that you might seek to avoid the anxieties of this world by trying to withdrawer into yourself but that actually feeds the power.
Trevor: Does that make sense?
Trevor: To revise, the world’s fucked up, and you can try to deal with it by ignoring it, but when you try to ignore how fucked up the world is, it gets worse.
BTN: Okay I’ll be thinking about that as I’m listening to the EP… Anyway…
Trevor: Haha! Yes?
BTN: So taking into account the new approach to writing the new album, what’s different about the music on the new EP?
Trevor: Well, a lot of the reviews I’ve been reading have mentioned that the songs are a lot shorter. That wasn’t something that we noticed as much going into it but I suppose that is something that’s been going on since City of Echoes, that we’ve been finding more ways to hone the formula and make the songs a little more concise. So I think they’re a little more direct in their approach, as well I think the tone is a little darker than the last album. The last album was about finding hope in the midst of darkness whereas this is more about facing that darkness and I think that really plays out in the way the songs are toned.
BTN: What else can we expect from you in the future?
Trevor: We’ve been spreading out our touring a lot more so after the UK and Europe tour, we’re trying to set something up for Australia for this year coz it’s been quite a lot of time since we’ve been there too. The following year hopefully our album will come out but at that point we’ll probably try to do the US again because at that point it will have been a long time since the last tour. So enjoy us in the UK because we don’t know when we’ll be back!
BTN: So after this tour we can’t expect to see you in the UK for another two years?
Trevor: It’s impossible to say for sure but I wouldn’t count on it. We’ll be back. I don’t know when!
Written by: LOU HOWELLS