“Searching for what we hope to find. We’re just crooked lines,” sings Canadian band Autopilot on their latest release, Hurricane.
Based in Saskatoon, Saskachewan, the band, composed of guitarist and singer Marlon Harder, bassist Colton Fehr and drummer Jose A. Fuenzalida, are about to wrap up an extensive North American tour that has taken them all the way from Baltimore to Los Angeles. For Autopilot, being on tour can be strenuous but also rewarding, as Harder points out.
“The whole thing is that you get up and you have to make long drives all the time. When you tour Canada, nothing’s close for the most part,” Harder says. “Even in the States, we’re only getting maybe three to five hours of driving but we’ll be on an eight-hour day in the van and that gets really tiring real quick.”
Harder is quick to point out, however, that touring is one of the most worthwhile experiences a band can have, saying that it’s the best feeling ever when you play a show and get to meet different bands in addition to new people.
It seems the idea of the road or escape is one of the motifs that the band is becoming known for, as the cover for their previous album ‘Desert Dreams’ features a bus on a lone road in the middle of nowhere.
Being on tour gives the band time to escape the cold climate of Saskatoon, which Harder points out is actually conducive to perfecting their craft.
“The climate we come from is pretty cold, so we spend more time playing because there’s not a whole lot to do when it’s minus-40 outside. So you spend more time writing and recording and rehearsing, trying to progress a little on what we’re doing,” Harder says.
The band’s sound has progressed extensively, from being aggressive, initially, and reminiscent of emo, to become ambient and melancholy.
As of late, the band has been utilizing a new technique for distortions – a bow on the guitar..
“To progress our sound more, we came up with new sounds on guitar and new effects,” Harder says. “The two songs that came out were kind of close, kind of styled together, but we have quite a bit of other songs we’re working on and I think there’s a whole new sound. We’re still called Autopilot, but it sounds a bit different from other stuff we’ve done.”
Their tour concluded on November 26th in Saskatoon, and afterwards, the band has plans to sit down in the bitter cold and release their latest album, which they are currently writing on the road.
“As soon as we get back, we’ll be doing vocals for December and possibly part of January. Then, we’ll be planning the next two tours and the exact release date of the album,” Harder says. “It’s all I do all day, just focus on this. It’s a lot of fun. It’s better than going to a shitty day job.”
We started off discussing Monsanto on slightly damp benches. Dani’s disdain for the company’s careless disruption of the natural flow of things quickly shifted into the group’s deep appreciation for the deliciousness of ugly fruit, specifically blood oranges from earlier in the summertime. “GMO OMG.”, she recommended, “It’s on Netflix.”.
I ran into the Raleigh-based band at The Hopscotch Oasis, a day party for the festival hosted by Tactile Workshop. Perfectly comfortable, super sweaty, and thoroughly entertaining on the half-pipe stage, they let us know right off the bat, “we are an angry band.” Throughout the show they chatted openly with us about the festival, giving context to songs about catcalling, birth control, and white male privilege via Tinder. They also paid homage to the anti-HB2 banner displayed by Grayson and Tina Haver Currin and verbally harangued Gov. Pat McCrory. Everyone seemed to feel at home tucked away in the lush little backyard of Tactile Workshop, talking about real, impolite, human things. It was refreshing. North Carolina’s citizens, reputation, and economy remain marred by HB2, the discriminatory, anti-LGBT legislation passed with shady swiftness earlier this year. In the state’s capital, Hopscotch was a 3-day, 3-night invitation to explore music venues and vibes that felt worlds away from the North Carolina state legislature and wary of standing in its bigotry-tinged shadow.
At the Hopscotch Oasis that Saturday, Klay put it precisely – “Hopscotch is evil because they make you choose.” Hailing from Durham, I have spent a sporadic, limited time in Raleigh, and rarely spent it frolicking and Hopscotch was a great chance to bop around the city and its venues. I imagine it was that much harder to choose from this year’s impressive lineup while listed on it, to play three shows throughout the weekend. Pie Face Girls pulled through it, though. The band wistfully recalled Big Freedia and Erykah Badu, noting that in addition to favorites and legends like those, Hopscotch curates a strong, eclectic range of genres. Festival-goers could check out any artist for a solid show, and “it might push you outside of the zone that you anticipated,” Klay pointed out. Keep in mind, 40% of the 120-band Hopscotch lineup is local. Pie Face Girls made a point to shout out the experimental noise of Patrick Gallagher out of Carrboro, NC and all the artists they played with throughout the weekend, including Durham’s JooseLord Magnus at The Hopscotch Oasis. I missed JooseLord’s performance, but observed the mutual enthusiasm they had for a future collaboration following the show and immediately wanted to get to learn more about them both.
So, Pie Face Girls met me in Raleigh for an interview and as we discussed the challenges of navigating the vast Twitter community and the process of building ideas into action, we landed on a conversation about how the band are growing into themselves. Tiffany described this past year as the one where she realized that they could truly spread their reach and stand on their own, though “in the beginning, it was fun and games.” Now, they are looking to sustain themselves with what they love, acknowledging that it takes time.
Their straightforward statements, like those in “Fuck You, I’m Pretty” and the mantra, “Dick is Dead” really resonate with people – at The Hopscotch Oasis, it was like one big conversation. At the same time, Dani pointed out, entrepreneurship and marketing demand their own skills and are necessary for growth. Seeking that growth can feel farcical after years of creating and performing solely for the love of it. Surely, they do not want to sell out, but I’d assume that would be difficult for the members of Pie Face Girls – authenticity is part of their essence. Defiant honesty and self-knowledge course through their sound; their presence is a cool, collected indignation that reminds you, “if you’re not angry, then you’re not paying attention.”
They are definitely paying attention.
The group posted up at Ruby Deluxe’s NC Pride Dance Party in Raleigh to register voters a few days after we talked, and has played alongside NC Music Love Army to raise money for efforts against HB2. The Love Army performs in protest, and “in support of sane governance for North Carolina”. Proceeds from these shows go to community and advocacy organizations Equality NC, LGBT Center of Raleigh and Now or Never NC. Pie Face Girls recently played the Official Afterparty following Come Out and Show Them: A Benefit to Take Back Our State. The proceeds from that festival went to Common Cause NC, Democracy North Carolina, Southerners on New Ground and Come Out and Show Them’s efforts to keep activist artists’ shows in the state in order to redirect the funds for the work of repealing HB2.
Another way you’ll find Pie Face Girls in the mix could be a collective or record label for musicians in marginalized communities to come together – queer artists, trans and cis female artists and artists of color. North Carolina does not offer that in music production yet and the corrupt politics of this state only reinforce the need for such a space. As the idea grows, they are seeking collaborators that want to make a similar impact. Klay and Tiffany joked about whether they were included in the plans, and without missing a beat, Dani confirmed. At one point, she looked at them, then to me and said, “your fam is your support system.” They were quick to thank multiple bands, community members, and artist-activists for encouraging them from the beginning and as they’ve grown thus far, shouting out the staple Raleigh venue, Kings.
I had to ask, then, about the label on their ReverbNation profile from earlier on, “Do it your damn self”. It’s an empowering message, and at this point, it seems they are building on that spirit. that led them to record everything on their own in order to get their messages out into the world, then kept them performing and bettering themselves, but now with an explicit appreciation for collaboration. They are consciously taking themselves more seriously than ever and embracing the process.
Pie Face Girls take the impact of the craft beyond themselves as well, working with Girls Rock NC to guide young musicians as they lift their voices and build community through music. Dani helps to facilitate Teen Axn League, a team of female and trans youth, working year-round in conjunction with Girls Rock NC, to create safer spaces for teens in North Carolina, through organizing an overnight feminism and music summer camp every year.
When I asked about what is next to come, Dani stated, “as long as I can be an activist, I’m happy. As long as I can fight for the shit that matters in this world…because there’s a lot of shit to fight in this world.” Pie Face Girls’ raw yet inviting nature and open participation in activism come at a welcome time, when women’s rights and LGBTQ rights are threatened intensely at the state level, particularly in North Carolina. It is also a time when local policy implications are largely lost amongst the presidential election melee. Musical forces out there spending quality time with young people making their way, and encouraging the groups who fight hateful legislation and advocate for their communities and the voice of the people shouldn’t be taken for granted. Participation matters, especially in local and state politics, and at the community level.
“At the end of the day it’s about intention,” they stated in agreement – and I think that’s true for all of us. The volunteering we do, the creative statements we make, and the collaborations we are a part of demand we pay attention to the why of it all. Pie Face Girls are setting out to “reach as many people as we can… and get to the point where other people will load our gear,” Tiffany clarified with a laugh. They are working on tours through the South and the Northeast, and the logistics of an album set to come out in 2017. Experiencing the passion and talent they put into the music, and the way their engaging personalities drew people in after the show at The Hopscotch Oasis, Pie Face Girls are well on their way with some real, quality statements. Stay tuned.
October 14-15 Manifest Music Festival, downtown Chapel Hill
October 22 Jon Lindsay album release party, Kings Raleigh
October 27 Local Band Local Beer, Pour House Raleigh
Terence Blanchard and the E-Collective’s headlining set at the Art of Cool Fest began with a sense of drama that was only amplified by the elegance and grandeur of the Carolina Theatre. Blanchard’s trumpet seemed to howl with anguish while the E-Collective quartet maintained a hard-edged groove underneath, creating a palpable tension and forward momentum that was infectious. With nods to jazz fusion and Miles Davis’ electric explorations of the ‘70s, a dose of R&B, blues, and funk, and the urgency of music with a deeper message, Blanchard and company gave the audience a great deal to consider.
Although the music they performed that night had its feet planted firmly in the now, the Grammy-award-winning Blanchard is no fresh face to the jazz scene. In fact, anyone who’s enjoyed a Spike Lee film from Jungle Fever on has heard his compositional style. Since 1991, he has had a successful solo recording career playing traditional jazz and now heavier, more groove-based music with his group E-Collective. Breathless, his first album with the E-Collective, is his heaviest yet. Though the music came first, it became clear to Blanchard that he had to speak out about police brutality and the deaths of so many African-Americans as a result, and the music naturally took on that voice.
The group was first conceived by Blanchard and drummer Oscar Seaton during the scoring of Spike Lee’s Inside Man. It took them eight years, but they finally came together while America was embroiled in the high-profile police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. “Once we got to it, we were in Europe, and we noticed that there was a lot of stuff going on back in the States—a lot of crazy stories about violence with African-American youth and law enforcement. We took note, and all of the meanings of the songs started to change. That became the basis of the album,” Blanchard said ahead of Art of Cool Fest.
He goes on to speak more about impacting youth through musical exposure, saying “Part of what we’re trying to do is reach […] kids, to let them know if they want to play an instrument there’s a way to do it at a high level that can be very rewarding. It’s all about trying to bring people together, trying to show people other options.” During a press interview at Art of Cool, he elaborated more on why he thinks young people are very important to the future of music: “The thing I love about working with young folks […] is that there’s some young creative minds out there that are astonishing. […] And the thing that blows my mind is that when you give them the tools [they can do incredible things.]”
Seeing cuts from Breathless performed live only confirmed this, as up-and-coming bandmates Charles Altura (on guitar) and Fabian Almazan (on piano) have unique and masterful voices on their respective instruments. Altura’s guitar seems to soar and blaze with a bite to rival any contemporary jazz guitarist today. Almazan’s fleet fingers have Cuban roots, and his touch on the piano and synth alike is reminiscent of jazz and fusion greats like Joe Zawinul. “Fabian is probably one of the great young talents of his generation,” Blanchard has said of Almazan. “Once people really hear what he’s about and what he’s doing, they’re gonna be enriched.”
Terence Blanchard and the E-Collective will continue to tour in support of Breathless, their next show will be in Seoul, South Korea.
In anticipation of Durham’s third annual Art of Cool Festival, RECOUNT presents this 2-hour Spotify playlist of our featured artists! We’ll be bopping around the Bull City all weekend; from the free, family-friendly day parties to the late night/early morning jams to the Innovate Your Cool Conference think tank at American Underground.
From the epic, cross-generational jazz of Kamasi Washington to the stripped-down, modern soul of The Internet, the 2016 Art of Cool Festival boasts a range of diverse, jazz-inspired acts bringing the traditional, the innovative, and everything in between to Durham.
If you’re anywhere near the Triangle this weekend, come out to enjoy local and internationally renowned artists, support local vendors and venues, and embrace the community-building focus of the Art of Cool Project, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization hosting this three-day event.
Hope to see ya there. Either way, there’s more to come from us. Stay tuned.
“In Western thought, the conscious being is often divided into two parts: mind, and body. Senses, and thoughts. Perception, and memory. It seems every conscious thought is rooted in either instantaneous perception or recall. What, then, can be said about a person’s soul if one side of that duality is completely destroyed?” asks Alex Quirk.
Deborah Wearing Enters, the second track of Alex Quirk’s first EP, Looking Up, explores the concept of instantaneous perception through consummate layers and resonant loops, telling stories of love and learning inspired by the unique life of Clive Wearing.
The video is a visual thought experiment.
It feels like an honest recollection, offering moments of clarity through altered perspective: sunlight entwined with lamplight, motion out of sequence. Clive Wearing’s consciousness is not tethered in the way the rest of ours is. In his amnesia, there is implied conviction that what he sees, feels, and says then and there, is true. That “truth” fades from his existence forever, in seconds.
His experience is enclosed in the present; one could hardly even imagine that as our reality. In our experience, the rest of us relive what we can recall of our lives and loves, again and again, perhaps under the pretense that those memories carry any promises or prescriptions for the future. The present is rarely better; to ascribe permanence to particular moments of instantaneous perception is literally illogical, yet innately human. So in Clive’s case, and in our own, where does meaning come from? As Quirk asks, what can be said about a person’s soul if one side of the mind-body duality is destroyed?
This is where Deborah Wearing Enters.
In his state, Wearing’s wife Deborah is the only human being he recognizes- and enthusiastically greets at every opportunity. That is when he and Deborah share in familiarity and love safe from the amnesia-induced void always a few moments behind him.
Alex Quirk’s visual thought experiment and musical homage to Clive and Deborah Wearing is simultaneously moving and grounding. It takes on that void; it’s a testament to what Clive is reliving through those seconds of clarity with Deborah, definitive of his experience though well beyond articulation.