Pelican Get Closer Together by Moving Further Away
Before instrumental post-metal band Pelican started working on their fourth album, ‘What We All Come to Need,’ two of the band members, bassist Bryan Herweg and drummer Larry Herweg, left their hometown of Chicago to plant roots in Los Angeles. “We had been in Chicago a long time, and we were just looking for a change,” Larry Herweg told Noisecreep.
The move left the rest of the band — guitarists Trevor De Brauw and Lauren Schroeder-Lebec — apprehensive and anxious. Pelican had practiced, written and hung out in the Windy City for eight years, and suddenly their routine was being disrupted. They knew they wanted to continue, but they were unsure how being 2,000 miles apart would affect the band. As it turns out, it only helped.
Instead of jamming out parts together at rehearsals as they had done in the past, De Brauw and Schroeder-Lebec tracked guitars in Chicago, then emailed MP3s to the Herwegs, who worked on complementary rhythms on the West Coast. The two teams repeatedly sent files back and forth, tweaking and augmenting until the songs were finished. Surprisingly, the process yielded Pelican’s smoothest and most productive writing sessions to date.
“When you’re all together sometimes you have the pressure of writing stuff on the spot, but when you work individually you can really think out your parts a lot better,” Larry Herweg told Noisecreep. “A lot of the guitar patterns were written to a click track so everything was very steady. I think that helped the band write the best album we possibly could.”
‘What We All Come to Need,’ which follows 2007’s ethereal, poppy ‘City of Echoes,’ is a return to form of sorts, a sludgy, riff-saturated album that slips into grooves like a hesher sliding into a worn leather couch. That’s not to say the disc is laid back and meandering. By contrast, it’s decidedly self-assured in its intent to mesmerize and sedate between monolithic rock outs.
“For this record, I approached writing in a much more insular, separate way,” Schroeder-Lebec said. “Some people think if you’re communicating through a computer, you’re not really getting the interaction that’s necessary for musicians to create something with an identity, but I disagree. I think we’ve all found this to be an exciting new approach to doing things. You criticize things on your own and grow on your own, and then by the time you do get together, you really make the time count. And that time you spend writing, you’re not dicking around. You’re getting down to it, and it keeps things pretty fresh and snappy when you do get together because your time’s limited.”
Once they had spent about 18 months fine-tuning their songs via email, Pelican entered the studio with Chris Common (These Arms Are Snakes, Minus the Bear) to record “What We All Come to Need.’ While they had just three weeks to track and mix the entire disc, they were so prepared that the process was stress-free.
“I would say this was the most enjoyable recording experience we’ve ever had,” said Schroeder-Lebec. “This was the most informed and prepared and relaxed that we’ve ever felt in the studio.”
Working so efficiently gave Pelican to time to substantially rework the final track on the album, ‘Final Breath,’ without missing their submission deadline. The lumbering seven-and-a-half minute song was fully written when the band entered the studio, but as they recorded it, they realized they weren’t happy with the last half of the tune.
“We got to the middle section, and we were like, ‘Eh, this is not going to work,'” Herweg said. “So Laurent and Bryan started throwing these riffs together and came up with this whole new second half of the song, which really changed the whole mood and dynamic, and I think it made the song even stronger. That was a cool studio moment, and that happened right on the spot for the better.”