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Blind Pilot Interview March 2011

Nichola Eastwood


Ahead of their new album’s release in May, we caught up with Israel Nebeker of Blind Pilot to discuss their tour, music and days of busking on the streets of Newquay…

MTTM: Last year saw the release of your debut album, 3 Rounds and a Sound.  How are you finding the reaction to the record so far?

Israel Nebeker: We’ve been overwhelmed with the response.  When we were recording it, our intentions were very simple and we thought this would be an album that our friends and a few others in Portland, Oregon would listen to.  We were absolutely shocked when it started spreading to communities outside of Portland and even outside of the U.S.

MTTM: You’re currently touring the UK with the Decemberists.  Is it daunting playing so far from home?  And how do you like the UK audience?

Israel Nebeker: The audiences here have been pretty amazing and have given us warm receptions, especially considering the vast majority of audience members have never heard us before.  I think the Decemberists make music that’s appreciated by thoughtful folks that appreciate subtlety, so of course we like to play for that kind.

MTTM: Your biography states the roots for Blind Pilot formed on a trip to Newquay, England.  Does this make playing the UK particularly special to you?

Israel Nebeker: Yes.  Some of my fondest music memories were made busking on the streets of Newquay.

MTTM: The lyrics in 3 Rounds and a Sound are said to recall (lead singer and songwriter) Israel Nebeker’s hometown memories.  What are other influences are there behind your sound?

Israel Nebeker: Place is a big part of where we come from musically. Community too.  The way we formed was based on taking simple guitar and lyric based songs and seeing what we could do to expand and push them with more unusual instrumentation.  Our sound comes from that idea of inviting many different influences in, so that the song takes on a will of its own.

MTTM: You started touring together (as a pair) in a very unconventional cycling tour, travelling by bicycle rather than a tour bus or van.  You’ve also done this as a group of six and have said you’d like to do so again.  What is it that makes you favour a cycling tour?  And how are you feeling about your headlining tour, which will see you travelling in a more conventional van?

Israel Nebeker: The bicycle tour was one of those really good ideas that come to you once in a great while- the kind that don’t seem very practical but that are also too good to not try.  It turned out to be one of the most inspiring tours we’ve had and it helped shape a lot of what our intentions were as a band.  I wanted to be writing songs that could relate to anybody we came across in our random-town bike tour shows.  While I miss the days of touring that way, I have to see it as a blessing that we have fans in too many places to bike to.

MTTM: Your music has been classed as folk – pop.  How do you feel about this label and how would you describe your own sound?

Israel Nebeker: Labels are pretty funny and almost nobody wants to be labeled.  But when the woman at British Customs asked us what type of band we are so she could write it in her box, we said folk pop.  I hope our music would never accurately fit there, but if anybody really needs to put it in their box… folk pop is ok.

MTTM: You’ve been quoted as saying you’re ‘excited to mess it [your sound] up’ on your next album.  What sort of sound would you like to capture in your future work?  And what is it about your current sound you’d like to ‘mess up’ or change?

Israel Nebeker: We’re in the middle of recording our next album, so it’s still too new to me to talk about.  Last time we went into the studio knowing what we sounded like and then we let the process of recording change all those expectations.  I absolutely hope that happens again.

MTTM: Finally, asides from a new record and headlining tour, what are the future plans for Blind Pilot?

Israel Nebeker: Plans?  It would feel a little dishonest to have a plan other than to keep writing and playing and singing the best that we can.  We didn’t plan on being where we are now- so we’re just grateful, whatever comes.