Interview with Todd Clark of Pilot Speed

Pilot SpeedWith an organic confidence which is characteristically theirs, Canada’s Pilot Speed unmasks their second U.S. Wind-Up Records release entitled Wooden Bones. Vocalist/pianist and lyricist, Todd Clark, soon reveals where he, together with guitarist Chris Greenough, bassist Ruby Bumrah and drummer Bill Keeley, is coming from. “We’re not really one of those cool bands that everyone talks about; we never had that dream to be the band of the month. We just try to make music and the people will decide.”

Although Pilot Speed might not be as popular in the States as they are in Canada, many Americans are already more acquainted with their music and the delicate sweetness of Todd’s voice than they think. “We have been pretty lucky overall with TV placements. We have the melancholic, melodramatic thing. The girl and the guy are breaking up, cue the music. We had a song in Death Sentence, that Kevin Bacon movie. The song is like the last three minutes of the movie and we have gotten more exposure from that than we have ever gotten from any radio play.”

Building upon the luscious discontent, prolific lyrics and quiet controlled storm effect mastered by the likes of U2, which earmarked the group’s 2006 Into The West album [a combination of two Canadian releases], Wooden Bones instantly sounds the alarm with a greater sense of primal urgency. Album opener and first single, “Put The Phone Down,” readily swings with the decadent freedom of a child stomping his or her feet during a wanton temper tantrum. The frontman, who has played guitar since childhood but did appease his family by obtaining a university degree before pursuing a music career full force, admitted that fashioning notes with that kind of magnetic appeal wasn’t very effortless. However, thanks to songs like “Put The Phone Down,” “Bluff,” and “Light You Up” on Wooden Bones, Pilot Speed have crafted accessible hooks with steamy melodies while still maintaining an unassuming integrity and clear sense of poetic justice.

Do you think you are as well known in the States as you are in Canada?

Todd Clark: I am not sure. I mean, proportionately, we are far more well known in Canada. At the end of the day maybe more people know us there, because of the sheer number of people in the U.S., but to us the U.S. is a new market. We kind of made a little drop in the bucket on the last album. This is the album were we have to make an entrance into that market. We’re a band of medium to decent fame in Canada, where in the U.S. most people would definitely say we’re a new band.
There is something just so genuine about you guys.

Oh, thanks. That’s something I say, too. I would like people to at least think that at the end of the day the songs are sincere. That is a word I have used a lot over the years of being around. At least you’re getting some honest, sincere music, and I think a lot people don’t want that. People want a bit more style. I don’t think I could do anything else. I don’t think I am really interested in it either.

What were the challenges in making this record?

This was the third album and this has to be our best album and it was the first album that was being released from a U.S. label from the beginning; not just taking the music that we have already made and putting it out. They were building a story.

Yeah, there was the pressure of, ‘Now you are getting a shot with this real powerhouse of a label that can do things if you do your job.’ Yeah, labels have agendas and sometimes they are not concurrent with what the band wants, but I think we are very lucky with the label we have. I think our goals were very clear. They like to have the radio presence and my belief has always been if you write a song that is unique yet has that mass appeal, then everyone will be happy.

On this record, I wanted to write tunes that were like pop songs with those standard formulas with that kind of unique twist to them. I find it a lot easier to write longwinded and verbose music that doesn’t have those pop hooks inside it. I think it’s quite a challenge to write a three-and-a-half-minute song, to stick to a formula that everybody knows, yet when they hear it, they still find it interesting. I want to write unique songs that stick to those principals when I was growing up listening to music; those were the things that I like whether it’s a Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen or a Tom Waits song. They all adhere to these simple song formulas but they are all completely unique.