Delivering an eccentric and lively sound that would immediately fill your head with blissful thoughts of warm sweaters and breezy autumn afternoons, the Brooklyn-based indie rock quartet A Great Big Pile Of Leaves have spent this past year touring in support with the likes of Braid, The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die and Into It. Over It. Gaining a devoted fanbase over the years from their delightful and enthusiastic live performances, the band finally embarked on their first headlining tour in over two years in September. Sponsored by the their label, Topshelf Records, A Great Big Pile Of Leaves also had the chance to bring out their label mates Diamond Youth and Field Mouse on the road with them as support.
After the first night of their tour, I spoke with drummer Tyler Soucy about their collaboration with Topshelf Records on this tour, their summer on the road with Braid and also their upcoming plans to write and record a follow-up to their sophomore LP, You’re Always On My Mind.
Yesterday you started up your headlining tour with Diamond Youth and Field Mouse. How was first show? What are you looking forward to the most about the rest of the dates?
The first show was awesome. We started in Philly and it has always been a great spot for us and they’ve been just like… I don’t know, it was just crazy; they went crazy (laughs). We’re always a little nervous to see how the shows are going to go. You never know, it’s like a case-to-case basis, but yeah, kids showed up and really got into it and it was a fun time.
For the tour, it’s really awesome to do the Topshelf Records tour and that label feels like a family, that’s how they run it. So, it’s nice to go out with a few of the other bands [Diamond Youth and Field Mouse]. They’re all doing really well and they’re all really, really good bands. We had the chance to handpick them with Topshelf, so it’s been awesome to see them on the first night and I am looking forward to seeing them every night.
This tour was actually sponsored by your label, Topshelf Records, correct? How long have you both been planning this tour together?
Yeah, yeah. We were putting together a headliner and we have been talking with Topshelf for maybe about a year about trying to do a “Topshelf Records tour,” whether it would be a headliner or not. So, it ended up kind of coming to the right place when we were putting together the headlining tour when [we] mentioned the idea. So yeah, we basically met with them and they met with out booking agency and they kind of put together the whole marketing plan for the tour and everything and they’ve been great. They’ve been giving out free stuff at all of the shows and it’s been awesome.
For this tour, are there any places in particular that you haven’t had the chance to play before in the past?
Not really, we’re lucky enough that we kind of planned this around so that we are going to be able to hit our favorite places and also at places where we know people are going to come out. So like, Florida has always been great for us in places like Orlando and Tampa. Chicago is always awesome. Uhh… Michigan is always great. New Jersey, New York, Boston, they’re all going to be pretty awesome.
The last time you guys came to New Jersey, you opened for Braid at the Asbury Lanes. Since you frequently play the Lanes whenever you’re in the area, how does it feel to be playing another headlining gig here again?
Yeah, it’s awesome. We haven’t headlined in about two years, so it’s been a while and I think the last time we headlined was at the Lanes. So, it’s one of our, if not, definitely one of our favorite place to play in New Jersey. And the crowds there are the same as Philly and in New York too, where the kids are just like… you know, they kind of… they give us more than we give them. So it’s definitely a special place to play.
Speaking of Braid, what was it like sharing the stage with them and hanging out with the band on the road this past summer? Would you consider Braid as a big influence for A Great Big Pile Of Leaves?
It was awesome (laughs). We weren’t even sure if we were going to do it, or even if we could do it based on scheduling stuff, but we all pushed everything aside that we could possibly could to make it happen. They’re a band that we’ve looked up to for so long and just going out with them was awesome. They were the nicest guys… I don’t know, they were like, super supportive of us out on the road.
It’s rare when you go on tour and watch the band every night that you like, make sure you watch them every night and you’re just like, living in a different universe kind of when that comes around. So, it was really exciting and it was a lot of fun.
The song “Learning Curves” is going to be featured on a 7” EP that you’re going to be handing out on the Topshelf tour. This was a song that first featured as an acoustic song on your EP Boom! and also as B-side for You’re Always On My Mind. What was it like revisiting this song with the full band?
Yeah, we recorded during the same time as our last record, You’re Always On My Mind. I don’t know if we wanted to keep it as a B-side, but between the record label and stuff like that, everyone was kind of encouraging keeping the song off the record, so that’s kind of why it became a B-side I guess (laughs).
But yeah, we love that song and we never really planned on turning it into a full-band song. Like, we did an acoustic version of “Ambiversion” on one of the seven inches we put out, so that was kind of the end of doing the “full-band” version of it.
But with “Learning Curves,” we kind of just went into the studio and when we were there, we had the time to do it and we were like, “Let’s just turn this into a full-band song.” It was one of the more creative pictures of things that we had in the studio the last time around because we finally kind of got to go in with really no plans for it and kind of see what came out.
About a month ago, Topshelf announced that they were going to repress your first record, Have You Seen My Prefrontal Cortex? on vinyl. Was there any special reason why you wanted to rerelease this record?
Well, we pressed it with another label back in 2010 and it’s sold alright; it was a little slow with the sales. But I feel like even as we sold out of it, everyone was asking for it. Topshelf actually wanted to press that record in, but we were already in agreement with this other label; so I think it was just something that was always on everyone’s mind. We kind of agreed to it at some point and I think with the Topshelf tour coming up and with us being between record cycles, it just kind of made sense.
But we got them in yesterday. It was the first time seeing how they came out and they came out way perfectly than I hoped for. Kids were asking for them last night, so that’s all we can ever want (laughs).
It’s been over a year since you guys released your sophomore album, You’re Always On My Mind. Has the thought of writing for a new record sprung amongst yourself and the band yet?
We’ve been writing for the past few months and we’re hoping once we get back from the tour, we can kind of lock ourselves down again. We’re not really going to play too many shows after this so we can focus on it. But we have skeletons of a bunch of stuff and a bunch of ideas that we’re really excited about.
So, once we get back home, we’ll focus on those and hopefully record later this fall or earlier this winter and if we can get this out by like, the spring or summer of next year, that would be really awesome.
Cool, cool. That sounds pretty exciting. Have you experimented with different styles in comparison to your previous work? Or are you guys pretty much going with the flow of things during the writing process?
It’s been kind of natural. I think as far any “conscious” effort to change anything, we want to get a little more… I don’t know if technical is the word, but we want to push ourselves a little more as musicians if that makes sense. We’re trying to keep the writing style as natural as it can be, but then kind of honing it on those parts and making those parts the best they can be. Not that intricate is always the best, but we want to find the right balance and you know, push ourselves as musicians and as a band.
Definitely. So, aside from writing for this new record, what are some other surprises that you have in works to finish out the year?
I think it’s going to come down to the next couple of months how much writing we can get done. We might play some holiday shows and stuff in the Northeast and some college shows here and there. Because honestly, when you’re planning a tour, it takes up way more time than you think it would. And your focus kind of shifts from one to another, so you start thinking of, “What songs we should play?” “We got to put a merch order in,” or, “Should we even bring merch?” So getting a tour kind of expands on all of that and takes up a lot of time. So, I would just love to like, not even have any plans (laughs) and just go focus on the record.
A Great Big Pile Of Leaves will be playing The Studio At Webster Hall on Oct. 2 and at the Asbury Lanes in Asbury Park on Oct. 3. For more information, go to agreatbigpileofleaves.com.