Pelican | Interview with Trevor de Brauw

Chicago-based instrumental quartet Pelican faced a major setback early last year when founding guitarist Laurent Schroeder-Lebec decided to leave the band, just when they were about to start the writing sessions for a new album. However, this was not enough to discourage the remaining elements, guitarist Trevor Shelley de Brauw, bassist Bryan Herweg and drummer Larry Herweg, who promptly found a replacement in Dallas Thomas (also of The Swan King) and finally recorded the long awaited sucessor of “What We All Come to Need”.
Titled “Forever Becoming, this new effort was recently released by Southern Lord, so we fired a few questions over to guitarist and founding member Trevor de Brauw to know a bit more about it.

You’ve just released you first album in four years entitled ‘Forever Becoming’, which it’s also the first record you’ve written without guitarist and founding member Laurent Schroeder-Lebec who left the band in 2012. You mentioned in a recent interview that this was a complicated record for the band. Could you elaborate on that a little?

"Following the touring for our last album we took a step back and reconfigured our lives. We knew that we no longer wanted to tour four or five months out of the year as we had been, but it meant finding jobs and figuring out a way to integrate the band into a more regimented, normal home life. Along the way Laurent realized that his passion to pursue music had dwindled, but he urged us to continue as he didn't want to hold back our creative energies. It was a big change since the band has always been the four of us and Laurent has always been a very active writer, but the challenges implied by this shift gave us a challenge to rise to, which I think was a positive thing."

Following Laurent’s departure you’ve enlisted the services of guitarist Dallas Thomas of Chicago-based rockers The Swan King. Did this change the songwriting dynamic at all?

"The song writing dynamic was affected more by the departure of Laurent than the addition of Dallas in this case. For the majority of the writing process we approached the record as a three piece, with Bryan and I writing both guitar parts and the bass lines between the two of us. He and I would develop several song ideas, then Larry would come to town and we'd edit them down. Once structures were set in stone Larry would record drum tracks for Bryan and I to build fully realized demos on top of. We wrote 6 or 7 songs this way, then finished The Cliff and The Tundra after Dallas had joined the band."

And is there a difference in the way you guys personally approach the writing of a record these days, I believe you still live in different cities right?

"Yeah, the three of us are in Chicago and Larry is in LA. I alluded to the process a bit in the previous question, but the working method definitely involved a lot of file trading. We try to make the most of our time by recording pretty fleshed out song ideas that we can share with Larry, so he has time to work on them and think about them in advance of trips to Chicago. He came to town three or four times during the writing of the album and we'd do epic marathon days of practicing and editing the songs down."

What was the recording process like for ‘Forever Becoming’? You’ve recorded this new effort with Chris Common, who’ve also recorded your previous record ‘What We All Come to Need’.

"It was great. Chris makes for an excellent engineer because he has a great sense of what it is we're going for, how to achieve it, and how to keep us comfortable along the way. A recording studio can be a very tense atmosphere, because it's a process of putting your music under a microscope and amplifying every minute detail that maybe hadn't been noticeable in the practice space- he's good about communicating with us in such a way that we relax and get good performances."

What will be your strongest memory of the recording sessions for this new effort?

"When we were tracking the guitars and basses in Electrical Audio's upstairs studio, Nirvana were on the lower level remixing In Utero for the anniversary edition of the album. We never crossed paths, but there was one day where a local news site posted a photo of Albini out with those guys for pizza and people must have put two and two together because there were a bunch of kids hanging out outside the studio the next day waiting for a glimpse. It was pretty weird."

‘Forever Becoming’ seems like a darker and heavier record than your previous effort. What was the intention behind this change? What were the inspirations for this record?

"As with all of our records the inspirations behind the record were simply the life experiences we had between one album and the next. We all had our fair share of dark times, which manifested in the vast majority of the album having a darker, melancholy vibe. But there was also a wellspring of positivity, which I think comes across in the later tracks on the record."

Can you explain the title for me please?

"The album is about the acceptance of one's mortality and the important place that death holds in the cycle of life. Death and decomposition are just steps in the world regenerating itself as dead matter provides fodder for the living - we are all in a constant state of change."

What is on tap for Pelican for the rest of 2013?

"We have a few tour dates coming up in the US in the Fall, then we'll go into hibernation for the winter."

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