INTERVIEW - PLEIADES: "We are enjoying the sound we have, and we are just present in the sound we are making, and it's beginning to get attention."
Manchester-based Art-Rock/Post Hardcore outfit Pleiades have been making waves since their critically acclaimed second EP ‘All At Your Mercy’ and now they are gearing up to release their highly anticipated debut album and are ones to watch in the rock/metal scene with their diverse sound and interesting topics they address on their debut which is titled 'Affinity With' which is released 29th September 2023. 'Affinity With’ is inspired by stories of empathy and human nature. We discuss the band's upcoming debut with vocalist Andrew Calderbank and bassist Josh Edmondson.
I have to ask the obvious question before going into the album. How did you come up with your band name PLEIADES?
Josh: So it was actually our old drummer who came up with it because we did initially set out to be a 3-piece with no vocalist as at the beginning we wanted to be a post-rock band so we were toying with that idea for the better part of six months and jamming and trying to make the whole thing work but then we realised we wanted something a bit more focused so instead of a jam band into like a post-hardcore band so we listed all our influences and mapped out what kind of band we wanted to be and made it a bit more focused then that’s when we started auditioning for singers and we went through an awful lot of crap before we got Andrew.
Andrew: I went through the unconventional way of applying for a band on Gumtree. When I read about how bands got together, I have not read that story, so hopefully, it’s a unique one. The PLEIADES name I think if we had a chance to decide on a name in the group we have now we would have picked something a little less confusing to pronounce for a lot of people but I think we have grown into it and have become quite attached to the comradery around having people coming up to us and going “How do you pronounce that?”. There is a sub-section of bands that have complicated names, and it’s like that’s us too so we have become attached to it. We actually got on one of our merch items the pronunciation printed on it, but it’s not quite caught on as much as we would like, but maybe we will give it another go.
How did you come up with the album name ‘Affinity With’, and what does it mean to you?
Andrew: I wanted to have an album title that wasn’t as difficult to pronounce as the band name, so ‘Affinity With’ is basically like the definition of empathy, like boiling empathy down into a small phrase like affinity with others and a lot of album is based around of human greed and the consequences of it and how affects the wider world whether it’s the natural world or the people around you on a great scale or a personal scale so ‘Affinity With’ encompasses the album's atmosphere in a way that it is a meaningful and sombre subject but also has that element of a little glimmer of hope towards the end. When the album title hits you, we all kind of looked at each other and was like this is a keeper. Once it was written next to our band name and the song titles, you can see its future a little bit, so it was dead on.
The debut is inspired by stories of human nature and empathy. What made you decide to write about this as a theme in particular?
Andrew: I think a lot of bands wrote a lot of stuff during 2020-2021 when things were a bit uncertain, so I did a lot of reading. I tried to broaden my vocabulary quite a lot but you can end up going too far where you end up in this realm of where you write a lot and say a lot but you don’t say anything of any real substance so a lot of it was finding subjects and topics that have happened in real life and be able to write them down in a way which I felt could get my point across in a personal way as well as just speaking about a subject that is genuinely interesting. So bands like mewithoutyou who I’m really in too, it’s very philosophical and quite faith driven in their topics but not explicitly speaking about their love of their religion it’s kind of more critical and commentary based, so when I get a topic from a band that I love, it gives it another dimension and more substance and it's much easier to come back so I hope it has a similar effect or at least on a couple of songs.
One of the reasons I was drawn to listening to your album was because I liked what I read in the press release, and the topics sounded interesting.
Andrew: I’m glad it’s received that way because it’s very easy to lose a listener by trailing off or indulging too much into a topic, but there is a safe space where like, the message is clear, and we don’t overcomplicate it, and sometimes less is more. A lot of it was a lesson in that, like get into the topic but don’t divulge every single detail, leave it open for interpretation as I think that’s where people’s imaginations really come to life with it.
Do you write all the lyrics, Andrew?
Andrew: Yeah, because me and Josh do all the singing. Josh has opened up a lot more in terms of doing more backing vocals and harmonies, and we share what vocals we are going to do. It is my favourite bit is finding stories and topics and getting inspired. All the stories have come from digging into literature and applying them to my own personal life and those around me really.
Okay, so diving deeper into some of the meaning behind the tracks. The song ‘Siberian’ in the press release said it reflects the story of Alexander I, a Russian emperor in the 1800s who is alleged to have faked his own death to live a life of isolation and solitude. How did you come across this story, and what compelled you to write a song about it especially?
Andrew: It's an example of wealth and the consequences of it and manifests itself into leading people who have everything to go completely against what their title and status stands for. So you have got a guy who would appear to have everything at his fingertips in terms of wealth, land and servants but the story of him, it is quite clear he was unhappy being in charge of so many people, and he wanted that anonymity as a single person. I wanted to get across the fact that it doesn’t matter if it’s true or not because the myths and rumours are kind of more impactful than whether it's real or not. It felt very relatable today, where wealth is such a hot topic, so just being able to dig into the early part of the 1800’s and go history is repeating itself and it is just one example from a faraway time from someone who seemingly had it all and it still wasn’t a enough.
The single ‘Universal’, I believe, is about the exploration of faith? Can you elaborate a bit about the song?
Andrew: Yeah, so, that is like my love letter to mewithoutyou and the way the lead singer Aaron Weiss would write about Christianity and would write about Judaism and Islam in a way which is faith exploring as opposed to preaching about faith, so being able to stand entirely present and being able to look from certain perspectives instead of blinkers and sort of be narrow minded in your message but being able to see things as clearly as possible from other people’s shoes and also just being entirely present in somewhere that is so vast, you can easily get lost in doubling down in your ideas which I think as musicians you do double down on ideas, sometimes it’s better to let go of them and become something else so it’s just about having perspective and being present and letting things manifest in a way that it should as opposed to the way you wanted it to.
Can you tell us a bit about the track ‘Treppenwitz’?
Andrew: Our drummer OJ had friends in a band called Treppenwitz, and the name kind of stuck with him, so we named one of the tracks, which was Josh’s brainchild.
Josh: Yeah, so It’s one of the two tracks I have written predominantly for this album, so ‘Treppenwitz’ and ‘Universal’. They are very Frackensteined pieced together so like pieces of riffs that I had for ages and various ideas. So yeah, our drummer knows this band called Treppenwitz which is almost like this weird jazz ensemble three-piece, and we were originally going to have the pianist do some mad piano it was meant to be like an eighteen-minute song with a crazy ending but in the studio we trimmed it down on the day recording.
Andrew: Well, going back to the idea of letting things go when you should, this was a prime example. Treppenwitz, I think the definition is kind of like a joke like I wish you would have told me at the time, and I think ‘Treppenwitz’ as a song has always been a little bit tongue-in-cheek as well as a subject. It is bordering on quite a bouncy nu-metal. I was in two minds about labelling it as nu-metal, but there are elements there that felt appropriate, and Treppenwitz feels like the appropriate title for the outlier of the album, and it was the shortest song we have done as we predominantly indulge in 5-6 minutes songs and don’t know when to stop so it was like a short burst of energy in two and a half minutes, and it was like this is the ‘Treppenwitz’ song.
Josh: I feel as if like our live sets especially and our album was screaming for something that’s very short, like just to the point and in your face. I didn’t feel much resistance to it. I just remembered the pianist's name, who we wanted, and his name is Matthew Aplin from Treppenwitz.
That’s what I like about the album it has a lot of genres and doesn’t constrain itself to one sound rather than just sticking to one thing.
Andrew: I’m glad to hear that because we are all influenced by very different things from like hardcore and rock and stuff, and sometimes it can get lost, and you can end up with too many influences, and for a listener, the idea is to keep everyone wired in rather than lose them, but I’m glad you’re hearing it as we intended.
You end with the song ‘No Living Thing’, I’m guessing that was an intentional journey to end with that one? What is the overall message you want listeners to take away and explore?
Andrew: Ending with ‘No Living Thing’ felt like its most natural ending. I feel like if you listen to all our songs individually, they could all have ended an album.
Josh: Definitely, yeah.
Andrew: We really wanted to try and not do, but I think we naturally have ‘Affinity With’ the album, and we do write a good album closer and I think it had such a 90s kind of post-hardcore feel it was intentionally quite raw and unforgiving and I think it’s like six minutes long.
Josh: Yeah, well, also we wanted to end on something that was like a bi-polar opposite to what was on our previous EP ‘All At Your Mercy’ because the ending of that is very dark and heavy; it's frantic and almost kind of hopeless where the end of ‘No Living Thing’ is hopeful and very uplifting and I remember us talking about that early on that it was something we wanted to do and end on like a positive note instead of something so negative.
Andrew: The ending was actually meant to have a trumpet or horns on it, but we couldn’t find a person to do it as we intended to have some horns to accompany the uplifting nature of the end. We are really excited to play it live, but we haven’t quite found a way to get it into the like half an hour set as it’s quite a long song. but I think when that does fit the set, I think it will be the highlight of the show.
When was the debut recorded, and what was the writing and recording process like?
Andrew: April 2021…
Josh: We started in February 2021 until about early May.
Andrew: We did all the instrumentals first and then the vocals and I did a week of vocals with Josh, so yeah, it’s been a while, but I feel like with it being a debut album, we didn’t quite realise the process of getting in out in an effective way because you record the album and you are so excited to get it out, and I think independently, not knowing any better we would have probably released it too soon and perhaps not given it the chance to make the impact we felt it deserved.
Josh: I mean, some of the songs we have on it like ‘Stomach’, ‘Honeyguide’ and ‘Looming’ to some extent was pre-pandemic, that was in 2019, so we have been sitting on those songs for ages.
Andrew: It’s hard writing albums over such a long period of time because you want it to feel current, but listening back to it as a whole piece, I don’t think any of us feel jaded by it. You always run the risk of just wanting to get onto new ideas. Even listening to ‘Honeyguide’, which I think we started writing in early 2019 for me and our drummer, it's probably still one of our favourite songs on the album. I think when we had the group of songs together as a ten, a ten always felt like the classic album number.
Who designed the album cover?
Andrew: That was a combination of a friend of mine Zain Kruyer, who lives in Sydney and is a photographer, and he does a lot of quite striking nighttime visuals, so we had a few original images of like phone boxes and industrial nighttime stuff in Australia and then we took it to Elicit Music and Matty Halliwell who is very good with ideas, and he wanted us to have a branded image for what the sounds like so it was a combination of the original image and Matty bringing in the harsh reds and pinks and the vastness of the black around it. He has really helped give us an image.
Did you feel much pressure putting together your debut following the praise you have had with your EPs, as you already have built a reputation for pushing boundaries?
Josh: I didn’t really feel any pressure to be honest. You are just stepping into the unknown a bit. I feel like album number two will be a hell of a lot of pressure. As this is our first album, you essentially have all the time in the world to write it and get it right, so it’s been fairly chilled out.
Andrew: You only make a debut album once, so I feel like we have done the EP stage, and we were like we have 5 or 6 tracks, and we could do an EP. Once we had the ten tracks and we felt it all flowed, we just felt like it was album time. It felt important to do this as an album and not get ten songs and then be like, how about we do two EP’s we just felt like as a body of work, an album was most appropriate.
Following on from pushing boundaries, that’s what makes your debut so strong and powerful, as it has a lot of different vibes and dynamics going on. Do you actively try to be different as such, or is that just what comes naturally?
Andrew: We have a broad spectrum of influences but under a similar umbrella, if that makes sense, like post-rock, post-hardcore pop punk and indie and folk rock. It was the only way we could make a genuine sound. When people ask who do you sound like? It's still something that we struggle with. We have had various groups of bands thrown at us in terms of you sound like these guys, like towards the last EP, we kind of wanted to be this anomaly, and when we first started, it was quite hard for people to put us with other bands which was a blessing and a curse. I think we are starting to enter a stage where it is more of a blessing. When you first start, you are so eager to just play, so you play with metal bands, indie bands and punk bands, which is great as it's such a broad spectrum of people, but getting them for shows was a little bit of a struggle, but it is bearing fruit now.
Josh: The more bands we meet, it’s a lot easier to play the kind of shows we want to play, so we have been playing with a band called Hidden Mothers, who are on the up-and-coming.
Andrew: Yeah, they are very much in that wave of post-black metal, and we are playing shows with them in September, so we will tailor it with parts of the album that are more appropriate as opposed to just having the same set every show. It gives us scope to tailor to our audience a bit as now it's about broadening our audience, and we have put in the groundwork to make it sound unique. I think as soon as you start to believe in the sound you have got and see it as your sound and believe in it, then I think people start to follow suit and believe it with you.
We never say this has to sound like this type of music; we want it to sound interesting to us, and we want it to be digestible to people today but also not kind of sell ourselves out in terms of what is interesting to us as you can get really bogged down trying to sound like a certain band like for example a lot of bands see bands like Bring Me The Horizon as their biggest influence, and there are whole scenes of people who can go back to Bring Me The Horizon as like their source, and there are a lot of bands that have similar sounds, but it was about what sounds good to us and what interests people, and I feel like it is getting there.
Josh: I feel like that’s always the internal struggle of being in a band because everyone in the band has their own idea or ideal version of what their band should sound like, and every band member has got a different opinion subconsciously, but I think its when it all comes together it works and that’s.
Andrew: Yeah, and when we get on to the next album, it will develop more and then we may decide the next album is our definitive sound, but until then, we are enjoying the sound we have, and we are just present in the sound we are making and its beginning to get attention.
In October, you are heading out on a UK tour. How excited are you to get out and tour with your debut? What can people expect from your live shows?
Josh: It’s a mixture of excitement and nerves. The closer it gets, the more real it feels, but I’m over the moon, and I feel in terms of our live show we are going to capture the album as much as we can into the live set, and we want it to flow like the album ebbs and flows. We are still yet to rehearse for our UK tour set but I think we will have a much clearer idea after the short run of shows with Hidden Mothers or what works live and what doesn’t, as we are going to introduce songs from the album that we haven’t played yet so we can test the waters a bit to see what works so yeah I’m very excited.
Andrew: Yeah, I’m looking forward to playing with Dead Bird as well as I got in contact with them over lockdown, and I was chatting with one of the guys, and we stayed in contact and then Matty Halliwell at Elicit Music was like how do you feel about going away with them for a week and releasing the album. Also, they are a band that we are fans of anyway as they have got such credentials and foundations and played festivals and a lot of shows, and it’s really gratifying to be alongside them, but I think in terms of what to expect, we have been doing shows with You Win Again Gravity who are friends of ours, and we really enjoy their company, and I think we learnt a lot in those three shows in terms of what we feel gets the best reaction and I feel like I really look up to performers like Letlive so I think if I can get at least half that energy on stage, I think I will be on to something pretty special so it’s trying to translate that energy and I want people to feel like it’s an experience they wouldn’t get at another show and just be completely present in it and be like we have seen a special band today because after we played some shows with You Win Again Gravity we had people coming up to us saying we will catch you in Birmingham ect. Expect energy and intensity, and Josh is a great singer as well, even though he will never admit it and we have this really cool trade off and it’s growing every day in a kind of Taking Back Sunday-esque way with harmonic trading of vocals, and we are enjoying more as we go. We aren’t massively prolific in terms of we don’t play that many shows, but when we do, we make sure they mean something.
What else have you got planned for the rest of the year?
Josh: For me personally, I just want to be in the moment and do the tour and experience it, and for the rest of the year, I feel as if this UK tour in October will be the last significant tour, we do this year.
Andrew: We could maybe do like one home town show at the end of the year or something, but this feels like the ultimate celebration for the year we have had and started planning this back in February, so at this point, it feels like an accomplishment to have that week tour with Dead Bird and enjoy that and then maybe think about new ideas but I think if we are going to start writing anything, we almost want everything to be written at the same time so it has the immediacy and everything feels even more gelled together.
The album 'Affinity With' will be released on Friday, 29th September 2023, and pre-orders are available HERE
Catch Pleiades live in September/October in the UK:
UK headline tour dates in October:
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