Since joining the ever interesting roster of Kscope Records, The UK's The Pineapple Thief have started to build up a real momentum, the band's last three excellent studio albums, Tightly Unwound, Someone Here Is Missing and last year's All The Wars bringing acclaim from fans and critics alike. Add to that a string of impressive live dates round The UK and Europe, another in a series of interesting EP releases - Build A World and a digital download live release, and the past few months have been very, very busy indeed for TPT mainman Bruce Soord. Sea of Tranquility's Steven Reid caught up with the songwriting, singing guitarist prior to the band's last set of live shows to support All The Wars, to discuss all sorts of pineapple thievery and an interesting side project with Jonas Renske, a key member of Katatonia, which is set to reveal just how wise crowds are...
Your most recent album All The Wars from 2012 has been wonderfully received. You must be delighted with how both fans and critics have reacted to it?
Yes, it's been great, especially after working at this for so many years. Although you can never please everyone! I think there are some progressive rock fans, especially the kind who are into 'neo-prog' who absolutely hate us. I think it's a sign of our success that more people are actively hating us now!
And as is The Pineapple Thief tradition, you've quickly followed that up with an EP release, Build A World...
That's right. Two of the tracks "Innocent" and "What Are You Saying?" were recorded for All the Wars, but we felt they didn't add to the album 'as a whole'. "You Drew Blood" was an acoustic track I did as an experiment, with a view to releasing a solo album at some point, in that acoustic rock style, so I thought I would test the water. The EP is really closing the All the Wars era of the band.
And as if that wasn't enough, you have also recently put out a live concert release, Live At The 013 as a download. Why did you think now was the right time for the band's first full live release?
I did 'release' a DVD back in 2003 [simply called Live] I think it was. Although you could barely call it a DVD! They were actually DVDr's I burnt at home on my computer. The 'video' was from a home camcorder and the sound was pretty awful. I think there are no more than 200 of the things out there - very collectable. But as for the 013 download, I wanted people who haven't been able to see us to be able to get an idea of our live show, because I'm really proud of where we are.
Rather than release it through your record label Kscope, it is available exclusively through the band's website. Why did you decide to do it this way rather than as a full DVD/CD release?
I think because the real release will be a blu-ray next year. Kscope were really kind letting us do our own thing with this release.
You were refreshingly honest when you released the live download, stating that for a band to keep themselves on the road, it is vital for them to find different revenue streams, which was partly why the live release came about. The public perception these days is that bands go out on the road to subsidise their albums and not the other way round, as it used to be. However judging by those comments, that isn't necessarily the case. Just how tough is it financially to keep a band like The Pineapple Thief recording and touring regularly?
It's not easy! The bigger the tours, the bigger the shows, the more expensive the costs! And TPT don't do well everywhere. We can drive all night to play to a small crowd and lose money. But we need to keep chipping away because everyone always seems to leave our shows happy.
However after plugging away for so many years with The Pineapple Thief, from the outside it feels as though from Tightly Unwound through Someone Here Is Missing to All The Wars, that each album has brought the band to a new level of public and media awareness. Is that the perception from within the band?
Yes, it feels that way - the band really only 'emerged' when we joined Kscope and released Tightly Unwound. I think people certainly know who we are now. Six years ago we were so far underground you could barely hear us! Joining Kscope has certainly been a major factor in us getting our name out there but we knew we had to step up too. The live show got a lot better - we starting taking our gigs seriously! - and I upped the bar as a song writer and producer. And as we got bigger, we had more money to spend on production, strings, mixing. All that goes toward making a stronger product. But at the end of the day, the most important aspect of progressing is the songs, and they don't cost anything!
Over the past few years there has also been an extensive reissue campaign of the earlier The Pineapple Thief releases. As a late comer to the band I've been eagerly snapping all these releases up. Is it quite gratifying to finally have these excellent albums and EPs reaching a wider audience?
It does feel really special that these have had a new lease of life. I never dreamed they would. In fact, when I started TPT back in 1999 I thought it was just a one album experiment! In ways it has felt quite weird re-mixing them. I've just finished remixing 137 and it took me back to 2001, when things were VERY different for me. I was a different kind of songwriter and you could hear me trying so many things - and not always succeeding. I do things very differently now. The songwriting process has changed and my voice has developed. I do cringe a bit listening to some of my old vocal performances.
Are there more reissues still in the pipeline?
Yeah, just one, the debut Abducting the Unicorn. I'm a bit nervous about getting that one out of the cupboard!
You played some dates in the UK towards the end of last year. I'm guessing that with more added for next month, you must have been particularly pleased with how those initial shows went?
Yes, in a way. Our live show, we feel, is really really strong but the band still feel we are not playing to as many people as we want to. It's tough.
Anyone attending these upcoming shows will have the opportunity to get a download card featuring exclusive acoustic recordings only available at the gigs, with only 1000 cards available. Is this a way of saying a special thank you to the band's hardcore support who you asked to choose which songs to record?
Yes, and also for promoters to try and sell more tickets! After all these will be our last shows of the year apart from festivals in the summer, before we retire to concentrate on the next album, so don't expect to see us again until 2014. Actually, the acoustic recordings have annoyed a lot of our hardcore fans who couldn't get to the gigs. It's tricky…. I always knew they [the fans] would choose "Remember Us" for this release. It's a hardcore TPT fan favourite! It doesn't really work live but it's a top track in our history. I always write songs initially on acoustic guitar, so it's really easy for me to do this kind of stuff. That's why I'm quite keen on doing a full solo acoustic album.
Once the live dates are over, will the band be taking a break, or is it a case of getting straight into writing songs for the next album?
I'm already writing. In fact, I never stop! We are planning to release the next studio album late spring 2014. It may seem like a long way away, but we've got to get into the studio in October, so not a lot of time to get the songs written and pre-production sorted.
You also have a new album due in June under the project name Wisdom Of Crowds with Katatonia singer Jonas Renske. How did that come about?
Ha, that's a long story! Initially it was a collaboration between myself and someone at Kscope. Just low key, I was experimenting with production but it snow balled and turned into a really strong project. But we never had any vocals. I'd always been a big fan of Jonas and Katatonia and I was really chuffed when he came on board. He made a massive difference to the project. Style wise it's dark, it's quite heavy and there are a lot of synths and electronics on the record. But on the other hand, there are mellotrons, strings, Rhodes, pianos and lots of guitar. As I wasn't singing I found myself taking a lot of guitar solos instead, quite unusual for me. Not singing totally freed me up to focus on playing and producing the record. I loved it. It worked really well. I think Jonas and I might work together again in the future.
What's behind the excellent band name Wisdom Of Crowds?
Again it was Kscope who suggested that. I said, 'that's the perfect name'. The project just fell together so easily, it was spooky.
Well Bruce, that's all my questions, thanks for taking the time to answer them!
Thanks to Sea of Tranquility for taking the time to spread the TPT word. It's appreciated!
Photographs courtesy of Rob Monks