latest disc, Wolves
, is a truly groundbreaking affair that incorporates electronic elements, post-rock ambience, and tinges of post-hardcore into a traditional pop context to create a unique amalgam of music that's just as innovative as it is accessible.
Friends since elementary school, Michael Harris and Daniel Anderson began to collaborate musically at age 12, forming your typical run-of-the-mill full-member bands. Eventually they settled into being a two-piece, recording acoustic demos at a local studio in their hometown of Bellingham, WA. The studio's staff took them under their wing and helped the boys learn the mechanics of production and engineering, which later proved to be key in the band's development as they spent the next several years conceptualizing and executing their vision. After compiling songs for about two years, the duo's debut full-length album was finished, the self-released Strange We Should Meet Here. Constructed in Anderson's bedroom on pirated software, and mixed and mastered at the same local studio, Seattle radio stations began spinning tracks from the album. This started a bidding war for the band which led Harris and Anderson to sign with Reprise Records, which re-released Strange We Should Meet Here
Despite the album, a tour with Team Sleep, and a stint on Rockstar Taste Of Chaos being well-received, no one would have expected what the band would achieve with their second album, Wolves, which they recorded earlier this year with Ross Robinson (At The Drive-In, Glassjaw) and Mark Hoppus (bassist for +44 and Blink-182). Wolves takes Idiot Pilot's sound to previously unexplored cinematic levels. "What was important to me was that Ross was always very concerned about the spirit of the song," explains Harris, who paints Robinson more as a guru than a producer.
Although the band and producer struggled during the recording due to Harris and Anderson's perfectionist tendencies, ultimately Wolves is that much stronger for its omniscient sense of tension. "We love and respect Ross, but the way that we operate is that everyone's opinion is offered up and then we reach a specific compromise," Harris explains about the way these two 21-year-olds have been collaborating for nearly a decade. "I think we're probably one of the more difficult bands he's worked with because we have such a strong idea of what we want," he continues. "It was definitely important for us to let go of certain aspects and let him have his take on things-and I think that made the record better."
Wolves, as a recording project, represents many firsts for the band. Not only was it the first time they looked to outside sources for production and collaboration, it also marked the beginning of Harris contributing musically to the recordings by playing various instruments. The resulting balance is also being reproduced in the band's new live setup with Harris playing guitar onstage and a live drummer.
In addition to Anderson's unique programming, which provides much of the Idiot Pilot sound, Wolves also features live drums, courtesy of Blink-182/Transplants drummer Travis Barker on "Elephant" and the Dillinger Escape Plan's Chris Pennie on the remaining tracks. "When we called Chris, I was surprised to hear how into the record he was based on his previous work," Anderson explains, referring to Pennie's bent for technical jazz-tinged metal. "It was a very different vibe than just getting a hired drummer; he was very much a part of the process."
Anderson shouldn't be too surprised that Pennie loved Wolves. The soaring symphonic opener "Last Chance" will hook listeners immediately; anthemic rockers such as "In Record Shape" and "Red Museum" will lull them into a false sense of security that is eventually shattered by cathartic screams; and more straight-ahead down-tempo tracks, such as "Theme From The Pit," prove that despite the band's well-placed aggressive tendencies, there's a pop foundation at the heart of Idiot Pilot that keeps them grounded while their music arcs toward the stratosphere.
Indeed, in many ways Wolves marks a reinvention for Idiot Pilot, who have already garnered much attention from overseas. "I definitely feel like this album is a huge progression for us, and I'm just excited to see what happens next," Harris says, "Music is the one thing that I will always be working on no matter what financial state I'm in," he says. "If I go broke making music, I don't care. This is what I live for."