Last week, when South Florida outfit PLEASURES unveiled their latest video for The Thrill Of Never Looking Back, we were immediately immersed in their unique audio-visual output.
The band make music unlike anything else you’ve heard, and produce the music videos to match. So fresh off their latest video’s release, we caught up with the band for a chat.
Fresh off the release of their incredible new video for The Thrill Of Never Looking Back, we take five with South Florida band PLEASURES.
HAPPY: Hey, how’s it going? What are you up to at the moment?
KATHERINE: Hey, we’re good! We’re about to go mix a new track tonight with the homies who helped us with our latest record, Body Pop. Everywhere else in the US is chilly but we’re all warm here in Florida. My dog is snoring on the couch.
HAPPY: We’re loving the new video for The Thrill of Never Looking Back! Could you tell us a bit about how the clip came together?
KATHERINE: Thanks so much! We had all agreed on making a video for Thrill and I wanted to take a stab at it. The overall idea sorta brewed in my mind on the return trip from a tour we did out to California. I wanted so badly to film the video in New Mexico because I wanted it to feel desolate and mystical, I also wanted there to be characters and not us playing ourselves in the video. I imagined a war between rogue teams who were once connected somehow. One splits off and forms a new alliance and stops wearing the same uniform. Instead, they adopt masks that make them seem frightening and hide their vulnerability. I wanted to work with Evan Zissimopulos again so we planned a phone call. He immediately loved the idea and we brainstormed and he offered ways we could tie in other plot devices like receiving the VHS from the other team and watching it on the TV wall. He helped so much with the organization and planning of the entire video. We ended up shooting it at a cement factory in my home town that I’d driven by a million times but never thought to go inside. It was perfect.
HAPPY: What kind of ideas/concepts were driving the story behind the video?
KATHERINE: I just wanted it to feel desperate and wanted the characters to be bold and violent but not because they were inherently violent. Moreso that their lives were lived in a space where they constantly had to protect themselves and were heartbroken at the idea of having to fight enemies who were once true friends.
HAPPY: Your music is incredibly unique. Have you always had this approach to music making? Or did it take you a while to land on the sound you currently have?
MORGAN: We started this band to basically free us from musical limitation and to make the kind of music we like without the limit of genre. We all pull from different musical influences, everything from noise to eastern classical music, and we try and express that as much as we can while still finding some cohesion. I don’t think we’ve ever gone into writing a song thinking “Man, I really wish we sounded like that other band.” We just play the music we’d like to hear. All of us come from really eclectic and experimental musical backgrounds, so it’s just kinda natural for us.
ROGER: The musical incantation process for Body Pop, and even now as we write the new record, is somewhat loose but also consistently formulaic to some extent. Sometimes we’ll just be jamming for a while until something comes out organically that feels like a thing and we’ll slowly build from that point. Often, someone will posit a musical idea, whether it be a beat, riff, baseline, melody, synth motif, what have you…and it may stick and become the seed for a new song. If someone comes up with something inspiring, we take it for a ride and see where it takes us. It’s kind of like scattering the pieces of a new puzzle on the floor and trying to put it together except the puzzle pieces are endogenous and invisible, the floor is your imagination, and there’s no picture on the box hinting at what it’s eventually supposed to look like. Once the basic skeletal arrangement takes shape in rehearsal, further instrumentation is written and tracked later in the studio as the recording process gets underway and often a song’s true identity isn’t revealed until it’s gone through several incremental phases of distillation.
To use an analogy, a song will often start with a single musical idea initiated and brought into existence from the imagination of a PLEASURES initiate. If we’re making a delicious sauce, this jump-off point is the mirepoix (in classic French culinary nomenclature; 2:1:1 onion/celery/carrot). It serves to sweeten the final product. As we jam, we add the main ingredients, continually adding stock, cooking it down, reducing it to concentrate the flavours. Once the main elements of a song are recorded, then comes assessment, and adding another round of instrumentation (my favourite part). These layers can serve one of two purposes: For example, tracking another melodic component on an analog synth is like adding a herb or spice to your sauce. Do you fancy cardamom or maybe Madagascar vanilla bean would be the right choice? Whereas adding a Wurlitzer (like on The Thrill of Never Looking Back) or extrapolating the harmony in terms of depth and texture is more like adding a thickening agent. But we’re not talking corn starch and tap water, rather, an ever so slightly caramelized blond roux made of sweet rice flour and clarified grass-fed butter. Then you hit it with a little salt and pepper (plugins) and BAM! You got yourself a new PLEASURES song. Music is a hoot.
HAPPY: I love all the art for your album covers too. How important is the visual element to your band?
MORGAN: We are a visual band at heart and since we started, we have wanted to sort of create an alternate universe with our art and music. In that regard, I’d say that art is not just important to us, but a necessary tool in our creative process. Our good friend Nick Sirotich did the artwork for our 2 full-length albums, but everything else is an effort of the band. We take a lot of pride in our art to the point that we are part of the production of everything physically tangible that we create. The rest is sound sculpture.
HAPPY: Do you think visual accompaniment enhances the listening experience of your music?
MORGAN: To completely transform a bar/venue that you’ve been in a million times has always been something important to us. It sets a mood. It pulls people out of the mundane. I personally get bored as hell if there’s not at least some sort of visual element at shows, but that’s probably something to do with the fact that we grew up staring at TV screens and need constant stimulation.
RILEY: We believe the path to ultimate fulfilment lies in maximum stimulation. For our live show, we do a full spread of projector, rainbow lights and strobes. Each song has a different visual aesthetic, and it’s fun to go dive into that world and create something in a different medium. Visual aid helps to peel back the veil and take the listener to that special happy place.
HAPPY: Who are some artists that you’re all loving at the moment?
ROGER: There’s so much great music coming out consistently these days, it’s hard to know where to begin. I’m absolutely addicted to Makaya Mccraven’s output out of Chicago this past year. 30/70 is a collective out of Melbourne that’s doing the hip-hop/soul/spiritual jazz infusion thing to perfection. Their drummer also has a project called Zeitgeist Freedom Energy Exchange that put out a great record last year. Also, speaking of that specific genre concoction, there’s a new local band from here in St. Petersburg called Garden Club who definitely have the vibe. Bastien Keb out of the UK is amazing. Some other records I’ve been digging that came out last year:
Maisha – There is a Place
Benny the Butcher – Tana Talk 3
Kamasi Washington – Heaven and Earth
Athletic Progression – Dark Smoke
Jeff Parker – The New Breed
RILEY: There are some amazing neo-soul/jazz bands coming out of Australia like 30/70 and Hiatus Kaiyote, we listen to stuff like that a lot. Palm and Deerhoof are probably our two favourite American bands at the moment. Deerhoof especially is a huge inspiration because of their work ethic and minimalist approach to touring. Even as big as they’ve gotten, they still keep it to four people in a mini-van. Then we’ll switch gears and rock out to straight Top 40 like Dua Lipa or this J-pop idol Kyary Pamyu Pamyu.
KATHERINE: I rely on the boys for new and modern music but I’m more into pop music and 80s myself though, to be honest. I’ve been jamming Suuns, CHEW, Kirkiss, Floating Points, Kimbra, Duran Duran, Fame Monster era Gaga, Hall & Oates, and Fleetwood Mac.
HAPPY: What’s next for PLEASURES? Any other exciting plans in the works?
MORGAN: We plan on starting a cult and transcending into light beings.
KATHERINE: I’m working on my public speaking skills and studying how low protein diets aid in mass mind control. PLEASURES has tours and festivals booked throughout 2019.
HAPPY: Cheers for the chat!
KATHERINE: Thank you! It’s been lovely.
The Thrill Of Never Looking Back is available now. Watch above.