Blind Pilot is a band that surprised me. After gaining some buzz regarding the band’s well-reported green friendly tour methods, they recently embarked on an Econoline-fueled schedule that came through the area. Right or wrong, I expected another granola-chomping duo that would ride their NPR showcase into a comfortable schedule of campus shows and bullshit radio appearances that played in the background while some smartass worked on their New York Times crossword puzzle.
I bring up generalizations because the venue I saw them in is typically the antithesis of collegiate smugness and they pulled off a very rewarding set (review) with the sense of another band just trying to get ahead, and they pulled it off with more musicians than the two members—guitar/vocalist Israel Nebeker and drummer Ryan Dobrowski—listed on their bio sheet.
It worked to the point where those public radio appearances were welcomed; you wanted the word out on Blind Pilot because their sincerity and talents warranted it. 3 Round And A Sound may be the perfect album to spin while you’re waiting for the fourth Shins album, but there’s a better chance that it will make you put down your newspaper and listen intently.
We caught up with Blind Pilot’s Ryan Dobrowski to see if life in the van is turning them into decadent rock stars.
GLONO: Nearly everything I have read about you mentioned the bicycle tour. Are you now completely sick of hearing about it and having to re-tell the same story over and over?
RD: Good question. It does seem like we should have a frequently asked questions form to send people before interviews. I don’t think we really get sick of it though. It was a great time and I still like talking about it. It gives me hope that we will do another one someday. After spending so many hours in a van, it seems more important than ever for us to continue touring by bike. It really isn’t just about being carbon free, but just enjoying our days more. It is going to be harder to incorporate as the shows get bigger, but even if we have to just do it under the radar I think we will continue to tour by bike. In fact that would probably be better than trying to make it into a big thing.
The additional musicians you’re traveling with sounded remarkably comfortable with the material. Everything sounded natural and well worn; they made it appear that they were there to help contribute to the songs at the earliest stages.
I think one of the most exciting things about this group is the way it has evolved. I think it is great to hear the songs in their different forms. They sounded good when it was just Israel on guitar, they sounded good when it was just the two of us, and now with everyone else they have taken on new life again. It keeps things interesting.
With the introduction of additional performers for the tour, is it influencing your creative process for new material?
I would say yes for me. There are a lot more possibilities now and that can be good and bad. Before Israel and I just had to listen to each other and now there are all of these other instruments that we have to consider.
What about on a personal level? It has to be a lot different managing the dynamics of seven people instead of just two.
We actually got up to 9 people here in Portland and our last touring set up was 6. To answer the question though, everyone is great and has become a good friend. We spend most of our time together even outside of playing
music. There are definite moments where things can get a little difficult. Getting time to yourself is greatly appreciated when you are together all the time. I have moments where I really miss it just being the two of us
and splitting a guitar case full of change. It was a very simple set up and I think there was great value in that.
I noticed a look of confusion when I saw you live a few weeks ago when an audience member requested that you guys needed to “rock” a bit more. What’s the strangest thing you’ve heard yelled out to you while on stage?
We generally have been very fortunate with our audiences. Not too much heckling. In San Diego a guy yelled out “Play whatever you feel is appropriate!” which was pretty great. In Tucson someone proudly announced
they were the drunkest audience in the country. I think they might be right.
Most people probably get a little homesick out on the road, but what’s a town, venue, eatery, etc. that you discovered during your time on tour that you’re actually looking forward to visiting again the next time around?
I had never been to Austin before and it was really great place. I think I felt the best when we were in Texas. I especially liked driving through West Texas where there were hardly any gas stations or travel centers. I
always get excited to go to LA and get coffee at the Casbah Cafe in Silver Lake. That’s the only place I ever want to go when I’m there.
There’s a real sense of distance throughout 3 Rounds And A Sound and I imagine that the distance you’ve experienced in promoting it across the country is prompting similar creative sparks. Are songs for the next album starting to develop while you’re on the road? Do you have to wait until you get home and settle a bit before the ideas begin to take hold?
We are experiencing a lot on the road and I am sure that will have it’s influence on the next round of songs. On this last tour though there was very little time to do any writing. We are taking some time to go to an
island in Canada and process some of the things that have been happening. It will be nice to revisit some of these ideas that have been getting tossed around for a while.
Have you noticed any misconceptions or recurring opinions about Portland when encountering fans around the country? I only mention this live since in Iowa and everyone thinks I must live on a farm. When I think of Portland, I think of hydroponic weed and Zia McCabe topless.
I think Portland lives up to a lot of its stereotypes, but I think they are more about music, bikes, and coffee shops. Those three things are everywhere. I love it here, but it is always good to get out and see the farms in Iowa.
What’s the song, artist, or movie that has gotten the most repeated listening/viewing in the van on tour?
We would often put on Pandora and listen to some indie rock station. It made me kind of sick of indie rock. We would also listen to a lot of NPR. Some of my favorite times though were when we would put on conservative talk radio. Quite fascinating.
• Blind Pilot – “Paint or Pollen”
• Blind Pilot – “Go On Say It”
Blind Pilot: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki, MySpace, web.
5/26/09 – Fillmore Auditorium w/ The Decemberists – Denver, CO
5/27/09 – Uptown Theater w/ The Decemberists – Kansas City, KS
5/29/09 – Riverside Theater w/ The Decemberists – Milwaukee, WI
5/30/09 – The Vollrath – Indianapolis, IN
5/31/09 – Pageant w/ The Decemberists – St Louis, MO
6/01/09 – Lifestyle Communities Pavillion w/ The Decemberists – Columbus, OH
6/03/09 – Tabernacle w/ The Decemberists – Atlanta, GA
6/04/09 – Memorial Auditorium w/ The Decemberists – Raleigh, NC
6/05/09 – The National w/ The Decemberists – Richmond, VA
6/06/09 – Bowery Ballroom – New York City, NY
6/07/09 – Black Cat – Washington D.C.
6/09/09 – Johnny Brendas – Philadelphia, PA
6/10/09 – TT the Bears – Cambridge, MA
6/11/09 – II Motore – Monteral, CANADA
6/12/09 – El Mocambo – Toronto, CANADA
6/13/09 – Mohawk’s Place – Buffalo, NY
6/14/09 – Pike Room – Pontiac, MI
6/16/09 – High Noon – Madison, WI
6/17/09 – 400 Bar – Minneapolis, MN
7/17/09 – Marymoor Amphitheater (w/ The Decemberists) – Redmond, WA
7/18/09 – Edgefield Amphitheater w/ The Decemberists – Troutdale, OR
7/19/09 – Edgefield Amphitheater w/ The Decemberists – Troutdale, OR
7/21/09 – Vogue Theater w/ The Decemberists – Vancouver, BC, CANADA
7/22/09 – Vogue Theater w/ The Decemberists – Vancouver, BC, CANADA
8/07/09 – Lollapalooza @ Grant Park – Chicago, IL
8/10/09 – KY Brown Theater w/ The Decemberists – Louisville, KY
8/28/09 – Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival @ Golden Gate Park – San Francisco, CA
8/29/09 – Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival @ Golden Gate Park – San Francisco, CA
8/30/09 – Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival @ Golden Gate Park – San Francisco, CA