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Interview with Kylesa vocalist and guitarist Laura Pleasants

We had the chance to sit down with guitarist/vocalist, Laura Pleasant, to chat about the sound and progression of Savannah, Georgia’s psychedelic metal band, Kylesa.



Psychedelic Metal band, Kylesa, of Savannah, Georgia, while on tour with Mastodon and Intronaut, hit up The Opera House in Toronto, Ontario in May of 2009 shortly after the release of their latest album, Static Tensions. I had the chance to sit down with guitarist/vocalist, Laura Pleasant to chat about the sound and progression which is Kylesa, among other things.

How often do you hear the joke “is it ‘pleasant’ over in Laura”? [Laura laughs] Er, something along those lines.
Laura: I haven’t heard that one!

No? Nothing’s “pleasant” for Laura?
Laura: I mean, I’ve definitely heard those jokes, yeah, it’s cool. It is kind of a funny name.

I guess so. Anyways, that’s completely off topic. After all this time, how do you guys manage to keep your sound alive and sounding new?
Laura: Uh, we still have a lot of creative energy in us that hasn’t died out by any means. Like, we’re still, you know, big fans of the music; we’re big music enthusiasts. There’s still a lot to write about, there’s still plenty of songs, there’s still plenty of stuff that matters. Otherwise I’ll feel like, if I don’t create then I’m not happy so writing kind of keeps me going.

Cool, keep the creative juices flowing for sure. Since you guys don’t fit nicely into one genre, the question comes to mind, who influences you guys?
Laura: So many names, I mean, there’s not just like one or two bands. [Philip] Cope and I listen to all sorts of music, from punk to metal to classic rock to psychedelic rock, to like electronic music and some hip hop as long as it sounds organic, you know? I’d say some of my personal, big influences from early on would be like, Sabbath, Black Flag, The Melvins and, you know, like Neurosis, those are big ones; Kyuss, Pink Floyd, Fugazi, you know, I’d say those ones have had a big impact on both Philip and I over the years. You know, but a lot of other things filter in too, a lot of other styles of music.

Yeah, those are all very good choices by the way; I have to agree with you. I noticed your sniffling, I apologize on behalf of all of Toronto, I know it’s very, very cold. I swear it was warmer today!
Laura: [laughs] It’s OK, I’ve had a cold for like a week now.

So it’s not just…
Laura: It’s not just Toronto.

OK, well I read somewhere that you guys integrate some “avant garde stylings” into your music. What specifically…
Laura: [laughing] Explain to me “avant garde”.

Um, [pauses] pouring water into a bucket and calling it music? [laughs] Just weird things like…
Laura: Oh! We’ll sample a lot of weird shit, you know? Yeah, like, for the last album we had a bunch of crickets we recorded and we recorded a lot of live sound, like the rain on Static Tensions. Right before “Nature’s Predators” there was a huge, huge rainstorm that we recorded in Columbia, where we were recording, and it was so brutal that we were like, “We have to record this, it sounds crazy!” There were weird church bells in the background so that was our little tip-off to Sabbath, you know, we had to record some rain.

How do you manage to record something like that?
Laura: It was just so, uh, pouring, so, you know, we just took a mic, we opened the door and took the mic and…

That simple eh?
Laura: I didn’t personally record it; Jay and Philip did, but I imagine it wasn’t that complicated, it didn’t take them much time.

No, for sure! This “avant garde” stuff, is it prominent throughout your recordings and I’m just missing it or… other then like the crickets.
Laura: More so then avant garde it’s like, we’re really into experimentation. We’re into pushing boundaries within the confines of heavy music. We are always into trying something new and something different and seeing what happens. We just kind of take that angle.

Your newest album was released not even two months ago, how’s the new addition to the discography holding up?
Laura: I think it’s our best record to date, and I know that’s cliché to say, everyone says that about their new record [chuckles] but I really do feel like it’s our strongest effort. A lot of time and thought was put into it. Really, I think our ideas are more refined than some of our ideas on our past releases, I think everything we done has kind of built up to this record. We have done a lot of experimenting; we have done a lot of trial and error; we’ve had a lot of line up changes as well, but this record seems to be the most focused. Philip, Paul and I got together and we mailed out these songs; we had a blueprint in mind, we knew what we were going for and we were able to just really focus and get what we wanted. I mean, not all of it was completely structured out, for the most part it was but we jammed out some ideas too and things progressed naturally and organically as well as being structured and thought out.

Nice, nice. Speaking of your albums, the covers are always super awesome, I love the artwork! Do you guys do the art yourselves?
Laura: Well, we have a group of friends that we’ve worked with for years and a group of artists. Art, as an individual aspect of the band, has always been important to us. We started out working with Pushead on the first record and we’ve worked with him for a few years, I’ve done some of the work for us as well. We’ve had various friends do t-shirt art and album art. The current record, John Baizley did, he plays in a fellow Savannah band, he plays in a band, Baroness, and he did the record cover for this particular release.

Nice! Yeah, it’s awesome with the flossing out the teeth. [both laugh]
Laura: Yeah, the static tension.

Yeah for sure! So after this tour with Mastodon wraps up, what’s next?
Laura: We’re gonna do a string of east coast dates like five days after the tour and then we’re going to head to Europe in June with Torch for like a few weeks. Then we’re going to do a few headlining UK dates as well. Then we’ll take August off and then we’ll probably do, we’ll definitely do the US this fall then go back to Europe as well.

So you guys don’t have any plans for the next album yet?
Laura: No, not yet. Right now we’re focusing on staying on the road, but you know, as soon as we have some time off we’ll start writing.

Personally, I’ve never seen you guys live, what can I expect tonight?
Laura: Uh, it’ll be heavy and loud… The reception’s been great man, playing with Mastodon’s been really good!

Anything you’d like to add before we wrap this up?
Laura: No man, It’s been good, thanks! It’s good to be back, I think we’ve only played Toronto once and I think it was like, oh man, 2003? 2004, maybe, it was a long time ago and it was just a small little club that we played. So it’s been cool playing across Canada.