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The Conscience Pilate Discuss Their Unexpected Return and Album ‘Break Like Waves’

The Conscience Pilate’s Edward Pond and Neil Leyton discuss the band’s return and their brand new album ‘Break Like Waves.’



The Conscience Pilate, photo by Paul Wilson
The Conscience Pilate, photo by Paul Wilson

In the case of The Conscience Pilate, it’s better late than never. We’re talking about the band’s reemergence after a 25-year hiatus. The band had become a top draw locally in their native city of Toronto in the late 1990s. Their indie art rock amassed quite a local following thanks to their unique sound and post-punk-flavoured alternative. The band became a staple at The Horseshoe Tavern, a local club in Toronto where thousands of artists, large and small, have played. They consistently sold out every gig they played there. This led to expanded interest in the band and opening slots for Thrush Hermits and Manic Street Preachers. Unfortunately, The Conscience Pilate unexpectedly disbanded after only one album, which was a big disappointment in the local scene.

Although they broke up, the creative bond between founding bassist Edward Pond and lead singer and guitarist Neil Leyton never completely fizzled. After a recent meeting in Montreal, they decided to reform the band. They have been busy writing and recording and have released several singles. They now have a full-length album in the works titled Break Like Waves. The band has a homecoming show scheduled for this Tuesday, July 2nd, at where else but The Horseshoe. They will be supported by singer-songwriter Jessie Gosling.

Pond and Leyton are joining us today to offer us a refresher on The Conscience Pilate and the new record.

What is the story The Conscience Pilate name?

Edward Pond: “We wanted a name that’s as hard to say as it is to spell. No, but really we were kicking around a few names and for some reason, this is 1995, we watched the Last Temptation of Christ with David Bowie playing Pontious Pilate – so it’s a little tribute to Scorsese and Bowie at the same time. More seriously, for my whole life, I’ll be dealing with my burned-in Catholic guilt and we liked the Lady Macbeth hand-washing business.”

How would you describe your creative process?

Pond: “Most ideas begin as a quick line jotted in a moleskine book I carry. Like ‘the Bomb is back in fashion.’ Then, later, I get out a little synthesizer I’ve got and pluck out a melody with two fingers and send it to the guys. It grows from there. We make a lot of home demos.”

Neil Leyton: “When we decided to get the band back together, I wrote two lyrics the same night in Montreal and handed them to Pondy. The bottle of Rioja always works.”

Who are your biggest influences?

Pond: “My biggest influences are filmmakers. I’d say the independent, do-it-yourself approach of Steven Soderbergh and Richard Linklater in the early ’90s was the soil where I started to believe I could make art. That Austin film-co-op, RayGun, Sonic Youth energy of 1991, photocopied ‘zines, Clerks, Slacker, Reservoir Dogs. That was a very resonant moment. Seeing the Pixies, The Breeders and at the same time, Duran Duran made a big comeback. I was enjoying a lot of things just then so I funnelled it all into this band.”

Leyton: “I grew up listening to Elvis, ’70s Elvis before I even learned to speak English. Then the first LP I bought, still in Lisbon, was the Stones compilation Rolled Gold. It always puzzled me that there were six of them on the cover! The first record I bought in Canada, at Fairview Mall, was Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust. Then I got into some quite niche glam punk bands like Hanoi Rocks from Finland and the Dogs d’Amour. New York Dolls, The Stooges, MC5…”

Who would you most like to collaborate with?

Pond: “This might sound dumb, but I’m going to say Ethan Hawke. He’s not really a musician, but over the years I’ve grown to see him as a serious, prolific and very humble artist and I just think if I were in a room with him something good could come of it. I’m a filmmaker as well, so we do have some common ground. But he grew out of that early-1990s pseudo-bohemian college bullshit intellectualism knocked on its ass and disjointed growth that a lot of us Gen X’ers went through. I’ve seen him speak and like Steve Albini or Dave Grohl, he has a lot of integrity.”

Leyton: “Steve Albini would have been great to work with – I love recording on tape. Alas, that’s not going to happen. Also brother Wayne Kramer… It has not been a good year in terms of great people passing away.”

Which act would you want to tour with?

Pond: “The Breeders. Kim Deal is an inspired artist, a fellow bass player (although not in the Breeders) and I think it would be incredible to work in the same space as her for a stretch.”

What do you like most about playing music?

Pond: “Writing a song or even just practicing an instrument is such a nourishing and private activity. The time just melts away and I can feel the world making more sense as I fall into the flow of my work. Then there’s the added bonus of taking the music public and suddenly it becomes a very social experience, and the work lives in other people’s heads and in the hands of my brothers in the band.”

What’s your favourite city or venue to play?

Pond: “Right now I’m in love with the Dakota Tavern in Toronto. It’s the Alamo Drafthouse of music venues. I’ve seen bands there, played there, eaten breakfast there with children running around. It’s more than a venue, the love of the music culture resonates all day every day and people are so happy to be in that room.”

Leyton: “I’m going to have to say The Horseshoe, where we play July 2nd. We opened for Manic Street Preachers there back in 1996 and it has always been a great room to play.”

Which do you enjoy the most: writing, recording, practicing, or playing live?

Pond: “Playing live is definitely my favourite, maybe because it’s the toughest one to access for us at the moment. Neil is far away from us, so we’re doing a ton of recording and writing, but just playing the Horseshoe Tavern means long flights and planning.”

Leyton: “Recording, so long as it is us all together in an analogue studio, on tape. Which hasn’t happened yet this century! But it will.”

What is the story behind the name of the new record?

Pond:Break Like Waves is about broken promises, and how easily that break seems to be accepted in certain spaces today. The old threats of war and the collapse of society that we grew up with in the ’80s are back. We had a promise of peace with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the USSR but now we see a new rise in fascism and international conflict.”

“Since 1947 the Bulletin of the Atomic Sciences have tracked world safety with the Doomsday Clock. They move the time closer or farther back from midnight each year with changing world conditions. Today the clock sits at 90 seconds until midnight, the closest we have ever been to Armageddon, closer even than the Cuban Missile Crisis or the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. That’s a broken promise from our leaders.”

The Conscience Pilate “Break Like Waves” single artwork

The Conscience Pilate “Break Like Waves” single artwork

If you were stranded on a deserted island and could only take three CDs with you for eternity, (assuming there was a solar-powered CD player) what would they be?

Pond:New Chautauqua by Pat Metheny, McCartney by Paul McCartney (his first solo album and some say the start of indie rock), and Stage by David Bowie.”

Leyton:Ziggy Stardust, Exile on Main Street, and Vol. 6 of the Elvis Presley Reader’s Digest box set.”

Do you use the same gear when recording as you do when playing live? If yes, what and why? If not, why not?

Pond: “Yes, I do. The same bass. The same keyboard because I believe in knowing as much about my instrument as possible and having access to all its qualities, instead of jumping around to other instruments. I admire that Brian May plays one guitar his entire career, and he knows exactly what he can do with that guitar at every moment. Less is more.”

The Conscience Pilate July 2024 show flyer

The Conscience Pilate July 2024 show flyer

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