Music Q&A: Trevor Shelley de Brauw of Pelican
This week, Paul Wood chats with Trevor Shelley de Brauw, 35, of Chicago, the guitarist for Pelican, which is back together after a hiatus of several years with a new album, "Forever."
Who are the members of your band? Any new ones?
Larry Herweg, Bryan Herweg and Dallas Thomas, who just joined the band prior to recording our new album.
Do you feel like you have fresh legs after several years off?
The writing for the new album definitely benefitted from having taken some time off. We had new perspective on the band and our music and having been away from it compounded our hunger to create new songs.
What convinced you to start again?
We never fully stopped; we just sort of shifted the scale from being a full-time touring outfit to pursuing the band as a more of a part-time thing so we could pursue home lives and develop our interests outside of music. Larry is based in L.A. and the rest of us are in Chicago, so when we first made the switch it was a little hard to figure out how to work on new material since the only times we would meet up would be to rehearse for live shows. In 2011 we recorded an EP of songs that were left over from the writing of the previous full length — the recording process involved a lot of file trading which provided something of a template for how we could work on new material going forward. And working on the new recordings was creatively energizing and got the creative juices flowing again - the new album was written over the course of the 12 months that followed.
Who are your guitar heroes?
I come to music through punk, so my guitar heroes are not necessarily virtuosos, more people who approach playing in emotionally and melodically evocative ways: Mark Kozelek, Matt and Bubba Kadane, Tom Verlaine, Blake Schwarzenbach. I really like guitarists who play with harmonies in a way that skirts melody and dissonance; that's something I'm always going for in Pelican — things that might sound wrong the first time you hear them, but on second listen it makes sense.
Is Des Plaines a good base for touring?
Ha! We were based in our drummer's and bassist's (they're brothers) parent's house for the first year we were a band, but we've operated out of Chicago proper for over a decade. We never toured in the Des Plaines days, so hard to say it makes a good touring hub, though I guess proximity to the interstate is convenient. As far as Chicago goes it's sort of nice that we're in the middle of the country because east and west are equally accessible.
Why did you take on "Forever"? Very cool topic.
All of us had one experience or another in the lapse between albums of one chapter of life ending and another beginning. It called to mind the cycle of life and how all living matter is just in a state of transition — that our bodies die and return from the earth from which we came and from which new life springs. Because it was something so common to all our experiences between albums it really made sense to foreground it as the theme of the record.
What are you excited about right now?
Spring. Playing shows.
How did you first grow interested in music? Does your family have a musical history?
I got into music through my older brothers, who spun records in our house frequently. Discovered great stuff like New Order, Asia, Iron Maiden, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan and REM when other kids were listening to Radio Disney or whatever the hell they were listening to.
Which bands did you like when you were a teenager? Which bands now? Who has influenced you the most?
I got bitten by the musician bug when I heard punk rock as a freshman in high school. I had been messing around with guitar before that, but I sucked and didn't think I could do anything with it until I heard Screeching Weasel, Black Flag, Minor Threat and so on. As soon as I figured out all you had to do was playing two or three chords really fast it was like a whole world opening up to me. I still love those bands a lot, and a lot of newer bands, too.
Do you have a favorite guitar? What kind of amplifiers do you prefer?
I'm still madly in love with my Gibson SG and I'm pretty keen on the Marshall JCM 800 that I play through, too.
How often do you play? How do you balance this with work and family?
We're touring about four or five weeks this year. Last year we did a little bit more, but it was hard to balance the work and family stuff. We did one tour that was three weeks and by the third week I was an emotional wreck from missing my son. It's always a balancing act.
Is touring still fun or has it become a chore?
We toured a lot up to 2009, and by the end of that year I would have answered this question by saying it felt more like work than fun. Now that we tour much less it feels a lot more special and precious. I think we're in a better place now — it's still work, but we know how fleeting it is, so we're less prone to taking the opportunity to travel and share our music with fans for granted.
Do you feel a special connection with the audience?
Yes. This music is a labor of love and we create in a sort of bubble, not knowing how anyone will take it. That people to discover and listen to our records and come to share our live performances is very moving and humbling.