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Friday, April 10, 2009

Take 5 With Laura Pleasants of Kylesa

Photo by Jan Schwarzkamp

Absinthe is now legal in the United States as the choice elixir of Edgar Allen Poe has immediately become the new rage of the underground as well as those in the mainstream with the duckets to purchase the stuff. Take a long hit of absinthe and you're likely to feel yourself plummeted to a quick blur where the sounds of chaos are symphonic and the tangible world becomes a bit more free-floated.

Then again, you don't really need that powerful swill to produce the aforementioned effects in music so motivated and driven from efforts past it becomes the high. Though you can spot Kylesa tugging on absinthe on their MySpace page, their current album Static Tensions is derived of nerve-scraping boom, destructive punk tempos and raw blades of electric fuzz, all assisting the underlying hallucinogenic and psychedelic tones twittering beneath the cranial-punched aggression.

Guitarist/vocalist Laura Pleasants, along with shotgun runner Phillip Cope, are remnants of the Kylesa which officially began in 2001 with Cope and late bassist Brian Duke, both former members of the nineties grindcore band Damad. The Savannah-based Kylesa has grown to refine their sludge-o-matic din over the past seven years to include a second drummer as well as capturing the severity of their heat-rich, moss and kudzu-choked environment. Static Tensions, as stated in a review here at The Metal Minute, has been a moment in the making and those coming to Kylesa's cause are unlikely to leave the experience unscarred.

As they begin a road jaunt in support of Static Tensions, The Metal Minute caught up with Laura Pleasants for a quick look behind-the-scenes of Kylesa's exemplary new album.

The Metal Minute: Suffice it to say, Kylesa has had to suffer a good bit of adversity with a couple of departures plus the unfortunate passing of Brian Duke. Kylesa has always been a bricks-heavy band, but your latest album Static Tensions bears its namesake with some of the angriest riffage I've heard this year. Without meaning to be maudlin, would you say you have used this album to exorcise some demons?

Laura Pleasants: All of our albums seem to serve that purpose. I think Phillip and I have a lot of personal demons in addition to having gone through some hardships within the band.

MM: I've been to Savannah and Tybee Island before, plus a trek over to Atlanta and as there's been a lot of hungry metal blazing out of Georgia the past few years, what do you feel contributes to the collectively louder than hell sound of your mutual bands?

LP: The smothering heat? The oppressive nature of the South? I 'm not really sure. People seem to ask that question a lot but I couldn't give you a definitive answer. I know Phillip has been around for a long time. He and his old band Damad used to do shows with Brent and Troy's (Hinds and Sanders, respectively, of Mastodon) old band Four Hour Fogger. The guys in Withered have been around a while, too. Heavy music has been around in the South for a long time; EyeHateGod and Buzzoven attracted me early on. I think it's just recently been getting more attention due to Mastodon's success.

MM: More than likely, though there's no denying all of your bands pack a mean, distinctive wallop. One of Static Tensions' best assets is the dual drumming from Eric (Hernandez) and Carl (McGinley) that was touched on with your previous album Time Will Fuse Its Worth. This time around, I think the tag-team drumming lends monster presence to Static Tensions similar to the way Nine Inch Nails and Pigface utilized them. For your purposes, how important was it for Kylesa to capitalize on this aspect of your sound?

LP: It was very important. It was hard to hear the double drums on the last record and it was something we had only begun to experiment with with in terms of songwriting. I think we recorded Time Will Fuse Its Worth only a few months after getting with the two drummers, so there was lots of room to grow as far as what we could do with them. There was more of a blueprint this time around as to how to record the drums. We're also a pretty rhythm-heavy band, and the double drummers emphasize that a good deal.

MM: I dislike the term "post punk" and "post metal" since they present double standards in wording as both styles are well alive and kicking these days. Still, I can hear all sorts of varied punk modes on "Scapegoat," "Unknowing Awareness" and the Fugazi feel of "Almost Lost." First, what do you measure as the ultimate punk album and secondly, what stands in your mind as the best-felt punk vibe on Static Tensions?

LP: That's a tough question! There are several ultimate punk records, I think. I would likely have to go with Black Flag, probably My War. It's super-pissed with Greg Ginn wielding an axe of anarchy. They weren't scared to experiment and break away from molds. That, to me, is punk as fuck. I think the punkest moment on Static Tensions is "Scapegoat".

MM: Take us to the "American tension neighborhood" Kylesa lives in as depicted on "Nature's Predators" and describe what we might expect to see as relates to Static Tensions, much less your entire path as a band.

LP: We used to all live together in one big house. Phillip and his girlfriend live there now and the neighborhood itself is pretty good, but Savannah is incredibly spotty. One or two blocks in the wrong direction and you will find yourself very unwelcome. There's lots of poverty, lots of violence, and a lot of ignorance and indifference. Our surroundings are hard to ignore as they are in many ways a part of us. So we write about them. Kylesa is very much about the human condition.

Copyright 2009 Ray Van Horn, Jr. / The Metal Minute

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