No More Shan Goodbyes
On Monday 13th April 2020 Pilotcan released their new album 'No More Shan Goodbyes'. A collection of twelve new songs recorded in Leith, Scotland, with Idlewild's Rod Jones on production duites, during 2019. This record comes out in less than 18 months from the critically acclaimed 'Bats Fly Out From Under The Bridge' and is notable for the return of original guitarist, and founding member Joe Herbert. Whereas it's predecessor focused on songs written in Austin, Texas, and recorded with a shifting line up, this new record was conceived much closer to home.
Frontman Keiron Mellotte, was writing songs and collaborating with bassist, Ray Taylor when he noticed a common thread.
"I had characters and ideas in my head that seemed to come from a period when Joe and I lived in a student flat in Viewforth. They dealt with the loss of some of those individuals, but mostly, with a fond nostalgia for those times. As we started to rehearse them Joe rejoined the band and everything seemed to fall into place.
We used to listen to a lot of Echo & The Bunnymen, Jesus and Mary Chain, Lemonheads, and music that had strong melodies. The more I worked on the record, the more it seemed to move back to those characters and times."
The Post Rock, Shoegaze, Folk elements of 'Bats Fly Out From Under The Bridge' gave way to a more direct songwriting approach.
'No More Shan Goodbyes', their fifth record is the sound of a band still in love with their pedals but with a confidence and melody as strong as ever. From the Pavement/Bunnymen rush of 'Romanticise The City' to the Sparklehorse indebted Rock of 'CHUD Song', there is a rich vein of form throughout.
Tell us about the beginnings of the band, how did you get started and where was your first real gig?
Keiron: Joe and I started the band in the late 90s. I was running the EVOL alternative night in the Liquid Room and Joe was my flatmate. A shared love of music, staying up late and drinking fuelled our dream of starting a band. I had promoted the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and was friendly with Jon. He phoned up to ask if we knew any cool local bands to support Boss Hog who we had playing in Edinburgh in about 18 days. I was pretty drunk at the time and I told Jon we had started a band. He asked what we were called and I was looking at the back cover so I picked the first word I could see ... Pilotcan. Then we had 18 days to put a band together and write songs. I knew 3 chords and used two of them to write a song. We drafted in Stuart from The Zephyrs to play drums and another guy to play bass. We genuinely thought we’d pulled it off as everybody clapped. Afterwards I asked friends what they thought and they said it was awful. So Boss Hog was our first official show but we didn’t get a proper drummer for another 6 months. So I think our first proper gig was supporting Rocket From the Crypt. The other support band, Bis, got signed that night. We did not. I think it took us about 4 years and two records to learn how to play. Well, except the bass player. He still couldn’t play.
What has been the inspiration for the album?
Keiron: I think the previous record was very concerned with the time I’d spent in the states. I wrote it there and a lot of the characters in the songs were of that time. Pete, our then guitarist, and friend played a guitar style that fitted in with that post-rock, Americana aesthetic. when I started to write new songs they were much more steeped in my life here. Joe had rejoined the band. I was so happy to have one of my best friends back that I was unconsciously writing songs that centered around our experiences. We lived together for about 4 years in the same flat. So we have a short hand with each other in how we approach life. I had already written most of the songs but Joe’s input changed them. I have not always been the most nostalgic of people. I prefer to live in the now. But Joe and I would laugh and joke about our experiences and these chats inspired the songs, I guess. Some of the characters in the songs are people we knew from university and around Edinburgh. Some of them sadly no longer with us. A lot of stories were on this record. McKinney is dry is pretty much about an old girlfriend in a far distant country but it wasn’t sad. It was just wistful. The themes of love, loss, and longing were more direct. When we lived in that flat we listened to a lot of direct music. Husker Du, Lemonheads, Sparklehorse, Bunnymen, Les Thugs. When I saw direct I mean more heart on sleeve, say what you mean. The demos we did were like that. I wasn’t trying to be clever, I was confident that the melody would carry a song through. I also think when we were younger we were exorcising demons in songs and maybe a bit doom and gloom. Also, early Pilotcan was a pretty dysfunctional unit. There were fistfights and there were some really shady things going down. Not with Joe and I. We’ve always been close. Our erstwhile bass player was not a good guy. So things were always a little tense. But making music now we had a line up that was stable, well adjusted, and content. In fact, we all really liked each other. Couldn’t say that about the first 3 albums! So, largely, the characters and stories were more upbeat and outward-looking. Simplistically I found the Americana of the last record being pushed in a more Edinburgh direction. The word “shan” being a particularly Edinburgh term for something that is shameful or bad or not good at all. We recorded it with Rod Jones in his studio in Leith and we went full 90s in the recording.
’No More Shan Goodbyes’ pays homage to the coming of age in student flats. Tell us about your experiences relating to this.
Keiron: Joe and I met through the whole Potterrow indie scene while at University there. When you come from a small town and you go live in a city round a scene and find like-minded people to obsess over music and party with, it’s quite the thing. But I was lucky as the friends I made here have been friends for life. Joe and I have known each other for years. When we lived together we just used to drink and go see music and watch movies. You always found a way to make a little bit of money go a long way with alcohol. 99p for a bottle of 10% flemish castle and 70p pints at Potterrow student union. Then there were girls. Girls that liked music. It was a hedonistic time and we were very young. It wasn’t shan at all. Discovering new music and the whole wider world of counter-culture. We have lots of stories and lots of great memories.
A night out in Edinburgh or a night out in Leith, and why?
Keiron: Difficult choice. We love Leith. It’s where we’ve rehearsed for years and we play there a lot. IT’s a city within a city. It has it’s own character and verve and is the greatest. But Joe and I lived in Viewforth Terrace in the 90s and I love that whole area. I guess if it’s a night out in Leith it’d be in the Depot or in the Safari Lounge. But there’s lots of good choices there. If it’s a night out in Edinburgh it’d be in the City Cafe or somewhere old school. To be honest, I don’t think I could choose. As long as our friends are there I’m happy.
Which is your favourite venue to perform at and which venue would you love to play?
Keiron: Growing up in Scotland it was ALWAYS about playing the Barrowlands. Always. It is literally the greatest venue in the world. so it’s my favourite. I also love playing The Liquid Room and the Ritz in Manchester. Brownies in NYC, The Broken Doll in Newcastle, The Garage in London, and the Paradiso in Amsterdam. All great. If I had to pick a venue we hadn’t played I would say Leith Theatre.
On Monday 13th April 2020 Pilotcan released their new album 'No More Shan Goodbyes' and you can follow all the latest via their Facebook page here.