Pivotal are that rarest of beasts, a local band that is just as exciting as any touring one. Ahead of their EP release gig at The Cellar on 19th July, they sat down with Anywhere in Albion to talk recording, influences, lad bands, girl drummers and being from Southampton.
So you’ve just finished recording, will this be the first proper release from the band?
Lee Pearce (vox/guitar): Yes. Lots of the people who like us live just keep going on at us to go and record, go and record. We’d done a little bit of recording but we weren’t very happy with it to be honest but I think this one will be a lot different. We all enjoyed doing it and you’ll hear that when it comes out. We’ve done 5 songs, a couple of old ones, some really new ones. ‘Spitting Rivets’, ‘Lost Alliance’, ‘Messner’, which is new, ‘Division’ which is new, and ‘Mia’ which has been around for a while but I don’t think anyone’s heard it recorded.
Ben Johnson (bass): It’s a tough one cause we’re quite a live band, it’s very much about the live sound rather than the stuff we commit to recordings.
Lee: I think we’d all be happy if we just got put in a room and just played live and got recorded.
Lucy Pearce (keys/synth): We like it to have quite a lot of emotion. It’s hard when we record because sometimes it feels like we lose the emotion that we have live.
Chloe Elliot (drums): We recorded two of them without click because we decided that we enjoyed playing them with feel too much and when we tried playing them with the click it was just so different.
Lee: I think that’s quite a special thing though. For us, we really get involved in those breakdowns and feel the music and playing it with a click just takes all of that out and it just feels unnatural to play. We didn’t go crazy on the takes though, if there was something a little bit off, we left it in.
Lucy: There’s a few imperfections but it’s nice to have that, it’s more natural.
Who are your musical influences?
Ben: Interpol, a bit of Joy Division. Who else do we like? It’s quite diverse really, everyone brings their own bits to the bag.
Lee: I think our new songs are bringing that out as well, where everyone’s got more of an input I think.
Ben: The Walkmen as well
Lucy: People always say Editors but I think that’s because of Lee’s voice.
Lee: Yeah, we get put in that genre.
Ben: What did that guy just say? Simple Minds?
Lucy: ‘Like a New Order and Simple Minds love child’ wasn’t it?
Lee: Never heard that one before.
Ben: I can see New Order.
Lee: I love Warpaint. They’re a really good band for me at the moment.
Lee: I don’t think it comes out massively in our music but I think we’re all influenced by them, a lot of our breakdowns are a little bit similar.
Like Interpol it seems you have a kind of darkness in the music.
Lee: Yeah, definitely. I think that’s the sort of feel we’re going for. A bit dark and a bit more depth with the lyrics just to carry it across and feel, this sounds a bit weird, the pain of the song or the emotion of the song maybe.
Chloe: Lee’s heartbreak!
Lee: Not always, there are happy moments! I think when you relate to a song most is when you can relate to the lyrics and you can understand what’s coming through and I think that’s what pulls it, especially for me.
Who are the bands that you go to for that kind of thing?
Lee: Paul Banks has got to be one of the best lyricists, Stevie Nicks. I don’t know who else.
Lucy: You like lyrics that don’t make sense completely.
Lee: Yeah, I like lyrics that you have to put a puzzle together to understand. That’s not just in your face ‘I love you’, that sort of shit.
Ben: We’ve got some interesting sort of subject matter though, haven’t we, pensive lyrics. What was the story behind ‘Spitting Rivets’.
Lee: Yeah, basically we had a song called ‘Tupolev Relay’ and some of us didn’t get on with it, so we just picked it apart so the whole song was basically the chorus of that old song.
Chloe: Aren’t there stories about your old drummer? That’s what I heard.
Lee: Basically the drummer and Lucy were moaning about the song and stuff so in the end I just started writing some lyrics just sort of taking the mick like how we didn’t like the song so it goes ‘Spitting rivets writing this song just for you / We’ll go round writing it only for you’ . I wasn’t really that angry! Then the chorus is like ‘Pick it apart, pick it apart / Grit your teeth and take two’. They’re not the best lyrics to be fair!
You’ve got a mixed-gender band which is a bit unusual because most local bands seem a bit laddy.
Lee: When you say laddy you mean quite butch and a bit more attitude? I think most bands are like that in Southampton. I’m not into music that’s bullish and all really arrogant and stuff, but I don’t like all music just because it’s by women.
Do you feel that Pivotal move away from ‘LAD’ music?
Chloe: I don’t think you could tell just by listening to it, unless you’ve got a female singer I don’t know how you’d tell.
Lee: I think a lot of people are surprised when they find out there’s two females in the band because, I don’t know, it’s just usually there’s not.
Chloe: Maybe the synths might sound a bit ‘female’, do you think? There’s that twinkly stuff you do in ‘Messner’ that’s pretty girly.
Lucy: Yeah, I suppose.
Lee: I just think that sounds loads like The National.
Lucy: There’s a few little piano arpeggios in there.
Ben: It’s definitely a good gimmick having that gender split.
Lee: Anything that gets you talked about is a good thing.
Lee: I’ll be honest I was quite reluctant to have like, when me and Lucy were starting out I was a bit ooh… but I sold her my Juno [keyboard], we cracked out some tunes and then it’s built from there. It wasn’t something we looked for with a drummer to have another female in the band.
Chloe: But you couldn’t say no!
Lee: We tried out a few drummers and Chloe was the one that just fitted the bill basically.
Chloe: Some girls are good at drumming, did you know?
Lucy: Guy drummers are shocked that Chloe’s a drummer, it cracks me up.
Ben: Yeah it’s very rare to have a really good female drummer.
Chloe: Thanks, Ben.
Ben: Not saying that you are, but when you think female drummer you think like Meg White, really simplistic.
Didn’t Meg White ruin it for girl drummers?
Chloe: No, she was great because all I have to do now is play one thing and everyone’s ‘wow, you’re amazing!’
Lee: It’s quite a good balance we have, we have a good laugh which is important. We all get on.
Lucy: It’s quite nice to hear the guy views on things and the girl views on things
Lee: We were having a funny conversation just a minute ago actually, but we won’t go into that.
Lucy: Rude stuff always comes up
Lee: Rude stuff, yeah, naked pictures and stuff, shenanigans, who’s sending who – Not within the band! But yeah we have a good laugh.
Do you feel that you fit into the local scene?
Chloe: Not really. We get asked that question quite a bit, and I think there aren’t any bands we’ve played with that we’ve felt particularly well aligned with.
Lee: I think that’s quite a beautiful thing about us, is that we’re the only band that I’ve heard in Southampton that sounds anything like we do.
Ben: I think there are some good bands knocking around Southampton.
Chloe: We all decided we liked, well they’re from Portsmouth so it’s cheating, but Kassassin Street.
Lee: They were really good, we played with them the other night, they were on after us.
Chloe: Do we like any other bands? I’m sure there’s loads we just haven’t seen them.
Lee: There are good bands they’re just not our bag I think.
Lucy: We’re not really in the scene as such.
What about the influence of Southampton as a city on the music?
Chloe: The girls of Southampton!
Lee: Most of the girls that come through the lyrics aren’t from Southampton to be honest.
Ben: Mia’s a foreigner isn’t she
Lee: Yeah, she’s a foreigner, let’s leave that there…
Lucy: There’s some lyrics about the city, ‘Social Minefield’, that’s about Southampton
Lee: Hold on, I can’t remember the song
Ben: It’s got those elements of Southampton nightlife.
Lee: Yeah we’ve got a song called ‘Social Minefield’ which is pretty much just like about the bullishness of how people can get when they’ve had a few drinks and how things get out of hand, shit like that.
All the big grey buildings make it seem a bit industrial.
Lucy: Post-war really.
Lee: I think that comes through, I want that to come through in our artwork in a way, I think our music’s quite industrial and cold in that sort of sense. I tried taking some pictures of the docks for some artwork but they haven’t come out very well.
How did you end up with the artwork for the ‘Within Circles’ EP?
Lee: We basically had the dandelion from an old picture Lucy had taken. We then worked on the idea of it falling apart or dying, or is it starting new beginnings? It’s open to interpretation… Basically, it works well with the songs which are about the same things but in life.
Pivotal release their ‘Within Circles EP’ at The Cellar, Southampton on Friday 19th July. The group for the event is here, you can buy tickets here. Like Pivotal on Facebook here and follow them on soundcloud here.