Forever Becoming, the fifth album from Pelican, signals a new beginning for the US post-metal instrumentalists. JESSICA WILLOUGHBY speaks with guitarist, Trevor de Brauw, ahead of their show this Sunday, July 27, at the Rosemount Hotel, with support from Chaos Divine and Foxes.
The loss of a main songwriter would mean the end of many a band. Some, however, some use the opportunity as a new beginning.
Post-metal instrumentalists, Pelican, faced this dilemma. When Laurent Schroeder-Lebec made the decision to leave while the Illinois-based four-piece were on hiatus in 2011, the news came as a shock. The founding member’s signature dynamic guitar tones helped shape and define the outfit’s sound for over a decade. Choosing whether to fold or to open a new chapter posed two daunting options to the remaining three members. Guitarist Trevor de Brauw’s recalls his emotional state being pretty raw at this pivotal time.
“It was frightening,” he tells X-Press. “We had kind of reached our boiling over point with touring in 2009 and we realised we needed to reconfigure the band to make it sustainable. So we took a step away from the full-scale touring and writing and went into a brief hibernation.
“It was at the end of 2011 that Bryan (Herweg, bass) and I started writing again. We had also done a tour, too, without Laurent because he wasn’t really willing to leave home anymore. We did those shows without him and that felt good to us. When Bryan and I started writing; that was the point Laurent decided to step back. We approached him because we really wanted to start getting the writing process moving and he (Laurent) just didn’t feel the creative drive anymore. He didn’t feel the passion to pursue it the way we did. He didn’t want to hold us back, so he decided to just pull out.
“I think for Bryan and myself, the creative wheels were already spinning and there was no way to put the brakes on – in terms of writing. But at the same time, it put an onus of responsibility on us that had never been there is the past. Laurent has always been a very active contributor in the songwriting process and brought a lot to the table. It was sort of a harrowing challenge that we had to rise to. But I’m glad that we did it. “Personal and artistic challenges are always really important for growth as individuals and as a unit. It really gave us a chance to challenge ourselves and do something new.”
The result was 2013’s Forever Becoming. Signalling Pelican’s fifth LP, the album sees Dallas Thomas (The Swan King) filling the void left by Schroeder-Lebec. An easy option, considering the guitarist was already doing this in a touring capacity – de Brauw says the transitional period helped them all grow both as a band and individuals.
“We’ve worked in every possible configuration for writing, but Bryan and I never directly collaborated. We’d work on songs together, it was when they came to the full band. So it was daunting, but it was a new creative partnership that we were able to tap into and harness. That, and minus the fact that we had taken time off to recharge our batteries, it really felt like the excitement you feel when you start a new band.
“When you start a new band, there is all this crazy electricity. That’s why the first records of most bands end up being their best albums, because they are tapping into this new creative energy. Bryan and I got to have that opportunity, 12 years into this band in a way (laughs). We needed it.”