The Buddha Den

Everything you wanted to know about the Dayton music scene and more but were afraid to ask

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

PROFILE: The Celebrity Pilots

...with an appearance scheduled for this Saturday at the Oregon Express, The Buddha Den took time to speak with Chris Sheehan of The Celebrity Pilots recently. The Cleveland band (formerly out of Columbus) travel in psych-tinged indie pop and have previously worked with frequent Robert Pollard co-conspirator, Todd Tobias. Here's how it all went down...

The Buddha Den: Why don't you give our readers the Cliff Notes on The Celebrity Pilots to begin with? I'm sure they'd love to know the background.
Chris Sheehan: Did you know that they make Cliff Notes for Joyce's Ulysses? I've tried to read that damn thing like five times and haven't been able to get more than a third of the way through.

Our Cliff Notes might read a little something like this:

Chapter I – Chris Sheehan records a record with Todd Tobias on drums and bass. 'Beneath the Pavement a Beach', a clumsy reference to the French Situationist movement and Paris Student Riots of 1968, is released in Sept., 2005 and the band tours the Midwest and East Cost in support. The band consists of Adam Dowell on bass, Jeff Faller on synth, and Dan Gerken on drums. Many miles away, something crawls from the slime at the bottom of a dark Scottish lake.

Chapter II – Still asserting America's neutrality, President Woodrow Wilson plays squash with the Kaiser Wilhelm at Agincourt to commemorate the 450th anniversary of the 100 years war. The Celebrity Pilots hole up in the studio to record their third record 'Hawks of the Lesser Antilles' while their second 'Spooky Action' is being assembled from various scraps of detritus and a room of 100 monkeys. Josh Gerken takes over on drums for his brother.

Chapter III – 'Spooky Action', a dense and whirling fuzzy pop monstrosity, is released in time for Arbor Day.

Chapter IV – Expanding to a full five piece (Dan back as guitar/keys), The Celebrity Pilots (now with Retcin!) play The Everyready Battery/Trojan/Celestial Seasonings sponsored Middle Eastern Music Fest and Renaissance Fair, live at the Wall of Jericho. 'Hawks of the Lesser Antilles' is released on Edison Wax Cylinder to combat the proliferation of illegal downloads.

Chapter V – 2027 AD: Much confusion and hysteria abound as researchers at the Lunar Sea of Tranquility Research Center and Sandals Resort uncover a large obsidian monolith which is emitting music from an unknown and forgotten band from the early 21st century. It is thought that the music had been with us before time and will be forever. Nations strike ad hoc peace accords and human unity is at an all time high. Attention quickly dissipates as it is discovered that Kevin Shield's unreleased back catalog is embedded in the Jupiter Eye. Lt. Commander Sean Preston Federline leads the mission to retrieve the archived materials.

TBD: We saw that you recently played at the Grog Shop in Cleveland with white-hot buzz band Fleet Foxes and Blitzen Trapper. How did that go over for you? Were the bands cool?

CS: That was a great show – we played to a packed house for the first time in a great while and I think we sounded great. Having Dan on guitar and keys is a big boost – not only does it mean I have less to fiddle with on stage, it adds a great deal to the textures that we were trying to bring out before with just one guitar. Definitely much more dimensional and layered.

I thought Fleet Foxes put on a great show and Blitzen Trapper were very good. Cleveland crowds are funny though – I think people started leaving in between FF and BT. I'm not sure if they thought they had just seen BT or what?

TBD: After about a year out from the release of your last album Spooky Action, how has the reception been? How do you feel about the album at this point? Are you itching to get back to some recording work soon?

CS: We didn't get as much press with this one, but I think it was a better album than the first – maybe not as consistent, but better. I was glad it was a little more noisy, a little less clean indie pop than the first. Sometimes I look at these two records and wonder what would have happened if I combined the best of each but I guess ultimately I'm never going to be the guy who waits four or five years between releases and rabidly self-edits. You're going to get pretty much everything I've developed into a song because, from a personal standpoint, it's much more interesting of an exercise to develop everything and fit it in like a patchwork quilt than it is coming up with 10 consistent songs that get in and get out.

We just finished a third record, 'Hawks of the Lesser Antilles' and I'm pretty much set up in the attic at this point with some decent equipment.

TBD: Being much larger than Dayton, it seems as if Columbus has several larger pockets within its music scene? How would you describe the current vibe in Columbus? In comparison to other cities you've visited?

CS: I actually live in Cleveland, but I grew up in Columbus and I'm there enough to recognize that it's a pretty happening music town. Always has been really . . . Losing Little Brothers was a blow, but there's a lot of interesting music and places to play – hell, it was just called 'The Capital of Independent Arts' by some rag . . . so if that's not a death knell I don't know what is.

This period of Columbus music reminds me of the bands from the late 80s/early 90s (Gaunt, Scrawl, TJSA et al) – it's noisy and rough but there's a pop foundation under those rueful laminations. But there's more than just that happening. Columbus is always going to benefit from the influx of young people that either go to OSU and stay, or move in from the surrounding area and I think that's going to perennially keep new bands springing up.

TBD: Columbus is pretty lucky to have a resource like to help promote its scene. How do you think the work of Mr. Duffy has helped the Columbus music scene? How is it putting out your releases on his Sunken Treasure Records label?

CS: Rob Duffy has been a huge part of Columbus music for almost a decade now and we are completely indebted to him for putting out and promoting our first record. In fact, if it weren't for him I'm not even sure that I would have pursued a live line-up as quickly. He's just one of those guys who gets completely immersed in music and loves it unconditionally to its core and seeks out all kinds of new records and just never gives up on it. He's not completely jaded and mercurial like me (ha!).

TBD: Is there anything else readers of The Buddha Den should know about The Celebrity Pilots before you hit our town this weekend?

CS: Our goal for this show is to change how humans perceive and process sound. Anything less will be an abject failure. catch The Celebrity Pilots this weekend at the Oregon Express as they share the stage with The 1984 NFL Draft (Joe Anderl) and Orange Willard...

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