Long After Dark chatted with Joe Bourdet and Brian Filosa from the California band Whispering Pines via e-mail. The band, who are currently in the mixing phase of their second record, released their first album, Family Tree, in 2010. Bourdet and Filosa discuss the recording process, the first record they ever bought, and their dream gig.
Long After Dark: How are you doing and what have you been up to lately?
Whispering Pines: We’re doing just fine, writing again for a new song cycle as we finish our record and enjoying the California sunshine, although several of us are wishing that we could be skiing right now. The lateness of winter is a little disturbing this year.
LAD: You mentioned [in past conversation] that the band is in the mixing phase of your second album, how has the recording process been the second time around?
WP: The recording process this time around has been harmonious in every way. We’re very proud of what we’ve just created and are collaborating generously. Even in mixing, a process that had become very frustrating during the first album, has been very satisfying this time around.
LAD: Were you looking to expand on the sound of Family Tree with this record or did you go into a different direction?
WP: This new record is the full realization of the sound we were flirting with on Family Tree. The music will contain some similar elements, tones, timbres, and themes, as well as mostly similar recording techniques with an emphasis on live playing and analog/tape recording. Beyond that, however, the new record is vastly more dynamic and adventurous. The songs are even more personal and descriptive. Our stylistic references are more eclectic. In short, the potential of this band will be fully revealed.
LAD: Do you have a target date or name for the record yet?
WP: Springtime, no album title yet.
LAD: Whispering Pines excel at creating these long, yet tastefully-executed jams. Do you record those takes live as a band or does someone usually come in with a part to build the track around and you go from there?
WP: On the first record, the songs and jams were recorded live so we could capture the band’s true musical chemistry. That worked to some extent, even though a few things were re-done in overdub. On the new record we made tight arrangements for the instrumental sections and saved the solos for overdubs mostly. That way, we were able to go back and really nail the tones and the melodic content that we wanted in the leads as opposed to ‘winging it’. Consequentially, we’re more satisfied with the leads on this record. Perhaps we’ll return to more free-form technique in the future but these new songs particularly called for this approach.
LAD: One thing I really enjoyed from Family Tree is the unique dynamic of the band, where four of you sing lead on your own songs. Does that make it easier to record, as no one person is pressured to lead the songwriting, or harder?
WP: For the most part easier. It relieves the pressure of any one person having to carry the load and gives everyone space to make their own statement. This kind of collaboration does take a certain mindset that is not always easy to stay in, however. There are tussles and problems sometimes but we have been able to weather all storms.
LAD: In your press clippings, you have Noel Gallagher hailing Whispering Pines as, “an exception lesson in songwriting not heard from an American band in a long while.” What was it like to find out that one of the world’s more popular songwriters liked your band?
WP: We appreciate it.
LAD: Whispering Pines have a relationship with The Romany Rye and Jonathan Wilson, who in addition to putting out his own record, Gentle Spirit, last September has also produced Dawes. How does having a group of young bands trying to be successful with variations of the Laurel Canyon Sound impact your own efforts?
WP: It’s encouraging to feel like we have friends with musical commonalities and good to know that they are being recognized and appreciated. We’ve worked for a long time imagining that we may never find an audience for this kind of music. Now I think that an audience is being found by these bands and we certainly don’t mind the association.
LAD: If you could bring one other musician or band on stage to play with Whispering Pines for a night, who would you pick?
WP: We frequently bring our friend Amy Blaschke on stage to perform with us. She sings fantastic harmony and has a great, melodic, finger-picked guitar style. In fact, she is featured singing harmony on a couple of the songs on our new album. She is also a great songwriter and performer herself. Look for her record to be released soon as well.
LAD: Some quick hits to round up the interview: What were the first records you bought, who are you listening to right now, and if Whispering Pines could play any venue/festival, what it be?
Joe Bourdet: The first record I bought was the Beach Boys Greatest Hits Vol. 2. Right now, I’m listening to Bob Welch’s ‘Paris’ band. Self-titled I think. I’d like the Pines to play at the top of the Aiguille Du Midi in Chamonix, France. Then afterwards I’d attempt to ski down some face-melting couloir.
Brian Filosa: First record: Iron Maiden – Powerslave, right now I’m listening to Hawkwind – Hall of the Mountain Grill. I’d love to play Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble.