Interview with Blind Pilot: Folkie Oregon’s sound

Have you ever imagined turning your living room into a concert venue? Ca Lila Home Made Records (a project created and based in Asturias) have imagined it several times and finally they made it real. Supporters of the “Live in the Living” initiative, they have brought the experience to Asturias, being this show the first one celebrated at this space. Other spanish cities like Madrid, Barcelona, Santiago de Compostela or Valencia have experienced it before, but the idea is still taking shape in Spain. Since 2002 other European countries like the Netherlands and Germany have been immersed in it, and many German and Dutch living rooms have enjoyed the presence of different artists inside their walls. The shows are mainly pop-folk ones (amateur musicians included), because of the unplugged character of the event. Artists like Blind Pilot, Klaus and Kinski, Rick Treffers or Lonely Drifter Karen, among many others, have participated in this project.

This past November 7th, Blind Pilot and Ricardo Nistal (Asturian musician) came to the Ca Lila’s living room to delight us with a lovely evening. Nistal opened the show playing some songs from his own indie-pop repertory. After that, Blind Pilot jumped into the improvised stage. A guitar, a small drummer and a double bass were the only embellishments of Israel Nebeker, Luke Ydstie and Ryan Dobrowski’s show. Beautiful vocal harmonies, intimate compositions and mild musical accompaniments that show a great deal of talent and modesty. They are now supporting Calexico’s Spanish tour and did not hesitate to accept Nistal’s invitation to play in Oviedo, where they met and became big friends. A very nice evening full of good music and a friendly atmosphere. The only thing we missed: Kati Claborn and her banjo/ukulele and backing vocals. Unfortunately she was ill.

After the concert, I was able to ask Israel Nebeker (the singer and guitarist of the group) a few questions. He oozed kindness and gratitude. And it is thanks to bands like this one that I still believe in music as an art.

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1) How was Blind Pilot’s beginning in the music world?

It was four years ago. Ryan (the drummer) and I, started a project together after playing in some bands in Portland. We both decide to move up to the coast, record an EP by ourselves and make a tour down the coast by bycicle. From Canada to Mexico, we played in some houses,  bars, in the streets, to anyone who wanted to listen to us. It was really fun. After that, we came back  to Portland and record an album with the rest of the current members of the band.

2) Which are your main musical influences?

Classic ones as Bob Dylan, Hank Williams…and bands like Bright Eyes, Neutral Milk Hotel, Joanna Newsom

3) Any ritual at the time of composing? And before starting a show?

Well, usually when an idea comes up, I need to go and try to make it into a song. I like to be outdoors, in the place where I grew up on the coast. I love the landscape and it is inspiring for me. Before the show, I need to be all alone for an hour and so, be myself and nobody else and that’s all.

4) For somebody that does not know your music, how would you define it?

I can never answer that question…I would say it is mostly acoustic, pretty folk influenced, but not just folk…Maybe modern folk.

5) Which is the last record you have bought?

John Hopkins + King Creosote: “Diamond Mine”. The first one is a folk singer, and King Creosote is like a soft-electronic chill-out composer. It is a beutiful blend of both musicians.

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6) How was the experience of working with Tucker Martine (REM, My Morning Jacket, Sufjan Stevens, Mudhoney…)?

Wonderful. He was really good and helpful. I think a lot of producers focus on their own energy and mood, and Tucker was different. He just sat down and listened to us. He was a great influence in the recording of our EP.

7) Is there any special place or audience do you remember? Any place where you would love to play again?

Yeah…there are too many. For example the first time we played a big show in New York was great. I really like the concerts where people interact. I love communication with the audience. These are the moments I usually remember. And I would love to play again in Oviedo (Asturias). It is a very special place for me.

8) A record for a Saturday night.

Mmmm there is Motown album called “Just Someone You Use”. I do not remember the name of the artist. This is a relly good one for a saturday night.

9) A record for a Sunday morning.

Joni Mitchell: “Blue”

10) Is there anything special with Oviedo? I mean, you have a song titled Oviedo, now you play here two days in a row for free…

Yeah. Well I studied here for six months. It was an exchange program with my University. Oviedo was an important time in my life. Wonderful memories. And here I met Ricardo (Nistal), he was a musician as well an we started playing together and advising each other. That was one of the best times I had as a songwriter.

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11) Tell us a bite about your “Bike Tour”. How did the idea come up? Any anecdotes?

Well, in Portland there are so many bands that sound really good. I think we were playing music and we were wondering if we were playing it in the right way…We thought the tour was a good way of letting people know or music, maybe people that had never seen live shows before, specially in little towns. We wanted to connect with people and not only in Portland, so we started the tour with that purpose. About the anecdotes…for instance I remember one in San Francisco. We were in the Art Museum and when we went out our bikes were stolen, so we thought: ok, this is the end of the tour, we can not go any further. The trip was really fun anyway. It went better and better.

12) Is it difficult to have so many members in a band at the time of fitting in the stage, coming to an agreement, composing, etc? (currently they are six members)

Well, the band started with Ryan and I, so, at the beginning we made almost all the decisions. But we cared very much about what the other members thought. At the end it is a positive thing.

12) Any current band you are fan of?

The Helio Sequence (indie-electronic rock) and Starfucker (electronica band).

Photos: Nacho Iglesias

Graduated in Business by Universidad de Oviedo and Liverpool John Moores University and a melomaniac. After my one year stay in the musical city par excellence, Liverpool, I started to associate myself with this artistic field in a deeper way, singing and playing the guitar in bands like Autotan, Seven Tin Stars and in my solo project with Nacho Iglesias, and collaborating in musical and cultural magazines as Mondo Sonoro and Revista FSHN. But not only is music my passion. Cinema, literature, travelling, photography and gastronomy make my life a bit sweeter within this grey world that is my current and remunerated job: accountant in the Engineering Company Grupo TSK.