Listen to this track by London-based experimental chamber folk-pop collective Pillarcat, joined on this track by Lamb vocalist and solo artist in her own right, Lou Rhodes. It’s “The Fragile and the Few” as taken from the band’s full length album Weave.
Pillarcat is led by singer-songwriter Stephen Hodd, who seeks to mix the textures of John Martyn, Phillip Glass, Steve Reich, Sigour Ros, and beyond into his work. The title Weave then is honestly come by, and the resulting sound is at once cinematic, pristine, atmopheric, and evocative.
Hodd wrote and produced the record himself, drawing on a pool of guest talent that includes the aforementioned Lou Rhodes, but also violinist Ben Lee, virtuoso drummer Emre Ramazanolgu, and vocalist Gitta. Spanish guitarist Pablo Tato and Italian drummer Alberto Voglino round out the regular membership of Pillarcat, making the band something of a cultural amalgam when joined with Ireland-born Hodd.
I spoke with Stephen via email about recording an ambitious record on a limited budget, about experimenting with sound while getting an accessible feel, and about what comes next for the band.
The Delete Bin: This song has a very accessible feel to it, and yet it is also a pretty densely textured recording. What was the process of making the record?
Stephen Hodd of Pillarcat: It was a joy to be able to weave together the influences that have made an impression on me in my musical development. I shut the doors to the outside world for a year. There were no rules. The main idea was to create an album that would reward a solid listen. I remember listening to my old vinyl records all the way through and I loved the voyage.
DB: Your music has a lot of stylistic threads running through it. What are some of the big ones that served as starting points for you?
SH: Everything stemmed from the acoustic guitar. As a finger style folk guitarist, growing up in Ireland left me with a solid grasp of melody and rhythm. I heard darkness in the rolling guitar parts and really wanted to explore how heavier styles of music could be incorporated into the melody. Over the years playing live I would increasingly find myself experimenting more with loops and sonic experiences whilst also trying to fit a song into the flow. This was what I have brought into the studio. It was an in depth learning process. I spent a few years playing guitar with Lou Rhodes from Lamb and learned a lot from her producer, Emre Ramazanoglu. It was great putting this into practice.
DB: What were some of the major challenges you face as a group, since the band is not easily pigeonholed stylistically?
SH: The single biggest challenge seems to be getting exposure and finding fans within the media. The fact that we cannot be pigeonholed is a disadvantage for the music press as it makes their job harder. But I see it as an advantage as we are offering something new to the listener. In a live environment it will become clearer as you can be more sporadic in a live setting than on record.
DB: You mentioned that you used some of your favourite records as a guide to how to approach the recording process, which perhaps informs your output as a producer. Were there any specific artistic goals you had in mind for this project?
SH: I wanted to make a concept album that took the listener on a journey rather than (creating) a bunch of singles. I feel that there is a lovely flow to the peaks and troughs on this record. The title Weave points to the many threads on this album. If I can open some doors and get some fans onboard that enjoy this record before progressing towards the next one, I will be happy.
DB: You managed to create a very textured record on a limited budget. What are your plans now that it’s been made?
SH: As a new band with no money or a record label behind us it is going to be hard to raise any awareness of the project. The album is coming out on our own label, Savage Acoustic Records and I am learning the industry as I go along. I am very happy to connect with bloggers, radio people, and promoters. We have lots of gigs coming up and the band is coming together live really well.
We are doing the usual free download in exchange for your email address. The real challenge is to come up with a new original concept that drives traffic to our website to help spread the word about our music. The most important thing for Pillarcat right now is to get our album out there, and for people to enjoy it.
For more information about Pillarcat, check out the Pillarcat official site.
Also, be sure to ‘like’ the Pillarcat Facebook page. From there, you can read a full bio, and join the email list.