“If I’m not feeling vulnerable or nervous for somebody to hear it, then I don’t feel like I did my job”
Pianos Become The Teeth have just released their latest album ‘Drift’ via Epitaph.
A delicate, intelligent, exploratory collection of understated compositions, the band continue to expand on what they can be in the most beautiful, boundless and bold ways they can. Heartfelt and honest, mature and meticulous, it is unlike anything Pianos have produced before and marks another incredible chapter in their unique story.
To find out a bit more about it and how the band fits into his life currently, we sat down with vocalist Kyle Durfey…
How does it feel to have ‘Drift’ out in the world now
“It feels incredible. We worked really hard on this record. Just as a general rule of thumb, we always try to write earnest and honest music whenever we set about making an album. You’ve got to lay it all out there, especially for me. I will always be talking about myself and what is going on in my life, as far as Pianos goes, that will always be the case. If I’m not feeling vulnerable or nervous for somebody to hear it, then I don’t feel like I did my job. I feel that way with this record because it has come so from the heart.”
What would you say were the things you wanted this record to be at the beginning of the process? How did it perhaps differ from how the blueprint had looked at the beginning of other cycles?
“In the past, we were all a bit younger and had more time to spend with each other. Now we have different responsibilities and things we have to take care of. There have always seemed to be four-year gaps between records over the last decade as well, and a lot can happen in that time. That is never intentional, we just take a long time to write something we are proud of. You have to live a little to have something there for you to talk about as well. But for this record, we were doing so many different things in our lives that we had to make a point of getting together to make something happen. We ended up going out to Mike’s uncle’s cabin for two days at a time to work on things, hang out and generally be together, and over time stuff slowly started coming together. Just before COVID hit, we had some bits almost ready to go, but we ended up scrapping it just because it wasn’t the vibe we were looking for. So starting over, fleshing stuff out and just being friends again is how this started to come together, and we have been working on it a lot of time as well. But with any record we make, what it ends up coming over time. In terms of the things I write, the record will show itself to me as I get deeper into it, and then I will write to the tune of that from then on. So it’s all a bit give and take, it could be the same, or it could be different.”
So what were the things that were showing themselves to you?
“I think that, personally for me, I am writing about things that are very close to my heart. So I found myself being very aware of the situations that were cropping up, and a lot of them were everyday things. Things that everybody finds themselves dealing with at some time. Things with your marriage, trying to start a family, all very familiar stuff. But because of the times, we were getting together being different to the past, that conjured up a different feeling than it would have before. It was almost a refreshed look on those things, and the things we were making and the time we had to make it felt much more special. It opens your eyes to how precious these things are.”
And it feels as though you had the space to have fun with it, an aspect that is so often lost in making an album. All of this should be fun for you to do together…
“Yeah, I know I will always write about melancholy stuff when it comes to the band, but it is a fun release at the end of the day. I love creating, recording and releasing music with my best friends. I genuinely love everything that this is. And it’s the same with shows. We’ve been nervous thinking about it because it’s the first time in a couple of years, but whilst rehearsing, it’s reminded us just how all of this is. It should always feel this exciting.”
That fun also comes through in how you have pushed into different sonic realms with these songs too. It’s a record where it’s more about what is in the back of your ear as much as the front, and that comes from a lot of experimentation and tweaking and playing. What was that like to put together, and how does it feel to be confident enough to show things off so bare bones?
“I think we were trying to delve into the uncomfortable aspects of songwriting this time, more so than in the past. We weren’t afraid to get a little bit weird with it. Any idea anybody had, we tried it out. All bets were off. Everybody was free to throw something in and vocal about everybody’s part. That was challenging at times but in a really good way. We all checked what little egos we had and said, ‘This isn’t just my part, this is about what services the record the best and creates the best vibe’. Having that mentality allowed it all to feel more seamless. We were all done to write something different than what we have done before. I hope to have every album look and feel completely different, but you can still tell it is a Pianos record.”
How does it feel to reach the end of that process and see what you have created?
“Listening back to this, I had no idea where any of it came from. It’s a cool feeling to have and know that you are capable of it. The question, ‘Who is in the driver’s seat?’ cropped up a lot throughout this creation, a case of figuring out whose part needs to be accentuated the most. So for me, that’s how my vocal needs to be interpreted and how it needs to be performed. I would say that considering those things gave me more confidence in my abilities and my place within the songs, be they in the background or the forefront. The whole point of the record is for those sounds to drift in and out at all times. You hear something, but before you have a chance to name it, it is gone. You’re hyper-focused on something, but you are also lost in a daydream at the same time. Existing in a dreamlike state but also one in which you are concentrating as well. That’s what we wanted.”
To be able to create something that just exists in that way, to be able to make music that is both dreamlike and relatable, that’s a pretty nice place to be as a band, really, isn’t it?
“Absolutely. As long as the five of us are happy with the record, nothing else matters, but knowing that there are people getting a vibe from it, we are also happy. As long as you feel a certain way whilst listening. This isn’t just ten bangers in a row. It’s something deeper than that. I think we really accomplished that.”
Within the quieter moments between creation, how do you feel the ways your own relationship with the band has shifted? With your life away from the band taking on new challenges as well, how has it felt when you’ve considered what PBTT fits into that?
“Pianos is not at the forefront of my life right now, but it is also my baby. I started this band with these guys so long ago, and I just absolutely love it. This is my creative endeavour. I always think about it, but I definitely have to approach it differently to how I did in the past. But even with that, it’s never an effort to work on stuff or step back in. It’s always a joy to work on it. I want to keep on doing it forever. Pianos is just as precious as it ever was, but also probably more than it ever was. I want to hold onto it even more now because of it being such a constant but not being able to look at it in the same way as I did when I was younger. Things have to change, but the five of us playing music will always be special. I just hope that people can listen through our discography, and see the changes, the growth, and the journey we have been on.”
And as that journey continues, what do you feel the future of Pianos looks like?
“I will have to live the years ahead of us to know the answer to that. I just get so excited when the guys are fiddling around with something new. I still get those butterflies when I see that email. That’s how every record starts, and it’s always a good sign. Who knows when that might happen, but we can’t force it. But I will be looking forward to it either way.”