Bread Pilot on “New to You”
The Joy of the Process
May 26, 2022
Photography by Nathan Reed
Bread Pilot’s new album New to You is indie rock at its most intimate and energized. From the nostalgic settings of the tracks to the emotional outpour in each song, to the interpersonal relationships of the group, it is a record of vulnerability and closeness. While you can argue that all music is intimate (or as Hayley Williams puts it, “all music is emo”), there is something to be said about a group where three of the four members have been playing together for over a decade, since they were teens. Pair that with the fact that each member has a large voice in the actual process of composing the music, and it’s no wonder Bread Pilot’s sound is at once intricate and loose.
The record is their full-length label debut with Double Double Whammy. It’s an album which is rooted in the heart of lo-fi but produced with contemporary indie-rock sheen. Each layered track emanates a measured approach to songwriting, a precise ear for earworm melodies, and scores of influences from the past. There are songs like “Droopee” which is a dozen years old, and tracks about Platt Park and Crook Horn Road, local areas from Southbury, Connecticut where initial members Taylor Hayden (guitar/vocals), Steve Ibanez (guitar/vocals), and Evan House (drums) grew up. “Crook” is in reference to the street where the band played basement shows in high school. “I understand why you search for a way out when it gets weird,” they belt in the verse, with pure nostalgic angst.
After moving to Seattle in the mid-2010s, bassist Levi Nattrass joined the band, and in 2019, the recording of an album began. It was a joyful, deep process, with long recording days in the Unknown, Phil Elverum’s studio in Anacortes, WA. The intimacy shone in the studio. “I value this band as not being a couple songwriters and people playing the songs, but being this fully collaborative thing between all four, five, or however many people are playing together,” says Ibanez. Hayden agrees, mentioning the collaborators on the project: “We had a bunch of different musicians playing on tracks that made them so much better, adding in this new flair. The best part of recording is that the process is so fun. That’s another strength that all of us have. When we’re starting on recording, putting our heads together, it’s like building.”
In crafting songs for the record, a lot starts with Ibanez or Hayden’s guitar. They write the foundations of a song, and from there, the rest of the band collides like waves. “In ‘Crook,’ we have no idea what to do [for this part],” Hayden reminisces about the writing of the track. “Then Evan is just like, ‘I hear a bass, like, descending.’”
Nattrass elaborates that the process is meticulous in making the end-product as close to the vision as possible. “In practicing and arranging, we practiced how we were gonna play [the songs] hundreds of times,” he says. “We played them almost the exact same way for months and months and brought that to the studio.”
The result is encapsulating, with much of the instrumentation seeming like the members can read each other’s minds. There’s the closing track, “Pool Song,” a pretty ballad where the acoustic guitar and ambience are sweet and polished as a cedar canoe, each musician flowing together in a swirl. Or take “Sammy,” a song inspired by the scenery of the Pacific Northwest on one of Ibanez’s solo-camping trips, where every instrument rides effortlessly in semi-acoustic bliss before ascending into a steel-lap guitar solo.
Each of the members are also producers, so the precision and ear for detail come across there as well. In collaborating with producer/engineer Samuel Rosson (whose work with Great Grandpa attracted the band), the bandmates say finding the right fit of lo-fi meets hi-fi was a laborious process, but they are greatly satisfied with what came about. “What made it so good in the end was working through all of us having a vision,” Nattrass says.
House agrees, “Having someone that wasn’t in the band that was knowledgeable about engineering made it helpful and allowed us to have that live sound transfer. Our live sound is something that’s one of our gifts as a band.”
The live setting truly is where the band shines. From Hayden and Ibanez’s harmonies to the tightness of the lilting jams, to the freedom of improvisation, the group’s grungy Beatles vibe is apparent on stage, and that has finally been caught on an album with fidelity. They live tracked together in the studio, and as Ibanez says, “That lends itself to the live sound. It feels like this outdated thing sometimes but leaning into [live tracking] feels fun.”
As for catching those live shows, they are excited to share the live versions of the album soon. “It’s been nice to play the songs differently now that we have them recorded. It’s nice to have different drum fills and improvised stuff,” says Nattrass. On tour they pass the time playing driving games and trying to skate… which doesn’t always work out. “We hardly have enough time to eat dinner,” Ibanez jokes.
Those tribulations aside, the group is grateful for their debut. “We’ve all been fans of the label for years and years. Some of the artists are the first small, indie artists I got into,” says Nattrass. “It felt so lucky that the label was really interested.” Lucky they may be, but the group is well-poised for it. With so many years behind them, their humility and natural chemistry are sure to inspire many fans in years to come.