INTERVIEW: Bruce Soord of The Pineapple Thief

INTERVIEW: Bruce Soord of The Pineapple Thief

Bruce Soord is the founding member and mainman of The Pineapple Thief, currently nominated for “Band of the Year” in this year’s Progressive Music Awards. The album Wisdom of Crowds, his recent collaboration with Katatonia’s lead vocalist Jonas Renkse, has also been attracting notable attention and a song from it, ‘Frozen North’, finds itself nominated at the same Awards, in the “Best Anthem” category.

GIITTV caught up with Bruce in the midst of his preparations for his first ever live show with Jonas Renkse at The Garage (London) on 24th July, when they will perform together as part of their record label Kscope’s 5th anniversary celebrations.

GIITTV: I have come to your music late, Wisdom of Crowds being my starting point. Can you tell me how this record came about?

BS: I was having a chat with Johnny Wilks from Kscope about music and recording gizmos (as he has a studio at home) and we got onto the subject of making music.  Johnny sent me some ideas he had and a week later I sent him back a demo for ‘Pleasure’.  That was 4 years ago, over the years, when we had time, we’d collaborate and eventually we found ourselves with an album (but with no vocals!).  It came about with literally no plan, no expectations which made the whole thing a very fun and musically pure thing to do.  We had no idea if it would ever see the light of day.

GIITTV: Given my relative lack of prior knowledge about either The Pineapple Thief or Katatonia I had no preconceptions about Wisdom of Crowds, but those who are perhaps more familiar with your and Jonas Renske’s back catalogues seem rather (pleasantly) surprised at the end product; does this reaction surprise you?

BS: I was curious as to how the Katatonia fans would take to it because it’s not a ‘metal’ record in the traditional sense of riffing guitars.  But I still think it has a lot of metal sensibilities, it gets pretty hard edged at times.  But overall, I am very pleased and surprised at how well the record has gone down!

GIITTV: In a number of reviews of the album I read about its darkness and melancholia. I must confess I didn’t hear this; I found it to be an uplifting, almost strangely euphoric listening experience.  How would you describe it?

BS: I think the music is uplifting but at times, lyrically it gets dark.  One of the best quotes I saw was ‘Depresso-prog is not a useful tag for music that puts such a huge smile on my face’ (from ‘metalsuks’).  Yes, lyrically the album sings about death, desolation and desperation, but it also sings about love and fulfilment too.

GIITTV: Can you tell us more about the forthcoming show at The Garage with Jonas on the 24th of July, how the preparations are going etc.?

BS: I’m literally preparing for it now!  Getting all the sounds on the road without relying on too many triggers is challenging to say the least.  But it should be good fun.   I am putting the live parts together with my TPT keyboard player Steve Kitch now and we have a week of rehearsals before the garage show.  If it goes well, I think we have a proper tour planned during December of this year.

GIITTV:  Are there any future plans for further collaborations with Jonas, either live or recorded?

BS: We are talking about it yes, it really depends how busy Jonas is, as Katatonia is obviously the number 1 priority.  But hopefully I’ll be popping over to Stockholm for a jam some time in the future!

GIITTV: Moving away from Wisdom of Crowds to your “day job” with The Pineapple Thief, it looks as if 2013 has already been a very busy year what with the above, the re-mixing and re-issuing of 137 (the band’s second album); the release of the Build a World EP; tour dates; not to mention writing material for the next album? How on earth do you manage to fit it all in?

BS: I have no idea!  Sometimes I think madness is the next logical step for me.  But I wouldn’t swap it for the world.  I have become a lot more efficient when it comes to working on projects.  No more week long sessions on a tambourine track, those days are over…

GIITTV: What is the latest on the next album from The Pineapple Thief?

BS: I am well intro writing now and I have 5 tracks I am really happy with (and plenty more that are in the bin!).  I’ve just spoken to Andrew Skeet who did a brilliant job arranging the strings for All the Wars and he’s on board to do strings again for the next album.  I am very excited about it.  If all goes to plan it will be out on Kscope April 2014.

GIITTV: Turning to the live experience with The Pineapple Thief, I heard you speaking about the difficulties you face in getting a band on the road. Can you elaborate on some of the reasons for this?

BS: The main thing is money.  Taking a band and crew on the road costs and the bigger the tours, the higher the costs.  We have to pay our live sound engineer, techs and lighting engineer a guaranteed wage.  The band then gets whatever is left, which is sometimes a negative amount!  So it’s tough.  So many bands I know can’t make a full time living out of it, you’d be surprised the kind of people who have to teach guitar lessons or drive a van to pay the bills.  So going away for weeks on end touring, not knowing if you will come back with a wage is the difference between a band moving forward or breaking up.  The rest is easy – get the band in a rehearsal room, invest in the best gear you can afford and get out there.

GIITTV: Was this linked into the reasons for your playing a recent solo acoustic show at the Lexington in London?  How was that gig?

BS: I just love playing and recently the solo acoustic has come together, I think because the way TPT songs have evolved, they lend themselves to solo much better.  It’s really just an excuse to get paid to play first and then enjoy a beer and listen to some great bands!  But my solo live work hasn’t made me a millionaire yet.

GIITTV: Looking ahead to playing live with a full band, The Pineapple Thief is to play three festivals in July/August; Night of the Prog in Germany, followed by Tramlines in Sheffield and then Y Not in Derbyshire. What are your thoughts ahead of these shows?

BS: I am really looking forward to Loreley, it’s a great line-up (should call it a ‘Night of the Progressives’).  I am also looking forward to erasing the memory of our last performance there, which didn’t go well (the live band just wasn’t good enough back then).  Tramlines is another great line-up.   As for y-not, we’re playing a small stage early on the Sunday.  It’s a great, relatively small, indie festival but the promoters were really put off by our ‘prog’ tag – people still think we’re going to turn up in capes and play 30 minutes guitar solos.  So we have to do these gigs to show promoters that we’re not that kind of band.  Promoters are always surprised when they see us play.  In a good way!

GIITTV: Taking my cue from the festival you will play in Germany and some of the observations you made in a recent interview (the one after the Paris show) about progressive music, it is a descriptor which is still pejorative to many; what do you think about The Pineapple Thief’s regular association with this term to describe their music?

BS: I think the term ‘progressive’ is fine, but ‘prog’ still has problems.  Being associated with the prog scene has had it’s benefits though.  It allowed us to be heard when we were small, because the scene is so passionate about new music.  However, it also causes us problems!  Because we are trying to take progressive music forward, a lot of people shout at us because we’re ‘not prog enough’.  And as I said earlier, a lot of promoters simply won’t touch bands who are associated with it.  Our agent gets very frustrated.  But I do not have a problem admitting TPT has progressive influences.  I love Yes, Floyd, Camel, Supertramp etc.  But I also like a load of other genres and bands too.  I think that’s why we are starting to cross over.  But I have no grand plan where our aim is to cross over to a more mainstream crowd.  We’re not that calculated.  But what does drive me, is knowing there are so many people out there who would love us if they discovered us.  It’s horrible to think these people might never come across us.

GIITTV: In that same video-recorded interview in Paris you spoke very enthusiastically about the reaction of the French crowd. Having been to a couple of shows in Paris myself over the years, I can fully concur with your view. Why do you think this is (when, say, compared with an English audience)?

BS: I have no idea!  They are crazy!  The reaction when you walk on stage is so warm and loud, it just takes the band to another level.  I wouldn’t say other territories are bad and our recent UK tour, the crowds were brilliant (I think that has something to do with our live show getting better).  But the French jump and down, sing and clap along.  It’s a different atmosphere for sure…

GIITTV: When asked by that interviewer to speak some French, you indicated that you like to play football. Is this still the case? Do you support a team – if so, is it Yeovil Town? It would seem that both your stars are now in the ascendency!!

BS: Ha yes, I was doing my Steve McLaren version of French!  How you say….   Yeovil in Championship? C’est magnifique! (moving hands furiously).   I love playing football and play 6 aside every week.  I’m very much a head down, dribble, maybe shoot, probably lose the ball, hardly pass kind of player.  A bit like my attitude to song writing.  It drives my band crazy when we play on tour.  I’m really trying to pass more now.  Honest.


God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.