5:00PM (PST)









Although the seed for the Atlanta-based rock band LAST NOVEMBER was planted in a high school history class, the band's story isn't exactly ROGER CORMAN's 'ROCK N ROLL HIGH SCHOOL'. It's more a story of persistence. I remember being a high schooler with an acoustic guitar and going to open mics at local coffee shops and waiting and waiting until it was my turn to shine with a couple of two chord ditties I had scratched out in an adolescent fit. In speaking with LAST NOVEMBER's lead singer, guitarist and chief songwriter LUKE PILGRIM, I get the sense that the journey for him was a little smoother and maybe even a little more obvious. An artistic soul at heart, LUKE was handed a guitar at age eleven in the same fashion that that other LUKE from a certain seventies science fiction yarn was handed a lightsaber. Needless to say, things changed from that moment on. LUKE spent his class periods penning lyrics to the songs that would make up LAST NOVEMBER's pop rock catalog. After breaking through the glass with their self-produced, self-financed debut CD 'ALL THE GORY DETAILS' (2006), the band returned in 2008 with their immaculate sophomore release 'OVER THE TOP AND UNDER THE WEATHER'. Produced by STEPHEN HAIGLER (FUEL, OLEANDER and THE PIXIES) 'OVER THE TOP...' demonstrates a more nuanced sound and hard won maturity in PILGRIM's pop psychological sensibilities as a songwriter.

ROCKWIRED spoke with LUKE PILGRIM over the phone. Here is how it went.

What's different with 'OVER THE TOP AND UNDER THE WEATHER' as opposed to the band's previous release. What changed?
A lot of things. The first album, 'ALL THE GORY DETAILS' was done when we were in high school. I had probably written most of those songs when I was fifteen or sixteen years old so this latest record is definitely a lot more mature lyrically and musically. I think we tried not to get stuck in a lot of cliches the way that we did on the first record. Those cliches kind of made our first record sound younger. Also, I think having a little more life experience has effected the lyrics as well, but the most obvious change has been the new members that we have. Since then, it has been a kind of a rotating cast of characters. The different people that we have pulled in over the years has kind of altered the sound and stuff like that. When you start playing in high school together, everyone kind of has different goals in mind and you kind of roll with the punches and then it becomes clear that not everyone is cut out for this kind of lifestyle so you kind of keep on going until you find people that are cut out for out.

I was reading that you started pretty young with music. Eleven years old if I'm not mistaken.
Right. I started playing guitar when I was eleven. I was kind of always into stuff like that as a little kid. I never really like played with toys or anything, I just wanted to draw and stuff like that. So when I picked up the guitar it came naturally to me. My cousin taught me pretty much everything I know about guitar. When you start playing guitar at eleven, you don't really have anything else to do so you have plenty of time to practice. It's not like you're going out and doing anything. It was a good time to start when you are young like that. You can hone your skills. I started writing songs when I was twelve. They were probably terrible but that was when I first started writing. I had a notebook that I kept and I started writing down these little ditties that I came up with. That was how I started.

What kind of stuff did you have to cut your teeth on in terms of learning guitar?
It came really naturally to me so I played by ear a lot. I didn't take lessons but I studied a bit to learn to read . I took classical guitar for a bout a year but I hated it. I was a kid and I was like 'I don't wanna do this!'. Most the stuff that I first learned to play was the stuff that my cousin first turned me onto which was a lot of blues stuff like STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN and B.B. KING. My cousin taught me scales and stuff and that was how I learned to improvise. He was a huge jazz guitar player and he tried to turn me on to that kind of stuff yet somehow I ended up writing pop songs.

You went from this blues instruction to the kind of music that you're making now. What inspired this pop rock direction? Was there a particular artist that spoke to you?
Probably THE BEATLES man! I'm a huge BEATLES fan and that has always been my 'go to' for songwriting. I think that's true with everyone though. They are like 'POP SONGS 101'. I started to listen to a lot of their records and a lot of pop stuff but I always dug a lot of older rock n roll. When our band is hanging out, we're always listening to a lot of classic rock and stuff like TOM PETTY or THE EAGLES. I guess those songs spoke to me more because they are easier to relate to.

How did LAST NOVEMBER begin? What got everyone on the same page to want to be in this band. How did that happen?
TAYLOR WOODRUFF who is the drummer and myself are the only remaining originals. I actually met him through our original keyboard player. Ironically, I met TAYLOR at church and we started putting a rock n roll band together. That was kind of how it came about. Me and a couple of guys pretty much just got together and started playing.

Why the name of the band?
It was totally random. I was trying to come up with a name and I was writing down all of these potential names that we could call ourselves, and for some reason that title just stuck out for us and we just went with it. On the first record 'ALL THE GORY DETAILS', there is a song called 'ON NEW YEARS DAY' and in the chorus there is a line that says 'This will be the last November' so the bands name kind of comes from that.

How easy was it for a high school band to get a gig?
It wasn't that easy at first. You're first time in, clubs tend to be a little nervous obviously because you are too young to drink and you are compromising their liquor license and whatever else but we were always cool about that kind of stuff and professional in that regard. We were there to play, not drink. Eventually clubs became a little more open to us and would bring us back time and again.

What is your reason for the lineup changes that have happened for a band that really isn't all that old? Age maybe?
When you start out playing young, it's mostly for fun. Not everyone goes into it with the mentality that this is going to be their career and they are going to do it forever. It's not exactly the lifestyle that everyone is cut out for. That is kind of why people end up leaving and decide to go to school. Our original keyboard player is studying medicine right now and obviously, there is not time to tour when you are studying medicine. That was the reason for all of the different line up changes.

For you, it seems like music was the only way. How hard was it to sit through high school knowing that.
It was pretty tough. i wrote a lot of great lyrics sitting in class. It was good for something I guess.

Dating couldn't have been to hard in high school being in a rock band and all.
I think I saw this on some show on VH-1 where this guy said that it doesn't matter how ugly you are. If you are in a band there is some girl somewhere that will date you.

Exactly, look at the guy from MOTORHEAD. Yuck!

So anyway, you guys have all of these songs and you had a band. At what point did you guys go in and record the first album?
We recorded a bunch of demos and E.P.s and threw them together when we were in high school. It took a whole year for us to finish the album. We actually built a studio in my parents basement. We did about five tracks at TREE STUDIOS in Atlanta and those were our base. That was where we learned how to set up the tracks and whatever. With what we learned there, we went and recorded the album in my parents house and I learned how to use PRO-TOOLS and how to edit tracks and everything else and we recorded it ourselves and released it independently. About a year later, SOUTHERN TRACKS approached us and they wanted to release the record and we were like 'cool!'. They repackaged it and released it. That was the first time we had had any kind of distribution to speak of. Obviously when it came time to record the second record we did it in SOUTHERN TRACKS' own studio and that was such an amazing opportunity to get record there and work with STEPHEN HAIGLER who was a great producer. He's worked with BRAND NEW, FUEL and OLEANDER - the bands that I've heard my whole life. Working with him was cool because he produced all of these bands that we were into. It was wild because it was the first time we had ever recorded with any kind of guidance. It was a whole new experience and he definitely kicked our asses hard.

Talk about the current lineup that you have right now. Tell  me who they are and what you think each of them brings to the table.
TAYLOR WOODRUFF and I have been playing music together for so long. We've been best friends for the past six or seven years and he and I definitely work together a lot whenever I come up with a new song and stuff. He also sings all of the back up harmony and he's the drummer. We pretty much sing like brothers because we've been playing together for so long. TYLER AYERS plays bass. He's been with the band for two years and plays on this latest album. He is a really cool dude. He's a super nice guy so it's nice to have a musician in you band that's not a prick. He sings back up vocals also but not as much as TYLER. When he first joined our band, it was a month before we went into the studio for the album and he was thrown into this whirlwind of new songs and having to work with a producer. I'm sure it was quite overwhelming for him but he stuck with it and I'm glad that he did. He's a great bass player and a good guy. ZACH BAXTER is our newest member. He plays guitar and he just started with us about a year ago. The funny thing is that he used to come to our shows when we were starting out. The first rock show that he ever went to was a LAST NOVEMBER show.  He was a huge fan and I would always see him at the shows and talk to him and stuff.

You are the chief songwriter for the band. How does that process work?
A lot of times it takes a while. I write a little bit every day. I usually write some sort of lyric in my notebook throughout the day. I'll have some sort of thought and I'll write it down. going from that to making a song; sometimes it will happen fast and sometimes it will take months. I'll sit down with a guitar and come up with the riff, the melody and the vocal to the lyrics in order to get it meshed out. I'll usually lay down an acoustic demo track and I'll play it for the guys and see what they think. We 'll kind of go from there into our rehearsal space and hash it out and see what feel right. The guys will start making their own parts on top of that. We pretty much build the track up from the ground and get the drums kind of solid and TYLER will add his bass part. I write all the time. The things that inspire me vary. Sometimes songs will be inspired by a real event or girl that I dated and other times it can be totally fictitious and I just kind of fabricate a story.

Give an example of a song that was difficult to write and took a while to built itself over time
'SEVENTEEN AT THREE IN THE MORNING' - our single - was a challenge. Lyrically, I pretty much had it in the bag. My thought process was pretty much on that at time. I started writing that song when I was seventeen hence the title but it took us up until a few months when it was released to get it right because I wrote and recorded several acoustic demo versions and tried it with the band with drums and bass and every time we did it, I hated it. It would just end up sounding like a pop country radio hit or something. It wasn't the sound that I wanted for the song. The time came for us to record the song for 'OVER THE TOP AND UNDER THE WEATHER'. I was listening to the last JOHNNY CASH record and there is song on there called 'GOD CAN CUT YOU DOWN' and it has stomps and claps instead of drums and it gave me an idea to try that thinking that it would be kind of cool. We set up some mics were we rehearsed and we had all my friends come to the session and we recorded all of these claps. It sounded pretty neat. The vocal on the album was recorded when I was sick and I had to take pieces from some old takes I had done a long time ago and kind of make it work. We were running out of time and money at the studio. We had to finish the record because we had already spent a whole year recording. We recorded it and I still wasn't happy with it. When it came time for us to release it as a single, I wanted to fix the song before we did so.  We went into the studio again and I re-cut the vocals. That was the only thing that bothered me. Once that was done we decided to mix everything. It was mixed by RODNEY MILLS who has worked numerous people and he mixed 'SEVENTEEN...' and we did four remixes before we got it right. It's a song held together by acoustic guitar, stomps and claps, and strings. There is not even a bass guitar or drums on it yet it took us four times to get it right.  When it was done we shot the music video for it and it turned out to be a good single for us.

What came easily?
'HOT AND COLD' came fairly easy. I working more on melody on that song as opposed to lyrics because it's got a catchy little melody. Although I like the lyrics, it's the hook that makes the song. Clearly that one wasn't as grueling.

Talk about the tour that you guys did for this album. How did it go?
The tour was great. We stay on the road pretty much all of the time and take time off here and there in between. It's been great. Lately, we've had a a lot of great shows. We've been playing the Carolinas a lot. We're finally starting to have a very good draw and a profound fan base where people are coming and actually starting to sing along. It's been great to connect in that way with all of these people coming from different owns. It's a pretty cool experience.

Any plans for a third album right now?
There is. Like I said, I'm writing all of the time and we've just started working on a few new songs as a band. Just yesterday we started talking about putting out an E.P. as opposed to an entire album and have it out by the summer.

Talk about shooting that video for 'SEVENTEEN AT THREE IN THE MORNING'.
That was actually pretty cool because we shot the whole thing ourselves. We didn't hire anyone or spend any money at all. the label bought us this nice HD camera and I learned how to use tit and got FINAL CUT PRO and spent about two months watching tutorials  and reading stuff on line about editing and all that stuff. The whole band got together and came up with an idea for the video and we settled on this high school theme of encountering all of these different high school cliques. Everyone came up with all of these ideas and I drew up a story board for it and we did a casting cal online. Before we knew it, all of these kids from all of the Carolinas, Alabama, Georgia,and Florida showed up. We shot the video in Georgia. It was a cool experience for everyone who showed up. We shot the video in two days. Part of it was shot where I went middle school where we converted this one empty room into a classroom. We built everything for this video. We even built the dollies for the camera. We also spent a a day shooting in this gymnasium for the pep rally scene and the dance scene. When it was finished I spent a couple of weeks editing. It turned out really cool.

What would you like a person to come away with after they've heard this album?
Our main goal in making 'OVER THE TOP AND UNDER THE WEATHER' was to make a really solid pop record. My main goal when I'm writing is to make songs that are timeless and that won;t sound dated in a few years. More than that, my hope is that a listener can relate to it and apply the lyrics to their own life.