|ROCKWiRED iNTERViEWS LAST NOVEMBER
|LUKE, iT iS YOUR DESTiNY!
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
LUKE PiLGRiM OF LAST NOVEMBER
TALKS TO ROCKWiRED
ABOUT THEiR CD 'OVER THE TOP AND UNDER THE WEATHER'
WORKiNG WITH PRODUCER STEPHEN HAiGLER
AND MAKiNG A ViDEO
iNTERViEWED BY BRiAN LUSH
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.
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
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
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
How easy was it for a high school band to get a
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
What is your reason for the lineup changes that
have happened for a band that really isn't all that old? Age
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.
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
Exactly, look at the guy from MOTORHEAD.
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.
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.
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.
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.
'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.
the tour that you guys did for this album. How did it go?
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.
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
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
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