The Pineapple Thief in Interview
Two years can be an excruciatingly long time. At least for all the music fans worldwide who the Covid pandemic deprived of the greatest joy fans can possibly have – the chance to see bands live in concert. But with the case numbers receding slowly and the impatience growing, countries are starting to open up and the first live shows are returning. One of the first of them is the experimental rock band The Pineapple Thief, who started their European tour end of February and have drawn big crowds in Italy, Spain, France, the Netherlands and Germany so far. We got the chance to speak to their frontman and cover their show in Oberhausen, Germany.
“You can tell how happy the people are to see live music again”, says Bruce Soord, frontman, singer and guitarist of The Pineapple Thief and also their creative mind. “At our concerts in Italy, it was the first show for two years. I always asked the question if it was their first show since Covid started and everybody put their hand up”, he tells us with an air of passion that only musicians can have. “It is a very special feeling, finally being able to just go out and enjoy something with fellow human beings in one room. And it´s also an honor to be one of the first bands to do so.” The Pineapple Thief, founded by Soord himself in 1999, is certainly one of the pioneers of today´s British experimental or progressive rock and has seen a steadily growing recognition and fanbase over the past years. Although it´s difficult to put a name on the music they are doing, as Soord admits. The group around Soord is Jon Sykes at the bass and vocals, Steve Kitch on the keyboards and lately also the renowned Gavin Harrison at the drums – fans will know him as the drummer of Porcupine Tree and one of the best rock drummers alive. He joined the band in 2016, a milestone for The Pineapple Thief and the final break-through point, as Soords states in retrospective.
“The tour is going really good so far”, Soord says after he just arrived in another hotel in the next city. “Of course it is tinged with some sadness as to what is going on in the world. But we made the decision that when we do the show, for that moment it is just about the music. It is surely affecting everyone backstage, but we chose not to let that into the shows”, Soord explains. “We want to make it a little island, focus on the music. We always have a good relation with the audience. It is a good time, like we´re there with friends.”
“We want to make the show a little island and just focus on the music.”
In October last year, the band released the multi-format project “Nothing but The Truth” that comprises a filmed live event directed by videographer George Laycock. The idea came up after Covid made a tour to the latest studio album “Versions of The Truth” (2020) impossible. “Nothing But the Truth came out as a companion piece to Version of the Truth”, says Soord. “As a show in pandemic times just to do something for the people when there is no music. And it went so well.” Although it was a new experience for the band as well, playing a live event without any live audience. “I´m so lucky to have a studio in my garden and the livestreams I did are technically very advanced”, Soord recalls. “In the beginning, it was so weird looking at a wall saying ´thank you so much, our next song is…`. But we got so many positive comments and likes, it didn’t take long to just close my eyes and imagine them here. Even though I can´t see them, I know they are there.” This is the feeling that he took into “Nothing But the Truth”.
“It didn’t take long to just close my eyes and imagine the audience here. Even though I can´t see them, I know they are there.”
The last two releases are not only stylistically but also lyrically advanced. “Versions of the Truth certainly is an album about the idea that there are different truths and sometimes the truth doesn’t matter – if you look at whats going on in politics… There are so many alternative facts, it is crazy times”, says Soord. “When we started to record again, we made it Nothing But the Truth because we realized that what you get from us is truth. With us there is no hiding, we want to tell the truth. So this release is the complete opposite perspective.”
Soord´s relation to politics is ambivalent: The pandemic and the war in the Ukraine surely have an impact on what he writes and how he writes. On the other hand, he is very conscious to leave politics out of his songwriting. “What I want to achieve with my songs and whats happens when I pick up the guitar or mic is a cathartic feeling for me. Writing about relationships, regrets, loss, mourning, I am trying to figure out what life is all about”, says Soord about his inspiration. “It is things that everybody experiences, and I am trying to do the right thing, to be the best person one possibly can. And probably that´s why the people really enjoy the music because they feel the connection.” For him, the last two albums especially were some kind of search for understanding or knowledge in personal life but also in relation to general mankind. It is the air of war happening in Europe, homeless people on the streets, children in poverty – this immediate perspective on humanity is what inspires him to bring something to paper, he says.
On the other hand, it is also his private life that is mirrored in the songs the people can relate to so well: On this tour alone, his band spends five weeks on the European mainland, then only three weeks at home and after that six weeks in the USA. “Being away from my family, my wife and three kids, is difficult. To be alone, away from people you love, is a strong emotion you can can bring into songwriting. If you mix that with the anxiety you get when putting the news on, how crude people can be, and then thinking of the people you have left behind – this is the emotion behind many of my songs.” Jon Sykes´s situation is similar, as Soord tells us. That´s why they usually don´t tour longer than five weeks in a row in order to balance it. And returning to the family is a great feeling after that for all of them.
“When I pick up the guitar or mic, this is a cathartic feeling for me. Writing about relationships, regrets, loss, mourning, I am trying to figure out what life is all about.”
Soord, not only founder, but also creative mind of the band, is the one that is mainly responsible for the songwriting. “The songwriting starts with me, but I share the way the songs develop. I will come up with lyrical concept, a topic to be spoken about and some melodies, and then collaborative process starts.” He already has many ideas in mind for the time after the tour: “After a break of a week I will simply start itching to get back to the studio”, says Soord and laughs. He plans a solo album and another Pineapple Thief album, as well as some mixing of other bands.
But until this point has come, Bruce Soord and his band mates enjoy to play their tour – special in terms of music, special for the audience, and special in history. In Oberhausen, a small crowd is eagerly waiting for them to enter the stage, journalists are in their starting positions for good foto shots. Tonight, The Pineapple Thief will play a repertoire of songs that will one day be legendary in the history of experimental and prog rock. No Man´s Land, Give it Back, Wretched Soul… And the praised live version of Ground Zero that will make everybody scream in the encore. “We could not wish more. We just want to carry on and do the best possible music. As long as we got what we got and we continue doing great, that’s what were after!”, says Soord. And when the band enters the stage in Oberhausen, the audience goes crazy – to be blinded by the spotlights, feeling the heat of the crowd, the guitar sounds soaring in the ear, the heartbeat synchronizing to the drums, the lyrics speaking to the soul and the raspy rock voice soothing the heart. The Pineapple Thief made everybody realize how much we missed live concerts.
By Katharina Moser