PHILLIP COPE and LAURA PLEASANTS tell the stories behind each song on KYLESA’s Spiral Shadow.
Cope: I designed this song to be the first on the album. I wanted it to have a mixture of elements from our past, and foreshadowing of some of the tripped out nature of the songs to come. My lyrics are about years of tackling depression.
Pleasants: This was one of the last songs we got together for the album. It was pretty loose until a few days before [going into] the studio. We jammed on the basic idea of the song at practice, and I remember doing some fast [guitar] tapping. The practice tape sounded raging, so we went with it. The actual melody came while I was tracking in the studio. I tracked the main tapping parts, and felt that there was something missing. I quickly thought that a slow accompanying tap would sound really cool over the fast tap. I was running low on time, so I went with the first thing I came up with. In this case, that worked out really well. I was quite happy with the guitar tones I got for this song.
Cope:The main riff for this song was one of the first I wrote for the album, but for some reason, it wasn't until recording that the song came together. Corey [Barhost, bass] wrote the keyboard part at home between sessions, and I actually threw the first bass line on at last minute.
Pleasants: This song started out with the mellow part and was built from there. I was listening to a lot of mid-‘70s era [Black] Sabbath and was studying some of their uncommon song structures. I wanted something intense and something where the drums could be really pounding and tribal. I like how this song has a lot of groove and peaks and valleys. Lyrically, "Drop Out" is about being completely fed up with everything to the point where you just don't care anymore and want nothing to do with anyone or anything. You try to erase everything to find the answer. Press delete and start again.
Pleasants: This is another one with an uncommon structure to it. Phillip and I combined riffs on this one. The main chorus riff was originally a slowed-down doom riff, but I changed it to fit the song. It reminds me of Gary Numan. The middle part was a lot of fun to do. We knew what we were going to do there, but it didn't take shape until the studio. I wanted the guitar line to start simply and grow with the tension of the building rythyms. I used effects heavily with a Fulltone Octafuzz and delays and a few phasers. The delay on the drums was a pleasant surprise.
Cope: I got to use a studio trick on this song that I hadn't used since the days of tape recording. The middle part is recorded at a faster speed than the rest of the song so when it's played back, it has a slow, sluggish sound too it. We recorded Laura's solo over it in normal time, so it gives the overall effect kind of a weird sound. Also, there had been a reggae band in the studio who left behind a Space Echo [tape delay]. Corey and I are big fans of dub, so I decided to borrow it and trip out the drums some.
Don't Look Back
Cope: This song was kind of challenge for myself to see if I could write something more straightforward and traditional. It really wasn't supposed to sound poppy or like ‘90s alternative, but after I put the guitar harmony on, everyone started to notice it was sounding a bit different than our normal stuff. Someone mentioned it kind of sounded like the Pixies, so instead of fighting it, we just kind of embraced it. The lyrics are about realizing sometimes it's better to forget the past and move on than dwell on things from your past.
Pleasants: The original middle guitar line I did sounded too "southern" to Phillip, so I re-routed and very quickly came up with the melody. Sometimes the simple stuff you come up with off the cuff works out the best.
Distance Closing In
Cope:This song was actually written earlier than the others. Carl [McGinley, drums], Corey, and I were jamming at Corey's house and had to be kind of quiet, so that probably has something to do with the more mellow nature of the song.
Pleasants:Musically, this song reminds me of the Deep South, and I think that's why I like it so much. I think it has something to do with the groove and Phillip's beginning guitar part. This song has one of my favorite mixes on the record—it’s a true headphone wonder. Various tones and subtleties cross from one speaker to the next in a very flowing fashion. Lyrically, Phillip and I were talking about the woes and ironies of trying to “make it" in the music industry. We chase pretty lies...
Pleasants:This song came out differently than I had originally planned, but it’s still very dear to me. It's the first song I've ever written for someone specifically, and it's the first song I've ever written about heartbreak. Structurally, this song came together very fast and easy. I wanted something pretty mellow and grooving, but also with a rocking riff. I recall sitting in my bedroom, listening to the practice session and the vocal melody hit me out of nowhere. I started humming some words. I'm really happy with how my vocals came out on this one.
Pleasants: Phillip wrote the music to this one and when we were in the studio, he asked if I wanted to give the vocals a shot. I hadn't really thought about doing lead vocals on it, so I took the song, my headphones and a pipe to the B Studio and sat in a chair for a few hours. I liked how doomy and sludgy the song was, and I thought it could use some really dark, “vibey” vocals. The lyrics came to me rather quickly. I just sat there with my tea and thought of dark, gloomy things. I wondered what it would be like approaching death and having life abandon you. I imagined sitting in a dark room, looking outside a window at life and sunlight and asking the unknown if I have been forgotten.
Cope: After a really kickass show we played with Yob and Eyehategod, I decided I wanted to write a song that stayed the same tempo the whole time. But we couldn't resist ourselves and slightly sped it up at the end.
Pleasants: This is another song that is very dear to me, and it's the second song I've ever written for anyone. I knew I wanted to write a song for my mom, and this is it. This one took a long time to come together. I have several versions of this with different riffs in it. I kind of modeled it after some ‘70s rock vibes, and that was the tone I was going for. Lyrically, “Spiral Shadow” reads as somewhat abstract, and that's how I wanted it. I was very happy with some of the tones I got for the lead parts. I had a few very rad distortion pedals to work with, and some wonderful vintage tube amps to howl through.
Cope: This song was by far the hardest and most time consuming to mix, but I was stoked on it by the end.
Back And Forth
Cope: This song was a constant struggle until I just decided to have fun with it. It kept sounding poppy, and I didn't want it to. I wanted it to sound like old-school punk, and in the end, I just decided to go over the top with effects. It ended up being the most fun I had working on a song. The lyrics are about being under the influence of a certain chemical—which I wasn't actually on, but it kind of reminded me of being on it.
Cope: This song was the scariest for me to write. It has a very positive meaning which is weird for me because my lyrics are generally pretty dark. I actually wrote this for someone, and a month after finishing it, we had a bad falling out. I won't write a song like this again and I'll never play this live. But despite that, I'm happy with it. alt