Ahead of a huge London show tonight, guitarist Mike York chronicles Pianos Become The Teeth’s continual progress since the release of ‘Keep You’. Words: Will Richards.
B ack in January, Pianos Become The Teeth played the biggest headline show of their career at London’s Underworld. This month, they’re surpassing that at the Scala, the only British date of a month-long EU run. It’s clear the UK has taken to the Baltimore natives and their third LP, ‘Keep You’.
Guitarist Mike York is a little scared, regardless, admitting that the band have “absolutely no idea” how things are progressing for them across the Atlantic when they’re not here themselves. “On this tour we’re playing in Budapest, and in Croatia, places we’ve never been to before, and have only dreamed of visiting as a band. It’s exciting and so scary, hoping we draw a crowd in these parts of the world.
“Our last London show was the biggest headline show we’ve done to date, and so many of our friends have told us that the Scala is a great venue. We’re so excited, but kind of terrified, hoping that a thousand people come and see us. The step up between the Underworld and this has kind of passed us by as we have been touring America and are kind of blind to it.”
‘Keep You’ has been out for nearly a year now, and Mike can definitely see the progress the band has made over this period, but struggles to put it into perspective in comparison to the band’s other records. “It’s hard to quantify just how much has changed over one album’s cycle, as we’ve always been a slow burning band, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I feel we can make more of a lasting impression that way, if things come slowly.
“I would definitely say that this has been the most popular album we have done, and I think people are most into this record. That’s been awesome for us, [but] it’s not like it was an overnight explosion and we’re playing arenas or anything like that, but it’s definitely been a steady increase in the crowds we’re playing to. People have been really open and excited about hearing the new stuff live.”
This idea of Pianos Become The Teeth being a band who change and grow subtly with every next step rather than explode with one single is something the five-piece talk about a lot amongst themselves, and one which is informing their next movements. “You definitely have more excitement within yourself and satisfaction that every record that you do is better than the last, that more people are supportive of than the last, that more people come and see you play than the last.
“That said, we still aren’t a huge band, and for bands that have that one massive record, sometimes it makes it easier to be able to go out on tour and not have to think about anything because, no matter what… say your next record doesn’t do so well, you’re still going to be playing to 1,500 people. I think there’s pros and cons in both. I think all of us together prefer being in a band that’s a slow burn, because we’re not a band that you immediately put on as background music when you’re hanging with your friends.
“We’re a band that has a lot of layers, and for a lot of people, they need to really sit down and digest it. I love music like that; I feel like music, or any art, should be challenging, and if you’re not challenging both yourself and your audience, you’re doing yourself a disservice. You should constantly be pushing the boundaries of the things you’re doing – that might be alienating people, or it might draw in more people – but as long as you’re staying true to yourself, people will see that and see through what you’re doing.”
‘Keep You’ marked quite a departure in sound, largely due to vocalist Kyle Durfey’s switch to a cleaner vocal sound, and surprised a number of existing fans, but Mike believes it was a natural progression for the band, and one which it was easy to see coming. “I think there were hints of it on ‘The Lack Long After’. There are parts on that album where Kyle’s screaming has a real sense of finality in it, whereas on ‘Old Pride’ that wasn’t there. Then we did ‘Hiding’ for the split with Touché [Amoré], which was almost entirely vocally clean, and now ‘Keep You’. It’s a progression that, if you look at it, was obviously going to happen. A lot of people were shocked. A lot of people were not so shocked. For us, it was completely natural.”
This switch in sound, especially in the live environment, is played down by the guitarist, telling fans not to expect a reserved, melancholic live show for ‘Keep You’. “For the massive majority of our career, through the EPs, ‘Old Pride’ and ‘The Lack Long After’, we have been a very heavy band, but I think the misconception is that we’ve changed live too now with ‘Keep You’, when we’re actually just as aggressive as when touring the heavier records. ‘Keep You’ opens up a new door for us to do almost anything now.”
Pianos Become The Teeth play London’s Scala tonight (20th October), with support from Milk Teeth.