Review Rewind: Idiot Pilot-Strange We Should Meet Here
1,405. that’s how many local recordings have been reviewed in What’s Up! over the last 15 years. Some good, some not so good, all offering something to the local scene and in these pages. A review was and will always be a band’s chance to get some press and show folks what they are doing. If a band lives around here, or on a local label, we review it and have never turned anyone away if they met one of those qualifications. Among the recordings reviewed, a few really stood out for one reason or another – it might have been how good it was or the impact it had on the scene or the statement at that time. This issue, we re-reviewed 15 of our favorite records over the last 15 years (and included a blurb from the original review) and talked not just about the music, but why the recording is important in the music scene’s history. Every one of these recordings should be on your iTunes, find ‘em, listen to ‘em, love ‘em. We do.
April 2004: “Idiot Pilot synthesizes elements of rock, emo, hardcore, new ave and trance into an industrial melodic sound which defies hyphenation. Harris’ versatile wail will draw comparisons to Thom Yorke, but only because the two vocalists share similar registers and phrasing techniques. Out of that, it’s nearly impossible to pigeonhole Idiot Pilot.”
Idiot Pilot first landed on the magazine’s radar when Michael Harris and Daniel Anderson (along with a bass player and drummer) released an album under the name Azero Cherry. They were 14. And the album didn’t suck.
Within the next year, Michael and Daniel broke away from the rhythmn section and renamed the band Idiot Pilot. Over the following three years, they recorded most of the music in Daniel’s bedroom (while not going to high school) – a mix of electronic, hardcore, emo and pop while rounding out their sound at Paul Turpin’s Bayside Studio (now Champion St Studios).
I don’t remember how everything played out, but some time after turning 18 and releasing Strange We Should Meet Here, there became a buzz about Idiot Pilot. Not just a buzz in town, but a buzz in the industry – suddenly they were playing shows (one in particular that I remember) that had industry suits there checking ‘em out. These two kids had gone from Bellingham’s little secret of awesomeness to “Oh my god, these guys are getting signed to Reprise!”
There are two reasons this album was so hugely important when it came out. First off, it’s a fantastic record – an eclectic mix of the above listed genres that all flowed seamlessly. Songs like “Militance Prom,” “A Day in the Life of a Pool Shark,” and “To Buy a Guy” are youthful and vibrant. Michael’s vocals are stunning while the music has the “they can’t really be 18” vibe to it – complicated, well thought out, passionate, mature. On it’s own, it’s a fantastic record.
But what happened to the band is also important. While there was a big buzz with Death Cab for Cutie, it wasn’t until they lived in Seattle that they really became an “it” band. Idiot Pilot where from Bellingham, they grew up here, they lived here and major labels wanted them. After the album came out, they toured Europe with Team Sleep, played festivals and, for a while, lived the rock ‘n’ roll dream – all while living in Bellingham. It was now possible – someone had done it – to live here and “make it” in the music industry.
It’s been nearly eight years since Strange was released and it still sounds fresh, interesting and full of promise.