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Testify – Co-Pilot’s Brandon Lemons

Testify – Co-Pilot’s Brandon Lemons
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Co-Pilot (photo by Kristina New)

Houston is hardly the type of city that invites quiet meditation – the noisy rumble of cars, the stars masked by the cities lights, and people constantly distracted by electronics.  Yet, from this hot and muggy bayou city, Co-Pilot has built its own natural world; one that can be as beautiful and gentle as a leaf landing on fresh snow or as deafening as thunder.   This Saturday the band kicks off another tour with Alaskan (with whom they recently released a  split EP) at Houston House of Creeps.  We got a hold of Brandon Lemons (who along with his duties in Co-Pilot also runs Treaty Oak Collective) to ask about the band, the recent album, and the upcoming tour.

You are touring with Alaskan with whom you did a split earlier this year. How did you two get together and how did that record come together?

Brandon -Co-Pilot was on tour in Canada in the Summer of 2010 and we played a basement show in Ottawa Ontario with Alaskan, Kosmograd, Le Kraken and People Explode; all really amazing bands. Our friend had set up the show and I was checking the bands out online when I finally got to Alaskan. The track “Bludgeon” was the first thing I had ever heard of theirs and it totally blew me away, so much so that I listened to it on repeat for close to an hour before moving on to the other tracks. When we did the show with them in Canada I said that we needed to put a record out together and they were into it. A year and a half later the split was out.

This isn’t your first tour if I recall correctly. (I’m almost certain that you toured with Alaskan before.) What were some of your experiences on the road?

Brandon -This makes for our 3rd long tour outside of Texas. Honestly, nothing really crazy or over the top happens to us on the road. We have gotten to play at some really awesome places and see some amazing country though. We played with For That Day and A Place To Bury Strangers in Toronto a few years back at a venue/ Tex Mex restaurant (not kidding) called Sneaky Dee’s. It is kinda famous for it’s appearance in the graphic novel “Scott Pilgrim”. We always do a lot of camping. We got to stay in the Shoreby Mansion in Cleveland; I think Cotton Mather (Salem With Trials guy) had something to do with it’s construction. We do a lot of camping.

Has it ever struck you that the imagery for the split, Alaskan, and the title to your track “Bearing Sea” are all antithetical to living in Houston? What’s with all the stark cold climate theme?

Brandon -The idea was to have the artwork set the mood for the split. The packaging and design give the listener an idea of what to expect if they aren’t familiar with either band necessarily. Dann Miller did a fantastic job of translating what we wanted to do into the art. Our track “The Bering Sea” was written as kind of a soundtrack to what we thought the musical equivalent of being on one of the deadliest bodies of water in the world would be like, the title is also a nod to Alaskan’s namesake.

Your music in Co-Pilot follows in the tradition of bands like Mogwai,  Mono, Explosions in the Sky, etc.  It’s music that takes a very slow, meditative approach that seems to go against the constant stimulation you see around us.    Why do you think, given the short attention span society we live in, this type of music still captures peoples attention and engages them?

(Art – Shelby Hohl)

Brandon -It’s really hard to pin down exactly. I’d say it’s almost transcendental to some. There’s nothing wrong with short poppy songs or anything, but they don’t really leave much to the imagination. We try to shape songs so that people develop their own interpretation of what it’s about, and for me at least, that’s a little more rewarding than having it all spelled out for you.

You also run Treaty Oak Collective. How has that been going?

Brandon -Treaty Oak is going very well. We’ll have 3 records, and hopefully a 4th, out by the end of the year with several more slated for early next year. We’ve only been around about a year and we’ve made a lot of progress in a short time. There’s been a lot of help from amazing like-minded friends along the way and there’s no way it would have been possible without Jake and William at Steamboat Ampworks, Alex from Mango’s, Pam from Walter’s, booking help from Jaron Sayers, Terry Nunn, Dunnock Wolford, Peter Lee, Aaron Danger, Zack on Washington, Halston Luna, Bubba Hightower, Eric Castorena, people like yourself, Jeremy Hart, Chris Gray and many many others that I know I’m forgetting. The idea was that this wouldn’t be just some company that booked shows or turned out records strictly for profits, but more of a communal effort where people want to be involved because there is something greater at stake. There’s a philosophy behind it all and it’s playing out exactly like I intended. There’s a lot more on the way.

The line-up for this show is pretty solid. You want to say a bit about each band playing?

Brandon –  Alaskan is punishingly beautiful post metal / sludge. There’s a certain scary tension watching these guys live that you just have to experience.

Omotai is probably my favorite Houston band. Everyone in that band is beyond talented and I could never hope to be anywhere near as good a bass player as Melissa. Anthony is amazing on drums and if you didn’t get to witness that at Big Business the other night, you are really losing out. Sam is a total riff lord. He plays some of the most insane guitar I have ever seen. My neck is always killing me the next morning after seeing these guys live.

Knights of the Fire Kingdomare just ridiculously good rock and roll. That band is a super group and I’ve known Jeoaf and Aaron for years, anything they touch is guaranteed to be great.

Here’s what someone else wrote about Co-Pilot once, “…After all, a mountain need not brag. A mountain is majestic and imposing. That is Co-Pilot. Beauty, both intrinsic and terrible, is the by-product.”

Lastly, why spend all the time, energy, and money in all these musical endeavors? What’s the driving force behind what you do?

Brandon – I care very deeply about what I do and what I want to do. I have to stay busy. If I’m not doing 10 things at once I feel like I’m standing still. A great man once said, “We are given little time and there are millions of miles to cross.”

Saturday October 13, 2012 Co-Pilot, Alaskan (tour kickoff) with Odessa, Omotai, Knights of the Fire Kingdom @ Houston House of Creeps ($5, all ages, 8pm)