KYLESA is back! With a new album in tow, our hometown heroes hit The Jinx on Friday fresh off the release of Exhausting Fire, their boldest and most challenging long-player yet.
As a study in balance, Exhausting Fire excels. Opener “Crusher” cuts like a serrated knife through a velvet curtain, awash in the familiar grime of Kylesa’s signature thick low end.
If there’s one true consistency that spans the band’s strikingly varied discography, it’s their ability to surprise: right when we’re entrenched in the heft of “Crusher,” Laura Pleasants’ misty vocals snaking through the mire, it’s all abruptly hushed. Drumstick clicks, like insects scuttling across pavement, make the ears prick up and reset to take in Pleasants’ cultishly eerie melody.
Is it metal? Is it prog? Guitarist/vocalist Pleasants, guitarist/vocalist Phillip Cope, and drummer Carl McGinley want you to keep asking. There’s truly no other band that sounds like Kylesa—and that’s just the way they like it.
Exhausting Fire is out now on Season of Mist. We spoke with Laura Pleasants about the new record, the addition of new members, and heading home on a busy tour.
“I feel that it’s definitely a sum of all of our parts. All the strong elements we’ve ever used are there: from the old-school, the heavy drop-tune guitar, a lot of the heavy riffs are back that were maybe not present on the other. The icy, gothic tones are there, the psychedelic meanderings are there: all of the things that make Kylesa Kylesa are there. It’s maybe a bit more sophisticated and focused.
“When writing this record—I’m just speaking for myself—but I had an easier time with it than maybe the last record. Maybe it was being in a better headspace, maybe being more confident, being more prepared, perhaps.
“When I started writing, I had a lot of bits and blueprints to kind of work with and build from that I’d been kind of collecting over time since the previous record; I had stuff to work with. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh God, I have nothing and we have to write this record!’
“My songwriting process is a bit strange; every band is different. It’s a lot of me writing at home and then taking it into the space and then getting with Carl, our drummer, and knocking some stuff out, and Phillip has his own way of writing, and then we kind of combine forces with some of the songs as well.
“And some of it’s done in the studio, some of it’s done in the practice space; it’s just a strange way of doing things.”
“Every time we go into studio, it’s like, ‘Goddammit, why are we going in right now? I don’t have my vocals ready!’ I did all my vocals pretty much in the studio. They’d be tracking something and I’d be in the other room coming up with my vocal patterns. That’s not ideal, but I work well under pressure. Luckily, I came up with some of the guitar melodies, solos...all that stuff was done in-studio, same with vocals, but as far as the songs, most of them were done already.
“We recorded more than what was on the record, and we put all the songs we felt like worked the best together and left a few stragglers, a few kind-of finished recordings we may or may not use.”3. On Kylesa’s current lineup:
“Really, it’s just been myself, Phillip and Carl since 2006.
“And we’ve had various members living in different cities...really, it was the main problems and that touring and stuff, when trying to write a record and your other drummer is living in New York...it’s hard to get it together. So we decided the band is the three of us.
“The three of us have this very intense energy. When you bring in someone new, I’m trying to be in their shoes. It can be a bit intimidating, because they’re like an outsider, so to speak; it takes some time to join the mold.
“It took [bassist] Chase [Rudeseal] awhile to gel with us, and at this point I think he has. He’s a bit younger, bass wasn’t his primary instrument...I think he’s really starting to gel with us.
“And [second drummer] John [Edwards], even though we haven’t been playing with him that long, he’s been great. I feel like our live setup with these Savannah guys is strong, and I’m happy to be taking them on the road. And hopefully with our next output, they can be more involved in the songwriting.”4. On originality in metal:
“I can honestly say we don’t sound like any other band. We really sound like us, which I think is a hard thing to accomplish in this day and age with metal and everything being quite old at this point and so many bands—in every genre, whether it’s the indie rock scene, garage rock scene, punk scene, whatever scene—so many bands are copying one another.
“That’s never been our thing. It’s made for a difficult path, but I think it makes for a happier one; it makes me happy creatively. I don’t want to be in some clone band; being in a cover band seems like the worst thing I would ever want to do.
“Sometimes I’ll be playing something and I’m like ‘Hmm...that sounds really familiar.’ But I can’t figure out what it is: if it’s something or if it’s close to something.That’s going to happen. There are only so many frets on the fretboard, especially if you’re doing different chord progressions, it’s going to be used before in some way. You have to have your own take on it.”5. On playing the band’s hometown:
“It’s going to be a very fun show—show up early! We’ll be on tour, so it’s not like we’re just coming from our house or something. We’ve got three bands with us for the entire month—Irata, Indian Handcrafts, and INTER ARMA, all awesome bands.
“It’ll be fun; we don’t play The Jinx often, and we’re not going to play there for a long time, so come on down.”