interview by Alexander Laurence
Pleased formed amidst the green fields of Northern California.
Their live performances received much attention from the
press and fans before they had even put a record out.
The Pleased are a group of people which multifaceted backgrounds.
Guitarist/vocalist Noah Georgeson studied with composer
Terry Riley at Mills College and earned a master's degree
in music. He met keyboardist Joanna Newsom at Mills College
who was also dabbling in classical music and pop culture.
Georgeson had already known Englishman Rich Good (guitar/vocals),
from his previous trips to the UK. They talked often about
a fantastic band that they would form one day, when they
lived in the same city. Good finally moved to the Bay Area
in 1999 and the Pleased came to be. They soon enlisted Jersey
native Genaro Vergoglini (drums), and Luckey Remington,
I talked to the band during a recent gig in Los Angeles.
AL: How did you come to do music?
Rich: It was through hearing Elvis, probably. My dad would
play his records, while I would play along on guitar. So
there you are. No one ever knew that. That's how I learned
to play guitar basically. I used to listen to Elvis and
to The Shadows. Scottie Moore was an amazing guitarist.
AL: How long has the band been together and when did meet
Noah: I have known Rich Good for the longest even though
he is from England. We met through mutual friends. We were
in a band that played one show years ago. We used a rake
as a microphone stand. It was a joke but it was fun. Rich
was over from England for a week. A few years later Rich
moved here permanently. We started playing music soon after.
There was no grand plan. We were destined to make music.
AL: When did you form The Pleased?
There was that time when Noah visited me in England in 1999.
We didn't do anything. We talked about forming a real band
around that time. Soon after, I bought a plane ticket.
AL: Did you write some songs back then that ended up on
one of The Pleased records?
Noah: I probably wrote a song or two that I intended to
play with Rich. There is no recording of them. I was staying
in England for a while. I had a little amount of equipment
that I would play around with. Those songs are gone and
forgotten. I got to stay there often because I have some
family in Scotland.
AL: How do the songs get written now?
Luckey:: It varies. Sometimes the songs come out of nowhere.
Sometimes we are just messing around with parts and bits.
Sometimes someone will write a part and bring it to the
rest of us. We will work on it. It develops from there.
There is no set standard. We have no rules. We are not a
jam band. It either happens right away or it doesn't happen
AL: No one member writes all the songs?
Rich: You could say that Noah predominantly writes all
the songs. But a song like "No Style" came directly
from Luckey. Everyone in the band has started a song. I
think that our music is very collaborative. If you listen
to the music, you can see that the five or six members of
the group write their own parts.
AL: Some bands are very loud and the music fills up the
space. Your band leaves more gaps where different members
Noah: It feels like I hardly play anymore. I am singing
far more than playing. That is good. We have six people
now. If we were all playing always, it would be ridiculous.
It would be a wall of sound. The way we play allows us a
range of dynamics.
AL: Do you write all the lyrics?
Noah: The songs I sing I generally write all the lyrics.
Rich sings his songs. When we practice we will suggest lyrics
or lyrics will be misheard. Then it's a joke. Some line
will come out, and a whole song will be written around a
phrase that someone will create by mishearing a lyric. Even
in that way we are egalitarian.
AL: How many records have you done?
Noah: Officially we haven't done any other albums. We claim
that other record is a double EP. We didn't want to call
it an album. It had fifteen songs. It didn't have that feeling
of an album. It wasn't made as one coherent piece of music.
It was recorded at different places and at different times.
So it was disjointed. That wasn't our real first album.
"Don't Make Things" is actually an album. There
is an arc to it. When we played the first shows supporting
this album, it felt like we were starting over again.
AL: You had already played shows in England. How did that
Noah: Various reasons. We have an agent there. Rich is
from there. We had places to stay. That made it easier.
We sort of cobbled it together ourselves. We had help from
a booking agent. He showed us how we could borrow gear from
other bands that we would play with. We went over there
for a few weeks. Then we did it again against all better
judgment. It took us a few years to find our sound.
AL: When did you think it was going somewhere?
Noah: We always thought it was going somewhere. But when
we were working on the album, and it was shaping up, we
were happy with what we were hearing. Now that we have the
album as a landmark it has affected our live show a lot.
Because we have this tangible thing that we can listen to.
That is our ideal sound. We could sound like that live.
It's more important to bring the feeling and the esthetics
of the album across live.
AL: When did you record the album and how many songs did
Luckey:: We recorded
it in summer 2003. It was mostly during July and August.
It took about six weeks. We recorded all fourteen tracks
then. There are twelve songs and two instrumental tracks.
We didn't do any more songs than that.
AL: How did you figure what songs were going to be on this
Noah: We had already culled out all the songs that we didn't
want to be playing anyway. Some albums now are only thirty
minutes long. Our album is like fifty minutes long. We could
have cut three or four songs out and it would have still
have been album length, but we didn't want to. We did all
the songs we had.
AL: Is there an interest in the band as big in the States
as it is in England?
We were really big about a year ago in England. There was
a lot of buzz. There was a movement that people associated
us with. We are excited about the new wave of people now
writing about us in America because it doesn't seem to be
fueled by buzz or a movement. It's just about people hearing
the record and liking it in and of itself. It's a different
type of attention. The articles have a few more words and
a lot less pictures. People are more into the construction
of the songs and the instruments that we use. People are
more into the lyrics as opposed to what we are wearing.
AL: What about the music scene in San Francisco. Has the
support been there for new music?
Noah: We have felt that the support has not been there
for many years. It is starting to get better. There are
a lot of local bands but people don't care. There is a good
electronic and hiphop scene. We have played so many shows
in San Francisco. There hasn't been a consistency to the
show. It's not the same people at the shows. It's fine that
it is diverse. There hasn't been a vibe with supporting
local groups for years, and that's starting to change.
AL: Did you all come from musical families?
Luckey:: I was in the
high school band. But my parents are not musicians and they
never forced us to learn anything. I grew up on show tunes.
My brothers were in the high school symphonic band, marching
band, and jazz band. Because of that I got into playing
music. Later I was in some cover bands.
Noah: My family was really supportive of doing music. My
mom played guitar and wrote songs. She was offered a record
deal with some big label when she was sixteen. But she was
really shy. She was a folk singer. She turned it down. She
was really encouraging of my musical endeavors. She wanted
me to take guitar and piano lessons. I played classical
guitar for many years. I got sick of it. I got a Master's
degree from Mills College in composition last year. I have
taken several different routes in music simultaneously,
studying classical, avant-garde music, and more popular
AL: Are there any bands that you liked when growing up?
Luckey:: I liked Guns and Roses, Beach Boys, and Beasties
Noah: When I was ten I liked Tears For Fears, Depeche Mode,
and maybe Weird Al Yankowitz. Maybe Rick Springfield at
Rich: I took a horrible musical path. I grew up listening
to classical music. It was great. Being a teenager you have
to discover what popular music was. But I went down all
the wrong roads. I saw Top of The Pops all the time. But
I didn't have a good guide to the good records, so I went
through a lot of bad metal. I have been everywhere. Along
the way I have always liked Roxy Music. I liked an album
cover and I bought a tape of theirs when I was twelve years
Joanna: I used to love Paula Abdul. I lead a Paula Abdul
dance troupe. We choreographed dances exclusively to Paula
Abdul songs and performed them outside the auditorium on
the lawn by the school.
AL: Do you read a lot of books?
Rich: I just read books about rock music.
Noah: I am into Borges. I got into him through Umberto
Eco, who is a contemporary Italian writer. I like the complexity
of those writers. That sort of stuff holds my interest.
Luckey: I like Ken
Kesey's books. I went to the same high school as Ken Kesey.
AL: A lot of the music done in the 1960s and 1970s, and
some early Britpop bands inspire your band. Does it seem
weird that now you are playing with Arthur Lee and Love,
and bands like Placebo?
Rich: Playing with Love was the coolest thing ever. It
was Luckey's birthday. It was the first time in years that
I had been moved by a concert.
Noah: We were told before the show that we were not allowed
to speak to Arthur Lee. But he turned out to be pretty easy
going. I didn't speak to him much at all. He was cruising
around with his scarf and hat. He was incredible.
AL: Were you guys into Placebo?
Noah: I don't think Placebo has been much of an influence.
I love Suede. They are one of my favorite bands of all time.
I think they did the glam thing better than Placebo. Placebo
is cool but I was never into them. Everybody has their glam
period. I was glad to get out the other side.
Rich: There is a Scottish band called Life Without Buildings
that people should know about.
AL: Are there any other bands that you have played with
that you liked?
Luckey:: We really like The Walkmen.
Noah: There is a local band called Bright Black. Joanna
has played with them a few times. She did a tour with them.
They are incredible. We all like quiet music. We don't go
to rock shows all that much.
AL: Who does your website?
Rich: I do the website. I have no idea what it's about.
It's all about the band. It's completely interactive. You
can locate any member of The Pleased. There is a message
AL: Do you read the messages?
Noah: There is some guy out there who has decided that
we are rich. It's a rumor. He thinks that since we are rich
we haven't earned what we have got. We are into health,
AL: Have other bands or well-known people come to your
Rich: Some guys from the Mister Show. Jack Black came to
one of the shows. He was stalking Joanna.
Luckey:: Members of Travis came to one of our shows. They
bought a CD too.
AL: Devendra Banhart shows up a lot to your shows.
Noah: I played with Devendra at his first show in San Francisco.
It was at an Ethiopian restaurant. It was amazing. Devendra
was shaking a dried seedpod. He kept stopping and starting.
He wasn't the polished professional he is today. He always
incredible. He is a friend and a fan.
AL: What are your songs about?
Rich: We don't write a lot of standard pop love songs.
It's important to us that the lyrics are good. We like to
approach things that are not approached in pop songs. We
like to do things with language.
AL: Why is the record called "Don't Make Things?"
Noah: We made a thing and it's called "Don't Make
Things." It's sort of contradictory. We put that out
there so people can think about what it means. We want people
to make good things. I hope it resonates on some level.
AL: Who does the artwork for the album?
Noah: Again it is collaborative, but Rich is the one who
makes it happen. He makes it look good. We all decide what
we want. Rich actually is the one who makes it look good.
AL: Did you work with a producer?
Rich: Noah is the producer. Our band is very collaborative
that everyone sticks their oar in.
Noah: We like doing everything ourselves. We don't like
AL: If people come to see you in 2004, what should they
expect to see?
Noah: We already have a new song. We are a rock band and
we play rock music. We play stuff outside the vocabulary
of rock music. That is what people should expect: there
will be interesting things on each song.
Rich: We are not going to play the album from song one
to song fourteen. They are probably going to get songs that
they have never heard. We are one of those bands who are
constantly coming up with stuff. Once we have a song in
some sort of shape, we are going to try it out.
AL: Are there any cool places to hang out in San Francisco?
Joanna: We just like to sit in the garden and drink tea.
Noah: We like the Hemlock Tavern because it's small and
cozy. It is a good place for all types of music.
AL: Any shout outs to the people?
Rich: We love everyone.
photos by Danna Kinsky