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The Pleased
interview by Alexander Laurence

The 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, from Oregon.

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 each other?

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?

Rich: 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 at all.

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 can play.

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 come about?

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 you record?

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 record?

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?

Joanna: 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 music.

AL: Are there any bands that you liked when growing up?

Luckey:: I liked Guns and Roses, Beach Boys, and Beasties Boys.

Noah: When I was ten I liked Tears For Fears, Depeche Mode, and maybe Weird Al Yankowitz. Maybe Rick Springfield at some point.

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 old.

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 board.

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, not wealth.

AL: Have other bands or well-known people come to your shows?

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 outside voices.

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.

Website: www.thepleased.com

photos by Danna Kinsky


--Alexander Laurence



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