Full-length, unedited interview by Julie Garisto
Stephen Hammill of Life of Pi answers questions by e-mail for this week’s Meet the Band.
> 1. Current line-up, first and last names, instruments:
Stephen Hammill, vocals and guitar
Alastair St. Hill, vocals and guitar
Marc Bustin, Bass
Kevin Pytlak, Drums
> 2. You mentioned you have a new drummer? You mean Christian is out, right?
> If so, who is it? How did the switcheroo come about?
Critstian (no ‘H’ in the first name) just had a baby; well, his
girlfriend did. He’s a little tied up with that so we recruited Kevin
(of the Dumbwaiters) to fill in or the next couple of shows and he’s
been super cool. But we love Cristian. Member for life.
3. Since forming five years ago, your line-up has changed
> considerably. Apart from the drummer change-out, things seem pretty
> stable. You and your bandmates, who are prominent musicians from other local
> music acts, must be a more cohesive unit than when you first started. What
> was that process like? Was it a struggle making Life a Pi a priority and not
> just a side project?
The current lineup has been defined by the lack of struggle, if
anything. The guys are all into the music and we get along really
well. It’s something I had to learn over time, that it’s important to
get a good mesh of personalities — like a relationship I guess. You
make mistakes and you hopefully take some lessons with you.
> 4. The band is your baby, right? Did you give up some control with the
> line-up change and make things more collaborative, do the rest of the guys
> just defer to your words and arrangements, or is it a mixture of both?
It’s a mixture. Alastair is a great songwriter and he pens some of our
tunes, and of course everybody has his own approach to playing, which
comes through. I try not to mess with that. You’re right, though, it
is at the end of the day my band, and I take responsibility for the
creative output, good or bad.
> 5. Sorry if you’re tired of this question, but way back when you first named
> the band, were you inspired by the novel of the same name? What was going on
> in your life at the time?
It’s a long story, but essentially we named the band after a song I
wrote which was inspired by the book. I was working at a local
bookstore at the time and had read the advance copy of it. I never
expected it to do so well, but I’m glad it did. I got to meet Yann
Martel at one point and tell him about the band. He was pretty
> 6. Genuine Fake has been in the works a while. What’s been going on with the
> recording of the new record? Any plans yet for the CD release party?
The sessions began last year, with a different lineup, so the process
has involved reworking some of those songs and recording some new
ones. I’m happy to say the album is finished: 10 songs. As for a CD
release, we’ve considered latching on to a small label for this one,
as opposed to releasing it ourselves, which is what we did with the
first two. We’ll see how that pans out.
> 7. There’s a balance of moods with your music — it’s neither too bright nor
> too dark. Is this intentional? How does your personal life inform the moods
> of your songs?
It’s probably both. Sad songs have always meant more to me than
typically happy ones. I guess you could say I like to explore the
darker edges of seemingly mundane and ordinary things, and the happier
aspects of typically sad things.
> 8. How did Alastair writing Eat a Rainbow come about? He sings on it, right?
Yeah. Alastair wrote that and another one (“This Time”) for “Genuine
Fake.” I think it’s important to have another songwriting voice in the
band, and he’s a really good singer. Anecdote: I actually recruited
Alastair after seeing him perform at an open mic night in St.
Petersburg. He did a They Might Be Giants cover. I thought I was the
only person in town who would do that sort of thing. I had him on my
radar from that point forward. I don’t think he knows that story.
> 9. Any new cover songs live?
Good question. We haven’t really polished any covers for shows
recently. We probably should.
> 10. If you could play one celebrity’s private party, whose would it be?
David Bowie’s 65th birthday party.