In reality can’t every band be viewed as a once upon a time solo project in some respects? Okay, maybe not the ones consisting of siblings like Good Charlotte and Hanson, but all the others…kind of. Arguments aside, The Pygmy Tribe used to be Sal Plant and Sal Plant alone. Then he, well he tells the story below of how he went from making music alone to having people by his side. So I’ll let him talk about that, their new album Portraits and much more.
Kendra: When did you decide it was time to make this more than a one-man show?
Sal Plant: Around two years ago, my friend Seiichi, whom I met in Jazz Lab in college, reached out to me in hopes of showing him the ropes of music promotion and how to go about getting the word out about his personal music as he knew I had experience in the matter. He mentioned he had a few folk songs he was working on and coincidentally; I was in the formative stages of writing the first songs for Portraits as well.
I always had a lot of respect for Seiichi’s original compositions so I offered the idea of teaming up and writing a duo album together based on a mixture of our songs put together. I wanted to explore Seiichi’s perspective on folk and see how it could incorporate into the sound I had going on already so it just felt natural. We then found a drummer and a bassist to join us and began preparing to record the album a year later. Unfortunately, last year, Seiichi unexpectedly moved to Hawaii so we were unable to feature his songs on the record.
“A World Of Your Own”
Kendra: Did adding people to your once solo project change the vision you had when you started The Pygmy Tribe?
Sal: In the beginning, I envisioned the album to be very minimalist/singer-songwriter, in the likes of Elliott Smith, Nick Drake or Nico, and some of the songs on the record did stay true to that. With that being said, I think having a full band helps develop songs in ways that perhaps I wouldn’t have been able to do on my own. For example, Geoff’s bass lines are so complementary to the songs that hearing the songs without them would just feel wrong. I think that having a solo project allowed for complete control but having a band has helped me flesh out the songs with totally new perspectives.
Kendra: Folk in general is one of the more honest genres. Do you feel that ushers you to be more open when composing lyrics…because you want to stay true to the style?
Sal: I think that I’ve been so drawn to folk music because it just captivates the human condition in a way that no other music can. It always tells a story and it is not predicated on luscious or potentially bombastic arrangements. Someone like Bob Dylan can shape the world with his or her words. Folk is a medium that allows for someone to convey incredibly complex emotions in simple, storytelling ways. I made a point to really analyze the music that inspired me to write folk in the first place so I would stay faithful to its essence.
Kendra: How personal did you guys get with your debut LP, Portraits?
Sal: The songs in Portraits are the most personal of my entire musical career. In the earlier records, I had a somewhat loose and malleable idea of where my emotions lived while writing them. I used to encompass large amounts of ideas and emotions in a way that allowed the listener to interpret whatever they wanted from the song. With Portraits, I had very specific, strong, impactful emotions and events in mind during the creative process. The last few years surrounding the record were very difficult in terms of personal relationships and unfortunate events occurring, it was a very difficult record to write.
Kendra: I feel no matter what, your surroundings play a huge role in how you develop. How has Chicago added to who you are as an artist?
Sal: Chicago is a city full of incredible talent. It’s also a city that has seen everything and has huge national touring acts day in and day out, so it’s definitely difficult to make noise in such a big city. The city has allowed for us to strive to carve out our niche and to try reaching as many people as possible. Chicago is a place that has cultivated so many phenomenal and historic artists so it’s definitely inspiring to be in a city that immense in musical culture and longevity. We hope to one day be in the likes of the great musicians that have originated from this amazing city.
Kendra: Sticking with Chicago, there has to be a ton of places to play. Which local venue is your favorite to play vs. which one do you love as a fan?
Sal: Chicago offers both musicians and fans amazing places to play. Some of my favorite shows to play at were at Schuba’s or Bottom Lounge. As a fan, I love the historic Riviera or Uptown’s, Aragon Ballroom.
Kendra: Are you guys heading out of Chicago to play elsewhere this year?
Sal: We’re hoping to play the surrounding Midwest states in the next few months. As we all have full time jobs, we’re trying to play as much as realistically possible but we have not ruled out touring.
Kendra: Lastly, here at ZO we’re all about the arts. With that I wanted to ask you to either draw or submit a piece of art that you feel best represents your sound?