A Great Big Pile of Leaves

Interview

A Great Big Pile of Leaves (Credit: Joe Lemke)

A Great Big Pile of Leaves is a Brooklyn-born four-piece band who craft affecting indie rock/emo tunes with occasionally odd time-signatures and vocals reminiscent of Matt Berninger from The National. The group has released a slew of EPs, two full-length LPs — Have You Seen My Prefrontal Cortex? (Topshelf Records, 2010) and You’re Always on My Mind (Topshelf Records, 2013) — and is currently working on a new record.

For friends and fans of the band interested in learning more, it is awesome to say that drummer Tyler Soucy was generous enough to answer questions via Email about the band’s beginning, inspirations, and memorable experiences.

A Great Big Pile of Leaves (Credit: Kayla Surico)

1) Could you explain how A Great Big Pile of Leaves was born? How did you come up with your band name?

The band was sort of born out of Pete and I wanting to continue making music together after a previous band had fizzled out. Pete bought a bass, learned how to play it, and then joined for what ended up being our final tour, so it was that specific situation that introduced us to playing together. Pete had a barely-used bass, and some solo acoustic recordings which turned into most of the first EP.

As for the band name, I’m not sure either of us really knew what this would turn into; we were just having a good time writing and recording, and then one day we had these 6 songs that we wanted to put out. A Great Big Pile of Leaves was one of Pete’s first suggestions, and after talking through way too many other names, we came back to it and it felt right. We grew up in New England, spending a lot of time outside jumping in piles of leaves — the theme seemed to fit our personalities and the music we make.

2) What are your influences (music/books/movies) and, more importantly, how have they influenced you or what have you learned from them?

I think our influences are pooled from so many different parts of our life, and everything has a subtle effect on how we each approach this band individually and how it comes together as a whole. The biggest influences for me have really been the bands that we’ve toured with and all of the people we have met. To watch different bands on-stage every night and see them do their own thing, and then to see how they all interact with each other and fans has always been very interesting to me. Not that I’m creeping on everyone’s behavior, but it’s a gift to be around people that help make you a better person or a better musician. I try to absorb as much of that as possible when the situation arises.

As far as media goes, we all enjoy different things, and even though there is a decent amount of crossover, I can’t really pinpoint what makes up our band’s genetics. That might just be a lazy answer, but it’s really not something we think about or talk about too much. Pete and I get in a room together and the music kind of just happens.

3) How has your experience been making a living/money from your music?

It’s been great! I mean, we all have full-time jobs that luckily allow us to also do the band, and the balance of both is important to all of us. We’ve always run the band ourselves, and not needing to rely on the music/band to pay our personal bills offers us a lot of freedom to do the things we really want to do and make the music we want to make. I sunk a lot of money into being a musician when I was younger, so it’s great to be in a place where our band can cover its own expenses and then we can take some home at the end of the day.

4) What do you think sets you apart from other bands?

I think we don’t really sound like anyone else; you can probably pick up on influences here and there, or maybe I just don’t listen to enough new music, but I think within this music scene, we’re just doing our own thing.

5) Could you describe what has been a memorable or quirky experience touring or playing local shows?

There are a lot of memorable shows for me, just moments where you need to pinch yourself, because it’s gotten to a point you didn’t expect to see. One of my favorite moments, was back in 2011 when we toured with The Appleseed Cast — one of the band members came up to us right before our set and gave us a pretty hilarious “inspirational football coach” speech. It was the first time we had ever talked to him. They really took care of us on that tour, and taught us how to be a better touring band.

6) I like the song “Snack Attack” from your LP You’re Always on My Mind. What was the lyrical inspiration for that song? What was the musical inspiration?

I think the lyrics stem from Pete being hungry late at night after moving from NYC to Connecticut, and there not being any late night options — Pete can fact check that for me. One good thing about NYC, is that there as many food options at 4am as there are in most towns during the day, and food is delicious. Musically, a lot of the song plays on that odd time-signature, which is something we tend to go for — weird time-signatures that don’t feel weird, or that some people can’t tell aren’t in 4/4.

The song “Snack Attack” by A Great Big Pile of Leaves (Source: Bandcamp)

7) How did the album artwork for your LP You’re Always on My Mind come into being? Did you have someone create it or did you make it yourselves?

Our friend Jamie does 50% of the artwork for us, and he posts a lot of doodles on his Instagram. I saw the food and skateboard post, and the caption was “You’re Always on My Mind.” This was right around the time we finished mixing the record; we knew we wanted to go more minimal with the design and that image fit perfectly with a lot of the lyrical content.

Album artwork for You’re Always on My Mind (Source: A Great Big Pile of Leaves)

8) I like the song “We Don’t Need Our Heads” from your LP Have You Seen My Prefrontal Cortex?. What was the lyrical inspiration for that song? What was the musical inspiration?

A lot of the inspiration lyrically and musically comes from growing up and feeling nostalgic. There’s a weird point when you’re not that same kid anymore but you’re definitely not an adult, and that’s around the time we made Have You Seen My Prefrontal Cortex?. Now that we’re probably actual adults, I think it’s less of a worry that you’re not a kid anymore, but more that we can appreciate a lot of those memories, good or bad.

The song “We Don’t Need Our Heads” by A Great Big Pile of Leaves (Source: Bandcamp)

9) How did the album artwork for your LP Have You Seen My Prefrontal Cortex? come into being? Did you have someone create it or did you make it yourselves?

Our friend Justin, who was actually in the first band Pete and I were in, was a graphic design major, and he has a friend named Meg Hunt who is an incredible artist. She was kind enough to create that entire package for us. We gave her a brief outline of what we were looking for and she went above-and-beyond.

Album artwork for Have You Seen My Prefrontal Cortex? (Source: A Great Big Pile of Leaves)

10) What are some artists making music currently that you would recommend? Any lesser-known bands that you would recommend?

Vacationer, Bear Hands, Pinegrove, Prawn, Hop Along, Julien Baker, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Rozwell Kid, and a million others.

11) What advice about making music, touring, and being a band would you give to a young artist today?

Success means something different to everyone, and no one else can define that for you. So have fun, work hard, make the music that you want to listen to and enjoy yourself. Above anything else, the experiences you have will be of the highest value.

A Great Big Pile of Leaves (Source: A Great Big Pile of Leaves)

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