DATE OF INTERVIEW: 19th June 2019
LA-based Pattern-Seeking Animals were formed by John Boegehold, a man previously known in prog circles for his songwriting and producing roles across multiple Spock's Beard albums. And it's from said band that former and current members have been recruited to complete the lineup of this new outfit. Signed to Inside Out and ready to unleash their eponymously titled debut record, Metal Discovery quizzed John about the album, touring plans, and obscene anagrams...
METAL DISCOVERY: Hey there, John! A great debut album under the Pattern-Seeking Animals moniker! Have reactions and reviews been positive, thus far? Have people generally got what you regard as the essence of the album?
JOHN: Thanks! The official release is still a couple of weeks away but so far the reaction to the album has been positive. Seems like most are getting the essence of the music.
(John Boegehold on Pattern-Seeking Animals as its own autonomous entity)
"No doubt many will view Pattern-Seeking Animals as a side project but I think it’ll become obvious as time goes by that it’s not."
Interview by Mark Holmes
Photograph copyright © 2019 Mark Berry - www.mondovision.net
Thanks to Freddy Palmer for offering and arranging the interview
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MD: With the band comprised of past and present Spock’s Beard members, and your own ongoing compositional involvement with the Beard guys, I’m guessing people will naturally regard Pattern-Seeking Animals as some sort of Spock’s Beard spinoff or side-project. But, after listening to the album, it strikes me very much as its own entity, and with its own identity. Do you hope people approach the record free from expectations, and do you think people will be delightfully surprised when any expectations might be thwarted?
JOHN: No doubt many will view Pattern-Seeking Animals as a side project but I think it’ll become obvious as time goes by that it’s not. Comparisons are inevitable and to be expected for the reasons you mentioned. It doesn’t matter much to me if people have expectations since I think it’ll ultimately come down to whether or not listeners like the music. I’d imagine how close someone thinks it sounds to SB probably depends on what aspect of the music they’re comparing it to.
MD: You’re quoted in press blurb as saying, “Pattern-Seeking Animals was a clean slate”, so was that difficult, in any way, to compose music with a fresh mindset and in new ways? Were there any particular processes you went through to get yourself into such a mindset to be able to wipe the slate clean? Did it feel emancipating at all; working from a clean slate, free from expectations?
JOHN: My mindset, by default, is to write from a clean slate so no adjustment necessary. That said, working from a clean slate sometimes can be more difficult than it might seem. I actually find it easier, much of the time, working within existing parameters. If someone comes to me and says, for example, that they need a three-minute folk song about farming in Ohio played on acoustic guitar, that’s a big part of the songwriting puzzle that falls into place right at the beginning.
MD: I understand you started writing the Pattern-Seeking Animals material back in early 2018, before anyone else came on board. So, what form did those songs initially take? Bare bones? Or had you already demoed them, and fleshed them out with some ideas for the instrumentations, vocals, etc, at the point the other guys got involved?
JOHN: For better or worse, my final demos are never bare bones. I tend to produce as I go during the writing process so I always have vocal arrangements and most of the instrumental parts laid out by the time anyone hears the songs to lay down their tracks.
MD: Did Ted, Dave and Jimmy help bring your compositions to life in the ways you hoped they would? And I gather Ted and Dave contributed to the writing, too?
JOHN: Absolutely. They’re all the best at what they do. Ted wrote the lyrics for ‘No Land’s Man’ and Dave came up with the initial music ideas that ‘No One Ever Died and Made Me King’ and ‘Stars Along The Way’ eventually evolved into.
MD: I’ve read that a couple of the tracks that Dave co-wrote with you were originally rejected by Spock’s Beard… so were they not considered Beardy enough at the point they were initially abandoned?
JOHN: Stylistically, neither would’ve been an issue with SB. It was more a combination of one or more of the band members not liking a song, or too much other material at the time to compete with. Timing is always a big part of them deciding what goes on an album. Both songs went through major rewrites for Pattern-Seeking Animals.
MD: You’ve stated that your aim was to “produce music that’s progressive and intricate while keeping things immediate and melodic”, which I believe you’ve attained emphatically on the album. I guess it depends on how you define progressive music (which is an entire debate in itself!), but do you think that immediacy and accessibility are not always necessarily at the forefront of some so-called progressive music?
JOHN: Debate about the definition of “progressive rock” and what’s progressive is apparently endless. To me, it’s an unfortunate term because the basic definition itself has become ironic. You and I may like it, but much of the current music it’s meant to describe is not too different or removed from the music that inspired it 40-50 years ago, so how truly progressive can it be? Personally, I think “art-rock” was and is a more apt term. Agreed, immediacy and accessibility isn’t always at the forefront of a lot of current prog music. But, that seems to be mostly by design since I think a lot of prog musicians steer clear of anything that might veer toward “accessible” music like mainstream rock or heaven forbid…pop!
MD: For me, one differentiation that can be made is that prog music can either be generically progressive or genuinely progressive. I think Pattern-Seeking Animals falls into the latter category, but without every succumbing to innovation for innovation’s sake. It’s innovative but wholly accessible. Have you consciously worked hard to achieve such a balance?
JOHN: If the basic mechanics of a song aren’t strong, no amount of innovation (sounds, production techniques, whatever) will save it. Great if someone considers my music innovative but innovation is never a factor when I’m writing or producing.
MD: So, what of the band name? I’m guessing it concerns how human beings are apparently always searching for patterns in life and the universe, and trying to apply meaning, scientific or philosophical, in attempts to rationalise and explicate any such patterns?
JOHN: Right. Humans find patterns in nature and in everyday life and learn from them in order to survive and evolve. A by-product of that is finding patterns where they don’t exist like seeing shapes of animals or faces in the clouds or stars.
MD: Does the concept behind the band name extend to the music and songs? Did you apply meaning to music you’d written, to help determine what the nature of the lyrics should be for each composition?
JOHN: I came up with the band name after most of the lyrics had been written so the concept doesn’t apply to the music at all. Even if I had the name before I started writing, still doubtful it would’ve. The emotional tone or energy of a song is definitely important to the types of lyrics I write.
MD: What are some of the key themes in the lyrics? Is there an overarching theme that binds everything together?
JOHN: I view each song as its own entity so there’s no overarching theme. The only thing I think many of them might have in common is that I try to think in terms of writing good fiction where some kind of conflict is important, whether it’s resolved or not.
MD: Although originally envisaged as a studio project, I gather you now have plans to take Pattern-Seeking Animals out on the road for some live shows, so when will we get to see the Animals on stages across the world?
JOHN: We’re just starting to get offers to play live so I’d imagine we’ll have some dates locked down for later this year or more likely early in 2020. A lot of logistics to figure out but we’re intent on making it work.
MD: I’ve read that you’re thinking about recruiting a couple of session musicians to be able to perform the material live. So, is it important for you to have everything live, rather than rely on backing tracks for some of the elements?
JOHN: Yes, we have a couple of great musicians we’re considering since it’d be almost impossible to pull off the songs as recorded otherwise. I’m not a fan of playing to tracks unless absolutely necessary.
MD: Finally, I’ve been a pattern-seeking animal myself and discovered various interesting and bizarre anagrams for ‘Pattern-Seeking Animals’: ‘Psst…Managerial Knee Tin’; ‘A Slanting Meerkat Penis’; ‘Entertaining Mask Lapse’; ‘Terminates Pink Lasagne’; ‘Smarten Leaking Panties’; ‘Seek Rampant Genital Sin’; ‘Lamest Trainee Spanking’; ‘Alarming Sentient Peaks’; ‘Piglet Karma Innateness’. What do you think all this means? Utter gibberish? Too much time on my hands? Do you think I should go and visit a psychologist?
JOHN: Hmmm, we’re working on the next album and some of those look like potential album titles…
MD: Thanks for the interview and very best of luck with the album once it’s out there!