Photography by Ben Davis©
Pope are back. Third Outing's best Louisiana rockers return with the new release True Talent Champion out on Community Records on November 3rd. But how exactly have the Known Weed Smokers developed in the last 2 years, and are they now there?
Pope have always been able to write silk. They also know how to thrash. The first record proved this where fuzzy, heavy noises gave way to some of the more gentle, reflective sounds; Hunter Mann, Cashier, Glass and Beast all became instant favourites.
But now there's a step for Pope to take, who are no longer the newcomers. This first full length release after a long hiatus is just the opportunity Pope need to prove that they're there with the best of their contemporaries, who have remained much more publicly active over the past few years.
On the very first EP release I was taken by Pope's sound. I listened to the intro of Hunter Mann 100 times over. But something niggled, I found Pope flaked as the songs went on. The second phase, the development, wasn't quite as good as the first impression. Most songs, despite great hooks and ambition, lacked something. Now in late 2017, True Talent Champion is a signal of intent.
"There's some songs that move into some new territory with the synths and different styles of songwriting"
Pope have developed as songwriters. They're getting there. The three public tracks from the record show the affect time has had on songwriting and recording. Despite claiming to be a band who lack the same confidence as before, "not knowing what the fuck they are doing", they've come back more complete, and able to better elaborate upon their ideas.
Out of all of the tracks to talk about, Talk Me Out Of It is the winner. "Before I drive with my eyes closed again, I'm a real true talent champion". It's the sort of opening line and chord progression Pope specialise in. But now this magic fragment seems to continue throughout the entire track. The verses develop and intrigue, and the guitar solo, well that's just the the most fitting of all endings.
It's a real development which puts Pope on the same level as great bands like Glasgow's PAWS and LA's Dante Elephante. The release of True Talent Champion is the biggest signal of intent from Pope that even though they're getting there, this is a band who one day control where there is.
Three things about True Talent Champion people don't know yet? // The A/C was broken most of the time in studio so Matt preferred to do his vocal takes naked. We would do group aerobics before every recording session. During recording we consumed 50 cheese pizzas, 37 shrimp po boys, 17 falafels, 11 gallons of crawfish ettoufe, 2 apples, 75 kombuchas, and 1 half eaten cannoli from the trash can.
From the early sessions to the final cut, how has this record evolved and changed? // This record was kind of put together in chunks over a period of about 2 years. After Fiction came out we got pretty busy touring with our other band Donovan Wolfington, and it was hard to find time to write new music let alone sit down for long recording sessions. There's songs that were written pretty immediately after Fiction came out so they have that sort of sound, then there's some songs that move into some new territory with the synths and different styles of songwriting.
"We were a lot more confident back then. Now we don't know what the fuck we're doing"
So you have been actively venturing towards new sounds? // We've definitely been trying to write more dynamic, "complete" feeling songs, and really trying to get the most out of ideas...but the sound of this new album is still what you'd probably expect from Pope. Maybe just a few more clean guitars than last time. As far as new sounds, we used some synth and piano on the record. While we probably won't be incorporating synth in our live show anytime soon, it was fun to see what we could do with those things in the studio to create some new textures and ear candy.
Despite new sounds do you still all share the same influences like Bedhead, GBV, and Nirvana on this new LP? // Since we recorded some of these songs right after Fiction, the influences were pretty similar, but even today we are listening to a lot of the same stuff. Matt has been more into hip hop lately. Stuff like SZA and Frank Ocean. Atticus listens to the Cleaners from Venus, Arthur Russell, and the DB's, Alex has been listening to Ariel Pink, Andy Shauf, Elliott Smith, and Roy Orbison.
In 2015 you told us that you will become the "biggest band in the world and enslave listeners with loud noise pop". How's that shaping up? // It's shaping up terribly thanks for asking.