Straddling the state line between Texas and Arkansas is a little city called Texarkana, home of the only U.S. Post Office to sit in two states and the avant-garde rock ensemble Pilotdrift. Texarkana hasn't produced any big names in music since Scott Joplin (composer of the piano classic "The Entertainer"), which might explain why it's so hard to classify Pilotdrift's completely ethereal feel. Though their sound has been compared to '70s progressive rock, Pilotdrift's own lead singer, Kelly Carr, doesn't even know what to call his music. "I'm not really sure what it is either. Some people started coming up with the term 'Cinematic Rock,' and that seems to fit, but it's definitely not in the dictionary."
Pilotdrift's cinematic and epic sound is what got them noticed and ultimately signed by Tim DeLaughter, lead singer of the choral pop group The Polyphonic Spree. The theatricality of Pilotdrift's label debut Water Sphere, with its church bells and synthesizers, has even been compared to The Phantom of the Opera. "When people started saying that, I had never seen Phantom of the Opera, but I suppose that's accurate. I guess the song 'Jekyll and Hyde' has a sinister sound, and big organ, so it's similar as far as the intro," says Carr.
And it's not just the music itself that can be compared to a Broadway musical. Pilotdrift's lyrics tell a story beyond that of your typical alt. rock song. On "Elephant Island," Carr relates the tale of Sir Ernest Shackleton and the crew of his ship, Endurance, which was stranded on the Antarctic island for months following the ship's wreck. "That's a story that I've always been fascinated with, and I've found a lot of encouragement about human perseverance," he explains.
To add to Water Sphere's overall grandeur, the five-member band performs its symphonic scores without the help of back-up musicians. "We're doing several things at one time, and switching around, so it's a little bit of a juggling act live. But as far as the studio, we did a lot of that ourselves, laying a track over a track," says Carr. What Pilotdrift produces is nothing short of fantastic, especially coming from a group of five guys out of Texas. "I guess there's a certain amount of curiosity and hilarity to the fact that we're from where we are," asserts Carr, but it's that hint of irony that makes Pilotdrift's music all the more intriguing.
Pilotdrift will play at
Theatre of the Living Arts this Saturday at 8 p.m.