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10.08.08

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Phaedra

THUG WIFE: The usual suspects in San Jose's the Pilots Wife.

High Fidelity

The Pilots Wife is married to its music

By Claire Young


WE'RE, like, the most sarcastic people you'll ever meet." That's little of a forewarning for the comical, at times confusing, but usually entertaining conversational antics of the Pilots Wife, a four-piece from San Jose made up of Greg Smith (vocals/keys), Robbie Xavier (bass), Jason Habing (guitar) and Hollis Browne (drums). The band is unapologetic about its fun-loving, laid-back ways and attitude.

"We try to be as real as we can," says Smith. "I'm not trying to be out there, like, 'The Pilots Wife likes to get fucked up.' Yeah we like to party and that's just who we are, but we also like to get our shit done too. All in moderation. But we do have a good time everywhere we go."

While joking references were made to sadomasochistic sex acts, friends and not-so-close acquaintances and underage girls, among other things, the members of the Pilots Wife get down to business (mostly) when it came to discussing their music, an off-kilter blend of progressive, melodic and indie rock. "We're trying for a Nickelback sound," Smith says sardonically.

The Pilots Wife's music is a far reach from the predictable drawl of Nickelback, instead taking on everything from rock to soul and funk and even hints of reggae and jazz, at times rushing forth like a speeding train through rapid-fire drumming and chugging bass, at others sounding more like a slow jam with an organ-laced pulse, Smith taming his vocals to a croon before bringing out a David Grohl–esque growl. The group cited Bay Area prog rockers Facing New York as an inspiration, and that admiration also translates in the group's sound, which Smith first describes as "wet and warm," then as "really textural." "Our new stuff is almost mechanical sounding," said Habing. Browne agrees. "We have really intricate shit, and then melodic stuff," he says.

The band originated in the early part of 2005. Xavier and Smith, former members of Sonic Mirth, brought in Xavier's friend Habing. Browne was added only recently after he departed from local act Brea. "They all had a crush on me," Browne says.

Xavier says the members' history together has helped add an ease to their musical creation. "Everyone in this band is on the same level—head level," he says. "I've been around bands before where someone is in a different mind space than someone else in the band, and around our band everything is always in the open, we talk about everything."

To the men of the Pilots Wife, though life may at times be one big joke, the future of their life as musicians is a serious matter. "All four of us are dedicated to what we do, and unlike any band we've met in San Jose, we're all in the process of dropping everything else in our life and just trying to do it, trying to go tour, and I think that's the only way bands can really truly make it or make any sort of impact," says Habing.

For the time being, however, the Pilots Wife is playing shows sparingly—once or twice a month—while continuing to write new music in preparation for recording a full-length album at London Bridge Studio in Seattle. Last weekend the band played at San Jose Skate with We Shot the Moon, Scissors for Lefty and others, and this Saturday the Pilots Wife heads north for a show at the Log House in Pacifica.

"We're looking at it more as a career than, like, fuckin' let's go and tour for a year and a half and play a bunch of shows with a bunch of kids, and then be, like, nothing," says Browne. "Because we all want to do this for a long time and we all have the passion to do it for a long time."


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