Formed during the pandemic, Northern Colorado quartet Violet Pilot didn’t get many chances to play in front of an audience. They did, however, work on their sound, and they also recorded their debut record at the Blasting Room Studio in Fort Collins, Colo. Titled Glad We Found You, the album is planned for release this summer.
Bandmembers Michael Kirkpatrick (voice/guitar), John Hartman (guitar), Sean Macauley (drums) and Jo Asker (bass) mix all kinds of musical influences for a sound that Sean describes as “like a classical orchestra got into a plane crash with a rock and roll band.” You’ll have to hear it for yourself when they play FoCoMX this weekend.
To help music fans get to know this new band a bit better, we shared a series of seven questions with Violet Pilot. All four band members chimed in, and below is an edited version of their answers.
Q: How do you describe the sound and songs of Violet Pilot for people who have never heard your music? Are there influences and interests from your musical pasts that each of you bring to the band? How does that all blend together?
Sean: Violet Pilot sounds like a classical orchestra got into a plane crash with a rock and roll band. The melodies that explode out of each instrument, combine with bombastic rhythms to make a luscious song with tribal undertones.
John: It’s earth rock, cosmic Americana.
Jo: One of the coolest things about this band is the wide variety of musical influences that make up each persons voice, and how those voices come together.
Michael: Each track is vastly different from the next.
Q: What types of music and/or artists did you listen to growing up that left a lasting impact?
Jo: My first record was an Ella Fitzgerald greatest hits compilation. Then middle school happened and I added some thrash metal into the jazz mix. Bands like Between the Buried and Me and Lamb of God were in the rotation with Coltrane’s Giant Steps and on repeat the most was Wayne Shorter’s record Adam’s Apple.
Q: Describe your first gig as a band. How did it feel for you and your bandmates to play in front of an audience?
Michael: AMAZING. It was a backyard concert at a friend’s house in Fort Collins for about 70 people who are now all superfans. The band was so excited to share what we built and we played very well.
The vibe at these private shows surpass any experience that traditional music venues have been able to offer our audience and the band (so far). We were showered in millions of rose petals after our encore.
Q: What qualities do you feel make a great musician? What stands out about your favorite artists?
John: Whatever makes me inspired or conjures thoughts and emotions I don’t get on a typical day.
Sean: Patience to let the music grow naturally is one of my favorite qualities. Having the ability to not force a song into any format and improvise on stage so as to let the song lead the musician.
Michael: My favorite artists are communicators and adventurers. If they can translate what they are channeling effectively to me, and I can feel what there are no words for, new worlds open up.
Q: When people attend a show or listen to one of your songs, what do you hope they take away from the experience?
Sean: I feel that will always be a personal thing, one the artist cannot know. But no matter what is taken away, I hope that there was an hour or so of peace where the audience was able to let go of their worries and just be present with the music.
Michael: Joy and adventure.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice another musician has given you?
Michael: My mentor, Sam Bush told me to “keep having fun.”
John: “Embrace and nurture curiosity” (Julian Lage).
Jo: DON’T BITCH. Obviously be firm and advocate for yourself, but if you find the need to complain about something or someone, there’s usually an actionable piece of work that needs attention.
Sean: When I was about to quit music and take another carrier path in college, there was a musician whom I looked up to named Kenny Werner. He found me outside of a jazz club feeling depressed about my own playing. He gave me the advice to not give up, even when things are looking down. I took that advice and held on a little longer, which has led me down the path to where I am today.
Q: What stands out about the Colorado music community for you?
Sean: The Colorado music scene is the most inclusive and supportive music scene I have ever been around.
Jo: Everyone is SO supportive. Sure, a lot of us are competing for a very similar audience, but the competition is friendly and supportive.