Bruce Soord of The Pineapple Thief’s Songwriting Survival Kit
The Pineapple Thief frontman reveals what he sees as the critical gear required for crafting their progressive brand of rock
Bruce Soord is the lead singer, guitarist and creative force behind British experimental rock band The Pineapple Thief. Formed in 1999, the group have continued to evolve and refine their sound over 12 studio albums, building up a loyal fan-base across Europe and gathering interest from a wider spectrum of alternative rock followers.
Hearing about the imminent release of his second solo album, This Will Be Yours, we asked the thieving frontman to tell us all about the indispensable gear in his songwriting arsenal…
1. ACOUSTIC GUITAR
Nowadays all my songs begin on my acoustic guitar. When I’m deep in songwriting mode, the guitar follows me everywhere in the house. Who knows when that inspiration might hit, so the guitar has to be within arms reach before that inspiration is lost in the ether. If something starts working (see item 3), I’ll take it to my studio and see where it leads. Quite often the acoustic guitar won’t make it to the final arrangement, but to (mis)quote Ginger Wildheart from this very magazine, if a song doesn’t work on an acoustic, then ‘it’s a bunch of tricks’.
2. MY KEMPER
Nowadays talking about amp modelling isn’t such a crime. Technology has caught up and there are loads of affordable solutions out there for guitarists. I’m lucky to own one of the best out there, the Kemper Profiler. When I’m messing around with ideas in my studio, the Kemper allows me to get great-sounding ideas down off the bat, at studio quality. No faffing around with amps and mics and annoyed neighbours. And the beauty of it is, quite often those ideas you throw down without thinking, they have the best vibe.
Towards the end of the album process, I’ll labour over re-tracking demo guitar parts, only to find that the vibe I had at the beginning was the take. Of course, if your songwriting tool is a keyboard, you’ve had this luxury for a long time!
3. VOICE RECORDER
We’ve all done it. We’ve been desperately trying to find the killer words, the killer melody. But it just won’t come. Then magically, without warning, it appears in your head. You might be in bed. You might be in the supermarket. So get it down before it’s lost. Don’t worry about looking like an idiot as you babble into your phone. Because you know that if you don’t do it, you’ll forget it and curse the day you lost your global smash to the depths of your subconscious.
4. HEADSTOCK TUNER/WIRELESS CABLE
I put these two together because they both have the same effect. When writing, that last thing you want to be doing is digging out tuner pedals or tripping over cables (if you haven’t tripped over guitar cables while songwriting then you’re fibbing). These two things have enabled me to focus on the songwriting without losing my rag.
I’m lucky to be able to call myself a professional musician. And quite often my days, weeks and months will literally be all about songwriting. But that doesn’t mean you can fall out of bed and write songs day in day out. There has to be a spark. If you have something in your life that is inspiring, make sure you make the most of it. I began writing my last album shortly after the birth of my daughter. It wasn’t an album about babies of course, but it was a unique and intense time for me and spawned a lot of emotions that I took into song.
When it isn’t working, don’t force it. Take a break. It can be the hardest thing to force yourself to do. You might wake up and declare that ‘today I will finish a song’, but after a day of toiling it’s still going nowhere. It’s a shitty feeling. But take a break. Go for a walk, go somewhere inspirational. Clear out the cobwebs and come back fresh.
7. GUT INSTINCT
If there is one thing I wish I listened to sooner in my career, it’s my gut instinct. You know that little voice down there telling you some hard truths. Is the song really good enough? One trick I have developed to find the answer is to imagine yourself on stage playing the biggest gig of your life. You’re looking out over 1000s of people. You look down at your set-list. It’s time for your new song. How do you feel? I know from personal experience when I look down and think, ‘Oh God, well let’s get this one over with’. If that’s the case, listen to your gut. Get rid.