Leeds to Berlin uproots The Pattern Theory are back in town to play the Packhorse this week - Kate Zezulka speaks to them in the run-up to their UK tour...
How did The Pattern Theory form?
We met at university in September 2006. I think Lukas and Carl had played together a little bit, I played with Carl once before. He asked if I would be up for playing together. We tried out a couple of bass players, then asked if Danny would be up for it.
How did you find becoming involved in the Leeds music scene (particularly being students while you were here)? Do you think that there's any truth behind the supposed dichotomy between students and local musicians in Leeds?
To be honest to a certain extent we didn't really plan becoming involved, in fact I'm not even certain how much we were a part of it, many people will probably be reading this and wondering who we are.... However, we met Paul and Chris from Forest of Sound pretty early on, and they pretty much championed us right from the beginning. Also, Paul's been heavily involved with booking us shows long after we left Leeds and organising lots of things for us. So from our point of view there was definitely no barrier.
How did the move to Berlin come about?
None of us know, really. With Carl being the local boy of Berlin, it seemed like a good opportunity to take, although he didn't really want to move back, it seemed to make sense. I don't think we would have moved here individually so doing it with the band gave a good reason to check out life in another country for one thing. I think we definitely thought it would be interesting to see what changes would happen musically.
What's the experience been like?
Experience wise, I would say that it has on the whole been good, when we moved here we didn't really know anyone else, it forced us to take different decisions which we probably wouldn't have taken had we stayed, as well as adapting to the limitations of becoming a three piece. So, on the whole positive.
Tell us a bit about the Berlin music scene. What's the dynamic like - and what Berlin-based bands/artists are we missing out on?
There isn't the same kind of scene here as there is in Leeds in that it's more separate. It's pretty rare to find a gig with two Berlin bands, usually a touring band and a local support. Another thing is that you don't get nights here with 3 or 4 bands on, it's usually just two. That definitely makes gigging more worthwhile from a band's point of view because you get to play a longer set, but maybe less people come. We've not played with many local Berlin bands here. Mainly been playing with American bands, or other European bands on tour. Bands that didn't come to Leeds that you should definitely check out: The Drift, Cougar and Slon. As for locals, I have become healthily interested in the music of Tangerine Dream (up to 83). They're a Berlin band that get written off as being new-age and cheesy, which is a shame because they're really incredible.
Since Leeds last saw you, you've had a line-up change - how do you think this affected your 'sound'? (And there also seems to have been some metallophone instruments appearing in newer material?)
Well firstly, we don't have bass guitar, or a bassist anymore. Now we just have synth bass, which we play live with bass pedals and a keyboard. When we moved over here we wanted to start playing as soon as possible and we knew that it's impossible to replace Dan. It's better to start something new than trying to replace something that worked in the past. We liked the idea of being a three piece plus the power of really simple bass lines. It definitely seems to be working out. As you point out we also use a couple of metallophones now - a vibraphone as well as glockenspiel and xylophone on the record. I've had them for ages but never got round to using them with The Pattern Theory.
What else do you think has changed 'sound' or aesthetic-wise since then?
I think we've become more precise, and definitely more concerned with the presentation of our music. I do think those things could just be attributed to us maturing as a band and wanting to improve or just being more sure of ourselves, not necessarily of location. Last year we played a one off show with Carl's friend; Andrew Mcinnis [Lemons and Stallions]. He's kind of a zen musician from Seattle who bridges the gap between Avant-garde, Jazz and Doom Metal. Some of the intensity of his music definitely rubbed off. (One of these tracks is going to be released by the excellent Notes Magazine.) Also around the time we moved here we got obsessed with Yacht Rock - that definitely informed some of the sound. I don't want to list all of the things that have influenced us in the last two years! But some of this stuff just opened our eyes. Basically, we discovered the power of really smooth music...
Sunken Sails is Pattern Theory's alter ego - why the 'pop' outlet? Do you think that there's a wilfully experimental side to The Pattern Theory, with Sunken Sails being a slightly more accessible (!) flipside to this? Or do both idioms come fairly naturally?
We're all massive fans of pop music and we don't exclusively listen to any one type of music. I guess we're trying to express similar things in both bands, but from different angles. At the moment The Pattern Theory takes up a lot of time and we're spending our time working on that, but I know that Luke especially writes lots of pop stuff (currently he's trying to do a new song every weekend) and it seems a bit silly to do nothing with them.
New Pattern Theory material seems to focus even more on complex polymetric structures (it often seems as if each of you brings at least one different way of voicing/rationalizing each groove or underlying rhythmic foundation?). Do you think you approach your music in a mathematical, logical way, or is it more of an innate 'feels and sounds right' attitude?
Sometimes we have to sit down and think about it, but no lab coats... yet. We enjoy playing complex music, but we always try to make it sound as natural as possible. The time signature is never the core of the idea. So it's not like we're doing it just because we can, but because it makes sense - that sounds like a very defensive prog answer! haha.
And melodically, fragments seem very important - is it a case of building up a mosaic of motifs that get developed (ie. melodic contours as building bricks!).
Perhaps. It goes back to the pop thing, I guess the simplest melodies are often the best. Definitely none of us are going to be taking head-back solos anytime soon. Definitely the building brick analogy is a good one, everything working together.
There's a Pattern Theory debut LP expected sometime in the near future - what stage are you at?
It's finished. We just need to get it mixed and mastered. So nearly there. We recorded the whole thing ourselves in a room in an old post office building in East Berlin between the hours of 10pm to 10am.
You're coming back to Leeds to play at the Packhorse on the 14th May, first time back as a band but, individually the first time in a while, too? What typically 'Leeds' activities are filling up your day here (aside from the merry-go-round of soundchecks, vans and equipment lugging!).
Lukas has been back the most as he's Hyde Park born and bred, I came back in August and Carl hasn't come back for a while, I think. My time will be filled with stocking up with Yorkshire Tea and rehearsing with the Declining Winter. Probably catching up with some friends I haven't seen in a while as well.
And finally, what else is on the horizon for The Pattern Theory?
Album release, FM Synths, AM gold, vocals, more gigs, more amps.
The Pattern Theory's UK tour starts on 12th May 2010, stopping in Leeds at The Packhorse on May 14th. In the meantime, their new track 'Ideas of Fun' is available for free download at thepatterntheory.bandcamp.com until the end of May.