San Francisco's the Pleased reluctant to be typecast
Pleased to meet you
With a lot of attention being given to New York's music scene lately, it's easy to lose sight of what's going on in other cities or coasts. But new tides are rumbling in every direction, including sunny San Francisco, where the five members of The Pleased (formerly the Please) have been quietly churning out tunes and turning heads since they formed in 2002. And while they've shared the stage with some of New York's finest and have a sound and attitude that implies many a nights spent on the unforgiving New York sidewalks, The Pleased would be pleased to have you know they are decidedly their own band. The more you listen to the Pleased, the more you realize how hard they are to pin down. The band seamlessly blends pop with rock and love with longing, as displayed on their double EP One Piece from the Middle, all while choosing to remain without label backing. Even band members have trouble describing the band, as Prefix Magazine's Rebecca Willa Davis found out during a recent interview with guitarist and vocalist Noah Georgeson.
Prefix Magazine: For those readers who do not know the Pleased, how would you describe yourself, five words or less?
The Pleased: Five words or less? Hmm ... lets go back to this one. PM: Is there one track that you feel best represents the Pleased?
The Pleased: I don't think there is one track. I think you'd probably need at least three to really get an idea of what we're doing. PM: Which three then?
The Pleased: Probably the three newest songs that we have ["I Am Your Doctor", "On Your Way Down", "New Motivation"]. PM: Interesting you say that, because I noticed that the newest tracks capture very diverse sounds. Does one song represent a direction The Pleased plans to go in, or is that the point -- to not be pegged down to one specific sound?
The Pleased: I think so. I think we've started from one point, and spread out from it. We've played with a ton of bands, and we just feel like they're good at what they do, but it just always feel a bit limited. It's nice to be, not eclectic exactly, but within a certain style, different. So I would say yes. Those three songs we haven't released at all, you can only get them on our Web site. (Ed. note: find those songs and more at www.theplease.com. PM: What was behind the decision of forgoing signing with a label and instead releasing everything yourself?
The Pleased: Basically, it's control. We've been able to do what we want to do by doing it ourselves. We've been able to go overseas and tour, and went to the East Coast once. There are definitely benefits having someone behind you, backing you, but sometimes I think your free will and choice gets compromised in that situation. PM: Do you hope to sign with a label in the future or do you prefer having this total control?
The Pleased: Maybe. I think the idea is we'll be able to, at some point and if we need it, get the backing of a label. But by then we hope to have enough respect that they won't try to infringe upon what we're doing. If the right label came along and presented the right ideas to us, then it's something we'd think about. PM: You've just had a few gigs with the Raveonettes. How was that?
The Pleased: It was really fun. We had to go to LA with them, and then we invited them up here. It was cool. They are very nice people. PM: The Raveonettes' music is defined by a set of rules that are strictly followed; does The Pleased have its own set of rules?
The Pleased: No, definitely not. That's antithetical to what we're about. There are probably some lines we wouldn't cross, but nothing explicit like that. It works for them, but obviously it's limiting, and not really what we're doing. PM: You and keyboardist Joanna Newsom are classically trained musicians. Has this formal training translated into the Pleased's sound?
The Pleased: In some ways. It's not something that is really conscious, but certain ideas from what we've learned in other areas are part of what we're doing as a band. It's impossible not to. We think a little harder about a certain economy of sounds. It's slightly different terms for us, I guess. I prefer working with people who aren't classically trained because there is a certain stiffness that comes with academic music. PM: What was the inspiration behind having the instrumental intermission and exit tracks on One Piece from the Middle?
The Pleased: It was just our desire to be slightly more inclusive. A lot less so now, but in the beginning we were clumped in with the whole garage thing. We didn't feel that was a name that described us. We didn't go out of our way to show that that's not what we're doing. Instead, we've added a little more to the power of what we're doing, and what we're either capable of or want to do. Not that we're some genius band or something, but we realize that we can accomplish things other than three or four songs. We have "One Horse," which has only one chord in it, and then we have some other songs that are slightly less minimal, just to broaden the scope of what we do. PM: Some of the press you've received gives the group a certain image; The Face called the Pleased, "the blazer wearing indie boy's new favorite band." How have you felt about some of this publicity?
The Pleased: In those types of magazines they have to sum up what a band does, and especially in that article, they wanted to paint all of those bands as part of this new movement even though a lot of them are real different. Like the Coral are in there, and they do something totally different. I don't think it was really a great description of us. It was only a couple of paragraphs on us, but it's slightly contradictory. I mean, it says that our biggest musical influence is Bob Dylan, which it isn't really. And that doesn't really jive with the whole "indie boy blazer wearing ... " whatever. It's not something we worried about, but I don't think they're gonna be able to sum us up in a couple of sentences. They tried, but no. PM: Have you felt some pressure, especially since that article labeled you as one of the top 40 bands to watch?
The Pleased: Not really. It was nice that it got us some attention, but we're just doing what we're doing, and aren't really caught up in that sort of thing. And it's not like it's overwhelming attention, but just here and there. PM: California, and specifically San Francisco, have been your main playing grounds. How is the scene out in San Francisco? I'd assume that at this point you guys must be up there.
The Pleased: I think we probably would be. I don't really look at it, but we probably are. There are only a handful of bands around here. Unfortunately, with this scene and the way the city is, it is hard to get off the ground and into the public eye. There are only a handful of bands that are really visible. It's unfortunate, but that's how it is. There are just not enough people to support the scene out here. PM: You've played with a wide range of bands that have all received their fair share of publicity, from the Music to the Vines to the Von Bondies. Who has impressed you the most?
The Pleased: Definitely the Walkmen and Clinic. They're some of our favorite bands, and being able to play with them was nice because we didn't idolize them, but we felt like we were playing with people coming from a similar point of view. It was cool. PM: The Walkmen, as well as your onetime tour-mates French Kicks, have been a part of the growing New York scene. Do you think the geographic separation from New York has affected the Pleased?
The Pleased: Yes, it has. It makes it more of a challenge, because there is no one from San Francisco, or California, that has been making waves in the same way a lot of bands in New York are. Sometimes you think, Well, if I was in New York ... And New York is a great place, it's a lot of fun and everything, but I think that in the long run it will be better for us because we won't just be part of some geographic scene. There are a lot of good bands in New York, and I hope they don't get cast aside when the New York hype dies down. [The hype] seems like it's a good thing at first, but after a while it may prove to be a disservice to some bands. PM: Who is the artist in the band who has created the T-shirts and the cover work?
The Pleased: We've all come up with the T-shirts. [Rich Good, guitar and vocals] does all the design for the site, and he puts everything together once we give him the stuff. We've all come up with various ideas and then chosen the ones we like best. So we all have a voice in that. But that stuff is cool. PM: When's the world tour coming?
The Pleased: No world tour yet. That's the type of thing that is difficult when you're doing it all yourself, and you have to work things out financially. So we just have to do things that work for us as time goes on. PM: Is that the main reason why you've stayed in California? The Pleased: Yeah. The England thing, it sounds nice, but it just happened that we were able to play over there. And the US is a big place, and to tour the whole thing takes a long time and a lot of money for gas. That's definitely a consideration. PM: So forgoing label backing has given The Pleased control, but also impedes touring. Is it worth putting up with such difficulties in order to do everything yourselves? The Pleased: It is for now. If the right thing comes along we'll definitely consider it. We've tried to keep an open mind to it, and I think it's good to be flexible. If we really feel limited by dealing with our own resources and our own money, then maybe we'll do something a little more differently. But until then, we're doing alright.