Not Just Metal; An interview with Laura Pleasants of Kylesa

If it weren’t for the periods of intense confusion, soul-searching and self-reflection that follow experiences of heartbreaking loss, there would be no industry for grief counselors, religious congregations would wane, and beloved art and literature would cease to retain much of its reflective gravity. Unfortunately, for the people that experience these periods, they are a continuing catalyst on the human condition that leave permanent scars on human psyche and identity, and the process of living with these new and traumatic markers and letting go of that pain is one people continue to wrestle with.
Kylesa is a band that knows this phenomenon intimately. Amidst all their  changes and struggles, one thing remained a constant for the band, the continued push to elevate themselves, their sound and push the boundaries and borders of heavy music.
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with vocalist/guitarist Laura Pleasants to discuss their new record Exhausting Fire, their fifteen year anniversary and more.
Next year is the 15 year anniversary of the band. Does it feel like you’ve been doing it that long?
Yes and no. When I think about the early days of the band and how wide-eyed I was, that seems like a lifetime ago. I was young and inexperienced and very hungry for the road. But the past few years have gone by fairly quickly. I’m kinda like, where did 2012 go? How is it almost 2016?
Is making music and performing a cathartic experience for you? 
Most definitely. I don’t think I’d still be doing this if I didn’t need that kind of release.
During the course of writing the Ultraviolet, members of the band were struggling with a lot of loss, and personal and health problems. Have things in your world begun to stabilize again or are you experiencing growing pains and exhaustion from all the changes in your life? 
I’d say it’s a bit of both. I lost my mother to cancer in 2011 and moved back to NC one year before to be with her and my grandmother, cutting the touring cycle for Spiral Shadow very short.  Almost immediately following her death, I had to move back to Savannah to begin writing Ultraviolet because the band was pretty much on hold at that point.  I was in a terrible, terrible place. Since then, life has moved on and the band itself has gone through some internal changes. The scene has changed. The industry continues to change. I have changed. Exhausting Fire has a lot to do with human relationships and the rebuilding of one’s self. Phillip (Cope) and I were going through different relationship struggles but very intense ones and they were happening around the time we were writing. So, I was in an epic meltdown emotionally trying to write a record. it was the best outlet, no doubt. Things have settled down for me now and I’m in a good place. But, you know, life has its ups and downs. Love is almost as intense as death… it’s been a rollercoaster of a few years! And, that is exhausting. That said,  I think that the new album also sheds some light onto some of the darker themes. There is hope and mention of new beginnings like in the song “Shaping The Southern Sky”.
I just re-read this paragraph and it sounds pretty depressing. But I can’t complain about it as that is the reality of life. Nothing is fair and nobody ever said it was. The good thing is that I am in a good place now mentally and physically and I am rebuilding towards a happier future. I love my family, I love my boyfriend, I love my friends and I love Kylesa and our fans and I love playing and creating original music. Life is good.
Did the ideas for this album come as organically as they did for Ultraviolet
Yes… I had some preconceived notions but for the most part, it was an organic growth as it always is.
The title Exhausting Fire can have a few meanings, or maybe I’m reading into it too hard. There is a lot of confusion and uncertainty and hopelessness addressed in the lyrics on the record.  Are these things you are experiencing firsthand or are the narratives meant in a more universal sense? Is there a prevailing idea you were exploring with Exhausting Fire?
The title has many meanings — literally, figuratively, visually, cosmically. It was very much on purpose choosing the title. We often play with words and I thought that the title had a good overall feeling for what the record was representing (the title of the album always comes last). So.. the lyrics are meant to play several roles. They are literal and linear in some cases and in some cases they are more metaphysical or abstract. All come from personal experience, but I was writing with the idea of utilizing parallel themes. There is the motif of rebirth and letting go.. lots of use hot/cold, light/dark, sun/moon, etc. Ultimately, I think people can walk away with personal interpretations of the lyrics – relating to their own life and experience.
There are some goth, new wave and psyche rock sounds that are present here.  Are these new directions for the band or are they just more pronounced on this record? How did these influences leach in and take hold?
I think they are just more pronounced. We’ve been toying with psychedeliia since the 2003 split with Cream Abdul Babar and even earlier than that. I’ve been a fan of goth and new wave forever so I guess it was just gonna happen sooner or later… I guess we really got into putting the gothic sounds into Kylesa with the record Static Tensions. Basically, we’re big fans of music — not just metal.
Is it satisfying to know that no other band really sounds like Kylesa?
Absolutely. There are so many copy cats out there. Why bother? I guess to be popular? Lack of ideas? It’s never been for me.
Do you believe these are the best songs that Kylesa have written? 
I am not sure if I can answer that question.
Has balancing the label changed Kylesa’s business model at all? Has it made you more appreciative of the labels you’ve worked with? 
Sort of… and yes, I appreciate the successful labels like Season of Mist. I also am very leary of some of the past labels we’ve worked with — especially early on in our career.
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