Everyone knows that slow and steady wins the race and that the greatest ideas often take a while to sink in. But with a little luck, the planets should eventually align and the world will come around to your way of thinking. The Pineapple Thief’s graceful rise to progressive rock glory may have taken over a decade but as Bruce Soord’s ever-inventive brainchild gear up to release their latest and greatest studio album it is plain that those years have all been part of a magical evolution.
Formed back in 1999 when the modern prog scene was still in its tentative infancy, The Pineapple Thief provided multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Soord with an outlet for his unerring passion for music. Initially a studio-bound project rather than a fully functioning band, its sound slowly emerged as an idiosyncratic blend of melancholy indie rock and subtly innovative experimentation, with Soord’s sublime compositional gifts providing a compelling pulse at its heart.
“I just wanted to create some music that was my undiluted vision,” Soord says today. “I’d spent my life in bands and collaborations and it was never an easy ride. All that consensus building was too bloody stressful if you ask me! Doing a project on my own, I had no one to argue with but myself. At the time, I really had no expectations at all. I didn’t even know if anyone would ever hear it. Luckily I got the first album released on a small indie label it did okay, or well enough for me to do another one…”
That debut album, Abducting The Unicorn, could hardly have been timelier. As like-minded artists like Porcupine Tree and Radiohead began to purposefully rehabilitate the notion of rock with a progressive streak, The Pineapple Thief suddenly found an audience, most notably in mainland Europe, and Soord’s vision began to resonate with a steadily expanding fan base. Over the years that followed, the band’s music grew in stature and with each successive album their reputation as major contenders within this burgeoning underground movement became inarguable.
“I managed to nestle into the ‘new wave’ of progressive rock, led by Porcupine Tree at the time, although obviously I was pretty tiny in comparison,” Soord recalls. “I confess I hated a lot of ‘prog rock’ at that time but there were still people doing interesting, original stuff. I was desperate to be seen in that light. I remember I got a really decent review in Holland and all of a sudden a little fan base started to emerge. Then the same thing happened in the UK. After I released the 3rd studio album (Variations on a Dream) we were asked to play at a prog rock festival in Whitchurch, Hampshire supporting Caravan. So I got a band together. We turned up at this place and they’d basically taken over the local secondary school! We played to a packed house and the queue to our merch stand after the show was huge. That was the moment that I realised this was actually a band people listened to, not just my lonely, isolated little studio project.”
Newly reincarnated as a bona fide live band, The Pineapple Thief forged ahead, releasing a series of widely acclaimed and I increasingly dynamic albums that repeatedly reaffirmed their growing confidence and laudably distinctive take on emotionally- charged art rock. After signing with Kscope in 2007, just as the modern prog scene truly hit its stride, they released their seventh album Tightly Unwound in 2008 and began to dedicate themselves more to live performance with frequent tours and festival appearances contributing greatly to the perception that this band were coming of age. The true breakthrough came in 2010 when The Pineapple Thief released the magnificent Someone Here Is Missing: truly the culmination of all Bruce Soord’s hard work and determination over the preceding decade, it showcased a now vibrant and classy band – featuring keyboard maestro Steve Kitch, bassist Jon Sykes and drummer Keith Harrison alongside Soord’s unmistakable voice and guitar playing – at the peak of their powers.
“When we moved to Kscope, I felt I finally had a platform to get my music out there to compete with the big boys,” says the frontman. “But if I was honest, we hadn’t yet released a world class record. After 7 albums, I wanted to tread new ground with SHIM. I wanted to make it harder, more immediate and certainly more energetic. Then we had the cover art created by Storm Thorgerson, everything came together and I felt we were getting a lot more respect. The release did piss off a few of our old school fans who perhaps wanted a more traditional Pineapple Thief sound, but we got a load more fans than we lost. And anyway, a band has to progress. Not everyone is going to share my journey…although why the hell they wouldn’t is beyond me!”
Two years on from the critical and commercial triumphs of Someone Here Is Missing, The Pineapple Thief are in a strong position as one of modern prog’s most revered and applauded bands. With the prog scene expanding at a rate of knots and its audience growing accordingly, the release of All The Wars looks certain to be one of the main events of 2012. A diverse and wildly imaginative piece of work, the new album showcases a heavier, more organic and fiery sound than ever before, but the deft embellishments and inspired arrangements that made previous albums so mesmerising are much in evidence too. Songs like the propulsive ‘Burning Pieces’ and epic closer ‘Reaching Out’ take Bruce Soord’s songwriting to a new level of finesse and conviction, while contributions from a 22-piece string section and choir ensure that the band’s prog credentials are more than apparent throughout.
“I wanted to give the songs a lot more depth than SHIM, so it’s a bit of grower,” states Soord. “It needs a few listens to be absorbed properly, but then I’m sure it will hang around on the playlists of those who give it a chance. Lyrically it’s about conflict in life, conflict with the people we love and the subsequent waste of what little time we have. I’m certainly not religious, so I’m pretty stoic about life. I just want to enjoy what time I have with the people who I love before it all ends. But if at the end all I have are ‘all the wars’ then it’s better than nothing. I can make the most of the here and now.”
With the finest album of their career primed and ready for its grand unveiling, The Pineapple Thief are destined to make the most of the here and now and claim their rightful place as one of the most significant rock bands of the 21st century. This is music that oozes truth and humanity while both placing a firm foot on the cosmic monitor and daring to think outside the musical box. With plans for extensive touring, more festival appearances and a sustained effort to conquer as much of the globe as possible, Bruce Soord’s original plan to see his vision brought to life undiluted has been achieved tenfold and is now gaining unstoppable momentum. All great things come to those who wait. All The Wars is one of the greatest.
Dom Lawson, July 2012