A beautiful sunny morning kissed the windows of Kavarna Coffeehouse and a slew of patrons assembled including the Milwaukee band I’m Not A Pilot and me. A Stuffed Orange-Walnut French Toast was on the menu and questions filled the air as we chatted over coffee.
In the short time span of 24 hours, I’m Not A Pilot had just finished two performances in Green Bay. One at UWGB the night before and the other at the WLUK studios that same morning. For band members Peter, Adrian, Steve and Mark, the weekend had been a successful yet busy experience that not only broadened their fan base more, but also solidified their dedication to the music.
J: It looks like INAP formed around 2008. For those who may not be familiar with your history, tell us where it all began.
Mark: Well, I wrote a lot of songs in high school and I was looking to start a solo project, because I was in a band previous to this. And, my brother urged me to start a band with him and Steve who were in a band together previously called Stükenberg. So they put together a band with him and his wife Thea, who was in Stükenberg.
Steve: With that band, Stükenberg, the singer wanted to do solo project. So that kind of took eight months. And Matt and I were getting antsy to play in a band again. Basically, we were just looking for people to play with.I remembered Mark opening for us at one of our gigs and Matt said,”Why don’t I ask my brother.Maybe he’s looking for a band.” At the time, Mark was trying to create a band out of a viola, a violin and keyboard. He was going for something non-traditional. Originally, I was just going to play light percussion and maybe a bass. Over the years it’s evolved into playing a lot more. It started out as a non-traditional band from the onset…from the very beginning.
J: One of the things I like about your sound is it’s not like anything else out there right now.
Mark: To finish, essentially, Matt and Steve started playing with me, and, then Thea got pregnant, so she couldn’t play anymore. It overlapped when Peter ended up joining us, so he and Thea were playing at the same time. And, I met Peter through this guy on the symphony board who knew I was looking for a cellist and talked to somebody. I received an email about a week later. I sent Peter a song. He said I’ll definitely practice with you guys sometime. So, I told him we were practicing that night and it went really well. And, then we just kept scheduling practices every week and we’ve never stopped. We ended up getting really committed at the first show we played.
Peter: And when I came in, I didn’t know anybody. I moved from Miami, Florida in to pursue the Milwaukee Symphony. The job I got in 2008. In October 2008 I moved here, here as in Milwaukee, so, I went to a symphony donor party just because I knew people in the orchestra and talked to this guy. He set me up with Mark.
I think the interesting thing about Mark is that when I first met him, he looked very much and reminded me of my friend Daniel Griffin; who I played in a band with when I was living in Ohio. We were called the Allegros. It was just me and Daniel; Daniel played piano and sang. Mark had the exact same type of set up. So, when I first met Mark I remember I was in a car driving out to Steve’s place where we had band practice and I was like, “Oh, this is what I’ve done with another band.” And I actually played for you <speaking to Mark> “Creep”, which is something that we do as a band. It was my idea to pair up that Bach suite with “Creep”, when Daniel and I actually played, so, I brought that from my other band. But, I said there was no harm in joining a band at that point. And, I was looking for friends and now these guys have become my best friends.
Mark: My brother ended up getting a job in Minneapolis and he moved up there with his wife. He actually introduced us to Adrian who he knew from Seattle, because he had lived in Seattle for a little while. And, he had just moved to Milwaukee recently. He was looking to play some music as well.
J: The music you create is a very unique combination of rock, classical and pop. Many have said it is Indie-rock. There are a few things I notice when I listen to it: First, the instrumentation and composition are strong enough to stand on their own without the lyrics. Second, it has the rise and fall of classical composition, but the punch of pop and rock. Finally, the vocals are mesmerizing and haunting at times; they bring the listener in and grab hold. Can you describe for me your creative process?
Mark: Well, we’ve been experimenting with a couple different things lately. But, as far as the last two records we’ve recorded, I’ve had something I’ve wanted to show the band. And it’s usually a rough version of a song and completed to the standards I can perform on my own. Then I’ll bring it to everybody and discuss transitions, we’ll discuss dynamics and all of that stuff. So, then it ends up morphing into a really nice progression that I did not expect. Recently, we’ve been trying to write things collaboratively, so it has been a mix of collaboratively writing together and still present songs every once and a while.
The food arrived and our conversation about music faded into laughter coupled with aroma, delicious flavors and appreciation. The second half of our time together can be found in Coffeeology with I’m Not A Pilot; Part 2.
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