The Pillows

Interview by Carol Bales

Published in RW #16, 2001

The Pillows are from Kansas City, Missouri. I saw them perform there at Davie's Uptown and was blown away by their version of The Who's "Baba O'Riley." I say "version" because, as Jack Boyd points out, they "don't do covers." It was during this song that I decided I had to interview them. They put on a great show. They entertain, they have fun, they're unpretentious, they conquer other musician's songs and claim them as their own and even switch instruments on stage! I interviewed The Pillows during their "Head For The Mountains" tour this past July before and after they played a Fourth of July BBQ in Fort Collins, Colorado. The interview began with reflections on the previous night's performance of "Baba O'Riley" which started with the opening keyboard part looped on a Casio keyboard. Jack Boyd managed to simultaneously reprogram the keyboard in-between drumming. Kyle belts out lyrics with feet stomping and veins popping, but before he can engage in his climactic guitar solo, his bottom E string breaks, but he continues. Improvising, he pulls it off but then, in a fit of rage, he throws off his guitar to the ground and jumps on it.

Jack Boyd, born 12/24/67
Kyle Leval, born 3/3/68
Lisa Mackenzie, born 12/6/71

RW: Why did you jump on your guitar last night?

Kyle: Felt like the thing to do, crazy thing to do and the time to do it. I think you need to smash- jump on your guitar. You said you would.

RW: I need to loosen up some that's for sure.

Kyle: No, you're doing fine.

RW: So why did you choose to play "Teenage Wasteland?"

Kyle: Jack wanted to play it, and I said all right man, we will 'cause that's what The Pillows are all about, making dreams come true. Somebody finds a song they wanna do... no other band will cover it, we will do it.

RW: How long have the three of you been a band?

Kyle: About a year.

RW: So this is your first out of town show?

Kyle: Yes, with The Pillows. My first time on stage was in Chicago at Pop's with the Logs, courtesy of "The Drunk Redneck Variety Show."

RW: Ah, yes. I know the guy who ran it, Mike Wing. Hey Mike, this is live!

Kyle: Right into the tape recorder. Mike Wing: You can't get a fresher sound than The Pillows.

RW: Okay, let's get back to The Who song you were playing last night, "Teenage Graceland."

Kyle: Teenage Graceland is where Lisa Marie grew up.

RW: Yeah, yeah. I thought you were great on that song, and then your bottom string broke.

Mike Wing: It was a very fresh sound. In fact, I can't even remember how the original goes anymore.

RW: But your string broke, and that fucked with your solo.

Kyle: I was thinking, I got a solo on that string, where am I going to go now?

Mike Wing: And the three handed work of Jack Boyd on the skins in that song?

Kyle: Yeah, really. Mike: I couldn't believe what I was seeing.

RW: What was happening? Kyle: Keyboard was low on batteries, that's how we get our funky sound. Basically (we) use batteries until they are just gone. Then we get them into the keyboard and they make that sound. Then I don't know what happens . . . Jack takes over.

RW: How long does the loop usually last?

Kyle: About thirty seconds. It's a Casio twenty-four key-child's toy almost-which gives more credit to Jack Boyd for being able to play the drums and reprogram the little Casio.

RW: Mike Wing, what do you think of the Pillows?

Mike Wing: I think the Pillows are doing a fresh thing. What they're doing is taking some material that you are familiar with from the seventies, the sixties-even the eighties-and they're taking a fresh twist with it. I think they take a lot of the music that they do, like The Who's, "Baba O'Riley", and they are not afraid to take risks, and (whispering) you know what happens? It becomes their own, they take over the song. And ah, performance has a lot to do with it. Its very stylistic. They look good, they're good looking kids. I like it. I like what's goin' on with the Pillows. P-I-L-L-O-W-S.

RW: What are you looking for tonight guys? What do you want out of your audience?

Jack: Oh, God, that-that-that-takes me back.

Kyle: Not physically beat us after we're done playing.

Jack: I don't want to be an abusive rock star. Oh God, what am I looking for? I'm boring her already. She's leaving.

RW: No, I'm not bored. What song are you going to open up with?

Kyle: Um, I don't know.

Jack: "Behind Closed Doors."

Kyle: Ah, "Behind Closed Doors."

Jack: Mike and Perry both said they cry every time we play it.

Kyle: Really, they say they cry a lot. Mike says he hasn't been able to make it through a show without weeping. Openly weeping. And those are his words. WEEP.

Jack: I guess what we're looking for are some tears, is what we're after.

Kyle: But then again, Mike and Perry are pretty easy because they seem to cry a lot. We want some hardened, hardcore faces crying.

Jack: We want a lot of smiling.

Kyle: I want angry brothers smiling and happy people crying with joy.

Jack: We want to cut through people that are serious, break through to them, they're too serious about this sort of stuff.

Lisa: I just want to make it all the way through all of the songs, that's my goal.

Kyle:: That's a good goal and you can print that. The Pillows on stage. Woos and Applause follow as they strap on their guitars. People are wearing the psychedelic 3-D glasses they have passed out. I am asked to announce the band.

RW: Ladies and gentlemen, The Pillows! (Woos and applause.) I just have one question, and that's how did you get your name?

Kyle: That is a good story and to make a good story even better, I'm making it brief and sweet. Let's just say, me and Jack Boyd were going cross-country and we were in Missoula, Montana, stayin' at this cheap dive, tryin' to—

Jerk from the crowd: I love the Feathers!

Kyle: And "Carrie", the Steven King movie was on the tube on Halloween night, we were watching it, eating pizza and, "I can see your dirty pillows, everyone will" and, "Breasts Momma. They're called breasts and every woman has them," and we thought man, Pillows would be a great name.

Jack: We were going to be the Dirty Pillows but we just decided to go with Pillows. Lisa: I didn't know I was in a band called The Breasts.


Jack: Okay we need audience participation on this one. The Pillows begin their set with the Star Spangled Banner. I've never heard or seen people so patriotic; flags waving, fists in the air, lots of smiles. The last "Banner yet wave" held out for an eternity, followed by a pause and a "Woo!" and a "Pillows!"

RW: How do you feel about the show?

Kyle: It was a Pillows show.

Lisa: We reached our goal and we played through all the songs to the end.

Kyle: My voice is very gone, that's why I sound like, froggy now.

RW: Kyle, what about the pillow that you wear around your waste? (Kyle wears a pillow with two pointed spheres hanging from his side.)

Kyle: My pillow-pillow?

RW: Yeah.

Kyle: I'm going to fill it with potpourri as soon as I find some breast-scented potpourri.

RW: Why the cover band?

Jack: The thing is, its not a cover band at all, everything's original. I mean, anyone who plays music might know. . . God, this could take hours. I can't go there. There are no covers. Its about the way you look at the songs. Its over. Stop the tape.

The next morning Mike Wing watched as The Pillows pulled out of the driveway on their way back to Kansas City and quietly sang "Take a look at me now, there's just an empty space..." If you're in Kansas City, you must check out The Pillows. I'm not sure if they are a cover band or Robin Hoods of Rock and Roll, but they are a great band.

Published in RW #16

RW #16

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