Picture this: It’s 1999, you’re in Somerset England and you’re having a slow day. There ain’t enough cider left and even if there was, it’s raining anyway and you got work tomorrow. Metal and rock are going through a strange phase, a period of experimentation and things like Nirvana and Iron Maiden releasing the X Factor… whatever that was. Suddenly, you decide to put pen to paper and throw some ideas around. Maybe get some of your feelings down, ya know? Cut to now and you’re twelve albums into one hell of a career, unbelievably established with a unique and trademark sound, touring the world with your band. You’re Bruce Soord, and that band is The Pineapple Thief.
The Pineapple Thief (TPT) were the brain child of the progressive savant and still frontman that is Mr. Soord. With his soft and emotional vocals, axe wielding Soord was an unassuming chap in the early years, even to the point of maybe needing a cheeky stiff drink to conquer the stage fright. Go figure! You certainly don’t see that when they play nowadays- he brings an attitude and a presence all his own, something I suppose it takes time to develop when stage presence is secondary to the music; quite charming, actually.
Jon Sykes (not the Whitesnake guy, the other one) brings some delicious bass to the mix, with Steve Kitch laying out some melody and discord on the keyboard, and the monumental Gavin Harrison, who you may remember from his time serving King freakin’ Crimson and Porcupine Tree laying out the drums, bringing together a smorgasbord of power talent and a melting pot of musical variety.
The early years of TPT sound like an outlet for something which doesn’t quite know what it wants to be, bringing with it pure emotion; the essence of prog, the essence of progressive sound personified. The first studio album “Abducting the Unicorn” (later re- mastered and re-titled Abducted at Birth), released on the Cyclops label, was experimentation done right. So right. Even down to the track list. Covering everything from existential dread to self-autonomy, with the exquisite riffs of ‘Whatever You Do, Do Nothing’ to the highly post-prog, almost concept sounds of ‘Nobody Leaves This Earth’ and ‘Parted Forever’, the album seriously sets a high bar. And you know what? Good. This high bar did a wonderful thing to TPT: Their sound evolved.
After the success of their first album, they went on to produce seven albums on the Cyclops label. ‘Variations on a Dream’ (TPT’s third studio album) was an absolute progressive blinder. I adore it- everything from start to finish is a masterclass in evolving sound, in progressive rock and song writing. It all starts with ‘We Subside’, a mellow introduction to a focused sound, then brings the trancey, almost psychedelic sound of ‘Resident Alien’ before sucker punching you with the concept style, hard-prog likes of the ‘20th-27th’ (you’ll know what I mean…). Melody, strong riffs and deep lyrics are aplenty- something that it’s clear from their early stuff they wanted to bring to the scene, and my god, did they. They developed a strong, loyal following whilst on Cyclops, before consistently topping its sales charts and moving on to bigger, fresher pastures new.
Kscope (Tesseract, Steven Wilson, Porcupine Tree) was to be their new destination, having thus far released six albums on their new label. Starting with the likes of ‘Tightly Unwound’, TPT wanted to make a statement with their PROGression into bigger challenges and a new, wider musical world. Like a fine wine, as time went on and the deep lyricism of TPT was met with complex, smooth and sometimes sinister riffs as the band embarked on its journey to find its “sound”. You listen to ‘Lay on The Tracks’ and move on to ‘My Bleeding Hand’ you traverse not just decades but whole god damn genres. You move between sounds, feeling what went into creating them and listening to the process.
Eventually, TPT revealed arguably what has become their trademark sound. No longer reserved for the prog underground, no longer having their music reviewed as and when it came out, TPT revealed a sound with the advent of their signing to Kscope that was very much their own: You’re listening to The Pineapple Thief. You’re listening to serious, hard-line progressive artists, with their own serious, hard-line progressive sound. I mean, to be fair Soord always had a unique voice and the mellow softness of their early material was a welcome deviation to the experimental concept stuff going on at the time, but as Soord has attested, their journey was one of exploration, emotion and experimentation, and their trademark bittersweet, soft/hard sound was finally realised with their journey from Cyclops to Kcope.
It’s no wonder TPT are moving from strength to strength, year after year. Naturally, it’s a wonder any tracks are agreed upon with such a diverse and strong foundation of talent, but Soord and the guys were weary of that, telling Kscope : “It’s been a real collaborative journey between the 4 of us writing and recording this record”. It shows. The band has matured and have stuck to their roots of producing musical experiences in their song writing, exploring deeply existential and psychological themes, whilst actively focusing the essence of what is TPT’s sound and focusing a little more flare and enjoyment into their live performances and tours.
Speaking of tours, TPT have some massive accolades to brag about. Appearing next to the likes of Ian Anderson, Rival Sons, Steven Wilson, Opeth and Marillion, TPT have truly show their versatility in the prog world and their status as a serious presence in the scene, playing shows across Europe, the US and Canada. Their latest album offering, ‘Dissolution’ is bringing with it ANOTHER 17 date (so far!) European headline tour, because one simply isn’t enough to satisfy the prog world’s growing hunger for that sweettihg Pineapple Thievery, identifying TPT as the absolute British Prog behemoth that they are. On top of all that, this year TPT will be HEADLINING HRH Prog VIII, at the amazing and new Shepherds Bush Empire no less, alongside the time-honoured Uriah Heep and some classically British prog rock Caravan style.
These guys have said as recently in interview as 2016 that they’re still in the Prog underground. If that’s the case (and it’s wildly debatable to say the least) then it’s almost like they shouldn’t break into the prog mainstream. What even is that? It sounds like somewhere people go to queue up and kiss Neil Peart’s ass … they have a uniqueness and charm and are by all account’s neck deep into a successful, thriving career. They are headlining festivals, selling out European tours, still creating fresh and honed progressive music and carving an epic legacy. Hell, couldn’t it even be said that the prog underground IS the prog mainstream? If you can produce music of monumental quality and maintain that cult presence, you’re winning at the prog rock game as far as I’m concerned. If this is the progressive underground, then the progressive underground is exactly where you want to be.
The Pineapple Thief co-headline HRH Prog VIII this coming October – tickets here : www.hrhprog.com