Q&A with Blind Pilot's Israel Nebeker

Categories: Q&A
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Joseph Schell
Israel Nebeker of Blind Pilot.

Israel Nebeker is the lead singer and guitarist for Portland's own Blind Pilot, whose debut album, 3 Rounds and a Sound, has quickly launched the band into indie folk pop stardom. SF Weekly sat down with Nebeker yesterday to chat about the benefits and detriments of touring via bike versus touring via van, what it's like to return to San Francisco with a huge crop of new fans, and why a near miss meeting Snoop Dogg at Lollapalooza left Nebeker heartbroken.

Also, check out our review of Blind Pilot's show last night at The Great American Music Hall.

Welcome back to San Francisco - did you guys come down here on your bike tour?

Yeah, in fact, this was our unexpected final destination. We were trying to get into Mexico but we got our bikes stolen when we went to the MOMA. So ... this was the end. That was the very first tour, and then the second bike tour we came through San Francisco too and we played at the Mojo Bike Café -- that was a really fun show.

This time you came by van, right? Having any regrets about that?

Just that it's so boring and sucks all of the soul out of you. Our van did really well until Eugene. Everything started falling apart and nobody could figure it out. We went to all of these dealerships and mechanics and nobody could fix it. So we ended up driving here overnight. But apparently it fixed itself. A mechanic just told us, 'I can't fix it because it's not broken.' We'll see. Cars kind of suck that way.

The last time you were here you played at the Outside Lands festival - what was that like? Who were some of your favorite performers there?

It was really fun -- there was tons of good music there. There was this one reggae band from around here that I was not expecting to really like -- I mean, it's not my favorite kind of music -- but they were maybe the greatest show of the whole thing. I can't remember the name of the band, but it was awesome. I wish remembered their name. Also, Conor Oberst put on a really good show, Band of Horses ... there was lots of good stuff.


That wasn't the first festival you had played, right?

No, the first festival we played was Sasquatch. That wasn't too long ago. Since then we've played in like two or three.

So how has it been for the band to have bigger audiences and start headlining?

It's great. It's really nice to show up in cities where people come out to see our shows.

Are you working on any new stuff now?

We got a month break just before this tour and got to play around with some new ideas, but after this tour, in about two months we'll be back and home for a while. I think I'll find some isolated space to write.

Is that how you usually write? You do a lot of it on your own?

Well, we're still trying to figure out the process of this band because about three quarters of the album I wrote before we ever started calling ourselves Blind Pilot and about the other quarter I wrote while playing with Ryan, the drummer, so now that we found all of these other great musicians to play with - they're all really good musicians too - so we might try and collaborate and see how it goes.

Do you see the sound evolving as the band changes?

It's a hard thing to see because really I feel like we're just consistent. But when you listen to recordings from six months ago, it's pretty drastic to us.

So... I was looking at your band's Twitter feed and saw that you got to meet Snoop...

Yeah, I actually wasn't there. And it's really sad because - the first CD I ever bought was Dr. Dre, The Chronic, and then my second one was Snoop Dogg's, Doggy Style. So I was kind of heartbroken that I didn't get to meet him. But he was hard to meet. It was at Lollapalooza, and there were tons of musicians that are our heroes there and we'd see, like, Band of Horses just standing there in line for food or something. And then suddenly there were all of these security guards literally running through the place, telling everyone to get back, so that Snoop Dogg and his entourage - which was huge - could come through in their golf carts to get to their trailer. It was high security. Anyways, some of us got to meet him and he was really nice apparently. And very tall.

So you're not planning any Snoop/Blind Pilot collaborations?

No. No.

The music is evolving but not that much yet?

No. Not yet. Let's put a 'yet' at the end.
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