Pasadena Air Force

My Twilight Pilot. MyTwilightPilot. *MYTWILIGHTPILOT*. *MTP*. Whatever you decide to call them, they are a rock band. A moody, indie rock band, to be more specific. Yes, moody indie rock is redundant, but *MTP* is moody with emphasis. They describe their music as "atmospheric." Songs that build and fade. Songs that are long. Songs that require more focus than those of your average rock band. But *MTP* also packs some variety into its songs, so you don't find yourself listening for a while, becoming distracted by the girl next to you at the bar, and then tuning in again only to wonder whether you're hearing the same song. Well, this might happen, but the chances are good that you are listening to the same song.

"We like to think of ourselves as fairly musically literate, so we take great pride in our ability to manipulate and take liberties with the songwriting process," says Matt Jackson, official *MTP* spokescharacter. "Sometimes we'll discuss a song's overall structure before even writing a note of the music, then we draw a road map for where we'd like it to go. Other times we'll assemble songs together from disparate and completely unrelated four-track sessions taken from a week's worth of previous practices. Then we'll stitch the wholly unrelated pieces together like a quilt, just to see what will result. Sometimes we improvise for hours to come up with ten seconds of material that we like. And we'll keep that, toss the rest and start over. It's a never-ending process. We're constantly rewriting and experimenting with our songs, just to see how we can corrupt them next. No two of our songs have really been written the same way."

There. A quilt. That's a good way to describe the songs. Jackson continues: "I think it helps that we were all born with extremely short attention spans, but you can chalk that one up to the Pasadena refinery fumes."

Three of the five current *Pilots* (I might as well invent my own permutation) grew up in that smelly burb out east. These would be guitarist Jackson, singer-guitarist Matt Crow and singer-keyboardist David Hankins. And according to Jackson, Pasadena made a pretty big mark on them.

"It's hard growing up directly across from a refinery town: constantly living in the shadows of the immense, tangled and towering spires of the aging refinery plants. It's just all so otherworldly that it's hard not to be inspired or influenced by it -- especially since eventually you just accept it as normal."

Imagine, if you will, the somewhat shorter versions of Jackson (in his case, much shorter), Crow and Hankins on the playground, possibly hanging from the monkey bars, maybe slightly short of breath from years of inhaling petrochemical refinery by-products. Got that scene? Now imagine them talking about how they want to grow up to make quilt rock. From the outside, it doesn't seem likely, but these kids would grow up to do just that. And it's not just that they don't sound like they're the products of Pasadena. Some don't even think they could be from Houston. Jackson again: "We've had fans come up to us after our shows and ask where we're from, or where the next stop on our tour is. I've actually had to pull out my driver's license on occasion to convince someone that, yes, truly, we are from Houston."

And Houston is where they formed. "Only one of us still lives in Pasadena, but we all still consider it our home," says Jackson. As with any current band from Houston, *MTP* is the product of dozens of other bands. But the *Pilots* are much more reluctant to talk about their musical past than they are their geographical one.

"All of us collectively have played in countless local bands throughout the years -- too many to name, actually," Jackson says. "And don't even ask, because we're not gonna tell. Suffice it to say that we've all grown up heavily influenced by the local Houston music scene."

What he will tell you is that *MTP* has added a couple of non-Pasadenans to the mix. Drummer Jimmie Zarate hails from Houston. Bassist Major Miller comes from San Diego, which as you probably know is in another state altogether. That's a long way to come.

"Nobody is too sure how this happened," says Jackson. "But we're impressed with the enormous faith he's shown by moving here. He's a tremendous talent, and comes from a fine lineage of other indie rock bands in the greater San Diego area -- none of whose names we're planning on telling you about."

Fine. Maybe he'll tell us about the asterisks in the band name?

"We can't tell you that."

What they can tell us is that *MTP* has an upcoming EP of material it recorded last year. It's called 555 after a local death cult, which *MTP*, well, doesn't want to talk about. And it's only four songs long, but since these are long songs (one clocks in at 11:17), more would be overkill. They have put only enough material on the EP that a listener would want to hear in one sitting, which is a good thing. And an unusual thing by Houston band standards, which typically dictate that a band put every song in its repertoire on a release, since it might very well be the last.

555 starts off with "Their Sleeping Endeavors," a slow, piano-based song, complete with moody, reverb-soaked guitars and lots of starts and stops. It's a remnant of the Radiohead disease that infected many Houston bands a few years ago -- for a while, you couldn't turn around without running into other patients in St. Yorke's Hospital such as Secret Sunday and Coterie. For the most part *MTP* has recovered, so the comparison is less obvious, but there is still the occasional lyric like "I'm just a guy, chewing on a wire" that's torn from Yorke's songbook. Here's where variety works in their favor again. As the EP progresses, the songs become less derivative so that when you finally get to "Main Theme from 'Smoking Gun,' " a song that laments a cheating partner instead of nonspecific angst, all you hear is *mytwilightpilot*.

555 will be released in August by New York's Feel Records, a label owned and run by Brady Brock, a former Houston resident and longtime friend of the band. Here's a little secret the band won't tell you, but I will: Jackson and Brock were both in a band called the Grimple Twins a few years ago. But remember, just don't tell them you read it here.

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Justin Crane