"F**k you, I'm Bruce Soord!" Have The Pineapple Thief become rock stars?
Prog travels to Be Prog! My Friend in Barcelona for an intense one-on-one with The Pineapple Thief’s frontman Bruce Soord to discuss the contentious ‘rock star’ tag
Bruce Soord used to get terrible stage fright. The sort of crippling sense of dread and panic that partly explained why his band The Pineapple Thief only used to play a handful of gigs a year. It manifested itself as a nagging, foreboding tension deep in his stomach that only got worse as stage-time approached. It provoked the sort of existential crisis no performer wants to go through. “You think, ‘Why am I doing this? Why am I touring? Why am I going on stage?’” he says today. “It’s horrible.”
All that changed a few years ago when TPT were booked to play a festival in Germany. It was one of the biggest shows they’d played to date. “I don’t know how our agent got it,” says Soord. “It was a mainstream festival. Before we went on, there was this ‘Whooah-oah-oah’-type band playing, and everyone was into it. And we were following them with our prog rock. I was at the side of the the stage going, [puts face in hands] ‘Oh god.’ And we went on and fucked it right up. It went down like a lead balloon. Someone even threw a bottle at me. That’s the only time that’s ever happened.”
When the band came off stage, they knew something had to be done. They were booked to play another festival a couple of weeks later, and Soord knew that if that happened again, then “that would be it, it’s going to be over”. He decided to take drastic action. He decided to tap into his inner rock star.
“The next gig I went onstage and just went ‘COME ON!’ It was, like, ‘Fuck you, I’m Bruce Soord, like it or fuck off,’ rather than [apologetic voice] ‘I hope you like it.’” He smiles sheepishly. “It sounds really cheesy.”
He’s right: it does sound cheesy. But it worked. He got over his stage fright.
The thing that frustrates me is that so many people haven’t heard of us. I don’t know why that is.
Soord makes for an unlikely rock star. Sprawled on the bed of his hotel room, the day after The Pineapple Thief’s headline appearance at Barcelona’s Be Prog! My Friend festival, he looks more like a typical Englishman on holiday: stripy T-shirt, scrawny legs poking out the bottom of his shorts (although his tan is surprisingly healthy for someone who describes themselves as “a bit of a studio nerd”.) In truth, he doesn’t carry himself like a rock star either. He’s unfailingly polite and thoughtful, and always seems on the verge of apologising for something, even when there’s nothing to apologise for.
But 18 hours earlier, a rock star is exactly what Bruce Soord looked like. Onstage at the Be Prog! My Friend festival, backed by a vast screen that pulsated with colour, Soord was magnetic. Restless and electrifying, wrangling his guitar like it had a thousand volts pumping through it at any given time, this was as far away from prog’s usual introspection as it gets. His face lights up at the memory.
“When we came off that stage, we were, like, ‘Why can’t we have this more often?’ We’ve paid our dues. We’ve toured the shit holes in a crappy bus, playing to 50 or 1000 people. You’re just chipping away at the surface when you do that. But this felt like going to another level.”
Its ironic that Soord has stepped up to the plate just as his band have made an album that delves into their prog past. Where 2014’s Magnolia was a brazen and unashasmed rock record, the follow-up Your Wilderness – their 11th album – is all moods and textures. It’s a 21st century prog record for sure, but a prog record it undeniably is.
“I grew up listening to prog, but also to mainstream rock,” says Soord. “And for the last three Pineapple Thief records, we tried to crossover to rock. I think a lot of people heard it who weren’t into prog rock really loved it, but a lot of people in the prog rock world have gone, ‘This isn’t prog!’”
So has he backpedalled with the new album? He laughs.