The sound of Madison-based band Pale Young Gentlemen may sound perfectly at home in a German brew house, but, today, sitting in Espresso Royale, Mathew and Michael Reisenauer choose coffee as their beverage of choice.
?Um, it was fun, it was good,? says Mike of the band?s album review on Pitchfork between sips of his steaming hot coffee. ?I think it was fairly fair about the review and all that stuff. We weren?t happy when we first read it. We?ve always got high expectations, and it was our lowest review that we?d gotten from any other review site.?
But it seems fair to insist that Pale Young Gentlemen, formed almost three years ago with the Brothers Reisenauer and Brett Randall, actually has cause for celebration ? a standard record review on Pitchfork usually receives far lower than the band?s 6.9 record rating.
Still, this local septet?s most impressive feat lies not in its relatively high rating, but mostly in its ability to make its way onto one of the most revered indie music review vehicles of our time.
And it?s apparent during their interview that the band isn?t sweating the review score too heavily.
?What it comes down to is, it?s just one person, it?s just one writer,? says Matt. ?I think a lot of people think of Pitchfork as this cohesive unit that thinks about things all together, as one. I don?t know, you?ve got to think of it like? it just wasn?t exactly what we wanted, but it still wasn?t terrible. It was a good review.?
?It really spikes your MySpace hits,? adds Mike with a laugh.
What undoubtedly attracts these listeners the most to Pale Young Gentlemen?s sound is their style of Eastern European indie-folk. Blending influences from violin-touting Andrew Bird to the storytelling stylings of The Beatles, the two Reisenauers sitting before me confidently assert that their utilization of classical instrumentation is what distinguishes them from their contemporaries.
?A lot of groups use cello and things like that, but it?s a lot more atmospheric, kind of like, maybe you don?t even notice you?re hearing it kind of thing,? Mike says. ?I think that?s something that really separates us sound-wise.?
Still, many music critics continue to pigeonhole the band into categories with groups like Beirut and Coldplay.
?Individually, like, the Coldplay reference, I think it?s just kind of how my voice was sounding going in my falsetto, kind of thing,? guesses Mike.
?And you play piano,? adds Matt with the slightest of smirks.
?Yeah, and there?s piano,? agrees the singer, taking another sip of coffee and adding, ?I can see where people are coming from in that. I don?t know; it doesn?t bother me really. I guess it did bother me when I first heard it, and I was like ?What?!? ? There are so many people out there that obviously haven?t heard of us, and how else are you gonna do it? how else are you going to keep the music interesting as a writer, from the writer?s standpoint, if you aren?t making those comparisons? You know, everyone gets all kinds of comparisons, you know? I think it?s just a tool they use to make things easier for the listener or the reader.?
Although Mike notes that he?s settled his unease with this comparison, he?s also quick to add that the band is heading in a new direction with their forthcoming album, losing the piano but also adding a viola, a violin and ?some bells.?
?There?s gonna be more strings, obviously,? notes Mike. ?It?s gonna be more folky, I think, and a little less rock sing-y.?
But it?s not only about the instrumentation for this group, something Mike makes very clear about their next record release.
?The music, especially on our next album, has to follow the lyrics, know what I mean?? the singer asks, leaning forward in his chair. ?The difference is in how you listen. I would say that there are people that just listen to lyrics, like, that?s really their thing. And there are people that don?t listen to them at all, and I was that way for a long time. But? writing it, it kind of happens at the same time.?
Fans can also witness this lyrical prowess during the Pale Young Gentlemen?s live performances ? the next of which takes place this Friday evening at the High Noon Saloon ? which the band members continuously insist over their now-empty cups of coffee are highly energetic and not to be missed.
?When we plan a set, a lot of the songs tend to get more intense live,? claims Matt. ?I don?t know if that?s because we want them to be more intense for the audience or ? ?
?We just wanna rock out,? Mike cheerfully chimes in.
This interview with Pale Young Gentlemen is the first in the Spot On series, a collection of profiles of Madison-based artists.