Tell Me About That Album: Heart Beats Pacific

The story behind one of 2011's best punk records.

Before the Minnesota quartet Banner Pilot brings its Jawbreaker-influenced brand of Midwestern punk to the Funhouse on Friday, Jan. 27, we caught up with bassist and primary songwriter Nate Gangelhoff, who gave us the story behind the band's third LP, Heart Beats Pacific—one of last year's best punk-rock records.

SW: Were there particular records you listened to a lot when writing Heart Beats Pacific?

Gangelhoff: Yeah, I was listening to a lot of, like, British indie rock, like Johnny Foreigner and Los Campesinos!, and more indie stuff like Archers of Loaf a little bit. Not a ton of outright punk stuff. We're called a pop-punk group most often, but I don't really listen to pop-punk stuff anymore.

How do you decide which songs make the cut for an album? Is it a democracy?

I think it's pretty democratic. For Heart Beats Pacific, I wrote, like, 80 ideas, and obviously 70 of them didn't go anywhere. So if I bring in something that sucks, we'll just shelve it and move on to something else. I'd say we're in total agreement by the end of the album that these are the 11 songs that were best.

The record seems sort of cold and lonely, conjuring a Midwest winter. Was that your state of mind when you were recording it?

I totally agree that that's what the sound reminds me of. Most of the songs, and I think all of [guitarist Nick Johnson's] lyrics, were written over the winter, and I think last year was probably the worst winter in Minnesota of my entire life. It was just brutal, a lot of snow for months, really cold, really shitty. So it kind of makes sense that it would seep into the lyrics.

You guys go full-bore for the entire record. Have you considered adding an acoustic song to the mix, or some different textures?

We tried some other stuff, but the main thing we try and do when we're doing something like that is take a step back and say "Is this actually good?"

We had one song that was in 6/8 time and had a way different feel to it, and another that wasn't acoustic but had very quiet guitar. At first it was like, "Hey, this is really cool, we've never done something like this before." And we played for about a month, and we were like, "Well, is that actually any good?" And in both cases they weren't very good songs.

So I think we try and be our harshest critics. I don't want to force ourselves to do something new just for the sake of doing something new.

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