By Jim Schutze
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Even after playing two Canadian concerts to kick off his band's 16-date tour with Supergrass, Pilotdrift's Kelly Carr is still hesitant to impose on the headliners backstage. Though the Britpop-punk stars personally selected the Texarkana five-piece as their opening act, 23-year-old songwriter Carr can't get over the fact that he's about to talk to the guys behind one of his first-ever CD purchases.
"I hope I have the opportunity to tell them how much they are musical heroes to me," Carr says during time off in Plattsburg, New York. "It is really awesome to be on tour with them. When I first started really listening to music in seventh grade, that was one of the first albums I got."
Carr and Pilotdrift have certainly come a long way from middle school, as their latest, Water Sphere, is more akin to OK Computer and Phantom of the Opera than Supergrass' In It for the Money. As they've grown, naturally, so has Supergrass, whose 2005 effort Road to Rouen is a hugely successful departure from their'90s sound.
"At first, [Rouen] challenged me, but now I completely love the record," Carr says. "I had to get used to it at first, but it's another reason to like the band. It adds another dimension."
Carr has some 12 or 13 songs already floating in his head for the next album, which the band plans to record after the tour, so it's tempting to interpret his admiration as a desire to challenge listeners even further. But short of stripping down the orchestrated bombast and multi-synth crescendos to a power trio, a band with such wildly varied songs would have few musical tricks its fans couldn't reasonably expect.
"It's kind of evident with Water Sphere that every song [on the new record] is going to be a different entity on its own," Carr says. Even he doesn't know how the songs will turn out, offering only an obvious answer for now--"It probably won't be Hawaiian rap."
Assuming the band doesn't bust out ukuleles, their momentum shouldn't slow down anytime soon, though the audience response, CD sales, marquee opening gigs and mega-support from the Polyphonic Spree's Tim DeLaughter are tempered by the fact that they still drive their own van on tour. That hasn't made it any easier to hang out with Supergrass. As of last Tuesday, they still hadn't shared beers with their musical elders and had only met two of them, Gaz Coombes and Danny Goffey. Once the meeting happened, Pilotdrift finally got to ask why they were chosen as openers.
"They said they listened to all the music [submitted by potential openers] and liked ours best," Carr says. "They were like, 'It's all about the music.'"