Interview: WISDOM OF CROWDS – “I Can Only Take Inspiration From The Darkness, But I Can’t Bear Music To Be Overwhelmingly Bleak”

Interview: WISDOM OF CROWDS – “I Can Only Take Inspiration From The Darkness, But I Can’t Bear Music To Be Overwhelmingly Bleak”

Wisdom Of Crowds made a huge impact on the progressive scene this year with their eponymous début album.

The project is a duo formed of Bruce Soord (The Pineapple Thief) and vocalist Jonas Renkse (Katatonia). Together, they have produced an album which is startlingly vivid. It’s experimental, but never loses focus, imaginative and catchy, and is a record which is sure to be hitting many people’s ‘Top 10′ album lists of 2013.

Wisdom Of Crowds Album Review

We talked to Bruce Soord about their upcoming tour, the response to the album and polar bears:

Firstly, it strikes me that you both must be extremely busy, since you’re both a part of other major acts. How did you find the time to record Wisdom Of Crowds, and was it a struggle to arrange a touring schedule together?

Life is pretty damn hectic at the moment, Jonas and I are both working on new album projects but luckily we managed to squeeze in a short tour. Tracking the album was a different matter though. I’d been working on it for over 4 years so the project was pretty much complete, minus any vocals. Which Jonas duly delivered thank goodness!

There has been a hugely positive response to the album. Are you pleased with its success?

I was really surprised at the critical reaction. Collaborations and ‘side-projects’ quite often fall into obscurity, but it was soon evident that this project might have legs.  We’ll see once we finish the tour! 

You have played as Wisdom Of Crowds at KScope’s 5th anniversary show in July. I believe that this has been your only live performance so far?

Ha yes, we were flying by the seat of our pants at that show.  But it went well enough to prove it would work.  It would have been a shame if that was the only live WoC show.

Are you looking forward to finally taking the project on tour?

Getting in my bunk and getting on the road, I can’t wait. I can finally have some rest! It’s going to be great fun and I’m looking forward not to have to be the front man for a change.

Who is in your live band?

The live band is actually The Pineapple Thief minus our bass player as most of the bass comes from our fat synths. Keith Harrison no longer plays with TPT, so Daniel Osborne who played at the Kscope gig is now in charge of the drums for both WoC and TPT.

How would you describe Wisdom Of Crowds to someone who has never heard the album?

Rock music with big beats and fat synths.

The record itself has some very interesting electronic moments, and I drew comparisons with the starkness of Burial and the psychedelia of Shpongle in my review – are you interested in electronic music, and if so, how did it guide your crafting of the record?

I’ve always been interested in electronic music, especially when it fuses with rock. Bands like Chemical Brothers, Prodigy and Depeche Mode.  But also other scenes, like the Bristol trip hop scene when Portishead was king.  Also we were really into the Ninja Tune stuff that was coming out in the late 90s.

The music is often very downbeat, but I think there’s also a sense of comfort and catharsis – something that’s quite uplifting, about the record. Do you think this is the case, and how did you achieve this?

I can only take inspiration from the darkness, but I can’t bear music to be overwhelmingly bleak.  Ever since I started writing songs, I needed there to be light, no matter how faint so I would seek it out.

You’ve taken your name from the proposed phenomena of the wisdom of the crowd – that a collective group answer to a question is often as accurate, if not better, than that of a given individual’s. Do you think that this is comforting, or does it worryingly undermine the idea of individual’s autonomy?

Exactly that – who knows?  I’ve stopped worrying about my sense of ‘self’. As a kid, I would frantically agonise about existentialism but you know what, I really don’t care anymore.  Life is too short, that much is known.

If you were “stuck in the frozen north”, what would your survival strategy would be?

Ha, good question. I think I would take out my light sabre, cut open a polar bear and live inside it’s guts for a few weeks, until summer came.

If you could bring in another musician to the project, to form a trio – who would it be and why?

It would have to be Beck. I think his crazy lo-fi beats, synths and dance moves would fit in perfectly. I’ll call his manager now!

Looking to the future; will Wisdom Of Crowds be releasing more material? I hope so, and I don’t think I’m the only one!

I hope so too! I think it’s highly possible there will be another WoC. But in what century, I’m not sure.

The first album took quite a long time to put together; do you think that follow-up material would take as long to produce?

It really depends when ideas pop out but I am hoping it won’t take another 4 years.  I’m pretty fast in the studio, when an idea has legs it doesn’t take long to come to fruition.

Have you got any more touring plans for 2014? Festival appearances, perhaps?

Not at present but we’re hoping to make a few festivals next summer.

Thanks again, and I’m really looking forward to catching the performance in London!

Cheers, see you there!

Update: Read the review of Wisdom Of Crowds’ performance at the Jazz Café in London here.