Laura Pleasants bids farewell to Savannah

A MUSICAL BODY OF WORK

After more than 20 years in her adopted hometown of Savannah, musician Laura Pleasants is about to embark on the next chapter of her life in Southern California. 

The Greensboro, NC native is a founding member of Kylesa, a pioneering and influential metal band that infused elements of psychedelic and punk with down-tuned guitars. After 15 years of heavy touring — domestic and abroad — seven LPs, and a slew of EPs and split releases, the band when on indefinite hiatus in 2016.

Pleasants began writing her own music under the The Discussion, and in 2017 released a moody, psychedelic, Goth-flavored EP plainly titled EuropeanTour EP. 

She recruited drummer Richie Adams and Cray Bags’ Daniel Lynch to play bass and began rehearsing. The 33-date romp across the pond featured off-the-beaten path locations strategically scheduled around intermittent vacation time. 

Late the following year, tragedy struck as her partner of more than three years succumbed to cancer in early 2019. 

After stepping away from music for a while, Pleasants has been busy writing new material. With a cross-country move on the horizon, she is saying goodbye to Savannah with local shows at The Wormhole (Sept. 11), Service Brewery (Sept. 24), El Rocko (Oct. 1), and three Graveface events in October.

Connect Savannah spoke with Pleasants about her long career in music, her solo work, and what the Savannah farewell shows mean to her.

Connect Savannah:

Back in 2001 you were a SCAD senior, in-and-out of punk bands, and friends with Damad members and veterans of the scene Philip Cope and Brian Duke. How did you become a founding member of Kylesa?

Laura Pleasants:

I looked up to them, and became friends with and jammed with Philip. I was hungry to play with anyone at the time. And then I was sitting in the backyard of Phillip’s house one evening and he said “we’re gonna break up Damad and start a new band. Do you want to be the other guitar player?” And I was like, yes, most definitely.

CS:

Was there much discussion of what type of music the band would play?

LP:

No, and I didn’t really care. I just wanted to be in a band with people who are serious and who wanted to tour and put out records.

CS:

This was about the time you were going to graduate, so were you thinking about how you put all this time and effort into school and maybe not use what you went to school for?

LP:

I was dying to be in a band that toured and put out records. I wanted to get this out of my system. I was thinking, three years and then I was going to move to New York and pursue my photography career. I had some connections up there. They were telling me to come on up and I didn’t do it. And then the three years with Kylesa turned into almost 15 years.

CS:

Did you lose any enthusiasm after the second or third album when you thought you’d might have been moving on?

LP:

No, I was still so driven to play. And it’s a thing being in a band and especially a genre that is not super accessible to the public. I just wanted it to work so bad, even though we are such a weird band, but it’s like the carrot dangling there, you know, and then the cart so close, so we gotta keep going, gotta keep going.

CS:

Was there something about achieving a level of success doing very non-commercial music, perhaps to prove something?

LP:

Yes. Well, I also think it was just being a true artist, a true creative person. I didn’t want to be in a cover band, you know those bands make a lot of money, but there’s no way I would have interest in that, ever. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just not for me. 

But there were a lot of successes with Kylesa and I led a very interesting life for 15 years. I traveled the world, I met many amazing people, I’ve played some amazing shows, wrote a bunch of good songs, sold a lot of records.

I think we had our own voice and I oversaturated myself. We basically started a scene, and a scene that is now quite oversaturated. 

CS:

And by that, you mean sludge metal?

LP:

Yeah, but the whole psychedelic, down-tuned, sludgy metal. The hybrid with punk and indie rock. No one was doing that when we first started. It was just commercial suicide. 

CS:

When you weren’t on tour or recording, did you ever think, “is this is this worth it?” Or was it? Were you so focused on the art?

LP:

I was so focused on it that nothing else mattered. And so, so passionate about it for so many years. And then I would say the last three years of that band’s existence, I was done. It was like breaking up with a boyfriend that you didn’t get around to breaking up with and when you finally did it, you think, “oh that should have happened two years ago.” 

It just became more of a grind and I got tired of playing heavy music. I wanted to play other kinds. There was internal conflict, management issues. 

CS:

Was wanting to play different music a big part of it? Because you’re playing such different music now.

LP:

It was a big part of it, but there were so many things that acted together that made me finally say I’m ready to do something else, and I’m ready for it now. 

CS:

How long after the announcement was made that the band is on indefinite hiatus did you start sitting down and writing the music that was on the EuropeanTour EP?

LP:

Almost right away I started writing. I think I needed some time, just away from music in general. What was refreshing was I took all my strings off all my guitars and put lighter, normal strings on and tuned up to standard tuning. Kylesa was tuned extremely low with heavier strings. 

I’ve always been a huge, psychedelic rock and punk rock fan, a huge post-punk fan and Goth fan. It just I love all sorts of music, but I wanted to take the metal out, and all the, the harder stuff out and just focus on songwriting and going in a different direction.

CS:

Take the metal out, that’s interesting. Is the EuropeanTour EP Kylesa with the metal taken out?

LP:

Well, yes, and no. Kylesa was me and Philip writing all of the material. So, to some degree, yes, but also no because Philip didn’t write any of this. This is my solo material. So, I couldn’t necessarily say, take out the metal and then it became The Discussion. 

CS:

How did the European tour and EP come about?

LP:

I hadn’t been to Europe since 2014 and my partner at the time, Brian, had never been to Europe and I really wanted to take him. I had befriended a drummer, Richie, and he had never been either. So, we were just drinking one night I thought let’s go to Europe and I’ll record an EP. We’ll go knowing it would be half a vacation, half a tour. So that lit the fire under my ass to get the songs written and recorded.

CS:

Did you also think it was a great place to tour first?

LP:

It was because Kylesa was always bigger in Europe, and I personally have a lot of friends over there. I booked the tour myself, which I will not do again. 

CS:

You played some unusual places.

LP:

A lot of fun, strange venues, some art spaces and communities. If I wanted to go and just make a profitable tour, I would have stayed in western Europe. But I wanted to go to places like Scandinavia, eastern and central Europe, Italy, Spain. We played three shows in Greece and then we had three days off in Greece.

CS:

And what a great way to go to.

LP:

Fantastic. It was awesome. Before we left, we did one show here at the Wormhole. That was our first show and then we did a return show when we got home at the Jinx. And so, those are the only two shows I’ve played the US with The Discussion.

CS: 

When did you start writing again?

LP:

I’d been writing, but I had a really hard year in 2018, so I took a year off from playing music and didn’t write much at all. And then I started writing again summer of 2019. I’ve got an albums worth of material that I’m hoping to have recorded in the next six months.

CS:

Tell me about the upcoming live shows.

LP:

I put a brand new band together and I also have to get comfortable with my own songs again. But it’s been a lot of fun and I can’t wait to play. I’ve got Corey Barhorst [ex-Kylesa and Black Tusk] on keys, he’s been a friend for a long time. Reno from Space Coke in Columbia, SC moved here, and we met through a mutual friend. He’s playing bass. Another friend of a friend, Tanner Hamilton, is  a drummer I jammed with who agreed to join. I really want to play some shows here because even though I wasn’t born and raised here, this is my home.

CS:

What prompted the move to California?

LP:

You know, I’ve been here forever. I had a tragic loss, personal loss, and I’m ready for a change. It’s time. A lot of signs have come to me and said, it’s time. I’ve got tons of friends and some family there. So many of my friends from Savannah, from back in the day, are there.

CS:

What’s the plan?

LP:

I’m going to seriously pursue my visual career, whatever that may entail, in photography and design. 

CS:

And The Discussion, will that continue?

LP:

Yes, that’ll always be my project. I like that it’s called The Discussion because it brings in and all sorts of different people, a constant rotation, which I think is cool.

CS:

Any parting thoughts?

LP:

It’ll be fun to play these shows. Savannah has always had this scene that’s super transient due to SCAD people coming and going. 

This is a town that younger people might stay for a few years and then move on. But I spent a lot of time here and I spent a lot of time playing out here in my in my youth.

I think it could be a very long time before I play here again, so I want to get all the love in I can before I before I head out.


About The Author

Frank Ricci

Frank Ricci is a freelance writer living in Savannah, Georgia. In his career, he's contributed to many Las Vegas megaresort brands owned by Mandalay Resort Group and Mirage Resorts. He’s also worked with Dell, Root Sports Network, Savannah College of Art and Design, ad agencies in Las Vegas and New York, and a...
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