Words by Sean Moeller // Illustration by Johnnie Cluney // Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
Israel Nebeker, the lead singer of Portland, Oregon, band Blind Pilot makes me think often of the dangling string of a balloon bursting away from an unwilling, recently disappointed hand, racing toward the heavens as if there were a fire. The string becomes the thickness of a thread and then as thick as a period, then diminishes into nothing while the vibrant solid color of the escaping, round balloon remaining something that can be picked out of the air, still spotted up there as it nears the clouds close enough without actually getting to them. The string and its toting vessel get higher and higher in the sky, meeting with these new heights bluer and bluer colors and brighter and brighter lights, perfectly clear air.
It's this drifting, out-of-control sensation of not being able to keep itself on the ground that Nebeker and his long-time collaborator/drummer Ryan Dobrowski seem to keep insisting in their music. It's helpless and it's also enjoying the ability to just free themselves from squirming, from fighting the journey and just burying themselves in the idyllic scenery that most would pay good money to experience. The skin on your arms starts warm and quickly appreciates and shivers from the brisker temperatures that soon turn icy and that's when the goose bumps get spooked out of the temperamental covering.
Blind Pilot music is full of exhilarated weariness and the kinds of detailed insights into the subconscious and all of the other hidden regions of the mind and heart, the places that are full of whispers and the most impacting truths and discoveries. It makes you feel as if you're suffering from something pleasant or mistakenly pleasant, as if there's no real understanding about how you're supposed to feel about all of the little miseries and disappointments that are really just spices - the parts of the stories that everyone finds most interesting and provocative. The band woos us with the kinds of wounded, but walking tales of those various people who have no timetable - they're willing to just go along with the winds and find themselves in whatever place, whatever bed and home, whatever emotion that should happen to them, for whatever reason. It doesn't mean that any of it needs to be overreacted to, but instead just dealt with and observed from a sort of protective distance and with a clear head about the greater picture even if that picture is scattered and squiggly lines.
When Nebeker sings, "We were nothing more than caught up in our own lives honey, honey," it's both a good thing and a regrettable thing, as if the obliviousness and the focus are detrimental and entirely healthy, depending on who all is stuck in the web. It's possible to find oneself in a situation like this and it's possible to be lost, but there's still no substitute to getting to a point where troubles seem inconsequential and all that matters are the finer points. There's a lot of nonchalant mystery surrounding all of Nebeker's lyrics, which make up wonderful tales of people interacting and diving into each other's business in all kinds of ways, letting the results splash largely or lightly upon themselves. It's all meaningful interaction and it's growth and substance that makes a person more interesting and more worthwhile as a dinner guest, even if it's as a mysterious dinner guest, with eyes that tell so much in divulging so little.