Idly labelling Pure Reason Revolution as a prog rock band is far too one-dimensional. As their forthcoming debut album 'Cautionary Tales For The Brave' shows, they successfully meld an amalgam of music styles to craft a timeless sound overlaid with 'to-die-for' harmonies. Three years after their formation in London, it seems the world is finally ready to tune in to the weird and mesmerising ways of PRR. Gigwise aptly caught up with the band's joint lead singers Jon Courtney, the creative force behind the five-piece, and the striking Chloe Alper about PRR's winning formula.
Undoubtedly one of the most enticing things about Pure Reason is their songs are amazingly intricate - carefully layered, meandering melodies with unexpected turns that are long and complex in structure. They marry elements of Pink Floyd prog-rock, 'Ghosts'-era Japan synthesisers, Led Zeppelin riffs and Nirvana grunge. "Weâ€™re a contemporary rock band," boasts Jon with a twinkle in his eyes. Chloe, who's refreshingly unpretentious looks at Jon and laughs: "I also refer to it as 'journey music'". That's how far their differences go.
Offstage they radiate the same disarmingly harmonious traits as their trademark late 60s American West Coast vocals. "We always said we'd sing together," says Jon. "I love harmonies and the Beach Boys, particularly Brian Wilson. When he becomes less involved, I become less involved. Heâ€™s my kinda... hero." Jon pauses. Chloe picks up the threat: "As Iâ€™m singing the lyrics Jon may be singing to get to the point he wants to get to sonically because of his harmony obsession." She laughs. "Sometimes Iâ€™d sing the lyrics as I see them printed on the sheet but he'd focus on every little vowel..." "Yeah," grins Jon, "on little nuances like 'that bitâ€™s not quite right' or 'could you sing that a bit more whiny'."
Chloe's ethereal and Jon's high Brian Wilson-esque voice imprint the band's unique harmonies. They have an intangible cathedral like quality and amplified by Jon's surreal symbolic lyrics, and become an epic journey into the world of the subconscious. Songs like 'The intention Craft' are brimming with deep and ominous lyrics: "Behind the faces & lies / The sharpened knifes are disguised /I'm veering closer to you / Desire, obsession & truth." It's hard to say how far we can or are supposed to follow them.
"I write subconsciously about snapshots of life, observations, moments, my and other peopleâ€™s experiences, dreams," Jon inhales on his cigarette. "You get a feeling for something and go to your guitar or piano. The chords come along subconsciously. You mesh together what chords sound right with the melody in your head. I'm not keen on miracle meaning, most important is what you take from it and what journey it takes you on." Chloe adds "A lot of songs are about love and stuff like this. They tap into peoples' minds and sympathy. Weâ€™ve just gone beyond those standard interpretations and have tried to search a little more into...into the less obvious."
Onstage Chloe is captivating. She exudes a beaming, polar-like stillness. With high-heel lace-up boots, a tailored silky dress, dark hair and eyes, and pale lips, she exudes a certain glamorous seventies look. Together with her vocal range, she's reminiscent of a young Grace Slick (Jefferson Airplane). Don't the boys in jeans and T-shirt look a little plain next to her? Chloe giggles: "I donâ€™t think anyone would feel comfortable dressing up like The Bravery", and looking at Jon, "weâ€™re not a trendy band, we donâ€™t fit in that scene. We've been concentrating on the music."
However, for the video of PRR's third single, 'The Intention Craft', scheduled to come out at the end of this year, the visuals will be done by Type 2 Error, who'll also be designing the live visuals for future tours. Jon usually comes "with a strong idea of what the sound should be". Again Chloe's fully behind him. "As soon as we play together it becomes the bandâ€™s 'plan'. If we didnâ€™t love it we couldnâ€™t give everything, and thatâ€™s why it works." And it does. They support the Danish hot-shots and Sony BMG stablemates MEW in July, tour the UK in September, play at the Paris Transmusicales Festival in December and have an eye on another US tour. Jon says: "Weâ€™ve got a good agent in the States now (Jonathan Levine, Monteroux Peninsular Agency). My guess is weâ€™ll go out there sooner rather than later depending on what comes up."
On September 12 in the UK and Stateside, their mini album, 'Cautionary Tales for the Brave', produced by Paul Northfield (Rush, Hole, Marylin Manson), is released. "If we do recording ourselves, weâ€™d spend ages on barely noticeable things," says Jon. "Paul would say 'donâ€™t bother' and push things ahead. We canâ€™t spend two years making an album, weâ€™re at the bottom of the ladder really." Northfield also mediated on a more person level. Chloe playing with a packet of gums says: "He helped us with our personal relationships, which is important when you make a record and you're together every day."
'The Bright Ambassadors of Morning', released in April, is possibly the most important track on the new album. "The song's a statement," Chloe lights another cigarette. "Itâ€™s twelve minutes long, which is practically unheard of these days. What weâ€™re doing is different but itâ€™s successful. It's about not setting any boundaries but keeping it accessible." Jon adds "Even though our songs are long, they still have commercial hooks. People listen to us because we stand for musical diversity. You hear influences, but weâ€™re not a Beach Boys copy."
He chuckles: "Weâ€™re like Marmite, you either love us or hate us." Chloe smiles at him: "Thatâ€™s always been my concern, but again it's accessible music, and we appeal to a broad section. We're providing a refreshing change to whatâ€™s going on at the moment, and, yeah, Iâ€™m quite proud of that."