A strong and confident indie record that is not indie-cisive | Not an Island by Pyramid Park
Pete McAllen is the creative force behind Pyramid Park and we chatted to him recently for a feature on the May edition of the Cathedral Music Podcast, to chat about his latest record Not an Island.
Listening through this record takes me on a musical journey which is decorated with tastes from some of my favourite artists. The vocal delivery emanates an impression that could be comparable to the legendary Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie, the punchy quirky guitars carry some of the distinguishable indie tones of a Two Door Cinema Club track and you wouldn’t be surprised to find some of the big driving outros on a record written by The Amazons. Regardless of wherever he is deriving his influences from, Pyramid Park is confidently fusing them together to create his own identifiable blend, stepping forward with his strongest record to date.
This is McAllen’s third record and his second under the identity of Pyramid Park. When we met up with him, he reflected on how the process of writing and producing records has changed over the course of the three projects. I Hear Your Voice “was the album of finding out my strengths and weaknesses. Vulnerability felt like, Ok, this a new thing. And [Not an Island] is now, I know what I am doing. This is the direction I am heading."
"It’s very easy to skirt around subjects and allude to things, but when you say things direct as I have quite a lot on this project, people can say “Ooo has he lost his faith?”
The confidence he refers to is clear on this record, not only in the big, energetic and impressive musicality of indie tracks such as You Know/I Know, Never Let Me Down and Stairway, but also the confidence to venture into some deep subjects which can be uncomfortable to navigate. He boldly attacks his battles with feelings of envy, bitterness, jealousy and judgement, so evidently that he actually names two of the album tracks after those emotions.
In addition to this, McAllen also uses this record to process some honest reflections on faith. In Never Let Me Down he sings about “drowning in the cycle of doubt” and in Bright Hands he comments that “Faith lies in hospitals”. When one begins their musical journey in a church context, it can be difficult to venture ‘off-piste’ away from the romantic clichés that are expected from Christian musicians. Pete shared that “most songs have been harder to write. It’s very easy to skirt around subjects and allude to things, but when you say things direct as I have quite a lot on this project, people can say “Ooo has he lost his faith?”.
The reality is far from it. Asking the difficult questions and processing it through music can bring maturity and with maturity comes clarity of calling, something Pete is assured of when it comes to the purpose of Pyramid Park. “It is all worship, it’s just a different process of worship… I really do believe that every one of these songs can carry the presence of God, it just may not be that obvious. Sometimes that can have more power in a context that is not a worship context and, sometimes [even] in our sung worship contexts. Maybe that’s a bit of a heretical thing to say but my passion is to lead people in worship who don’t even know they’re being led in worship.”
This record has successfully transitioned Pyramid Park into the sphere in which he wants to be found.
The title track, Not An Island, is a track that stands out on the record for its euphoric chorus, as its anthemic nature provides a communal moment that we can all gather around. Pete reflected on how this song is distinctly different to the rest of the tracks as it doesn’t carry any weighty themes, it is just a moment of happiness. McAllen described that “the song is about unity; it’s about how we need each other and how we need each other more than we think we do.”
Whilst releasing an album in the height of a global pandemic is in no way an ideal scenario, the message behind this song seemed to carry a timely significance as many people around the globe found themselves isolated from society, existing in their own little islands. McAllen revealed that the decision to name the project Not an Island was done so at the 11th hour as it was the only idea that worked. I might propose that it is because the message behind this song is the pivotal and conclusive theme that runs through the core of the record, and not least because the track is placed at the half-way point in the tracklist. We are all plagued with the real and understandable challenges of envy, bitterness, doubt and faithlessness, but this anthemic refrain is a reminder that there is a hope, we are not islands suffering alone, but we are a community of people who are stronger together.
This record has successfully transitioned Pyramid Park into the sphere in which he wants to be found, evidenced by the fact the PR company he worked with had no idea he was Christian they just loved and connected with his music, which is the biggest compliment he could be paid. These big impressive sounds on the album are strong enough stand up in, and fill, the context of bars, clubs and concert halls, while the vulnerability of the intimate tracks are real enough to create an authentic connection with any listener, regardless of their background.