Photos by: Thomas Atkinson (@tpatkinsonphoto)
We are so stoked to kick off this week with a song and video premiere from one of our favorite acts right now, Pilot the Helm. The group is made up of 21 year old Alex Piemonte (Pie) and 23 year old Mikey Schawel out of Illinois. PTH is an amazing talent with such raw, beautiful music. Their new single ‘Places’ is beyond catchy and relatable. The lyrics describe feelings that we’ve all felt before, and they flow perfectly with the track. The hook is a major standout as it creates a smooth transition into the chorus. Overall, killer song. The video is a work of art in itself. It provides the perspective of several individuals throughout and is definitely a must-watch. We can’t wait to hear more from these super talented guys. Check out their new video and song below, plus get to know them in our interview, so you can say you were a fan before they hit it big!
When did you get started in music?
Pie: I started playing guitar at the age of 10. I would always pick up my buddy’s guitar, and I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen in my life (it still is).
Mikey: I started taking piano lessons at a really young age. I’ve been playing ever since.
Who or what really inspired your start?
Pie: I grew up listening to the Beatles. Once I became a teenager, I was super into Van Halen, Guns n’ Roses and all of the crazy guitar solos and hair metal bands. For a while, I was like, “Hell yeah, that’s what I wanna do,” so that was sort of where the dream began.
Mikey: My family was always big on music. My dad used to play the Beatles for us on an acoustic guitar when I was a young kid. I always loved it, but I never wanted to pursue it as a career until I saw Muse at Lollapalooza when I was 13 years old.
What instruments do you guys play?
Pie: I dabble on the piano, but I’m a guitarist and vocalist at heart.
Mikey: I was homeschooled growing up, so I had A LOT of time to play music. Now, as a producer, I find that playing core instruments like drums, bass, guitar and keys have all been critical to the music-making process.
What was the first song you remember recording together, and how did that come to be?
Pie: In 2015, I had written some songs while attending community college, and I was always thinking about recording them. I had known Mikey for a majority of my life, and I knew he was beginning to produce artists, so we settled on one of the songs I wrote called, “Whispers.” We produced the song and recorded it – that’s where it all began.
How did the group start?
Pie: We were really excited about how “Whispers” turned out, so I started writing more songs. Originally, I was planning on doing a solo project under my name, Alex Piemonte, with Mikey producing it. After about 3 songs into the EP we had started writing together and I was like, “Holy shit, we write amazing together.” I pitched the idea of starting a band to Mikey, and he was all for it. We finished the EP together, settled on a band name “Pilot the Helm”, and released our first EP. The rest is history.
Tell us about your new single and video ‘Places’.
Pie: After we released the first EP, we had started writing like crazy and one of the songs Mikey started writing was “Places”. This was actually one of the first songs we wrote after releasing our self-titled EP. I think “Places” encompasses a lot of the real issues that humans deal with (this one being about escapism).
Mikey: “Places” is about the places we’ve been in life and the relationships we’ve endured. It deals with the pain of being in abusive relationships and being in a place where you’re reflecting on those times. It also deals with the rawness of substance abuse and how sometimes numbing our pain actually causes more of it.
Any other new music or upcoming plans that we can look forward to?
Mikey: Right now, we’re in the process of tracking and writing a ton of new material. Simultaneously, we’re switching our focus to playing a bunch of shows we have lined up for this summer and testing out new material on new crowds.
What artists/groups inspire you guys?
Pie: Until I was 5 years old, I hadn’t really been exposed to anything else other than the Beatles (thanks to my dad). From a songwriting and music perspective, The Beatles are my number one inspiration. However, I do listen to pretty much anything that makes a sound.
Mikey: I am literally all over the place. I will put on a Skrillex record and follow it up with Keith Urban. My biggest influence in terms of songwriting is most likely Radiohead.
What’s been the best career advice you’ve gotten thus far?
Pie: Be you.
Mikey: Put yourself in a position where you are the worst musician in the band.
What’s been the most surreal moment you’ve had in your music career to date?
Pie: We’ve played a couple of shows now with 100-200 people who all know our music. There’s been one moment from each of the shows that will forever be surreal, and that’s when we’re playing one of our songs “Fire”. I stick the mic out to the crowd during the chorus and they scream every word.
Mikey: I’d have to say one of the gigs we played close to our hometown. We filled up the local bar and just received a bunch of great energy from everyone at the show.
If you could get any 2 artists to do a feature on your next album, who would you choose?
Pie: Paul McCartney and Brandon Flowers.
Mikey: Skrillex and James Blake.
What’s the most difficult part of being an up-and-coming/undiscovered artist?
Pie: Getting your music out there and staying focused on one thing at a time.
Mikey: Probably just maintaining hope that what you do will affect people in the way you want.
Do you guys play any live shows?
Pie: Yes, and we’re super excited for this summer because we have a ton of shows lined up. We have one show that we’ve announced at the legendary Rochaus on June 7th and we’ll be announcing more shows over the next few weeks on our website (pilotthehelm.com) and our social media.
What’s that like?
Pie: Indescribable. Playing your music to people and getting great feedback from the audience is the most amazing feeling in the world.
Mikey: It’s honestly sauce.
Any rituals you have before going on stage?
Pie: One shot of Jameson.
Mikey: I don’t really have a ritual yet.
What would you name your debut album if you were signed to a major record label?
Both: Fake Smile.
What do you guys like to do for fun outside of music?
Pie: I used to play hockey so I still enjoy doing that, but I just love being around friends and people in general. Oh, and anime.
Mikey: I’m obsessed with culinary. I love cooking. I also skateboard.
And last but not least, what’s one thing you want your fans to always remember about you?
Pie: Do what you love and fuck everything else.
Mikey: I want people to remember more than just the melodies and catchiness of our music. I want to open up conversations based on deep lyrics that engage peoples’ hidden feelings.