HeartbeatInk Tattoo Magazine had a Valentine's date with Kylesa! HeartbeatInk had the chance to interview and photograph the "heavy" and easy - going Savannahians before their gig in Athens on the 14th of February. Kylesa spoke about the relation between musicians and tattooists, their tattoo adventure in Japan, the Kylesa tattoo that some members of the band share and their music. 


Laura Pleasants: vocals, guitars
Phillip Cope: vocals, guitars
Carl McGinley: drums
Chase Rudeseal: bass
Eric Hernandez: drums

Phillip when did you first get tattooed?

Phillip: I got my first tattoo when I was nineteen. I got them in different places. I think most of my tattoos – I have eight - are by Chris Parry (“Pain and Wonder Tattoo”). He's worked at various places throughout the years. He's a good friend and we were on a band together early on, called “Damad”. One of my favorite tattoos is actually one that several Kylesa members over the years have shared. Laura has it too. Jeremy Clark designed it; the skull – chess piece. It's on my leg.

What's the concept of that particular tattoo?

Phillip: It came from a design that we were telling Jeremy we originally wanted for a shirt design. I think we just made patches for it. And we just decided that it would be a cool thing for us to share and have on ourselves.

So it's like a “branding” of your band Kylesa?

Laura: You can say that. It's a good “buddy” tattoo that we got at the end of our tour back in 2005. Basically we just liked the drawing. It's like a king rapped up into a chess piece.


Phillip what's the story behind your “Savannamals” tattoo?

Phillip: That is something that a lot of original musicians from the area share. We all had a reputation for partying really hard back then and people around town would call us “Savannimals” (laughs). So we decided that that would be a good tattoo and a lot of us from the scene got it. The original one is on Jonathan Athon from “Black Tusk” and I have the second one. You can tell that ours are the more “original” because Athon's accidentally got misspelled (ed. instead of “Savannimals” it says “Savannamals”) when he got it done, so I decided to get mine misspelled too on purpose (laughs).

It appears that you enjoy “sharing” your tattoos, in opposition to the Western mentality where people often get tattooed in order to underline their individuality?

Phillip: Actually I have another “shared” tattoo from the band called “Damad” that I was in before Kylesa. So I am definitely into that! I think you can get all different kinds of tattoos. It really depends on what you personally want. For me, I definitely don't have a particular thought pattern about it that I stick too. Sometimes it’s just a lot of “last minute”; I don't even put much thought into it, while I have put a lot of thought into some other tattoos of mine.



Laura was the “Black Flag” tattoo your first one?

Laura: Yeah. I was sixteen when I got it and that's why it is in that area, so my parents wouldn't see it. And then it wasn't until I became eighteen that I got another tattoo. I've just kind of slowly done them over the years. I've never been in a rush and I'm glad because I got a tattoo when I was eighteen that I don't really like now. I am planning to finish my other sleeve over the next couple of years and do a big back-piece and then maybe have something on my rib cage.



Is there perhaps a certain tattoo style that you prefer?

Laura: My skin takes colour really well so I like the way that colour looks on my skin. I like a lot of different styles. I enjoy some New School stuff that I've been seeing; lately I follow a lot of tattoo artists online. I've been really into stippling, geometric tattoos, and more abstract stuff. I don't have any of that but I'll probably get some. Personally I'm not a big fan of flash tattoos, although I have some. I like custom tattooing. My favorite tattoos have been done by Ricky McGee at “Anonymous Tattoo”. I like what he has overall given me. He's talented. Sometimes over the years I've gotten tattoos just to get tattoos because a friend was going to do it for free. And then later on I'll be like “hm... it's cool I guess”. But that's part of it. Tattoo is a documentation of a point in time in your life. I can remember a lot of what was going on in my life just by placing each tattoo in my memory.





Chase what's your “relationship” with tattoo?

Chase: I'd say that I have about twelve tattoos; one big piece and then a few smaller ones on my legs. I was eighteen when I got my first tattoo done; ten years ago.

Do you mainly get tattooed in Savannah where you live or also while being on tour?

Chase: I have a couple of friends that tattoo me on tour. But I usually go locally at “Anonymous Tattoo”. I've been going there since the beginning.

Are you more into Black & Grey tattoos?

Chase: Actually I like both. I've just decided to keep the arm Black & Grey, just to be consistent. I have colour on my legs. I enjoy Old School and Woodcut tattoo style and minimal colour; just accented on certain parts.




Why do you think that the majority of rock & metal bands have tattoos?

Laura: Cause they quit their day jobs (laughs). Maybe because tattoo is an expression. Music is also an expression, along with art. So it makes sense for a lot of people in the rock world to be tattooed. Even though it is a bit cliché, it's still very much a part of the culture.

Phillip: I think what Laura says is right and to explain that a little further; for me personally a lot of friends who helped me along the way are also tattoo artists. There's all kinds of different people in the scene, not just the musicians, and tattoo artists are a big part of that. They're listening to music all day long while they're tattooing. I think they're inspired by music and we can be inspired by them too; from their talent and where they get it. It's all part of the same community and that's probably why you see so many people in bands with tattoos.

Chase: Phillip said it so well (laughs). There isn't so much to elaborate! I love music and everyone I saw growing up and learning to play music had tattoos as well. I took an interest in it and thought I want to get tattooed one day. And then you start and you can't stop.

Phillip: You have to ask those guys about their tattoos (ed. he shows Carl and Eric). Eric has a very interesting tattoo from Japan.

Then why did they keep them to “themselves” in the photo-shoot (laughs)?

Eric: I was probably sleeping (laughs). Well we were on tour in Japan with this Japanese band and their friend was a tattoo artist and he had tattooed all of them.

Laura: I was also tattooed along with Eric.

Phillip: It was weird because they didn't speak English that well and we didn't speak Japanese. So it was kind of a crazy communication... The guy was willing to do it right on the spot; to hook it up and work through the night until he was too tired to do it. It was very cool.

How then did you actually manage to communicate what sort of design to get?

Laura: Mine was really easy. I just said traditional cherry blossoms because I was in Japan.

Eric: He kept asking me what I wanted. And I said a sword or something (everyone laughs). This is a sword and this is the dharma symbol; it's like a good luck thing. But he just did it randomly and he was like “here you go” and I was like “cool”. Before our session we were all eating dinner and I asked him how much he charges for a tattoo. And he answered “for you free”. And I was like let's go! We had the day off and we were in Kyoto to see the temples, and we all drove to Osaka where his tattoo shop was. We got there like at midnight.

Carl what's the story of your ink?

Carl: I got all my tattoos when I was eighteen and I haven't got one since then. It's all doodles I drew on paper when I was in school.

Phillip: So all these are doodles that you did in high – school?

Carl: Yeah.

How come you stopped getting tattooed after you were eighteen?

Carl: Cause I wasn't doodling anymore (everyone laughs). Maybe I'll do it again someday...

Laura: We gotta get another Kylesa tattoo done!


Laura, how is it to be a heavily tattooed woman in your everyday life?

Laura: Sometimes I forget that I am heavily tattooed. I just don't think about it. It can be funny; I went into a bank one time to try to get a loan and I totally dressed like super preppy and covered all my tattoos and had this sweet conversation with the lady. She goes “what do you do”? And I tell her that I am a musician and she said “I never would have guessed. You came here looking so preen and proper”. I then said that I can cover it up well.

For both sexes, sometimes when you have tattoos it can cause assumptions about who you are, just because you are tattooed and this is a bit unfortunate. Like you must be a biker, or you must be kinky, or you look like you just got out of prison. That kind of stuff.

Do those stereotypes still exist in the US?

Laura: It depends.

Chase: For sure in smaller towns.

Laura: Even if most of them have gone away and tattoos are accepted nowadays and sort of mainstream, there's still a bit of social “stigma”.  

Has your gender perhaps ever being an issue in the scene?

Laura: Not really. It's hard to compare it to anything else, just because I have nothing to really compare it to. It's not like I know what is like it to be a guy in a band. I've never really thought about it too much. Some of the stereotypes are there and sometimes the sexism is there even if it's not talked about. I just do what I do and I leave it at that. This is a “tired” question. I get asked this a lot...

Phillip: For years now. I can remember Laura answering that question ten years ago.

Well it's kind of “normal” to ask that. The heavy music scene is dominated by dudes and moreover in Laura's case, femininity is not intentionally projected as part of the band's “promotion”. She's just being herself playing her music.

Laura: That's true. That's never been my agenda.

Phillip: I think for what we're doing though, it's probably one of the friendlier scenes to women. There have been a lot of women over the years – well nowhere near as many as men – in a band kicking ass. Laura is definitely one of those women. She is also one of the women that have helped pave the way for younger women. Since then, a good portion of bands I've played had women and a good portion of bands I've produced also had women in. The thing that I've noticed is that the women on the scene get respect because they've earned it. They don't ask for special treatment. They don't command. They don't objectify themselves. They want to be treated as equal musicians. And I think that a lot of dudes in the heavy music scene, at least in the stoner and doom scene, they understand and support that – for the most part. There's always going to be that odd dude who's just a dick, but he belongs in the minority. We want women at shows.

Laura: We're definitely happy to have women in our audience.


As far as you latest album “Ultraviolet” is concerned, it appears to be a bit different from your previous ones. Tell me about it.

Phillip: There wasn't a huge plan on my part. It's just what came out. We do that with every album. We just start writing. We don't filter ourselves too much. It's an honest and true album. All our records are personal for Laura and me. We both put a lot of that into the music. I think that “Ultraviolet” may be a little more brutal and raw. I think that there're some things from both of our parts that just putting them into music while we're in the studio was very intense. We had to kind of open up emotionally a little bit and it's not something that you do on a regular basis. There's a darker element to it, because there was a darker set of emotions.

How do you guys choose which songs each of you sings?

Phillip: It's pretty easy. If I'm writing a song, I kind of know when I'm writing a part where I feel I'm appropriate and where I would like Laura to sing. I kind of write with her a lot in mind. I think, for a couple of her songs in this album, it needed to be more her. It was so personal that I just needed to back her up and not be in the forefront. It's not an argument. It's not who's doing what. It's just what's important for the song.

Laura: Honestly, it's been different with every single record, as far as who sings what and where. At this point we don't have to put much thought into it.

Phillip: We're open to each other’s' ideas. If Laura comes to me and says I would like you to try this, I' m “ok” and she generally is ok as well. It works for us.

Why did you decide to have two drummers in Kylesa's composition?

Phillip: Originally it was just to be heavier. We actually wanted to start it form the beginning and it didn't work out. But as time went on Laura and I were using a bunch of amps and we were playing smaller shows then and everybody was always complaining that they couldn't hear the drums. It was a simple idea to begin with, but as time went on we realized that a lot more can be done with it. These two especially (ed. Carl and Erci) have done a great job.

Eric: It's fun to play with multiple drums and crew with another drummer. You need to synchronize. It's like playing with a guitar or a bass player, he's just playing drums instead of one of those instruments. You can play a whole song together, learn parts and come up with cool stuff. I love drums!

How do you guys see the music industry nowadays?

Phillip: Music isn't going anywhere. I read an article the other day that they were trying to claim that  rock is dead because they'll never be a band as big as certain bands from the past – I don't want to mention those bands. And therefore is dying like Jazz did. Well Jazz isn't dead! There're still people that love Jazz and people that play it. There's always going to be people that will love a certain style of music. The industry may change, but people's love for playing music won't change. And I think that people will find a way to work around wherever the industry is at the time, because if you truly love playing what you're playing, you're going to figure it out. Of course you have to be realistic. So if you're planning to get into rock' n' roll right now and you want to be filling out stadiums, that's probably not going to happen. But if you love playing it and enjoying it, then you're not going to worry about that and care much about it in the first place.

Can you still make a living as a musician?

Phillip: It's not easy. Anybody telling you it is is lying. It's hard, but I don't think that should scare people from getting involved. It's not always about money. We don't make a lot of money, but we've lived pretty interesting lives, amazing experiences. We're sitting here in Athens, Greece talking to you; that's pretty amazing. There are a lot of things you can get from it besides just money.

Laura: It never seems to be easy. We need support from the fans. So buy our records (laughs) and support the scene! The truth is that we would not be here and we would not be able to survive if it wasn't for the fans. We appreciate it.  


HeartbeatInk Tattoo Magazine would like kindly to thank P90 Events (www.p90events.com) for the help and the realisation of the interview and AN Club (www.anclub.gr) for the hospitality. 

Photos & interview by Ino Mei.