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Interview with Mike Bilenki of Take Me To The Pilot

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Interview with Mike Bilenki of Take Me To The Pilot

Winnipeg’s Take Me To The Pilot has been rocking into the hearts of Canadians since their formation in 2010. The four-piece pop/rock group have seen national success touring the country on the heels of their self-titled release. With songs receiving radio and TV play, including being featured on Degrassi, the guys are ready to hit the road and pump out more hit pop tunes with a rock show styled performance. Recently, Take Me To The Pilot released a new single called “What They Ask For”. The first release since their album is soon to be followed by a music video and subsequent singles as they try to change up the typical album release cycle. The Scene Magazine’s Joey Fitzmaurice caught up with vocalist and guitarist Mike Bilenki on tour before their show at Leaky B’s in Ottawa.

Your band is categorized on iTunes as Pop/Rock. How would you describe your sound?

Well we tell people we’re a rock band that plays pop music. Our last EP came out in 2012 but we’re actually in the process of releasing a bunch of singles right now, and there’s been a big step taken into the pop world between those two releases. But when we play live it’s definitely heavier, it’s definitely a rock show. That’s sort of undeniable when you see us, but the songs are pop songs. That’s what we tell people, but we are a pop act.

What are some of the bands you guys get inspiration from? What are some of your favourite bands?

Lyrically I just like stuff that’s snappy and interesting. This is going to sound nerdy but I’m a big fan of words and language. Whenever something is either said or the sense that it’s being expressed in an interesting way or snappy way or a catchy way, the use of the language is really cool, that’s what I get drawn too.


When I write lyrics I try and make sure that they’re as interesting to me as possible, because that’s all you can do is write for yourself. As far as the band there isn’t really anything set in stone. I like to come at it from all over the map. Nothing drives me more crazy when you see a band live and you can’t differentiate the songs from each other because it’s all just so deep inside of a certain niche or genre. It’s sort of all just the same thing more or less. I try to come at every song with a little different approach. So that when a kid comes home from one of our shows, and they go, “Man that band had that sweet one song.” They’ll actually be able to go home and be able identify it correctly and be able to pick it out of a line-up. For example our song “Melody”, our last single off our last EP, was written very much in the vein of Rocket to the Moon. I remember three months ago one of the last writings sessions I did in Toronto, I went in saying I wanted to write something like Whitney Houston. Two very different artists, but one of the common lengths there is both artists are good. We just want to be good. You can take the most boring thing in the world and say it a million different ways, and you can actually breathe new life into what you say depending on how you word it. A lot of it too definitely has a lot to do with song writing. I mean you look at something like rhythmic pop, which is what’s big today, like Kesha and stuff like that. You can write her off all you want but listen to the way she words things and the way that goes with the beat, rhythm, and vibe of the song, and that’s all work. Super, super important, and that’s why I’ve always been drawn to interesting lyricists.


You went to school before starting the band, correct?

Yeah, I got my bachelor in psychology, I graduated in 2010, it’s been a while but since then it’s been about the band. It just sort of all worked out. In my last year of university we were just all starting up, really building up towards releasing our first EP and getting ourselves together live. And it just so happened, it wasn’t planned, it wasn’t a conscious thing but by the time I graduated we started playing shows locally around Winnipeg then the following September we hit the road for the first time. 

How long have you guys been a full-time touring band? 

I can’t honestly say we’re a full-time touring band, we all have jobs back home and haven’t really reached the level where we can make ends meat playing music. We are on the road between three to six months, depending on the year. So we’ve been doing that pretty much from the start. In 2010, the first time we hit the road we did about 88 dates. We tour whenever we can, and with the way we’re releasing our songs right now that’s going to allow us to do more of that. Instead of sticking to an album cycle we’ll be a little more freewheeling with what we’re doing with the singles. Being from Winnipeg its tough cause we’re so far away from everything. This country is so sweet it’s been great to see all of it. 


So it is TMTTP’s first Ottawa house show. Do you find house shows are important to scheduling a tour? Or are they just a thing that you have to do last minute because you can’t book a proper music venue in that city? 

We haven’t done a ton of house shows in the past, and I think partly that’s because you can’t find a lot of people who want to do that. It’s tough to find somebody who’s down to invite potentially many many many strangers into their homes and maybe they’re not down to risk the potential destruction that might come about. As far as house shows go, I think its like anything else man; it’s a place to play. I don’t know whether it’s even that important to distinguish between playing in a house and playing in a venue. It’s just that you get to perform and you get to have that interaction with musician and listener. I think that a house show is cool because it adds that variety. A house show is certainly unconventional, but I’ve seen some great shows in some garages, and I think if you can do it in the garage you can do it in the stadium. You gotta do it all man.


I thought you guys had a very interesting approach to crowd involvement. I read that you guys are asking for submissions for “selfie videos” of people signing the chorus to the song “What They Ask For”, where did this idea come about? 

Well its one thing to write the song, release the song, and perform the song, but what ultimately makes or breaks it is the connection the listeners make with the music, and so the idea is just re-enforcing that connection. Giving them the chance to really participate and to be apart of our story in a way that you can actually see on screen. The listeners are everything. They are 100 percent vital, without them there would be none of this or us and we just wanted to show some love.


How much longer are the fans going to have to wait until they see their faces in your video? 

I can’t give a definite answer it will be soon though. I would say the next month, month and a half or so. We are all very proud of this song, it’s the first of many singles coming out in the next little bit because we’ve decided to do it that way, instead of releasing an album, and we want to start things off right.

Why are you guys doing your releases that way? 

Well even when you release an album, it’s a single, it’s a song that everyone in the industry will tell you that makes or breaks how successful a band is during that album cycle. Rather than lump it all together we’ve decided to focus our energy, be selective, write a lot and pick a bunch of songs that we thought would be good enough to go out there as singles. Really kind of do it right without worrying about making this date or that date or how long people have been waiting. The whole time people are getting more music, rather than waiting a year or two years to hear a new album we’re releasing a new single every few months. When you’re a DIY band like us, not a lot of resources, not a huge budget it makes sense for us to do it this way. It’s like we’re financing an album rather than buying it all at once. 


Interview by Joey Fitzmaurice 

Pictures taken from Facebook


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