Pilot Seat: Music not aerospace

Shorewood seniors form new band

by Jade Doerksen, Editor in Chief

Three guys, one large office chair, and passion. That’s the story of Pilot Seat, a band of three Shorewood seniors, Eli Bloom, Bret Shelley, and Everett Farrand, but let’s go back to the beginning.

Bloom, Shelley, and Farrand have known each other since elementary school, but they only recently began playing music together. For each person, their journey was initially separate. 

Bloom learned to play the guitar at age 9. “The only lesson I had was when I learned how to play my first song and that was from someone who worked at my dad’s old restaurant who was a guitar player. That was all that I needed. It was just a simple three chord song, but then once I got that everything opened up,” he said. 

However, he really became dedicated to the instrument a bit before quarantine. As Bloom got more involved in it, he began to write songs. “For months and months, close to year, I just sat in my basement writing song after song. I got better at it and realized I had some good songs with a lot of potential and the main thing I wanted was for other people to work on the songs with me and play on them so I could put the songs out. That’s how I found Everett and Bret,” Bloom said. 

Like Bloom, Farrand had been playing more music around the same time. “I picked up the bass during quarantine because I didn’t want to do orchestra anymore, and I started posting covers to my Snapchat story. From there Eli hit me up,” Farrand explained. They jammed for a while, sometimes with others though nothing fully stuck.

That’s when Shelley came into the picture. Shelley had been dedicated to music for a bit longer, and had already been releasing music. “I’ve been doing this for a really long time. I started producing stuff the summer before freshman year. That led to a job at [Fibonacci Music Studio], so I learned about recording there,” he said. Over quarantine Shelley started releasing his music. “Eli texted me after I released my EP and asked if I would want to jam sometime with Everett and him. That’s how we started hanging out more,” he said. A couple weeks of jamming passed and in July 2021, Shelley pitched the idea of starting a band.

To create the band, some roles were set. Farrand switched from bass to drums, Bloom took up lead guitar, and Shelley took up bass and rhythm guitar as well as the recording and producing duties. Some roles were split, such as songwriting and vocals.

But a band isn’t really a band without a name. Pilot Seat was quickly conceived. “We needed to get a band name together as fast as we could because we had an interview for the yearbook,” Bloom said. Shelley suggested Pilot Seat because the large chair he sits in while producing is called the ‘pilot seat’ both at Shelley’s home and work. 

The ‘pilot seat’ is one small part of Shelley’s in-home studio which boasts quite a bit of equipment. “I’ve got a lot of microphones and there’s some big speakers, and a bunch of equipment so you can plug in directly into a computer to record,” Shelley said. With this set-up and their instruments, the band released their first two songs ‘Inda’ and ‘A Place Like No Other’ this year.

Both were written and sung by Bloom, though Farrand and Shelley are slated to sing more as well. “We just sing the songs that we write. Whoever wrote the song, that’s the one that’s going to be singing it,” Shelley explained. For ‘Inda’, quite a lot of people did not believe Bloom was singing. “No one knew that was me singing because when I speak I’ve got a lower voice, but in that song I’m going a lot higher,” he explained. 

As for their second song, it has found quite a bit of praise. “All of us think that it’s the best we’ve done to this point. I’m very, very proud of this song. It’s significantly more complex than Inda. I think there’s a lot more going on. Melodically, it’s a really fine piece of work and I really love the lyrics a lot. Bret’s production is the reason why it sounds good at all. Bret did such a tremendous job of mixing the song. Any idea I had, he would just be able to nail it,” said Bloom.

However, releasing songs can be vulnerable. “We choose to release a song because we like the song and believe it’s a really good piece of work, but at the same time music is subjective and you don’t know how everyone’s going to respond. I often get worried about how my voice sounds, if this lyric is good enough, stuff like that. Sometimes there’s some doubt that creeps in there,” Bloom said.

Pilot Seat members Eli Bloom (left), Everett Farrand (center), and Bret Shelley (right) playing together.
Photo Courtesy of Eli Bloom.

As they work on their album, they have also been putting more gigs under their belts. Most recently, Pilot Seat performed at prom. The idea was conceived by Shelley, and approved with the help of senior senators and senior class advisors. “My brother told me about a band a few years ago from Shorewood that played at prom, and I thought that was a cool idea,” Shelley said. 

Since they hadn’t had too many live performances before this one, it was a fair bit for the band to take on. “I think one of the great things about our band is that we’ve got a really good musical chemistry. I think we’re a really tight live band. We can really nail our songs and so we felt confident,” said Bloom. 

All members believed they would be nervous for the performance, but for Farrand the nerves subside as the band gets “into the groove of it and stay[s] focused on the music.” Bloom believes he gets the most nervous of the three. “I definitely get the most nervous out of everyone…but that could be because when we’re playing live I’m front and center a lot of the time because I’m singing most of the songs,” he said. However, he’s becoming more at ease with the process. “It’s something I’ve grown more comfortable with lately. The more you do it, the less of a big deal it becomes,” he continued. And that’s fortunate because they plan on performing throughout the summer. 

But, the reality is that they are seniors and will be leaving soon. Bloom and Farrand are both attending the University of Washington and intend to keep making music together. Shelley will be going to Portland State University’s Sonic Arts and Music Production program. Though he won’t be as close to the other members of the band, they intend to keep working together. “With Bret, we will continue to remain in touch with him and probably record and play shows together when he’s back in town,” Bloom said. Despite the distance, they all seem to hope that music stays an integral part of their lives. Bloom said, “I envision myself playing music until the day I die. That’s what I want to do my whole life.”