Taking their name from a poem that states “life is a pale representation for what lies ahead,” Pale has earned a place in the hearts of music lovers with a sound that sticks to your soul like peanut butter to the roof of your mouth.
Sonically intense and melodic, life for the Houston-based quartet started almost a decade ago when they came together based on a common love of powerful, thought-provoking music. The band members each had their own diverse and sometimes very different musical influences, but ironically, this combination seemed to effortlessly mesh to create Pale’s unique sound.
“These guys are not only like brothers to me, they are the most talented group of musicians I’ve ever worked with,” states Pale guitarist, Robb Moore. “Calvin [Stanley] is our principal songwriter, and he has a keen knack for writing songs that don’t end up sounding like a carbon copy of his influences. The whole band feeds off that creativity which allows us to each add our own influences that, in the end, form the signature ‘Pale’ sound.”
Pale’s new CD, IN THE TIME OF DANGEROUS MEN is on A-Blake Records (co-owned by Blake Barnes and Pale) and is the result of over a year of soul-searching and musical experimentation that showcases Pale at the top of their game. The 12-track outing, produced by Grammy® winner Steve Christensen, is a deep, pensive look by Pale at the world around us.
Pale traces their origins back to the club days of Houston. After the implosion of Stanley’s original band, he first brought on talented drummer Travis Middour, and, soon after, added bassist Stephen Wesson who suggested they also bring in Moore. “We had all known each other from the local music scene. Chemistry developed between the four of us almost immediately,” Moore recalls.
In 2004, after rising to the top of their local field, Pale released HERE, their debut outing, to positive feedback. The album immediately gained critical praise, with their hometown Houston Chronicle calling the CD “moody and often marvelous.” The Dallas Observer cited the records’ “exceptional songwriting.” The band toured extensively on their own in support of HERE, as well as playing support slots for acts as diverse as Roger Waters and Depeche Mode.
Their next release, the six-song EP MANDATORY AMBULANCE, came out in 2007. Like its predecessor, it was produced by Lars Goransson (Fastball, the Cardigans, Blondie) and again was well received by the media. Envy magazine listed MANDATORY AMBULANCE as their National Pick of the Month, citing Pale as “a band that backs a stadium-sized sound with consistently solid songwriting and addictive choruses.” After seeing the band’s performance at a SXSW showcase, Wayne Kramer of MC5 fame, stated, “Pale is definitely on the verge of big things.” Pale was determined to take their band’s musical stance in a more lush and epic direction with MANDATORY AMBULANCE, and that’s exactly what they accomplished. The Houston Press lauded: “Calvin Stanley's soul-searching, lovelorn lyrics make him a viable candidate for best local songwriter this year.”
Pale’s live shows continued to grow, gathering fans and industry kudos along the way. The group opened for Blue October and Earshot, among others, playing coast to coast, from the Roxy in Los Angeles to the now-defunct CBGB’s in New York City and points in between.
In the summer of 2009, Pale relocated to Los Angeles to attract industry awareness—and that’s exactly what they did. Almost immediately, a representative of the Twilight movie franchise saw one of their many live shows and contacted the band about including the song, “Mandatory Ambulance,” in the then-upcoming film Twilight: New Moon. The band lost out to a track from Thom Yorke.
While in Los Angeles, Pale played all the top venues in the city and signed for management with the legendary Caresse Henry, who was known for her work with Madonna, Paula Abdul and Ricky Martin, among others. Once again, the possibility of a song in Twilight: Eclipse, then the next installment of the popular vampire film series, materialized, this time for their brand-new song called “Catastrophic Skies.” Pale recorded the song with Houston-based Steve Christensen as producer in order to submit it for consideration for the film’s soundtrack.
Early in 2010, things took a darker turn for Pale, and following the unfortunate death of Henry, the band, who had again lost out on a spot in the Twilight franchise, moved back to Houston permanently. Disappointed, but undeterred, their survival instincts kicked into high gear.
Armed with their strong new song, the band enlisted the aid of director Sean Duke and Chase Rees of Think Big Productions, as well as producer Remy Carter and countless friends and local volunteers, to create what turned out to be a lavish video for “Catastrophic Skies.” The result is an extraordinary cinematic feast with the futuristic look of a Mad Max film coupled with a contemporary story line. They even hosted a premiere for the video at Houston’s famed River Oaks Movie Theatre.
The group then recruited Christensen (by now a Grammy winner for his engineering work on Townes—A Tribute to Townes Van Zandt by Steve Earle) to produce their entire new album. They sequestered themselves for two months in the label’s beach house in Crystal Beach, Texas, where they recorded IN THE TIME OF DANGEROUS MEN, emerging with a total of 12 songs, including “Catastrophic Skies,” and a renewed sense of determination.
“I try to write thematically in terms of lyrics and music, like chapters in a book,” explains Stanley. “The title, IN THE TIME OF DANGEROUS MEN, is inherent to the theme of the record. It works on where we are in the socio-political climate right now. The selfish and greedy ambition of those in power is starting to tumble down on top of them. There’s a lot changing in the world governments. Even in the music industry, they didn’t act in the interest of art; they just wanted to make money.
“But now we’re seeing the music coming back to the artist, and one thing we can depend on is those who have nothing to lose,” Stanley continues. “My frustration had built to the point where I wanted to reach out with this record and let people know that rock and roll can change the world—I still believe that. The most ‘dangerous men’ are the artists because we have a voice, an influence that lasts, and that’s all we need to get our voices heard.”
Tracks like “That Sinking Feeling” (the first single) and “Can You See” were written at a time when Pale was in the midst of dealing with a string of letdowns. “It was almost like I wanted to sing that I’ve got that sinking feeling/this town has a ceiling/and there ain’t no way out,” says Stanley. “I wanted us to dig deep one more time and show some love and encouragement as we’ve done over the years.”
Overall, IN THE TIME OF DANGEROUS MEN is compelling and thought-provoking, offering up rays of sunlight poking through cloudy, troublesome skies. “If God pulls the plug and all the satellites hit the floor, that wouldn’t stop us from picking up acoustic guitars and singing into the wind,” Stanley smiles. “We’ll always find a way to express ourselves and love each other.”