Georgia band Kylesa is part of a bumper crop of psych-heavy, hipster-friendly hard rock bands from the South, all of whom rose to prominence — or something like it — in the past few years. Kylesa formed in Savannah in 2001 and burned through a slightly-greater-than-usual array of record labels and bandmates (frontman Phillip Cope and guitarist/vocalist Laura Pleasants are the only remaining original members) before hitting it big with the hook-filled sludge-fest "Spiral Shadow" in 2010.
Kylesa (pronounced Kye-LESS-a) toured relentlessly for a few years before retreating to the studio to make the darker, less immediate "Ultraviolet," which elevates Pleasants from part-time lead vocalist to ostensible frontwoman. "Ultraviolet" is a grower of an album, partly inspired by personal difficulties that, as you will see below, Pleasants is loathe to discuss. She got on the phone from home a few weeks before release day to talk about the Smashing Pumpkins, the scene in Savannah and why, even in metal, the female in the band usually winds up playing mom.
Here is an edited transcript of that conversation.
Q: The last tour you went on seems to have been particularly grueling. Take me through what it was like after you got off the road.
A: Yeah, I guess the last one … it was tiring. If you hit the road really hard, and you're on for several months, yeah, it's tiring. But I had a bunch of stuff at home that I needed to get back to, and I needed to get off the road to get home for what I needed to get home for.
Q: Your last album was a crossover breakthrough, at least to some extent. Did it feel that way to you?
A: I think it's easier for an outsider to say that, but looking outside from the inside, it's harder to really see that. So I don't really know how to answer that question. … I think we gained a lot of new fans with "Spiral Shadow," but as to how many, I'm not sure.
Q: A lot gets made of the scene in Savannah, but how closely knit is it? Is it just a bunch of bands that happen to be in the same town?
A: I think in the beginning we used to hang out a lot more. There's rarely time that we hang out now. Baroness used to come to our shows all the time when they first started, but the only original member is John (Baizley), and none of those guys even live here anymore. I rarely see Black Tusk, although I did live with James, the drummer, for a while. … We're all busy, so we don't really hang out that much anymore. It definitely started out that way. It's not like we're all having dinner at each other's houses and hanging out.
Q: You sing a lot more on this album. Was it a question of you having more songs ready or of you yourself being ready?
A: It wasn't a formulated or conscious decision for me to sing more. It wasn't until we were getting some of the mixes that I was like, "Phillip, I'm singing a lot more than you. Does this bother you? Is this weird?" We just agreed that it was working and it was cool, and we were going to go with it.
I just happened to have the material ready, and Phillip had his hands full with producing the whole thing. That's a big added workload.
Q: Did it change the dynamic between you, to have your bandmate producing and effectively becoming your boss?
A: It could, but we have a strong mutual respect for one another and an understanding. So it's not like I was looking at this like, OK, he's the boss man. And it's not like he was bossing everyone around, necessarily. I mean, sure, there's moments where not everyone agrees. That's natural.
Q The new song "Quicksand" is getting a lot of comparisons to the Smashing Pumpkins. When you hear that do you think, "Ugh," or can you see it?
A: I like the Smashing Pumpkins. I like their first two albums a lot. However, when we did that song, we were not thinking of that band, specifically. We were not thinking of any band; we were just doing it. And then I read (reviews that made the comparison), and I was like, Oh, OK. It wasn't my first thought, but I could see that.
There's certainly worse bands to be compared to, so that's OK.
Q: Pretty much every woman I talk to in a band full of men tells me that they wind up taking on a traditional female role, that they basically become the mom.
A: Totally. I cleaned out our practice space the other day. I was like, I gotta clean this place up! In some respects, it's totally true. In some ways I'm just one of the guys; in others, I'm definitely the female of the group. You can't just ignore that fact. … It's certainly easier now (out in the world), absolutely. I remember some of the first big tours we went on, people thought I was the merch girl or the tour manager. It was never like, "Oh you play guitar and you're the singer. OK."
Q: Who did you have as a role model back then?
A: There was the riot grrrl movement, and some alternative bands I looked to in the early '90s, like, OK, cool, there's chicks rocking in these bands, that's great. As a guitar player not as much, because much of my inspiration came from men playing guitar, but it wasn't a gender-based thing. It was just about the music.Kylesa
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake St.
Tickets: $14; 17+; 312-666-6775 or ticketweb.com