Pioneer 11 Break Down “Gravitorium” Track by Track
The soulfully extraterrestrial psych duo talk us through their colorful new LP.
In the same way Unknown Mortal Orchestra has continued to fuse the disparate worlds of bedroom pop and stadium-ready, falsetto-driven R&B with an adhesive cosmic psychedelia, LA’s Pioneer 11 are conducting similar experiments a few lightyears beyond anything UMO ever dreamed up. Powered mostly by guitar reverb and programmed percussion, the project sounds like a smoked-up trip to the planetarium (are the kids still doing that?).
The latest offering from Alex Hastings and Bryan Gomez is both their spaciest and funkiest yet, ironically exploring the societal themes of empathy and anxiety that are (to our knowledge) unique to this planet—while seamlessly working an homage to Mario and a Big Pun rework into the mix. There’s plenty to unpack, and the duo do just that with the track by track featured below.
Our homage to the Super Mario world. It’s about empathy, trying to see things from the Goomba’s perspective, and our fear of righteous violence. “Fire in the hands of an angry man / Using it for the worst ways I can imagine.”
2. “Like an Ocean”
Time and its endless decay. The resisted shifting of power from the old to the young, and how that process is fraught and contentious. An analogy for how our perspective changes as we get older. “Like an ocean turned into a lake, this erosion made you grey.”
3. “Squishy Sunbeam”
This album took us four years to write and our partners were with us every step of the way. “Squishy Sunbeam” is for them. That feeling when the sun hits your face, that’s love. It’s the way they make us feel every day. It’s how they provide that center of gravity for us to reorient ourselves whenever we spin off too far into space. “Fell in love with the light in you.”
4. “I Hope I Haven’t Overstayed My Welcome”
Paranoia, superstition, tech-induced anxiety, and the endless stream of information we’re flooded with every day. Like you’re spiraling down an internet rabbit hole and it’s becoming hard to tell what’s real. Born out of the depths of an acid trip and funky like Pau Gasol’s fadeaway jumper. Deepfakes are real—embrace the paranoia. “What am I supposed to do, sorting through these points of view with all my trust issues.”
5. “I’m Not a Player”
We were really inspired by the music video for Big Pun’s “I’m Not a Player,” which has these odd moments of surrealism, so we wanted to take the song to a more psychedelic place. Big Pun left massive shoes to fill, so we just hope we did his memory proud. “I’m making you feel like you’re in a dream.”
Can’t sleep. It’s so late, it’s early. The world slumbers, but not me. I’m lurking. And no one has any idea what I’m doing. “Lurking in the moonlight, hiding from the sun / When your day is over, I’ve only begun.”
7. “Muerte Caballero”
Sci-fi meets the Wild West. Our salute to the frontiersmen who boldly go where no man or woman has gone before. It’s about the first people who will travel to Mars and their likelihood of dying on their journey. “Promise me promession / Promesas aparecen.”
The refusal to accept the truth of who we really are and the fate of our planet. The endemic of science denial and the fear of each other’s differences. Like they say, the smoke kills you before the fire ever reaches you. “Records show the desert grows, everyone’s acting like nobody knows.”
9. “School of Fish”
Are we more than the sum of our parts, or are we defined by our individual biology? Does reality have emergent properties we aren’t aware of yet? Once time melts away, what are we left with? “Is this a simulation or are we truly existing?”
10. “Bottom Feeder”
Ode to sociopaths. Preying on our empathy and morality, manipulating us for their own personal gain. They exploit the trust we need for our society to function. And what do we do? We idolize their success and imitate their practices. Imagery inspired by Philip K. Dick. “Lies denying lives, supplying guise, designed to take all in its wake.”
11. “The Trees”
The cult of America. Consumerist culture blinding us from the reality of what it means to be alive. So immersed in the daily grind and status quo that we forget each other’s humanity. “We’re not long for this pale blue / We’re not here to be for you.”