It is a good thing Mark Bilenki is no longer scared of heights as his band Take Me To The Pilot has lofty goals.
Once nothing more than a kid dreaming in his basement, Bilenki is now working on putting his day job as a cell phone tower repairman behind him to command the stage in the pop-rock band full time.
“I climb those things and service and mount the gear and all that stuff. No fear of heights now. I did at first but not anymore,” said Bilenki.
After crafting songs in his basement solo, Bilenki asked his friends Adam Brown (bass) and Jonathan James (drummer) to join and guitar player Eric Grabowecky answered an online posting to become part of a four-piece outfit.
“I don’t remember doing this but apparently in one of the early shows when it was just me I would tell people ‘I’m Mike from Take Me To The Pilot. My band couldn’t be here tonight so it is just going to be me.’ I would make up some imaginary band because I never wanted this to be just a solo project,” he said.
While the band doesn’t take themselves too seriously — Bilenki once pranked a fellow band they were on the Epic Proportions tour in the U.S. by having the sound person shut off the lead singer’s mic and, Bilenki came out in 80s apparel and singing the bands cover of a Journey song — they do not take the casual approach when it comes to their work. The Winnipeg pop-rockers play everywhere and anywhere. In the past two years they have played alongside Fefe Dobson, These Kids Wear Crowns, saw success on Canadian radio and were featured on the TV program Degrassi: The Next Generation and YTV’s The Zone.
“If you are not willing to put in the work you aren’t going to get anywhere. We found something that we have a knack for and we have worked to make it something we can take across the country and hopefully, one day make a living off of,” said Bilenki.
Take Me To The Pilot has proven being road warriors is vital to their success. The foursome produce catchy hook laden songs with infectious energy and say where fans really get to know them is at their blistering rock show. They only consider their live shows a hit when the crowd leaves covered in sweat, wearing huge smiles.
“I always tell people that we are a rock band that happens to play pop music. Live, it is a rock show. We live the lifestyle and perform like a rock band. I think once people see us live they get that there is a little more to these guys than what you hear on the record,” said Bilenki.
The band released their second EP in the summer of 2012 called What Makes You (available on iTunes). Tracks including Melody and Baby, We’re Gonna Be Rich show the band’s enthusiasm for massive hooks, with the title track debuting as No. 3 on the iTunes pop charts. Tonight was featured on Degrassi and received rotation on Top 40 radio stations. Travelling Heart picks up where Green Eyes, off their previous EP, leaves off and is about coming home to a loved one.
“It’s a theme that’s become near and dear to our hearts as a touring band. We may get to live all these amazing experiences on the road, but you can never forget what you’re coming home to,” said Bilenki.
The band is continuing to work on new songs with Bilenki heading to L.A. soon to work with songwriters. For now the band will continue their Western Canada swing collecting road stories including all-night drives through white-out blizzards, run-ins with wild animals, avalanches and a funky CD player in their van.
“It is sort of like a very small microwave oven for compact discs. If anybody is willing to provide us with some CDs they maybe don’t want anymore, preferable some pop rock from the early 2000 we will give them some pins. We have some good ones so far, Vans Warped Tour 08 and 09 compilation, Lincoln Park Re-Animation, Big Shiny Tunes 6 and 7 and if we can get some more of those that would be great,” said Bilenki.
Take Me To The Pilot is appearing at Voodoo’s with Halfway To Hollywood on Thursday at 7 p.m.