Interview: Joshua Hughes and Dave Clifford of Pleasure Forever Talk ‘Distal’

Pleasure Forever didn’t last very long, technically speaking. After releasing two albums on Sub Pop—2000’s self-titled effort and 2003’s Alter—they broke up shortly thereafter. But in reuniting after an extremely long break of two decades (that’s not a typo), one of Sub Pop’s most unsung bands is up to its old tricks again. Hopefully for a bit longer this time around.

“We have always had a sort of telepathic way of playing off each other,” drummer David Clifford reflects, with the sound of nostalgia coating his voice. When “an opportunity to make new music and branch out into some new areas” came along, Pleasure Forever jumped on the chance.

On their new reunion EP, Distal, the three collaborators actually eschewed nostalgia to a large degree, deeply exploring Pleasure Forever’s musical potential—for example, added dashes of goth and glam to taste on Distal.

“The way this record came about wasn’t intentional,” Clifford explains. “It was just [us] sending some stuff back and forth just as a way of hanging out, really.”

Clifford, singer/keyboardist Andrew Rothbard, guitarist Joshua Hughes previously played together under the banner of the VSS (with Gold Standard Laboratories founder Sonny Kay on vocals), and then Slaves. In 2000, they changed their band name once again and released Pleasure Forever’s two full-lengths: the compellingly moody, self-titled debut; and Alter, an essential record for lo-fi devotees.

But by 2003, the three collaborators decided to disband—“not really on a good note,” according to Hughes. “A lot of it was burnout, too. We spent eight years together in bands. And growing up in your 20s, you go through a lot of stuff when you’re in a van altogether for a year at a time.”

Fast-forward to roughly 20 years later, and the idea of a Pleasure Forever reunion had blossomed into a realistic possibility that piqued the interest of the band’s three players. Clifford and Rothbard swapped files containing new music they had created separately, and both decided they had the goods to at least approach, if not sway, Hughes into embracing the reunion idea.

“I hadn’t really talked to Andy or Dave for a long time,” Hughes reveals. “I’d hear from Dave every once in a while. The band ended on a not-really-great note,” he added, noting that the band members’ relocations to different cities effectively ended their project.

To be abundantly clear, at this point, Pleasure Forever isn’t reuniting to cash in with a reunion tour or any other endeavor along those lines. They climbed out of their coffins solely in the interest of playing together again and releasing the new Pleasure Forever songs.

While COVID and its accompanying lockdowns tolled the death knell for many a band, the pandemic is actually partly responsible for Hughes, Rothbard and Clifford deciding to reunite.

“The other two records were written by us playing [together as a unit], working out a lot of parts and then piecing them together in a room,” Clifford notes. “[This EP was] crafted carefully over time. Each [of us had] input, put ideas together and saw how they would match.”

Neither Clifford nor Hughes alluded to any future plans beyond the EP, which Solid Brass Records issued in mid-August. If Distal prompts Pleasure Forever to keep going, maybe they’ll stick around a bit longer this time. After all, nothing lasts forever (even cold November rain).

Distal is now available from Solid Brass Records. Follow Pleasure Forever on Facebook and Instagram for future updates.

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