Automatic Pilot has been through many incarnations, and band members have come and gone over the years. The project was once conceived as Friend of a Friend, a widely embraced modern rock band that made a big splash in the Northwest Indiana area from 2001-2002. Eventually, the band would separate and James would go on to play a variety of venues such as Tower Records, Borders, as well as Uncommon Ground and The Empty Bottle in Chicago. Automatic Pilot was conceived shortly thereafter as a whole new solo project that cultivates every musical genre from a predilection of all kinds of different styles with influences as varying as Wilco, Tom Waits, Fiona Apple, Nick Drake, Bright Eyes, and Matthew Sweet. Automatic Pilot primarily consists of James Eric Laczkowski, who composes experimental, ambient pop soundscapes, spliced with distorted emo rock, in a singer/songwriter acoustic environment. Automatic Pilot's records are available through ITunes and CDBaby. Although the line-up has fluctuated over the years, contributing members include Miriam Williams, Art Mayes, and Corey Rongers.
After losing his father in 2002, James fell into a serious downward spiral and sought counseling as a result. James also lost the town home he was living in for the past seven years. While the house was on the market in the summer of 2004, waiting to be sold, James decided to utilize the basement space one last time before moving into a confined one-bedroom apartment. The outcome of those four months is now beautifully documented here on Deathless. James sequestered himself to get better both physically and mentally after recurring illness, and decided to become his own producer and engineer. His part-time studio drummer, Miriam Williams, left her drum set there, so he decided to play all instruments on this record including drums for the first time. James' goal was to cathartically record a backdrop to the tumultuous two years he endured through unrefined, organic methodology, which felt genuine to him and would emotionally resonate with the listeners. "It may be a cliché to say that music saved me, but in this case, it couldn't be truer. I really had no choice but to save myself because I was all alone for the first time in my life," says James. "I wanted the listener to be engaged on a different level than before. I wasn't too concerned with melody and pop rock conventions. A couple songs were written on-the-spot without any prior conception in my mind of what they would become. I would just set up, sit in front of the mic, and let whatever happen happen. If a song wanted to be seven minutes long, then so be it. I wanted the guitars to convey what I was feeling for me instead of letting the lyrics have jurisdiction."
You can listen to the copious barebones B-sides and demo recordings, in addition to tracks from earlier records by visiting here:
Splendid Magazine proclaims "Arriving like a breath of fresh air after a long trek through the dank, oil-saturated air of a Ford assembly line, New Clear Vision delivers ten strong, well-intentioned tracks that address 2004's key social issues without pretension, without poison, without pompous attitude, without weird costumes or stage personalities. It's all about the songs. Automatic Pilot singer James Laczkowski's poignant, reverb-soaked performance evokes My Morning Jacket. From the effort he puts into his songs -- he sometimes tries too hard, straining his voice and strangling the notes -- you'd expect him to be a poor singer, but the reality is quite the opposite. He has plenty of vocal muscle, and his voice can be really gorgeous (refer to "Exhausted Memory"'s chorus). He comes across as a kind of transcendent everyman -- one who succeeds against all odds." (6/11/2004)
One Kind Radio says "Taking on the singer/song writer skills of Grant Lee Phillips & Elliot Smith... James Laczkowski has the lyrical mastery to place together a well written song with a backdrop of emo-sub pop. I love a LP that can touch on such subjects as our government's super charged power from a witless leader, societies blind eye to unneeded deaths over seas, and the over spun marketing propaganda machine our media has since become. Ahh, yes... one great LP that touches on politics, society, and "The Man" --- John Bowles (3/1/04)
Greg Kot of The Chicago Tribune & Sound Opinions says "Automatic Pilot tucks introspective lyrics inside grand washes of shoegazer guitar." (February 2003)
Columbia College of Chicago says "With a potent combination of early Talking Heads, early Radiohead and early R.E.M., this band should have no trouble branching off and trying new sounds. Laczkowski's vocal mannerisms continue throughout their debut CD, alternating between nervous insecurity and reckless abandon." --- Collin Souter, (March 2002)