Hugely passionate in everything they do, Planes are a band you know mean business from the minute they open their mouths. Here in a new and exclusive interview, we chat to the group about the industry, what it takes to be successful and much more.
Working hard and solidly on their material, Planes ensure that listeners of their tracks will be left stunned for all the right reasons. They're a truly unique group who can take the world by storm and look set to do just that. Read on to find out what they have to say...
For those who may be new to your music, how best would you describe your sound?
EDWIN - The way Planes approaches creating music makes it impossible to pin just a few genres or comparable bands to us. When a member brings in a song to the studio to work on we do what feels right for that particular song in the mood we are in on that particular day. Currently in the set the are elements of blues, rock, metal, prog, folk, disco, pop to name a few. In a years' time it might be completely different.
CHAR O'LETTE - Planes are a band that epitomises the idea of a family. The collection of our influences are vast and wide, with heavy anthemic melodies immersed in ambition, epic arrangements and above all else, heart and soul. Our live shows are the best way to understand this melting pot of chemistry.
Planes sound combines our musical strengths. Steve's transatlantic sound of traditional Blues rock, roots and country-infused ballads with incredible and unique rhythmic phrasing compliments the technical intricacies of our classical and rock trained instrumentalists. There is no other way to describe Steve as a musician to the core. Rhythm pours from every pore of of his tattooed skin. Some might say too many composers and songwriting cooks could create a chaotic broth; the truth is, we all write together in different ways and we have refined a sound now that takes all of our strengths. Now we have a formulae, one that evolves daily but one that we now know works.
We nod to the psychedelia of Tame Impala, Sleepy Sun, Flaming Lips, the epicness of Arcade Fire and the National and Radiohead, surf rock, The Beach Boys, the Walkmen... all underpinned with robust and lush string and synth arrangments and the authentic hearts and soul searching blues. Myself and Steve have developed our 'blend' over the years, making the the overall sound of Planes vocally unique... this is particularly so in 'Wait It Out', our single featured recently on BBC R6, our current single, 'Ole' and our new tracks 'Legs' and 'Veins', soon to be released on double A side. We both look up to harmonising lead vocalists and enjoy the strong use of octave unison vocals which is quite unusual and hard to get right. Think Fleet Foxes, Mcvie and Buckingham, with a more current and softer XX vocal dynamic.
I dislike using these extra 'sparkle instruments' as I call them - BVs, violins, violas and synths - as a gimmick. We are a rock band, so they should be used appropriately. They're properly arranged parts, vast soundscapes where needed, with heavier pedals, reverbs, octave pedals and distortions creating a hendrix-esque violin tones in the string parts in 'Summer Breeze', our opening EP track. We are an alt rock band with passion, a little fight, with instrumental and lyrical hooks that could stand the test of time on festival stages regardless of quick lo-fi trends.
Planes is the sound of five individuals who are musicians and vocalists in their own right, who as fate would have it, passionately set about doing this with the odds stacked against. We graft, we love, and we will do this. The thing about Planes is that we are totally online. We know everyone who supports us on Twitter, we talk, we listen and we appreciate every single tweet we receive. Each of us has collectively more fans than our Planes Twitter site! I think that is social media at its most very positive.
Everyone who writes to us knows us, we don't hide or pretend to be anyone we aren't and honesty is incredibly important to us, especially after being let down in the past.
What challenges have you faced in the music industry so far?
EDWIN - That has another long, disjointed list of possible answers. Keeping Planes alive for the last few years has been tough. It has felt like at times everything has been against us and fate has tried to keep us apart. If it wasn't for the five people involved and our manager Merrington, it wouldn't have worked. The love that the unit has for what it does is insane. Literally.
CHAR O' LETTE - Obviously in our past four years, the biggest challenge has been getting the time to spend together due to conflicting schedules.
Until very recently Steve was a member in another world class band and schedule that he was entirely committed to, and which we have respected him entirely with that for its duration. Now we have the time together to do this, we aren't about to moan about the past or in retrospect trusting those in the industry we should not have. We live and we learn everyday, which is what life and music should always be about.
This has been a gruelling time, with sometimes heartbreaking halts. In 2013 we had to cancel an entire year of touring and bookings. Our drummer, Edwin Harris, kept the faith and kept our morale and our silent dignity, never giving in, and it's down to him that we were able to finally put together our EP, 'HOTFOOT' (www.weareplanes.com) to celebrate the tunes we had managed to write in this time, sometimes when we have been thousands of miles apart. Wherever this goes, we have him to thank for keeping this alive as by that point we had lost everything we owned and literally had nothing to lose.
How difficult would you say this career path is in terms of making a name for yourself?
EDWIN - Making original music with a band you start is one of the most difficult things you can do. It's tough to keep focus when, unlike almost any other career, there is not always a parallel between hard work & success, there is never a clear right or wrong answer and if you choose to always keep your integrity intact then you've got the same odds as winning the lottery. But if it's what you love then you can get over the tough stuff.
CHAR O'LETTE - Well, if you could take the last few years as an example, and maybe the ten years of our different bands before that, I would say to anyone, starting out now, do it yourself. Don't rely on false promises, don't rely on the quick fix, and never ever support the idea that fame is your desired end product. I would be a lying s**t if told you I didn't wanna sell some records, and pay off what I have put in, but that's because they are good enough now to be sold.
Sometimes people get lucky, and I think it's a wonderful thing - I would never judge or slam anyone else who had a dream, who just wants to sing, who got that lucky break. But it isn't normal. Especially if you wanna WRITE what you have got going on in your head. If you don't wanna sacrifice every morsel of spare time you have, it isn't going to work. I can't remember the last time I went "out-out" that wasn't a gig I was playing.
Everyone wants to play, everyone can sing. Making a name will come if you work harder than anyone you know. I am sure every artist you interview must say it's a saturated industry, so getting noticed is very hard... but at the end of the day we should celebrate that! In my eyes and ears this means the overall standard of playing, writing and singing across the board is getting better. Social media has made many good things possible. I think that's great as it will only mean better music to our ears. We have to move with the times and stop the bitching.
The industry has changed in a positive way in some factions, in that YOU CAN do anything you want to; look on YouTube, you can teach yourself, music isn't a geek's game anymore, but that's because the idea of celebrity has got merged into this. This is the less positive aspect. Something for nothing. No matter how cool you LOOK (I have too many pairs of sunglasses to mention) it's a geeky, time consuming, and very unglamourous old day to day life until the big shows beckon.
Buy music whenever you can, however if you are young, studying and are skint and you need to learn then you need to listen. Get your mates to lend you every record they have. Dig out your parents' records. The guys in the the band have all done the same, practiced daily, grafted and refined their s**t to such obsessive levels it becomes a life support line, keeping you going when everything has gone to s**t.
Support yourself anyway you can. I have played nearly 20 years - first in classical violin, then keys and later accompanying keys with voice and there is still so much I don't know. I am relentless and never want to stop or waste second now we finally have our band.
There is a less than cool 'trip' in London that you have to 'pay to pay' for certain venues and promoters. If you have learned your trade - and that is what it is - a trade - don't ever undercut your contemporaries. This is how we must save this industry. Ask to be paid for your gig as soon as you are good and confident enough.
How important is it for you to have creative control over the work you produce?
CHAR O' LETTE - It is so important for us all to feel like we have total control over the creative process. The last recording sessions were less than ideal as not everyone was physically able to be there every step of the way in the production. I would say everyone was able to be there 80/90 % but not necessarily altogether at the same time.
In the beginning Ed and Steve worked tirelessly with the producers getting the drums to the higest spec recording we could muster, and having Steve and Ed as powerhouse drumming machines certainly helped with the overall vision as to what came next. As a songwriter and lyricist Steve has developed so much, the difference between the first and second EPs are testament to that work and dedication, however he is one of the most natural musicians I have ever had the pleasure to know.
Much of the 'HOTFOOT' EP I would take home and work on the synth arrangments, send over ideas and drafts to add in hooks that cold elevate us from alt rock to melodic hook ridden journies that were comercially radio friendly. I couldn't have lived not knowing I hadn't done that... as for me that time felt like the start and the end all at once and I had to give my everything. Everything we had left you can hear, and the most exciting thing for me is replicating that now in the live shows.
The first EP I wasn't able to be as involved and I hope that this arrangements and songs are stronger as a result.
For me as an arranger and producer, I work without sleep until the arrangements and the songs are adequate to an extent you can rest your ears and come back to see you weren't being a total jellied-eared jerk. That process continues, where we don't speak to anyone apart from each other, sometimes not even that, until you hear a mix and go - ooh - did we do that? Did Ted and Drew just mic up an entire church with 5 amps and a Godin... S**T! This could all be worth it.
I have immense respect and kudos for all the guys' ears, especially Dan, our bass player who is also an excellent sound engineer and producer, Ted, Ed and Drew Wale the producer, Joseph Vincent Wander our assistant engineer.
Under the time constraints they all pulled together to do an impeccable job with vision, boldness and ambition in how we wanted the record to feel, how we wanted it to hit our fans, the development between the first EP four years ago, which was recorded in my first audition with Steve and Bill Lloyd (Placebo). This time we have arrived. It is the beginning of a concept record. We will be making vinyl to support the new vinyl chart. Planes has just exploded in terms of confidence, refinement and perfectionism.
EDWIN - Absolutely. Creative control is vital. If we lost it then the band would lose its soul.
Where do you draw influence and inspiration from for your work?
EDWIN - Musically, infinite. Personally, my family are a massive inspiration. They are another unit of people who have achieved phenomenal things over difficult hurdles. Ted, Steve, Char and Dan are also a constant inspiration. They are the most colourful and exciting individuals I've ever met. My second family.
If you could collaborate with anybody going forward, who would you choose and why?
EDWIN - Probably Dustin Kensrue. The souls he drives into his music is amazing. I'm also a massive Thrice fan.
CHAR O'LETTE - For me I'd say Jack White, David Bowie, Matt Bellamy, Tame Impala, The Walkmen, Jeremy and the Harlequins, Prince, Wayne Coyne and the Flaming Lips, Roots Manuva, Mars Volta, Debbie Harry, Bjork, Annie Lennox... I really enjoyed Radiohead, The National and The Postal Service back at music college. You know. Proper dudes with proper skills and fundamental feel and for tradition. Super Skilled, unconventional layers, instrumentation, ambient timbres and the confidence and boldness to take risks. I know some of the guys would agree with some of these, however our personal tastes vary so no one wold ever be overlooked! One best piece of advice I have learned from our manager, Merrington, is to never be afraid of collaboration. We really are in this together.
Tell us a random, funny fact about you that not many people know.
CHAR O' LETTE - Ed and Steve and Dan have taken to hot pink all our equipment to match our hot pink vinyl record that is about to come out. Steve and Ed like to improvise hip hop raps that consist of many unrequited, foul mouthed dirrrrty lyrics. I am yet to add my verse as I would like them to spit our their beer when it finally happens. Did I ever mention naked rehearsals? Summer time is coming and the weather is fair.
EDWIN - I got through to the last 80 of Britain's Got Talent with a band I was in when I was 16. That's when I learnt about the importance of keeping your integrity and to do anything other than follow the dream as you want to do it makes it all redundant. Doing it made me realise how hollow, exploitative & nauseating the manufactured side of the industry is.
Do you have definitive aims or goals for your career?
CHAR O'LETTE - Glastonbury with a decent crowd would be a goodie. I have vowed never to return until I play there... last time was in 2007. I was in a mud lake and I lost my tent twice. It floated away. A few goosebumps would be out for that chance, certainly. It would be a pivotal point for us all I think. There is something magical about that place, I really believe that. Later this year we we will be taking our live show abroad and I know this will be a moment for us to cherish. I once read a Bowie quote that said he regretted not appreciating the 'journey'... the shared bunk beds in grotty gig venues, just like us! So the sleeping on floors, Steve and Ed slept in a tent the last tour, the singing on the bus with Steve's Baby T on the last our... They are the unforgettable moments.
At our last London show at the Garage Downstairs I felt we reached a new level, we were back and the pressure had settled. I decided that raising my hand wasn't enough and slowly a violin bow took over my hand (mine) and decided to conduct the crowd whilst swearing in ecstasy with Steve on our tune 'Grinding Teeth'. We were FLYING. I don't think I have ever felt as ALIVE in my life.
EDWIN - Pyramid at Glastonbury goes without saying. I'd be happy being able to explore the world playing the music I make with the people I love making it with.
Where do you hope to be this time next year?
CHAR O'LETTE - Well next year or the year after, I would hope to be on a world tour with my loved ones, my band. I wanna be able to look back at the last four years and know I did my best and we never gave in. Where dreams and reality collide, to treat my family, the guys' families, take them somewhere on their bucket lists. I would like to buy a violin without a crack down the middle of it. I can't speak for the guys at length on this but I think guitars and pedals and gear come very high up upon the list. AS does a couple of wee run-around motors, maybe an old 80's porche with Knightrider lights and a few pairs of cool shoes without holes in them. I am quoting a song of ours there but you get the drift. Nothing cray. Just enought to say cheers and to keep working like the grateful dawgs we are and making our devoted fans and families proud. I want to write music for the rest of my days.
What should we expect from you in the coming weeks and months?
CHAR O'LETTE - The absolute BEST thing about the coming weeks and months and being together now for reals means that this summer we are spending it in Brighton to write the tunes, pick from the others in the vault to record the full length LP. Just to be allowed to be an actual band the next few months look like to be a big period of creative relief and joy for us.
So on the radar at the moment, A FULL LENGTH RECORD, a South American tour, some shows in NYC and West Coast of the USA, and to finally visit our amazing, relentlessly tweeting, Instagramming, Facebooking, letter writing, photo sending, nutella supplying self named supporters, our "pilots", in Europe and beyond and save them all the air fare for once... they come to every show, promote the hell out of us and it would be the best feeling ever to go see them!
Keep up to date with Planes online, at their Twitter account @weareplanes
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