Beyond The Horizon, the new album from People in Planes, has been receiving a lot of high praise, so I took the chance to ask band member Pete Roberts about it and the future plans for the band.
I like the name People In Planes , and the explanation behind that name on the website. 'Not exactly where they come from – and aren’t quite where they're heading to yet'. Is that how you see your position at the moment?
It’s more a reflection of people’s lives at any one time. People with ambition anyway. If you’ve ever felt that you’re in limbo I suppose. But I’m also interested in the concept literally of mankind’s quest for progress and technological advancement causing humans to strap themselves into a metal container and be transported through the sky at unnatural speeds and at 36,000 feet above the ground. It’s wrong on so many levels and everyone on board has that same base instinct of fear and helplessness, but also camaraderie and togetherness. I expect it was very natural and automatic when the passengers rose up to fight the hijackers of that plane that crashed in a field on 9/11. Life or death!
What was it about Supergrass album I Should Coco that really inspired you?
Mainly the fact that me and Gaz (Gareth Jones) were about 13 and 14 respectively when they came out, and Gaz Combes was only 17. We felt great ownership of that band as we felt like we were growing up with them. My whole friendship group at the time, none of whom were musicians, except Gaz (Jones) who was a year above me in school, all flipped out over their style too. We all went out and got retro 70’s clothes and tried to grow sideburns. All these vintage clothing shops came out of the woodwork in the mid 90s in conjunction with the whole movement. It was a beautiful time of youthful rebellion and forming our identity.
And,of course, the record. Me and Gaz went on a summer holiday to France with my parents and picked up the record before we left. I think we’d melted it by the time we came back. Then we went to see them live. That was also the first time we travelled to another city without an older brother to look after us, and in Wales kids can just about get away with drinking at that age so it was all happening together. Rebellion, new found loves and desires, Supergrass, indie etc etc…
Tell us how the preparations for the US tour are going.
Great! We’ve already been out on this record with Jupiter One, Skybombers, Stereophonics, Filter, and we’re about to do two months with Toadies. So it’s been pretty busy already. We’ve also been doing more headline shows this time and it has been great to play some longer sets and do encores and stuff. Makes you feel like a proper band!
On the album there are four different producers and I think seven different locations. Was that deliberate to create a diversity or was it down to circumstance?
A bit of both really. Our label wanted us to try someone in America but we didn’t know who so we just thought, lets try a few tracks with lots of producers and it’ll be the craziest record ever! It kind of worked and it didn’t work. We absorbed a lot of influences from everywhere that we went but there was always that element of what we’re about that was missing. When we came back to Britain and started working with Dan Austin it all clicked into place. We realised that we should finish the record there, and that we could do post production on all the American stuff with him also, as that was what was needed to tie the whole thing together.
What was Sam Williams like to work with after all he produced your favourite album?
Amazing! He was pivotal in our progression from Tetra Splendour to People in Planes, as without him we’d still be a four-piece. He really made us feel good about being in a band again after we’d been dropped by EMI. It’s bizarre that he had more energy than us and he’d been around a hell of a lot longer in all his bands. I definitely remember it was the first time I felt real magic in the studio. It was also the first time we were made to set up and play every song over and over as a band and dissect the music bit by bit to see what was really good and what just lost people’s interest. It was amazing that we’d work on three songs at a time and there’d be a load of bits to re-write and the answers would just come to me instantly.
Please, can you tell us about how you came to work with Alan Johannes and Natasha Schneider?
It was weird. I was in my girlfriend’s house at the time, and we were calling various producers to start conversations and I got on the phone with those guys. They were completely different than all the other people we spoke to. They just told me how everything could be so much better. In fact the only reason I could tell they liked us at all was that they work with very few people and they were talking to me.
But the experience when we got to their studio in LA was one that I will always cherish dearly. It was weird and wonderful. Their studio was their home. They lived and breathed it. She was a pitch perfect Russian beauty, he’s a Chilean multi-instrumentalist, and together they were an inseparable virtuoso rock force. Hard core to the bone and with a very congenial sense of humour, they even knew of ‘Alan Partridge’ !
That was the only session in America that we stayed true to on the final record, because their style of working and sound was so cool and we had such a personal connection. That’s all I will say about that.
How do reviews affect you?
Very much so. I only read the good ones. It even hurts me to read bad reviews about ‘other’ artists who I love. It seems so sad that people have that much resentment to try and tarnish and ridicule others that they don’t know. And as much as I know that they’re just frustrated losers who never fulfilled their own desires and dreams. It just seems ridiculous to me to spend the best part of two years pouring your heart and soul into a project which entirely defines you, and then give even a split second of your time to someone who is going to probably not even listen to it and say it’s a load of crap. The only time I’d give that person is to set a match to him. Incidentally, Gaz only reads the bad ones. But he has a rare sense of humour!
So this is your third band name and third album. Lets hope it's third time lucky. Does it feel that way?
Yes. Being with a strong indie label, Wind Up, is how we’ve been lucky this time. We make the music we want to make, and we’re out on the road having fun. That’s all a band needs, so yes, we’re very lucky.
Thanks Pete for taking the time to answer these questions for Blogcritics. Best of luck with the band and the album.