Interview: Rockin’ Band from Wales “People in Planes” on Life in New York.
by Laura Navarro
An alternative pop/rock from Cardiff, Wales, People in Planes have been rocking the stages during their UK tour. The band members, who have been friends since their childhood days in Porthcawl, took a minute to sit down with us for an exclusive interview to speak about their UK tour, how the band got together, and much more. You may have come across the cover of their album, Beyond The Horizon, on banners displayed on US websites. If so, take the initiative already and pick up a copy!
Laura: Tell us some background about People In Planes?
PIP: I started playing guitar when I was about eleven and played in bands with my older brother. Gaz started playing the trumpet in brass bands and then found the piano and Neil Youngwhen he was about fifteen, and we both played in his brothers’ band covering everything from Bon Jovi to Hendrix. Then we started our own band with Kris and Mel who were a few years older. We called ourselves ‘Reverend Brown’, the first song we jammed was Let It Be, and our first gig was in the ‘Three Horseshoes’ in Bridgend. Gaz taught me to drive in his mum’s fiesta. We used to practice in a blue portacabin where we wrote most of our first album as Tetra Splendour.
Laura: How would you describe your music?
PIP: Epic, pulsing, volatile.
Laura: Porthcawl isn’t renowned for producing bands. Do you think the seaside town had an influence on you all? If not, what did?
PIP: Absolutely. There’s a lot of talent that’s come out of that place. There was a keen techno scene there which emerged when the band started, based around the Cove nightclub. It was the place to be and we all embraced it and the things that went on there. Our likeminded friendship group would pretty much be floating out of that place at four in the morning like a big posse of zombies, and would all migrate back to the portacabin to continue and watch us jam. That inspired a lot of our music.
Laura: Did you ever hang out at the Coney Beach Fairground in Porthcawl?
PIP: Kris worked in the Burger King there for years. The Fairground was a death-trap. Literally. There were several disasters on the water chute where people were decapitated. Ian used to go to gabba techno raves there when he was a kid. I went on the donkeys once on Coney Beach with my gran, but mainly I just remember it for people scoring dodgy weed from sketchy guys from the valleys.
Laura: You toured with the legendary Welsh rockers, the Stereophonics. What was that like?
PIP: Unbelievable! They were super nice guys and a totally class act. We learnt a lot from watching them. The first thing Kelly said to me was, “Porthcawl! Fuckin hell, is The Brogden still there or what?!” I thought that was weird to think not so long ago he was frequently drinking in a dodgy pub down the road, anonymously sitting amongst people who would soon hero worship him. I was surprised they were still up for partying after the shows so much. The last night the bar closed so we moved onto their bus, cracked out the champagne and took off with ‘Back In Black’ blasting on the stereo. That was a wicked feeling.
Laura: You’ve been picked up by New York’s Wind Up records. How did it happen and why do youthink the Americans have taken to you?
PIP: It was pretty wild. After we parted with EMI we weren’t a happy band. We wrote a new album and our demo got loads of interest from a press agent in New York. He flipped out and organised a show for us in the Mercury Lounge. After that there was a bit of a frenzy and we were getting shipped round to record label’s offices to do private show cases in skyscrapers. Things like that happen in New York. Hospitality and convenience is definitely their forte. Things are taken care of. One of the labels who wanted to see us was Wind Up, and they offered us a deal the next day. Unbelievable really. I think because we’re not associated with a typical British trend or scene meant they could take some sort of ownership of us? Not sure.
Laura: How’s life living in New York?
PIP: Surreal. For the first few months it was like being in a film with all the steamy streets and the colourful personalities and accents. I’ve got used to it a bit now, but I’m in Brooklyn which is actually quite chilled out. I’ve grown very fond of ‘doing brunch’, and the abundance of quality Italian pizza slice joints.
Laura: We seem to be catching you late, what with one album ‘As Far As The Eye Can See’ already released in the US while the UK is only getting the second album ‘Beyond The Horizon’. Do you feel disappointed that the UK hasn’t been quite so quick to recognise the talents of People In Planes?
PIP: Yeah, the pre-cursor ‘Tetra Splendour’ was just in the UK. Then the beginning of PIP was just the US. Our career has fallen prey to the messed up industry. It can easily happen. You just want to make music and tour, but you get locked into these strict cycles and marketing strategies which take forever and it really sucks. You make a record and by the time it comes out you’ve already moved on, but you can’t do anything about it. Then when you throw label changes into the mix it becomes a nightmare. We seem to be going smooth now though at last.
Laura: ‘Last Man Standing’ is one of the best rock songs we’ve heard this year, while Nation Radio here in Wales is playing ‘Pretty Buildings’ virtually every hour. What do you think about this sudden interest in your music?
PIP: Yeah it’s great. We’d been touring in the US non-stop since March, and as soon as we got back we started the UK tour the next day, got in the van and our tune was on the radio. That was a nice welcome. We spent a long time writing this record, felt great about the songs and definitely went a bit mental recording it, so getting some acknowledgement for our troubles is pretty comforting. We concentrate on making albums as complete bodies of work, so I hope people get to hear the whole thing instead of just the singles. I don’t really see us as a singles band, so it’s a shame for us that with the internet now, people just download single tracks more than whole records. As much as it’s ruined the industry, I think in a way I’d rather someone illegally download our whole record over buying just ‘one’ single off iTunes. But I think downloading mp3’s in general is disastrous. Art and literature has a soul and it has a heritage. You should be able to hold it and smell it. Once you start turning into megabytes you’ve lost part of it’s aesthetic value and then where does it end. They’re even going to eradicate books now! I hope that doesn’t catch on or our children won’t even have book-shelves. Long live Spillers!
Laura: We at Bloginity believe that People In Planes have silently crept in the back door and are set to become one of the most popular Welsh Bands since The Stereophonics, with such universal appeal. Do you still feel Welsh considering the way that your career has taken you, or do you see the label as being a burden?
PIP: We’re Welsh. We’re proud of our history and we like being the underdog. Being in America a lot though makes me scared of patriotism in general. In the extreme it breeds separatism, and racism and war and all the bad stuff. I like to think of humanity as being split up into football teams and at the end of the day we should all shake hands and go home. But we’re super proud to represent our country artistically.
Laura: What would People In Planes like for its future?
PIP: Aliens to turn up and tip science and religion on their heads. Tarantino to do a retro sci-fi and revive Mark Hamill’s career . Wales win the world cup (in rugby)(obviously!) “ People In Planes were in pre-production for their second album for Wind-Up records since they returned from the States in late 2006. They took a period off to rehearse new material and played a string of UK shows in late 2006 and early 2007 where they road-tested new material. New song titles include: “Baked,” “Evil With You,” “Get On The Flaw,” “Human Error,” “Better Than Life,” “I Wish That You’d Fall Apart,” and “Tonight (The Sun Will Rise).