People In Planes
Guitarist Peter Roberts
Being dropped by a major label never sounded so good. After EMI kicked Cardiff, Wales’ People In Planes to the curb, they channelled their disappointment into the album that would become As Far As The Eye Can See. Upon first listen, you’ll hear elements of Radiohead, but dig a little deeper and you’ll discover a unique gem of an album that won’t want to leave your stereo.
Guitarist Peter Roberts called me up from London and his sweet, honest personality just made me love People In Planes that much more.
Your album’s been getting a lot of obvious comparisons to Muse and Radiohead. How do you feel about those comparisons?
It’s kind of strange, I mean, I think that any band that’s slightly progressive and slightly alternative- and all these things that are a little left of center- ultimately are gonna get pigeonholed and compared to Radiohead… With Muse, I was reading about them, and they went through those same comparisons… It kind of sucks because there are so many bands out there that sound exactly like Guns ‘n’ Roses or The Ramones or Joy Division, and they don’t seem to get as hard a time about it. But ya know, Radiohead are the kind of godfathers of that sort of music, and they’re a really amazing band and anyone getting compared to them is probably a fan of them, so… You’ve just gotta take the rough with the smooth, I guess. What are you gonna do? You could sit there all day worrying about it, or you can just get on with making music that makes you feel good, and that’s what we do.
I can hear some heavier influences in your music that hint at a more aggressive side.
Yeah! Well, that’s the kind of goal really, of People in Planes, to keep things more diverse… Our goal, always, is to appeal to people who have a good record collection and like all kinds of music… to roll everything into one. Arguably that makes it more difficult for people to latch on to something and push you in one direction. I guess, just through touring we can overcome those problems.
How do you think your music will evolve for your next album?
Umm… I guess, lyrically inspired by the ideas of migration and being accepted by people outside of your own home- which is kind of strange. The first record is all about the experience of rejection that we felt in our previous incarnation as a band. We were together as a band for a good 4-5 years before we became People In Planes. We were called Tetra Splendor and we put a record out on EMI, and the sentiment on the album is that we were presented with the opportunity of fulfilling our dreams by someone, but then it was stripped away from us before we even had a chance to get going there. What I think about life in general is that there are so many people out there going to the same job- the same position that you want to be- and its so competitive, life in general, that I think most people fail to acheive their ultimate goals. The fact that we went through that experience, of being dropped by EMI, made us feel like that as well. That’s what the whole first record is about, for me. The second record is looking to be more positive because we’ve been accepted by someone and its someone who’s not even from our home country, so it’s been inspired by moving and travelling. And musically it’s following the same grain, I guess, but all of our music, one song is different than the last song. It’s hard to say it’s very much like the first record, but I believe that each of our records should be different.
So what are your plans on getting the word out about how good the album is? Do you have a large tour planned anytime soon?
We’ve done the basic stuff in each town for the first time with our first single “If You Talk Too Much,” and basically we’re gonna come back and have a new single in October and start touring pretty much in the same way we did in the first place. We’re gonna start doing headlining shows… there’s a lot of work we’re allowed to do, by our label, which is very nice.
You had mentioned the song “If You Talk Too Much (My Head Will Explode).” Is that song inspired by someone in particular?
That song’s really connected a lot of people because it’s this simple idea of how people can get you down sometimes and there’s no real way to respond to them, ya know. Grareth wrote that song and, I don’t know, he changes his mind everyday I think. It’s more a generalization about how sometimes you just can’t get your point across to people and it’s very frustrating.
So what’s the music scene like in Wales these days?
I don’t know, we’ve been virtually out of it for the last year. There’s always been a strong musical scene in Wales, and there are a lot of bands that come in and out of Cardiff- which is where we are based in. To be honest I can’t think really of what’s going on. We’re just sort of soaking up, just going out to the pubs reminscing about when we started the band for some reason, ’cause it seems like we’ve been in America a lot recently, so we’ve been reflecting on the past.
Do you get homesick or do you like the relentless touring?
It’s been pretty cool, ’cause the cities change, the bands you play with change. We were even in Canada for awhile. As long as it keeps fresh and you see different places all the time you can go on and on, really. It’s kind of strange really because as soon as we were People In Planes we got signed in America, and we never really toured much back home as PIP, we did it under a different name. We’re being accepted in another country and starting all over.
Do you like to fly?
It’s a weird concept that’s always fascinated us. People say it’s the safest way to travel, but I think it’s because you spend such a small percentage of your time at that massive level of height over land. It’s such a fascinating thing, and travelling at that speed. It’s a strange psychological battle to get over to convince yourself that you’ll be safe. To try to convince yourself that it’s the safest way to travel because that alien feeling of being in such a dangerous position is kind of strange. It’s always really fascinated us. And actually one member of the band had never flown before this year, so it’s been quite weird. The first time we came over to America last year was the first time he’d flown.
That’s a long flight, too. What is it, six hours or more?
Yeah, it’s about six-and-a-half depending on which way you’re going. We got tailwind which makes the return flight much quicker, which is weird because surely wind travels in all different directions all over the place. I don’t really get that, but every time we come back it’s always quicker. I guess that’s something through science.
Do you remember what the first album or cd you ever bought was?
First album I ever bought that ever meant anything to be was Supergrass I Should CoCo. Probably the first album I ever actually bought was just rubbish. When I was thirteen that was when Supergrass was actually cool again, and me and Gareth- our lead singer- that record really meant so much to us, and made us start getting into music. Here were this band who weren’t much older than us who were doing this amazing thing. It inspired us to really start a band, and that it was something worth striving for, and there are not that many vocations really that you can say that about anymore. I guess it depends of the person in question, but for us that record really helped us to… you could even say that album made us closer friends, which is a pretty amazing thing. We had went away together on a school holiday and just listened to that album constantly, not much else, and we just got really excited. I Should CoCo by Supergrass.
So then working with producer Sam Williams (producer of Supergrass album and PIP’s debut) must have been a trip.
That was surreal! We had just left EMI and were pretty depressed, and we had just done this new demo, and we decided to send it to all these different producers just to see what they’d think. We never thought this guy… I mean, it was more of a joke (sending him the demo), like send it to this guy for the hell of it but he’ll never want to work with a band that just got dropped, but he came over to where we lived and we went out for a few beers. I was thinking, “What the hell is going on? I can’t believe that this guy actually likes us.” Then we discovered he works with new, unsigned bands all the time, and that’s what he did with Supergrass and that’s what he did with us. He just thrives off of the energy of young bands. He was brilliant. It was a real pleasure to do that. That was the weirdest thing, we were talking with someone who was that close to one of our favorite bands so we were probably boring him with questions about what it was like, and all that shit, and stories about the recording sessions for I Should CoCo. It’s kind of funny now, looking back on it.
So are there any other musicians, or producers that you’d like to collaborate with?
I’d like to do something with Peter Green… that sort of bluesy stuff he did with Fleetwood Mac, in the early days, was a big influence on me as a guitar player. I went to see him the other day and he’s this big massive, fat whale of a man now. He can hardly speak, I don’t know if it’s ’cause he’s done so many drugs, or whatever it is. It was kind of embarassing because he didn’t really sing that much, or play any of the guitar solos- it was a bit sad really, but it was still amazing to see the guy performing. That’s often the case, really, these rockers from the ’60s and shit who decide they’re suddenly short of cash so they reform the band and do a tour, and it’s kind of sad. You know, he got all this adoration, and did all of these tours- worked his bollocks off, really- and at that age you should just be chillin’ out… and not spoiling the memory of the great heyday. Kind of cool, I guess, for young guys like me who never got to see them in their heyday.
I guess it’s better to burn out than to fade away.
I think so. Actually I’m reading an autobiography of Jimi Hendrix and it’s so interesting. The thing about Hendrix- I’m just at the part where he’s just joined the army, he’s nineteen years old, and he’s gonna do a three year service… If he does a three year service, he’ll get out when he’s 22 and he hadn’t even fronted a band yet. But he comes out and creates the entire Jimi Hendrix legacy in five years, and then he dies. That’s insane. You’ve got Bob Dylan and shit, who’s been doing it for 40 years, and I wonder if it’s better to go out in a hail of madness.
Not sticking around long enough to make albums that suck.
So do you think there are any artists out there today that will stand the test of time?
It’s hard to say. I mean, hopefully we will. It’s kind of a strange thing, innit, a lot of the famous people are often not really that talented and yet they’re made successful. There are so many millions of bands out there that I know who are just incredible musicans and just deserve to make it and probably never will because of this crazy industry. We’re sort of lap dogs for the industry. Commercial success, for me, isn’t any sort of real testament as to how good a band is. Who’s gonna make it, who’s gonna make 10 albums- I don’t know, hopefully we do. Wintersleep is really good. They’re a band from Novia Scotia, who was on tour with us, and they’re pretty much our favorite new band.
Cool. Well, thanks for talking with me.
Cool- I hope to meet you when we come to America in October.
Yeah! I hope you’re coming to Orlando.
Actually, we played Tampa toward the end of our first tour with Blue October, and Gareth broke his leg in Tampa. That’s where the tour prematurely ended for us. We played Sarasota, too- went swimming there. It was beautfiul. How’s Orlando, is there a good gig scene there?
Good, well hopefully we’ll see you there.