SMALL PLANETS (back, from l-r): Phil Drazic (drums), Ryan Silo (guitar) (front, from l-r): Jeff Love (guitar), Jess Hernandez (vocals), Josh Spincic (bass)
INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
From Los Angeles, Small Planets are a five-piece who take pride in being completely independent of the influences of record companies, leaving them with the freedom to produce a sound that is very much influenced by post-punk and shoegaze, and effectively showcases the best of their creative talents.
Having unveiled a self-titled debut album last month – which the quintet had spent eight months working on – I spoke to them to find out more about that, and a host of other band-related subjects.
How did the band first get together?
JOSH SPINCIC (bass): Jeff had a handful of songs when he asked me to join. I really liked the musical direction he was heading in, and I thought that I could really add a lot to those songs.
We tried a couple of drummers after that, but nothing worked out. Phil and I had been in bands before, and he’s one of the best drummers around, so I brought him aboard.
We went through quite a few singers and guitar players before getting lucky with Ryan and Jess. They both brought the level of songwriting and musicianship up to the next level.
How did the name Small Planets come about?
JEFF LOVE (guitar): I’m a huge fan of Neil Gaiman, and as I was researching one of the ‘Sandman‘ storylines, and the two words kinda evolved. Band names are really hard to come by, as everything seems to have been taken, so in a way, I think we got lucky with this one.
What would you say was your approach to songwriting?
JOSH: Musically, it’s all about the riff. It has to be something catchy and meaningful.
PHIL DRAZIC (drums): We all have a different approach to songwriting, but for me, I like to put my idea down as a full song, complete with drums, guitars, bass, and share it. The goal for me is to share my vision, see what the others like and dislike, and build it out from there.
JEFF: For most of this album, one of us would come in with a demo, and we would sit in a room and work it out.
What inspires the band lyrically?
JOSH: For me, it’s that age-old theory that you write from the heart.
JEFF: Getting the words right for each song was an important step, and I’m quite proud of the words on this album, and in some ways, we aligned certain themes. A perfect example of this can be found in the opening and closing lines of the record.
The album opens with “Just hold on, I can feel your grip slipping, slipping away from me“, and closes with “And don’t you see, we’re not the same“. It opens with the struggle to make something work, to care so much you fight for it, and then 45 minutes later, we close with “That’s it, we tried but, in the end, it didn’t work“. It’s fucking tragic.
Last month, you brought out a self-titled debut album, which you spent eight months working on. How was the recording process?
JOSH: Amazing. Our engineer Josiah Mazzaschi at Cave Studios makes the creative process easy, and it helps that he knows the genre, and can see the direction we want to go in. Having the ability to take our time doing what’s best for the song really shows in the end product.
PHIL: The process was long because of our schedules and wanting to make the best possible record, but I always enjoy the studio because you hear the songs in a different way, and hear parts that sometimes get lost in the rehearsal studio.
JEFF: It took a long time, and it was very detail-oriented. Josiah really encouraged us to do whatever we wanted, and was really patient with us. We then sent off the mixes to Abbey Road Studios, and Andy Walter mastered for us.
And how has the response been to the album so far?
JOSH: It’s been positive. People seem to really get what we’re doing, which is a great feeling.
JEFF: For the people who have heard the album, the feedback has been great. The trick is, with so much competition, how to jockey for position is key, as it requires an insane amount of time, dedication, and drive.
If you’re not driven, you’re going to get pushed to the side and overlooked. You literally need to be relentless, strategic, and not take your foot off the gas.
The band have performed live at venues across Los Angeles, including The Viper Room and the House Of Blues. How were they as experiences?
JOSH: Each show is a learning experience. To focus on what worked, and what didn’t. Every time you play, it makes you a better band.
PHIL: To be honest, they weren’t the best shows for us, but as Josh has just mentioned, they were a learning experience. Those shows were in the early period of the band, so we were still feeling out the songs and each other.
We built upon those early shows, and when we played The Troubadour with the Twilight Sad, for example, we had become a much more cohesive unit.
JEFF: I remember the House Of Blues show being really good. It was in a beautiful room, and we only had a few weeks to prepare, but it came off really well. We had a few key people in the audience who are brutally honest with me, if we sucked, they would have let me know.
The Viper Room was great, because it’s a historical landmark venue, but I don’t think it’s my favourite place to play.
The Troubadour was my favourite place so far, the pressure was intense, most of it being self-induced, but in the end, the care for what we do showed.
And how is it overall playing on stage, for you all?
JOSH: It’s the best. One of the reasons why I play music is for that live connection with a crowd.
PHIL: Comfortable. It’s funny because I don’t like large crowds or large groups of people, but I’m most comfortable on the stage. Maybe the stage is my safety blanket.
JEFF: Playing live shows could be a key differentiator for us. Between this and the unreleased EP, we could make a very interesting and engaging show. We have just enough diversity in our catalogue of music to really draw the audience into something really special and memorable. I think it’s utterly pointless otherwise.
And lastly, now that the album has come out, what are the band’s plans for the near future?
JOSH: We have an EP in the works. We also want to play live as much as possible, and work on a second full-length album. Oh, and world domination.
PHIL: Planning a vinyl release of the record, and playing live. I would love to hit the road for some short stints on the west coast, but we shall see what the future brings.
JEFF: We strategically recorded an EP of five songs that are more shoegaze-driven, musically mid-Cocteau Twins era on two on the songs with words. We just need to add some production in the mixes, some more guitar from Ryan, and we should be set.
Since we are without the financial support of a record label, we need to be really creative in how to leverage cross-functional marketing opportunities while giving our fans enough content to stay with us for the next 10 months as we work on the second full-length.
THE SELF-TITLED DEBUT ALBUM FROM SMALL PLANETS IS AVAILABLE NOW, AND FURTHER INFO ON THE BAND CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES: