Tag Archives: Indie

SMALL PLANETS – ‘Small Planets’ TRACK-BY-TRACK

Small Planets Album Cover

Los Angeles post-punk/shoegaze five-piece Small Planets released their self-titled debut album a few weeks back, and Jeff Love, one of the band’s guitarists, gave a short description of each one of its 11 tracks:

‘DROWNING’

Haunting and aggressive, with an intro that builds up a little tension before ripping into the verse.

‘BREATHE’

Has a catchy classic alternative sound about redemption and/or whatever your interpretation of that is.

‘BLUE’

Has more of an alt-rock pop song vibe to it.

‘SAY SOMETHING’

A very melodic track about love.

‘IN LIFE WE’

Another poppy adventure in finding love and missed opportunities. To me, this song was always kind of a fairy tale.

‘TONIGHT’

A really catchy post-punk track about death, and wishing you just had one more moment before losing that person.

‘TWELVE THIRTY’

A very dark, aggressive song. I think it’s our most gothic-sounding track.

‘E’

This song is the outlier on the album, but it still fits perfectly. It has everything to do with defining your own destiny. It is the “hope“, and has a nice cello part in the middle and at the end.

‘WAVES’

Another post-punk track with electronic beats and strong melodies. It’s dreamy.

‘AND THEN SHE SAYS’

This song is really complex, as it has lots of different parts, lots of melodies, and lots of hidden things to discover.

‘SMALL PLANETS’

This track is dramatic…it starts off really pretty, and then we just take the listener on a journey through feedback and distortion, all while driving a strong melody.

THE SELF-TITLED DEBUT ALBUM FROM SMALL PLANETS IS AVAILABLE NOW, AND TO FIND OUT MORE, DON’T FORGET TO CHECK OUT OUR INTERVIEW WITH THE BAND HERE, AS WELL AS OUR FEATURE ON THEM HERE.

 

 

 

THE SKELETON KREW

The Skeleton Krew band photo

THE SKELETON KREW (from l-r): Cameron Briley (bass/vocals), Hunter Cross (vocals/guitar)

INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

From the town of Jackson, Tennessee, between Memphis and Nashville, The Skeleton Krew are a two-piece who describe themselves as “young, hungry, and not wasting any time“, and specialise in a heavy, experimental, and original combination of rock, indie, blues, and Americana, influenced by such bands/artists as Bob Dylan, The Cure, and The White Stripes, which has left quite an impression on music fans across their home state.

Having released two well-received EPs, and with a new track planned to be unveiled early next year, the duo took the time to speak to me, in-depth, about all of this and more.

How did the band initially form?

CAMERON BRILEY (bass): We got together pretty much by accident: It was a matter of Hunter starting what he intended to be a solo record after his previous band split, which was emotionally draining for everyone involved, because they still really care about other, and we’re very close.

This new record was supposed to be his way of starting over with a clean slate, and he recruited his musician friends from our local area to all join together on different tracks, and when he and I started to play together, there was a nearly-audible CLICK!

As cliche as it sounds, it really was like that – like you read in interviews with a lot of acts, and it was extra crazy, as we were so young at the time we formed – I had just turned 16, and Hunter was 19, and we’ve been trucking along ever since.

How did the name The Skeleton Krew come about?

CAMERON: Our name comes from the fact that we, as the “band“, are just two people who hire out session players and live players on an as-needed basis. We have a small team that works behind the scenes as well, but we’re certainly and truly are a skeleton crew.

As far as where the “K” in “Krew” came in, we just liked it spelled that way, as it looked cooler on a logo than a “C” did. I wish there was a deeper answer to that, but there you have it!

What would you say was your approach to songwriting?

HUNTER CROSS (vocals/guitar): Bob Dylan always said – and I’m paraphrasing here – that the songs already exist, and he’s just a sort of lightning rod; he just channels the frequencies that are floating around in the atmosphere, and puts them to paper.

I like to approach songwriting in the same way. I think if you start to force it, it stops being genuine. I may not write for two weeks, or I may write non-stop every day for a month – it just depends on how dense the concentration of static is at the time, and if my antenna is tuned to the right frequency.

What inspires the band lyrically?

HUNTER: I think you should always write what you know, but I also take the approach of putting on different characters based on the stories I pick up that float around in the air. It’s a fun thing to balance, almost like writing stories of ghosts – like being a human spirit box or something.

And of course, being that we spend so much time in our hometown of Jackson, Tennessee, those ghost stories tend to be rooted in a Southern Gothic vibe – our town used to be booming back in the day, and now its history seems like it gets forgotten. It inspires a lot of the undertones of my writing.

So far, you have brought out two EPs – 2016’s ‘Evil’ and last year’s ‘The Fall’. How were the responses to them for you both personally?

CAMERON: We couldn’t have asked for better, I don’t think. It’s easy for us as artists, and relatively unknown ones at that, to get down on ourselves. I don’t think people outside of the business realise how isolating it can be for an independent act, when you’re not only responsible for writing and producing content at a high volume, but also for taking care of all of the business side of things that would previously have been the responsibility of a record label.

Most days, we’re locked away on our computers just doing business things, and we don’t get to socialise much outside of shows. All that to say, when we put out ‘Evil‘ and ‘The Fall‘, the response we got was so rewarding, because it was like, “Okay! All of this is not just falling on deaf ears! We’re doing something that other people find value in as well“, and I think that’s the best feeling ever – being able to be wholly yourself and other people finding intrinsic value in that as well.

And in the new year, the band will be unveiling a new single, entitled ‘Shine’. How has the recording process been for that?

CAMERON: ‘Shine‘ was a really fun one to record, because Hunter wrote that one in a whirlwind of inspiration: It seemed like, at that time, he was just bursting with songs. It’s been extra rewarding because we sort of officially-unofficially unveiled it at Summerfest in Milwaukee, so we just get all these good vibes from it, aside from it being one of our more upbeat tracks.

We did it at Room & Board Studio in Nashville, with Ray Kennedy, who’s a close friend of our producer [Pat Foley]. We’re all good friends now, so recording it was like having a little party! It was great! And on top of it all, we’ll be releasing it as a 45 single with a surprise B-side, which we’ll be announcing a little later. It’s actually being pressed as we speak, and we’ll be announcing the release date soon.

Also, how will the track differ stylistically to your previous work?

CAMERON: Like I mentioned before, it’s a really upbeat track sonically. Like pretty much everything we do, though, the lyrics are a bit tongue-in-cheek, but that’s just us being young, hungry, and full of piss and vinegar, and I hope we don’t ever lose that!

A lot of our previously-released tracks have been more parallel in the music and lyrics, but with this one, we’re experimenting with a little juxtaposition.

The band have performed live at venues across their home state of Tennessee. How is the experience – for you both – of playing on stage?

HUNTER: The stage is the payoff. We work all week behind a computer screen, reading, researching, writing…When I get onstage, it’s time to let off all the pent-up energy.

Of course, the audience plays a huge part in the experience for us as musicians: If they’re really feeling it, and we can play off of them, and they can play off of us, it’s like magic.

CAMERON: The stage is the only place I’m not anxious, and where I feel confident. I’m pretty shy in person, I like to be by myself – I don’t usually even tell my server at a restaurant if my food is wrong, but onstage, I can be everything that I’m not when I’m out in my everyday life.

Getting ignored by the audience really hurts, but it’s part of the game sometimes, especially as a self-booked, self-promoted, and self-managed indie act. When they’re into it, though…I don’t even know how to describe the feeling. I just get lost.

Single aside, what are your plans for the near future?

HUNTER: Our goal for 2020 is to really nail down home recording, making it sound incredible, and by the end of next year, we want to be putting out one song per month, whether it’s a demo, cover, or a new version of an old track, so 2020 is going to be a big learning experience, but we’re so ready for it.

And lastly, what is the band’s long-term aim?

CAMERON: Long-term, we want to be able to sustain a comfortable living doing music. I personally don’t have any huge dreams of being “the next big thing…” Obviously, I wouldn’t mind if that were to happen! Don’t get me wrong there, but at the core of it all, we just want to be our own bosses, doing what gives our life meaning, and being able to sustain ourselves well while we do it, and we want everyone we meet – everyone who listens to us or comes to our shows – to know that, as far as any scientific evidence can tell us, we get to live one time. Once.

Do what you find purpose in, and do it now. Success isn’t a limited resource, and you can always make more money, but you can never get back your time. Do it for your future self, so you’re not asking “What if?” on your deathbed.

‘SHINE’ – THE NEXT SINGLE FROM THE SKELETON KREW – WILL BE RELEASED AT SOME POINT IN EARLY 2020, AND FURTHER INFO ON THE BAND CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

INSTAGRAM

YOUTUBE

 

 

 

 

CIVIC GREEN

Civic Green band photo

INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

From South Yorkshire, Civic Green are an emerging four-piece – comprising of vocalist/guitarist Dan Hall, guitarist Matty Walker, bassist/vocalist Andy Lowman, and drummer Gav Darley – who play a sound that they personally describe as “loud as fuck indie rock n’ roll“.

So far, the band have mainly performed live shows around their local area, including a set at iconic Sheffield venue The Leadmill to full capacity, and having recently unveiled a new single – entitled ‘Sunlit Shore‘ – the quartet chatted to me about all of this and more, giving out some humorous answers along the way.

How did the band first get together?

It started back in 2016, when Dan and Andy (who have been mates since they were around four years old) finally found a drummer for the band they had been looking to form for years.

Three years, and numerous line-up changes, later, Gav responded to an advert online, and brought Matty in (who he has also been mates with for a number of years), and the line-up finally feels complete.

How did the name Civic Green come about?

Civic Green came from our first drummer, who used to get pissed as a 14-year old on the grass (green) outside the Civic in Barnsley, hence the name. We never got around to changing it when we left as a) We couldn’t think of anything better, and b) Quite frankly, we couldn’t be arsed.

What are the band’s main musical influences?

We’ve got a wide range of influences from different genres, ranging from 1950’s music to the present, and everything in between. We feel that gives us the ability to create tunes that are original, yet feel familiar. (Basically, we rip everybody off/people are too obscure to notice – we don’t wanna make it too obvious and get sued, although if they want to sue us for our earnings, then they’re fucking welcome to the £7 each we made in gig earnings)

What would you say was your approach to songwriting?

There are a few ways of coming up with ideas, but it always starts with the music and a melody, then progresses from there. It either starts at practice where someone comes up with a bit of a riff or a chord progression that turns into something more, or Dan will bring something in to work on, then we will slowly build on the idea.

The lyrics come last, and take the longest. Dan will go away to finish them, then do an acoustic demo for everyone when they’re finally done to use as a reference.

What inspires the band lyrically?

Various things inspire the lyrics, sometimes we’re not sure what they mean, but they make sense in a strange way, but the main theme of a lot of our songs seems to be escapism and looking towards better things, the prime example being our song ‘Better Days‘.

Some of the lyrics are based on real things, and some of them are stories and things that just sound good when put together.

Recently, you unveiled a new single – entitled ‘Sunlit Shore’. How was the recording process for that?

The recording process for ‘Sunlit Shore‘ was a really quick one. We recorded it with Alan Smyth at 2Fly Studios (the genius behind the first Arctic Monkeys album), and we did it in two takes, the first one we think we ended up using. It was mixed and mastered pretty much in one day, then came out within a week or so. Laughing.

And how has the response been to the track so far?

The reaction so far has been superb. In the feedback we’ve had, people have compared us to quite a few bands from a few different genres, so it’s encouraging to know that we’re appealing to audiences across the musical spectrum (Also, no-one has told us yet that we are shit, and to pack the band in). So far, so good.

The band have mainly performed live in Sheffield. How is the experience – for you all – of playing on stage?

Playing live can be quite a tumultuous experience, as one week, you’re playing to a packed out Leadmill, the next, you’re playing to three people (one of them being the sound engineer) in Barnsley, because the fourth person has been kicked out for throwing a chair through a window.

As for the actual playing on stage, it can be one of the best feelings in the world, when everything is just going right, and people are getting in to it, but equally, it can be one of the worst experiences and make you want to never pick a guitar up again, or wrap it around your bandmate’s head when you play a bad gig.

What are your plans for the near future?

Our plans for the future just involve playing as many gigs as we can possibly fit in, and to keep getting better as a band. Also, we want to record and release a new single with a snazzy little video to accompany it.

And lastly, what is the band’s long-term aim?

The long-term aim is to take the band as far as it can go, whether that is playing stadiums, or lingering about in boozers with the windows missing, because a quarter of the crowd has put them through.

Ideally for Dan, said stadiums would involve Oakwell [Barnsley], whereas the rest of the band would prefer Elland Road [Leeds United].

Civic Green Single Cover

‘SUNLIT SHORE’ – THE LATEST SINGLE FROM CIVIC GREEN – IS AVAILABLE NOW, AND FURTHER INFO ON THE BAND CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES:

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

INSTAGRAM

YOUTUBE

 

A CHAT WITH SMALL PLANETS

Small Planets band photo

by ZAK SLOMAN

Last month, Small Planets – an immensely-talented five-piece from Los Angeles, the capital of the US entertainment industry – unveiled a self-titled debut album, comprising of 11 well-crafted tracks drawn from a diverse range of musical influences, but rooted in post-punk and shoegaze.

The band’s first full-length offering represented another step in a journey which began in earnest when guitarist Jeff Love asked bassist Josh Spincic if he would be interested in collaborating with him on a new musical project.

Jeff already had a handful of songs when he asked me to join“, remembers Josh, “I listened to them, liked the musical direction he was heading in, and I thought I could add a lot to those tracks.

With Josh on board, him and Jeff searched fruitlessly for a drummer to complete the collective, until Josh thought of Phil Drazic, who he had played in a previous outfit with.

Phil was – and still is – one of the best drummers around, and so we brought him in.”

However, the now trio soon felt that something was lacking which would enable them to reach a higher level, and they decided that another guitarist and a vocalist was the way forward, but the process of finding the people who were the right fit was fraught with difficulty.

We actually went through quite a few, before we finally struck lucky with Ryan [Silo] and Jess [Hernandez].”

The bolstering of the band’s ranks with Ryan‘s guitar playing, and Jess‘s vocal tones, resulted in an evolution of a sound that effectively combined the swells of the Cocteau Twins, melodic richness of The Cure, and the darkness of Joy Division, and having already performed live across their home city, including at such iconic venues as the House Of Blues, The Viper Room, and the Troubadour, the five members decided it was finally time to put their songs to record.

It would take the Californian collective eight months to put together their debut album, but there was a good reason for the lengthy recording process.

We wanted to make the best possible record” explains Phil, with Josh adding, “Having the ability to take our time doing what was best for the songs really shows in the end product.”

The release was recorded at The Cave Studio, with a production team including people who had worked in the past with the likes of The Cure and The Jesus And Mary Chain.

It took a long time, and it was very detail-oriented, but [engineer] Josiah [Mazzaschi] really encouraged us to do whatever we wanted, and he was very patient with us.” says Jeff.

Once recording had been completed, the album was sent to the iconic Abbey Road recording studios in London to be mastered, before it finally came out to a overwhelmingly positive response from the quintet’s fan base, with Josh saying, “People seem to really get what we’re doing, and that is a great feeling to have.”

However, the band aren’t stopping to bask in the glow of all the plaudits heading their way, as they have already been working on a five-track EP, with Jeff teasing, “The EP will be more shoegaze-driven than the album, musically more mid-Cocteau Twins era on two of the songs with words, and all we need now is to just add some production into the mixes, some more guitar from Ryan, and we should be set.

The EP – entitled ‘Seasons‘ – will be unveiled at some point early next year, and after that, the five-piece will start work on their second album, so it looks set to be a busy time ahead for the ambitious Small Planets.

Small Planets Album Cover

THE SELF-TITLED DEBUT ALBUM FROM SMALL PLANETS IS AVAILABLE NOW, AND DON’T FORGET TO CHECK OUT OUR INTERVIEW WITH THE BAND HERE.

 

MITCHEL EMMS – ‘Vertigo At History’s Edge’ TRACK-BY-TRACK

Mitchel Emms photo

PHOTO by LAUREN STANTON

Vertigo At History’s Edge‘, the debut solo album from singer-songwriter Mitchel Emms, finally came out last month, and has so far had an overwhelmingly positive response from critics and fans alike.

In this feature, Mitchel looks back on the process of writing, recording, and mixing the recent release, and what each of the 10 tracks that make up the album mean to him personally.

I put the album together with the idea of having the album be a holistic musical journey from start to finish (so I assume that makes it a kind of concept album!)

Although there are many autobiographical elements involved, the overall themes are of awakening, dealing with loss, and confronting the future in an age of anxiety, and because it’s such a personal record, it’d take me forever to explain every single meaning and detail behind why everything is the way it is, so I’ll take influence here from ‘I Can’t Give Everything Away‘ from David Bowie‘s album ‘Blackstar‘, and I often write in a way of letting ideas flow in a stream-of-consciousness way that I make sense of afterwards, but I’ll give an overall summary of what I was going for with each song. 

However, I like the idea that art and music can mean different things to everyone. Although it might have meaning for me in my own way, it’s open to interpretation from the listener through the lens of their own life experiences and perspective, or to just enjoy for music’s sake.

‘INTRO’

I left the title of this as just ‘Intro‘, as I think it’s something that I can’t really put a definition on. I had this melody in my mind for a long time whenever I was feeling mixed emotions, and when I recorded it, I thought it was a perfect fit to open the album.

For me, it starts the record off from a place of nostalgia, familiar yet otherworldly, soothing but poignant, kind of like a lament.

‘A TRUTH INSIDE THE LIE’

This was the song that really helped the direction of the album take shape, as I knew from the get-go that this would be the opening track.

The lyrics are kind of cryptic on this one, but it mainly deals with being at a crossroads in life, going through an awakening of sorts, and wanting to know a deeper meaning to it all.

Musically, I was super happy with how it all came together, especially how the first section of the song expresses a rise from a distant foreboding into a moment of euphoria, and it was fun to get a bit experimental and add mellotrons (essentially sampled lo-fi reels of tape of real string recordings) and synths into the sonic pallette of the album to give it the cinematic vibe I was going for.

‘THAT SINKING FEELING’

I wrote this song when I was 19 for a band I was in (MisterNothing), and it never got used. However, I always loved the song, and in 2018, I found it related to it more than ever.

Re-recording it and adding new parts and dimensions to it really helped the song take on a new life and identity as part of this album, making this the definitive version of it.

The track deals with the way I think a lot of my generation feel at the moment: the anxiety, and the constant struggle to find motivation to keep going when everything seems stacked against them. 

Also, from a mixing standpoint, I absolutely loved using phase modulation effects in part of the song that helped add emphasis to the metaphor of sinking into water. 

This one also took the longest to finish mix-wise as there was so much going on in it instrumentally that it was an exercise in carving out places for everything compositionally and sonically to fit in, however, I was very happy with the result of it. 

‘RIVERS OF ICE’

I released this back in 2018, and at the time, it was a turning point for me with my songwriting, as a lot of the demos I’d been making that year felt like it was lacking something, but when I recorded this, I felt like I had found a new musical direction and approach, and it was a cool experience making a song that slowly developed from a quiet moment into a huge wall of sound, with plenty of space to breathe in between.

The feedback from that kick-started me into making this album, and the meaning of it for me is kind of a summary of a lot of songs I was writing at the time, so to be able to sum them all up in one track was a bit of a “aha!” moment. 

This song, especially, comes from my own reflection of everything I was up until that point in my life, and some of the archetypal things that people go through that can end up with us feeling depressed and not fully appreciating ourselves and our individuality.

‘NO MORE PAIN’

This one is kind of hard to explain, but it deals with growing up, realising the tragedy of life, and how people can fall victim to isolating themselves, living lives of meaninglessness and empty comfort, and not fully realising their own potential, but coming from a place without judgement.

This song came about from me noodling an early Genesis-type thing on guitar at around 2am, during which I ended up making this really interesting chord progression that I recorded right on the spot, and that take is the same one as on the finished track. 

The mellotron strings make a return here, as well as the lo-fi bells at the beginning of ‘Rivers Of Ice‘ at the end, to tie the two songs together. 

‘MESSAGE FROM THE WATER’

There’s been times where I haven’t felt my best, and I’ve gone into full “hermit mode”, shutting myself off from everything, not out of spite to anybody, but just purely because I felt I wasn’t worth having around, and being a bit burned out. This song comes from my own experience of it, and it’s a track for anybody who has ever felt the same. 

Musically, I was drawing a bit of inspiration from shoegaze and post-rock with this track, and I feel that, for me, when it fully kicks in during the latter half of the song, it encapsulates the melancholic juxtaposition of being filled with passion despite being withdrawn.

Also, as a guitarist, there’s barely a guitar solo on the album, as I wanted to just stick with great guitar melodies over self-indulgent soloing, but I felt this was crying out for a passionate one towards the end of this track. 

‘THE RAIN’

This one is a response to the previous song, in that it’s about trying to encourage someone to not isolate themselves and reach out. It was actually one of the last tracks I wrote for this album that ended up replacing a song that I felt didn’t really fit in, and this felt like it wrote itself, as it was finished within a day, and I was really happy with how it turned out.

The track also references the sort of disconnection we have at the moment, what with the influence of social media and the internet, with an example being the line “…with black mirrors in hand, distracted from this broken land”.

I messed around a lot layering distorted guitar feedback over the last third of the song, multi-tracking it, reversing it, and generally manipulating it in interesting ways, which was a lot of fun to do. 

‘HISTORY’S EDGE’

The title of the album, ‘Vertigo At History’s Edge‘ is based on a talk by Terence McKenna, and ‘History’s Edge’ is a song that addresses one of the meanings behind why I chose it. I recorded the acoustic guitar and vocals on my phone one evening, which I then used in the actual track.

It’s really hard to put into words what this song is personally about for me, but overall, I think I can sum it up as being about finding out a seemingly unspeakable truth that almost everyone is blind to, and you’re left wondering what the hell you’re going to do with that information, and how to move forward in the face of it all. It’s a musical moment of introspection, alienation, and loneliness. 

‘SEASON OF REGRET’

This song is difficult to explain, because it comes from a place of so many complicated emotions and thoughts, all at the same time.

When I was making the album, there was a lot going on in my personal life, and I finished writing this track shortly after a friend of mine had passed away, which ended up having a huge impact on the meaning of the entire project,

The lyrics are what came out of me in a moment during that time, and I can say overall that this is a song about realising that nothing lasts, regretting the moments you took for granted, and being at a loss with all of that. 

Musically speaking of where this track comes in on the album, I like to think of it as the moment of opening the door to the outside after a solitary dark night of the soul. 

‘FINAL FAREWELL’

This started life as an instrumental piece, inspired by JRPG game soundtracks I loved as a kind such as ‘Chrono Trigger‘ and ‘Final Fantasy VI‘.

However, the more I worked on it, the more I realised that I was actually making the outro to this album, which I wanted to end on a positive, upbeat, and reflective note after some of the more melancholy and dark moments on the record, and I wanted to let loose a little bit musically and creatively with it, and do something different than the other songs on the album. 

Lyrically, it’s the shortest, but it’s about continuing to tackle life head-on in the name of something or someone that once was, as an act of acceptance or dedication, and choosing to carry a memory of something you loved as inspiration to carry on rather than as just a reminder of better times that are now long gone. 

Having the intro used here as the outro completes the journey of the album, bringing you back to the music you heard when you came in.

Mitchel Emms Album Cover

‘VERTIGO AT HISTORY’S EDGE’ – THE DEBUT SOLO ALBUM FROM MITCHEL EMMS – IS AVAILABLE NOW, AND ALSO DON’T FORGET TO CHECK OUT OUR INTERVIEW WITH MITCHEL HERE AND HERE, AS WELL AS OUR FEATURE ON HIM HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

SMALL PLANETS

Small Planets band photo

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.

Small Planets Album Cover

THE SELF-TITLED DEBUT ALBUM FROM SMALL PLANETS IS AVAILABLE NOW, AND FURTHER INFO ON THE BAND CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

INSTAGRAM

DJO – ‘Twenty Twenty’

(Self-released)

Djo Album Cover

REVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

Prior to landing his breakthrough acting role in 1980’s-set Netflix show ‘Stranger Things‘, Joe Keery was already showing off his musical talents as part of Chicago psychedelic outfit Post Animal.

Having left the band last year, Joe decided to embark on a solo career – under the moniker of Djo – and ‘Twenty Twenty‘ is his debut album.

The release – which Joe discreetly worked on in between filming – is comprised of 12 tracks that has the listener being taken on a musical journey with plenty of twists and turns.

Showtime‘ – which is basically 48 seconds of a slowed-down, distant guitar riff, and a distorted voice speaking the song’s title for the most part – provides the album with an effective avant-garde opener, which is subsequently followed by the toe-tapping ‘Personal Lies‘, and at times fantastical ‘Tentpole Shangrila‘.

Fourth track ‘Just Along For The Ride‘ is a strong combination of honeyed vocals, dominant guitars and synths, and lyrical content that deals with relaxing and not letting the trials and tribulations that life can bring get to you.

Following the rather melancholic and gently-paced ‘Chateau (Feel Alright)‘ is ‘Roddy‘, a story of self-reflection and personal insecurity accompanied by a sound that shifts with ease from what is almost an atmospheric lullaby to something altogether more synth-based with a liberal use of distorted sound effects.

In comparison, ‘Ring‘ is a guitar-dominated number containing a noticeably deeper vocal delivery.

Joe then follows up the synth-heavy ‘BNBG‘ with ‘Mortal Projections‘, a track that has a dream-like quality to it with a soft, melodic, and at times haunting, sound.

Total Control‘ is pretty much an extended and more relaxed version of ‘Showtime‘, while ‘Flash Mountain‘ edges more towards heavy indie-rock than psychedelic rock with its faster pace and chunky riff, and ‘Mutual Future (Repeat)‘ brings the album to an effective conclusion with a gentle acoustic guitar riff that soon gives way to a synth-based composition before ending in mostly the same way as ‘Showtime‘ with an avant-garde mix of distorted vocals and distant guitar riffs.

In conclusion, ‘Twenty Twenty‘, with its unique, lovingly-crafted, and eclectic sonic approach, along with heartfelt vocals and lyrics, has to be one of the strongest debut albums I have ever listened to, and showcases a man who is just as immensely-talented a musician as he is an actor.

(4/5)

TOP TRACK: ‘Roddy