Waxing Originality: An Interview with Morning Becomes Eclectic Host, Nic Harcourt

I was giddy with excitement to do this interview with Nic Harcourt. I first heard Morning Becomes Eclectic when I did a summer stint in LA in 98. I was blown away by the shows content, and coming from doing Capital Hill Pirate Radio in Denver as well as listening to Boulders Radio 1190, gave me hope that my choice in going for a broadcasting major at the time was a smart move. I even applied to go to school at Santa Monica City College. It was respectable. Of course after some deep thought and consideration I realized that college radio is great college radio because it is run by students and that Nic Harcourt is just one example of brilliance in all the murkiness of the FM dial. Plus, coming to the conclusion that my speaking voice is somnambulistic, which could jeopardize my delusions of becoming the next John Peel or Rodney Bingenheimer, turned me off that particular career path. As is the case with most things, most radio sucks, mostly. Just like most music sucks, mostly. That is until you find something that speaks to you and doesn’t suck. Those little gems do exist and what a wonderful world we live in where you just have to look a little deeper to find them.

nic harcourt

Everybody has an opinion about radio. Personally, I think that commercial radio sucks. It is predictable and boring, and with the ever present censorship from the FCC destroying anything funny or original, it’d be a safe bet to say that you could go from San Diego to Buffalo, NY and hear the exact same morning show or afternoon drive time brain bubbler.

Yeah, for some, the morning radio experience was bearable having Howard Stern to stir the pot and get you laughing, sighing with disgust and pity, or pounding your fist against the wheel screaming, “INDECENT, VILE, REPREHENSIBLE.” Now he’s going to satellite radio where listeners will have to pay for quality programming. Depending on what your perspective of ‘quality’ happens to be. Whatever the case, radio is poison, a giant viper-like marketing tool used by corporations to ‘buy people’ while being heavily monitored by the government.

Luckily, stations like Santa Monica’s non-profit KCRW (89.9 FM), and more specifically the Morning Becomes Eclectic radio series, provide exceptional programming and-gasp-good MUSIC! Music that you won’t hear repeated a million times in the span of an hour. The show’s host, Nic Harcourt, joined KCRW in the spring of 1998 after nearly a decade in Woodstock. NY, where he built a program similar to the one he successfully produces now.

KCRW is a not-for-profit radio station licensed through Santa Monica City College that has the luxury of being autonomous from advertisers whims and a CEO’s stock portfolio. We caught up with Nic Harcourt while on a commute with his two very vocal 2-year-old daughters.

Shane Roeschlein: How do you decide what to play? Do you get an obnoxious amount of submissions from bands?
Nic Harcourt: Morning Becomes Eclectic has evolved over time, and you know, it’s a bit of both. You find bands yourself and then bands send stuff in. We get about 400 CDs a week. We try and go through them as best we can. Obviously, we can’t go through every CD, but you try and listen to snippets from tracks.

Its purely subjective, I do a free-form radio show, and at the end of the day when you do a free form radio show, the host has to want to play it. If I like it and I feel like playing it, I’ll play it. It has to be unique and unlike regular radio.

SR: You’re on the third Morning Becomes Eclectic compilation and there are performances by bands like Radiohead, My Morning Jacket and Paul Weller, to name a few, but most interesting are all of the bands that blew up this year!
NH: Its worth me pointing out that when people look at these compilations and say most of these bands are already known, quite often the acts we’re putting on the CDs of our live sessions were recorded before they were known. The Sounds Eclectic 3 CD has a live cut from Interpol and a cut from Franz Ferdinand, and those bands are huge right now. Those cuts were from their very first radio station sessions.

We draw from the material we already have and some of it is from bands that have broken through already and some of it isn’t.

SR: What do you base your interview criteria on? It seems similar in concept to John Peel and the BBC sessions but in an interview type of setting?
NH: It depends on who they are, you know? If it’s somebody who is really huge, like Coldplay for instance, who I’ve had on the show three times, and the first time I had them on the show was their first live performance in America. It was the first radio appearance in America and their first gig. We had a record of theirs by then and had played it but the audience didn’t really know anything about them. Whenever I have a band on that people don’t know much about then I ask them questions about their background, where they’re from, who their influences are. I figure that my listeners want to know who they are. But if it’s a band that’s a little more popular-and we’ll use Coldplay as an example again-coming back on the show their third time as a multi-platinum artist-you tend to focus on things like what they’ve been up to and maybe how they’re handling fame and success.

Though the majority of the artists we have on the show are artists that don’t get a lot of opportunities to play live radio sessions, or at least they’re at a point in their career where that hasn’t happened for them yet.

SR: Where do you see radio in the next five years, and do you feel commercial radio can get any worse?
NH: Maybe, but I don’t see it getting any better. Commercial radio has finessed its approach to such a point where its sole purpose is to sell products and deliver goods to a specific demographic audience. It comes down to selling beer and donuts and burgers. I don’t see that changing. But the good news is that we now have the Internet.

Stations like the station I work at are finding a whole new audience outside for our cities who are looking on the Web for an alternative to commercial radio.

There is a lot of talk about satellite radio right now. My belief is that the real fun and games start when we can have a truly wireless Internet and you can listen to Internet on a hand-held device or in your car. I think that will democratize the process more.

SR: You obviously have a good barometer of judgment on strong, independent music. A lot of places are adopting your programming model, slapping a new coat of paint on it and calling it original, what’s up with that?
NH: I think that indie rock is hot right now and I think that you’re finding the commercial world is calling itself that now. They call themselves “Independent.” You’ve got stations calling themselves independent, and you have shows like the O.C. that serve a similar purpose, but I think they’re just lifting that from somewhere else, you know what I mean? Those guys aren’t discovering new music; they’re taking it from places like KCRW or Weblogs. It’s all well and good for the O.C. to decide to put the Shins on their programs, but the Shins were getting airplay on non-commercial and college radio five years ago. The O.C. isn’t cutting edge, but I suppose they seem cutting edge for the mainstream.


Morning Becomes Eclectic: Morning Becomes Eclectic is committed to a music experience that celebrates innovation, creativity and diversity by combining progressive pop, world beat, jazz, African, reggae, classical and new music. Recognized nationally as a forum for promoting a wide range of music ahead of the curve, the show has become a very attractive whistle stop for both established and emerging artists from around the world.

KCRW now offers podcasts of some of the live sessions performed by unsigned and independent artists on Morning Becomes Eclectic.

The show is hosted by Nic Harcourt.

For more information, please visit http://www.kcrw.com/show/mb

Propagandhi: An Interview with Todd Kowalski

(This was one of my most exciting interviews. Once I had established some full time writers for themusicedge.com I was able to secure interviews with some of the bands that informed me as a person and as a musician – this was one such occasion.)

propagandhiArrhythmias in Music

So you may be wondering, “Why the nine-dollar title?” Well, it’s quite simple really. Manitoba’s powerhouse thrash-punk trio (Glen Lambert-vox, guitar, Todd Kowalski-bass, vox and Jordy Samolesky-drums) has been shredding wicked riffs while ripping to shreds everyone from Bush to organized religion to COINTELPRO for the past 13 years. They are the irregular beat in the black heart of punk rock, eschewing pop affectations and single-minded punk politics (they don’t give a fuck if YOU don’t think they’re punk enough), fashion and desire to sell more units and make tons of cash. They don’t even get along that well with their record label (Fat Wreck Chords), which isn’t entirely true but what’s entertainment without some controversy?

They represent the elephant in the corner that no one wants to talk about. I mean, who wants to be in a circle pit when some guy is singing about sticking an American flag in an uncomfortable place, especially some guy from Canada? Next thing they’ll do is make fun of “Freedom Fries” and all the hard-working Americans who make up the McDonald’s labor force.

Propagandhi has put out several significant albums in its decade-long history. Today’s Empires, Tomorrow’s Ashes saw the band grow and mature while still maintaining its tongue-in-cheek humor, and its Fat Wreck Chords debut, How to Clean Everything, took the ‘Jock’ out of punk rock, while nodding to SNFU, Venom and Iron Maiden. Their latest pièce de résistance, Potemkin City Limits, is a drastic evolution in musicianship, songwriting and unfettered aggression.

We recently caught up with Propagandhi bassist Todd Kowalski who answered our email questions faster than any interviewee for The Music Edge in our two-and-a-half-year history.

Oh, and we finally got the skinny on the whole Chris Hannah/Glen Lambert thing. Intrigued? Read on.

Shane: Aside from being in Propagandhi, what do you do employment or career-wise? I’ve read that you don’t consider yourself a full-time musician-what do you do to keep sane when not playing music?
Todd Kowalski: I think Glen/Chris is going through a whole-life crisis. Actually, believe it or not, we are full-time musicians. Haha. We all practice really hard and spend a lot of time writing songs, etc. I like to play all kinds of music. I’ve started taking jazz guitar lessons. However, my heart lies in the thrash! When not playing music, I spend a lot of time fighting Jiu jitsu and boxing. That’s a lot of fun for me. I draw and paint all the time. Someday I’d like to draw my own comics. I also want to be an astronaut, form my own space traveling company. Or maybe swim with the fishes.

SR: One of my fondest memories of Propagandhi was the show at the VFW in Denver in the mid-nineties. I had patiently waited a few years to see the band play live and then never got the chance because the promoters oversold the show; then the cops showed up and started tear-gassing everyone. What really happened?
TK: Well, I wasn’t in the band at that time. From what I’ve heard, the cops went out of control when a kid threw a chair at them or something. Yeah, I’ve been tear-gassed a couple times also. It burns like hell. It can’t be good for you. Imagine a bunch of cops gassing kids at a show. That is assault. No one should have to tolerate that.

SR: In regard to the San Fran show, was the “McShit Shake” costume appreciated overall?
TK: Shitty McShake never really made it to the stage that night. He just hovered along the outskirts of the stage. After that show he kept turning up the juice! Shitty was a great addition to the band and a great sponsor for us. I’d like to thank McDonalds, Burger King, Vans, Schneider’s Wieners and Krusty Burger for sponsoring the tour.

SR: How did you decide on the opening acts? (Greg MacPherson, Western Addiction, etc.) How did the crowd respond to someone as diverse as Greg Macpherson?
TK: The crowd was really into MacPherson. He’s a great performer and really honest. I’d rather take people with spirit and a drive to communicate [on tour] than just bands that will help sell a lot of tickets to the show. We’ve been friends with Chicken and the fellows from Western Addiction for years. They’re great! I thought it’d be nice to have them along. We then added Toys That Kill because they are very old friends of ours as well. Todd from TTK put out the Propagandhi/I Spy split 10″ back in the day. They kicked ass as well.

SR: Concerning the new album, Potemkin City Limits, how long did you spend writing it? Did you have a specific vision for this album?
TK: The record took a long time to make. A lot of riffing and lyric-writing took place. The vision for the record just comes naturally as the songs are made. The theme of the record came when we saw that the lyrics could all fit in some way to the idea of a Potemkin City or Village, which is a facade. Four more years of Democrats or Republicans makes me depressed and angry enough to keep the tunes coming.

SR: What do you want people to take with them from this record?
TK: I want people to thrash and to feel something. I hope they can identify with the despair we feel/felt about the world and we can help them get through it. For me to help someone out and help myself get through life using music is my only goal. Many musicians have done the same for me, that’s for sure.

SR: The artwork is pretty incredible as well-how was it chosen?
TK: We’ve known about those artists, Eric Drooker and Sue Coe, for a long time. We chose their art because it’s great and really emotive. They have something good and honest to say. I painted the CD face as well. I wanted a photo of those kids on the CD but figured I’d paint them so it looks a little different than just going to copy a photo into a CD.

SR: What would you tell people who are concerned about the well-being of animals? Is there something people can do right now to stop animal suffering (aside from not eating them of course)? (In fact if you currently live in California you can help in the fight against farm cruelty. Signatures are being turned in Feb. 22 so next time you are going to Whole Paycheck or Trader Ho’s stop and talk to those friendly hippies out front and sign your name! Learn more from this PDF; The Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act.
TK: There’s a lot of organizations that help animals. You could donate money to them or volunteer. Everything we do affects animals–be that urban sprawl, agriculture, war, etc. The more we think about where we spend our money, the things we eat, where and how we travel-all those things affect wildlife and animals. If we recognize that they are vital to our own well-being, mentally we will be much better off. We need them physically as part of our ecosystem as well. The first easy, easy step is to stop eating and wearing them, of course.

SR: Does the band plan to tour a lot during 2006?
TK: We’re heading off to Australia in 2006. After that I’m not sure what the plan is. I’d love to see South America or Africa. We have been offered an opportunity to play shows there. It would be great to go to these places and see what’s going on. I think that would be a huge benefit to us so we understand different shit and meet lots of different people. Touring other cultures is so great. I make a point to support world music as well, so I’m not always the one blabbing and not listening to what other people have to say lyrically and musically.

SR: Do you consider yourselves a band first or activists first, or do they go hand in hand?
TK: I think they go hand in hand. We have a good situation where we can actually support things we believe in and have our say and some people will listen. There is a lot of people saying and doing a lot of great things, but they aren’t allowed to break through to people. We are very, very lucky. It would be a hard world to live in if I had no outlet to get my opinion out. It is great to play music, I love it.

SR: For people just starting to play music, what advice can you offer?
TK: The advice I would give is to just worry about the songs and what is truly in your heart. Whether that is political music, instrumental or love songs, just go for it! Don’t worry about the media and magazines too much. Just play for yourself. People will recognize this. Music first- posing, bullet belts and stupidity second.

SR: When did you first pick up a guitar or bass or drums?
TK: I started playing guitar in grade five. I sucked for years and years. I always played just by ear. Now I’m learning theory and stuff. I like both ways of playing. I started playing bass when I joined Propagandhi. Haha.

SR: There is a beautiful mixture of punk and thrash on Potemkin City Limits.
Aside from some of the more obvious influences (Venom, DRI, Slayer) what are some other musical influences you pull from? What is the lyric-writing process like?
TK: I pull a lot of influences from African music-Salif Keita, Oumou Sangare, etc. I like all honest music. There is a great, great, great Canadian singer named Garnet Rogers who I love. I love the death-metal band Immolation and the Brazillian band Krisiun as well. A Canadian Rapper named K’Naan is also among the great finds lately. He’s got amazing lyrics. There’s a lot of rad sh*t out there, almost all of it not found on any major radio station or T.V. show.

SR: Which way do we go from here?
TK: I think we have to wake up before we get eaten by the world we live in. We are either at the point of doom or the turning point. The world is crumbling before my eyes. As I travel around I can see that we’re in a worse environmental state than we were even five years ago. We can only send out our own ideological transmissions to each other and do our best to live our lives in a way which is sustainable, just and reasonable. We have to live as though we are not disconnected from all other beings and our environment. If our amnesia doesn’t go away, we will be beaten back to earth by our “Mother.” Ha.

SR: Is there collusion between world power and the international news media to keep information at a drizzle? Are there alternatives to corporate media and journalism available? Are they viable sources?

TK: Yes. I think there is a lot of sources-a hell of a lot more viable than the major media outlets. Fox News advertises their news hour with a “sexy” anchorwoman with the voiceover saying, “Wouldn’t you like to tune into this every night at 10:30?”

That says to me that this is the most bogus news station in the world. I like to check out news from all types of sources: Znet news media from the regions that the news is happening in, Al Jazeera, CNN, local papers. It’s good to check out what all sides are up to. There is definitely a lot out there for honest journalists and other types of people trying to tell the real story. I find books are the best way to get a deeper understanding of something.

SR: Did Chris [Hannah] record any vocals on Potemkin City Limits? (In usual irreverent fashion, the singer/guitarist changed his name on the release and all the subsequent PR that accompanied the release.)
TK: Chris sang about eight songs. Glen Lambert is his, believe it or not, less weird alter-ego. Even if he was shape-shifted into a different form, the smell of toilet paper and vitamins would definitely give him away.

id rather be flag burnginSR: The Propagandhi/I Spy split 10″I’d Rather Be Flag Burning is probably one of my most rare and cherished records. It’s even cooler now that you are in Propagandhi since you were in I Spy. (Yeah, this one is a classic. If you’ve got it on vinyl you’re super fuckin’ lucky. I’ve got my eye out for it every time I go blast through some cash at the local wax mart.)
TK: Haha! I’m glad you like that record. It was a cool period of time. I would never want to go back and relive it but it had its charm. Embarrassing charm, anyway.

SR: When are you going to put out another Propagandhi record? Will it be in five, seven or 10 years?
TK: I have no idea. When the tune-age flows, I too will flow with it. I’d like to do it faster. I have ideas starting to formulate in my tarnished nugget right now. I shall let my fingers dance along the strings until I find salvation. Ha.

(The band is currently working on the followup to Potemkin City Limits, check their site for more news and a bunch of awesome agit-prop style rants)

Thanks to Todd and Vanessa from Fat for setting this up and jumping through major hoops to accommodate us.

Planes Mistaken For Stars: The Best Band You Never Heard Of

I wrote this in 2003. Gared was my fourth interview for the music edge. In celebration of them coming to San Diego to play Cullens 30th B Day bash I thought I’d put this up. There is a funny anecdote of an experience I had when they played the Black Box in 05′. Gared and I were in Cullens Kitchen along with Mikey looking for ice cubes for our Jack and Cokes. Cullen, being a vegan, had a tray of frozen vegetable bullion in his freezer and if you’re outside of CA or not a vegan, that is just bit strange. Well Mikey and Gared both got regular ice cubes and in my drunken state I put what i thought was frozen cola cubes in my drink. It was a very healthy Jack and Coke to say the least. I also sustained a pretty good head wound that night as well. Enjoy!

When the boys from Planes decided it was time they leave their hometown of Peoria Illinois to seek their fortunes, they weren’t alone, “a mass exodus” ensued (thirteen of their closest friends) and they transplanted themselves to Denver, CO. Gared O’Donnell (vocals, guitar) says that, “We all moved out here. It’s sort of the ‘grass is always’ greener type thing. There really are a lot of downsides to Peoria but once you get away you realize that happiness is what you make it. I think at that time in our life when we left we needed to do something. It was a time in our lives when we all knew we wanted to do something. It was an awakening. When you realize that you are you and its sort of a cleansing, learning, teaching experience.”

The kind folks of Denver would have never been the wiser except for the fact that Planes is one of the standout bands as far as music is concerned in that little big city on the eastern side of the continental divide. They even made the number one slot on the Denver Post’s best underground band vote, a place often reserved for indie rock neophytes like Dressy Bessy or veteran indie outfits like The Apples In Stereo, both are great bands, albeit light years away from the hard edged sound of Planes Mistaken For Stars (and without the same amount of distortion).

Matt Bellinger (guitar, vocals), Gared O’Donnell (vocals, guitar), Mikey Ricketts (drums) and Chuck French (bass, formerly of the band Peralta and currently Git Some) comprise this powerful combination of post hardcore music and straight from the gut honesty that has left bystanders speechless and made a fan out of many a skeptic in a commercialized state of “the next new thing.” Eschewing references to the genre known as emo, Planes nosedives into a burning cornucopia of hard rock balladry that hasn’t had the fire of idealistic panache since the second Hot Water Music record or Bukowski’s Play the Piano Drunk Like a Percussion Instrument, Until the Fingers Begin to Bleed a Bit. This cadre of road warriors are hell-bent on making music, playing it for themselves and their fans without any apprehension of whether they will be “signed” or cash in, which they wouldn’t complain about on either scenario.

At 26, Gared and his band mates (all roughly around the same age) have been on a dozen tours, both regional and national, and have shared the stage with some amazing bands. As far as his age is concerned, he says that, “Days go by slow but years just zip by, especially looking back and thinking about what you have done or haven’t done.” Yet just this past spring they shared the stage with metal moguls, Motorhead in their hometown of Denver. Aside from playing with some amazing bands, Gared muses with a laugh about performing, saying, “You feel like you’re really alive for like five minutes.”

Thankfully that kind of attitude translates itself well to the crowds that have gathered at their shows. They don’t take themselves too seriously, nor do they demonstrate that upper crust nescience when they rock the club (but are often intoxicated to the point of falling down). When they first moved to Denver, thirteen people shared the same house in a somewhat dilapidated neighborhood in North East Denver. It became more than just a place to throw parties, it became a place to sleep for touring bands and a place to play for bands in Denver that otherwise would have to wait until the legal drinking age to play bars or hope that some promoter would let them grace an all ages venue (as long as they could draw a crowd). In essence it became an extended community of like-minded individuals that loved playing music and loved each other’s company.

Gared’s first recollection of music was family inspired; “I was always around music, my Mom was never a music fanatic but she was always into music. She always had the radio on. She had a moderate sized record collection. I can remember times when I was young, but going further back, of course I remember my grandmother and mother singing to me, thinking that was neat. I don’t know, I guess the first time I remember it (music) making an impact on me I was in second grade and my mom worked third shift so she would sleep most of the day. And this was during the summertime. I figured out how to use her record player, and I remember listening to Simon and Garfunkle’s, Greatest Hits and Bruce Springsteen’s, Born in the USA, over and over again until she woke up that day.

I really remember the Simon and Garfunkle record being important because it was the first time I realized that there was more to songs than just a tune. I remember it painting pictures for me, and in second grade you know, you can’t really grasp the gravity of what the songs really mean but that’s what I remember being meaningful. I also remember being in daycare before school and I remember having a crush on one of the ladies that took care of me, as much of a crush as a four or five year old can have. I remember hearing some love song on the radio and connecting her face with the song.”

It’s those kind of dramatic connections that make Gared such a benevolent and imposing figure, on stage. His strong ties with his family have made him into an insightful person, which is something that communicates itself through the music of Planes. Although there is an underlying excitement that permeates his calm demeanor Gared has world-weariness about him. Soft spoken and thoughtful the guitarist and lyric maestro is a stay at home father who lights up at the topic of being a father and the difficulty of being away from home so much.

A modest upbringing in the town of Peoria contributed to the Zen-like outlook he has on life a childlike wonder that has been with him forever. “I came from a single parent home. Me and brother were raised by my mother. We came from a very loving fostering environment. We lived very close to my grandparents. My Grandmother is the one that got me into comic books. My very first memory of my grand parents house was that it seemed as big as a castle but it was just a regular sized suburban home. I always liked exploring and looking for things and finding things and one time I found this box that was over my head but it was within reach and I kept wondering, “What’s in the box, what’s in the box?”

And I pulled at it and the whole box fell on top of me but as it did it opened up, it literally knocked me over, but I was covered in comic books and at that moment I could have died the happiest little boy in the world. I sat down there for what seemed like hours just reading comic books. She came down and told me that, ‘oh yeah, I was going to give those to you at some point.’ So I just have a real big appreciation for that kind of, well, pop art, I guess? That sounds kind of cliché or something but my childhood was filled with that kind of wonder.”

Gared’s influences as a musician is actually simple, citing one band in particular, The Police. “I was always into them [The Police]. I’ve got a lot of younger memories from them. Once I started to put together what songs meant, even on top of the whole Simon and Garfunkle experience, I started to understand that songs could change your moods at the time. You can hear something and it can trigger sadness or happiness or elation or whatnot, it’s The Police. They have always been a huge influence on me.

Adding, “I just wish I could follow suit more and know my instrument better to play at that caliber. But even with the stuff that we write, I’ve always got Police songs in the back of my head.”

Getting signed for Planes Mistaken For Stars was, according to Gared, a bit of a fluke but an interesting story nonetheless.

“We’ve never really been into shopping stuff around or sending stuff out. We had never really done that. But I guess business wise or career wise it just never occurred to us. We didn’t even start making shirts until we had been together for like three years. It never occurred to us, I don’t know why and we might have been a lot better off had we thought of those things. Anyway, when we first started out, we sent out that first copy of our record, we sent two out, one went to Deep Elm, because we played with a band that was on Deep Elm and they were like, ‘You have to make Deep Elm a copy, and you should send this to Deep Elm. I think he’d really like what you’re doing.’

Sending out the record wasn’t really with the intention of trying to be on Deep Elm, cause I’d never really heard of the label. When I did hear stuff from Deep Elm it wasn’t really our thing, anything on that label, it wasn’t bad but it wasn’t what we were going for. And then we sent one to Crank Records, well actually we didn’t send it, our old bass players roommate sent one to them. And it was weird because we decided to go out on our first tour and it was a big deal but on our way to our second show our engine blew. It ended up being this big fucking ordeal because half of us ended up getting stuck. Well actually it was me and two other guys but we had a car following us with a bunch of our friends because we’ve always been kind of communal in that sense. We always roll ‘mob deep.’ We always have a bunch of friends us with and it was a good excuse for all of us to get out of town.

We had a carpool following us, so we were lucky enough to have this car behind us so everyone went ahead to the next show and this was somewhere on the border between Oregon and Idaho. Me and the other two guys stayed back, and I called home to my Grandma to check in because I was living with her at the time, to see if she was ok, and she was like, ‘You want to check the messages?’ And the first message was the dude from Crank and the second one was the guy from Deep Elm. Both were like, ‘Whoa, we really liked the tape that you sent us, give us a call, we’d like to talk about doing something.’ We never even thought about being on a label, and that was such a shock and it was so foreign to us because we were such huge fans of music anyway that we just didn’t think that could happen to us. It’s totally a fluke that we’re doing this anyway.”

Adding, (at length) “We ended up calling Crank and we couldn’t get a hold of him then we called John from Deep Elm and he was like, ‘I got your tape, lets sign a deal.’ And I was like ‘wait we’ve never even met you man, this is our first tour and we’ve only been together for six months. ‘ Then I told him our plight with the van, he was like, ‘I’ll tell you what, I can take care of the engine for you and we’ll work on doing this record deal.’

And you know what? As much as I wanted to I could’ve been like, ‘hey send us some money for the engine,’ because we should’ve been completely ecstatic about this label wanting to sign us, but I guess we’ve always been pretty leery about labels, skeptical about labels in general. So I told him, ‘let us finish this tour and we’ll talk to you down the line.’ We were lucky enough that Mikey had a credit card with a pretty big limit on it. We fixed the engine, but the only thing was that it took them (mechanics) a week to do it so we had to rent a minivan to finish the tour, and only three of us could fit in it with all of our gear. Then our last show was in Arizona, for some reason we couldn’t find shows for the way back to Peoria, so everyone cruised home from Arizona, except for me and a couple of other guys, we had to go up to Idaho to get the van and return the rental. John from Deep Elm flew in to Arizona to check out our last show there and he was still really trying to sign us.”

In an age of computers, bands are being grown in the digital world, utilizing things like Sound Scan, a system that tracks album sales. Bands use this software so they can proposition labels and promoters while booking for tours or trying to get signed. It legitimizes them as a ‘crowd-pulling’ act in the eyes of the promoters. “I bet if you checked Sound Scan we’ve only sold about a thousand records. We never pay attention to things like that. A lot of people have heard of our band, they might have heard our records but a lot of people don’t think we actually exist. I know we’ve sold more than that though,” Gared explains.

Planes is a grass roots operation, built from the ground up, with friends for fans and fans for friends, its no wonder their support system is so loyal and protective. Gared continues; “He (John) still really wanted to do the record and one thing led to another and he wanted to sign us, but we were like, ‘we’re not sure how long we’re going to be a band, we don’t know how much we’ve got going now.’ It was such a pivotal point in all our lives but we told him that if he wanted to license this record and put it out then that would be cool. Because we were going to put it out ourselves in the states and he was going to take care of the rest of the distribution. He was going to do it overseas and we were going to take over the domestic distribution because we wanted to start our own label but he ended up doing it here anyway of his own accord. It all worked out anyway though. We didn’t really have the time or resources at the time to push the record and give it recognition. On our tour the printing company didn’t send us the covers for the pressings we had done ourselves so we hand made a thousand covers from stock board paper and used duct tape and a bunch of pictures. It was kind of ghetto but it looked really cool. I don’t even have one anymore, I wish I did though they looked nice.

We didn’t sign an exclusive deal with him, but he ended up doing the Knife in the Marathon EP, (and the self titled full length) which was great but we have always been just sort of passing through (when it comes to labels). That’s kind of how our whole take on it is, I’d love to work with as many labels as possible because its that much more of a stamp on your history to be involved with that many people. Each release is exciting because you know you have that different aesthetic

Gared’s love for the art of music takes interesting thematic approaches when it comes to label support. The band has released both Spearheading the Sin Movement (EP) and F*#k with Fire on No Idea Records, which is currently their home. Knife in the Marathon and the first full length as well as starring roles on Deep Elm’s famous, Emo Diaries, found Planes on their first now famous compilation.

As an after thought, in regards to their old label, Gared says that, “We love Deep Elm and we never really signed an exclusive deal with them. But I think that it’s crucial for the survival of a band to not feel backed into a corner. I’ve seen it happen to a lot of bands where they’re like, ‘we owe this label four more records.’ But for us it’s stifling to feel like you have to write a bunch of crap. We’re pretty sporadic as far as writing goes, we don’t release anything for two years and I mean I could sit down and write a whole record today but it would be crap. It’s never felt like a commodity to us so we take our time. I guess we have fits of creativity.”

Planes Mistaken for Stars is not a good band; in fact they aren’t even that cool. In actuality Planes Mistaken For Stars is a great band. A band made of dreamers and musicians that care for one another as much as they care for their fans and the work they put into their music. If there is one band you should see in your life time, it would be Planes, but remember, those aren’t rock stars on that stage, they are people you will be toasting drinks to and laughing with later.