Posted on 22 January 2010.
UK trio Fiction Plane has found full-sound as a trio and they’ve embraced their diverse sounds with an even more diverse history of tour pairings. The group has played with dance-rockers The Bravery and rapper Snoop Dogg and even had the opportunity of opening for global superstars The Police on their reunion tour (although that pairing may not be that surprising when you consider that Sting‘s son Joe is the lead singer for Fiction Plane.) With a new Spring album and new tour plans on the horizon for this group, drummer Pete Wilhoit took some time to get PopWreckoning up to speed on all things happening on the Fiction Planet.
Bethany Smith, PopWreckoning: I hear you guys have a new album coming out in the Spring.
Pete Wilhoit, Fiction Plane: Yeah, late Spring, I think.
BS: Talk to me about this album. Is it pretty much done and going through final packaging phases or where does it stand?
PW: Yeah, it’s pretty much done, we’re just mixing it at the end of this month. Hopefully that will go smoothly. You never know. Sometimes, you get hare-brained ideas when you listen to a song over and over and start reconstructing it and reconstructing it: all this ridiculous stuff. Hopefully, it will just go smoothly and we’ll all be really excited about it. I think we’re all eager to get it out late Spring, so we do have a bit of a deadline. I think it is pretty much done: about 90 percent done. We’re all pretty excited about it and we’ll release it in late Spring and start touring it.
Photo by Lana Theo
BS: What’s the sound on it like? Pretty different from previous releases or a natural progression? What can fans expect?
PW: It is a progression. Doing like two and half to three years of touring with The Police all over the world and Snoop and 311, they bring in all the stuff, but that has gelled the band even more as brothers in the band. The trio sound has evolved even bigger and better. We enjoy being a trio and we’ve all kind of grown into that space musically and playing-wise, as far as how you play your instrument. The album has a real ebb and flow of a live show. There are real delicate moments to it, then there are real bombastic, huge, energetic moments to it when you listen to it. I think overall, it’s going to make you move. It’s got real groovy and big sounds to it. The soundscape that we originally used, well we did it in two parts. We did a session number one in studios where we constructed a song and threw everything in the kitchen sink and scaled it back a little bit, but we used a lot of sounds on it from your normal instruments to harmonium and even a music box: all these little tiny things, just to see what we could achieve musically and to push ourselves to try and make something we hadn’t done before. The second session was more going in as a trio and playing these songs live like we would at a show. I think that’s where our strong suit is as a band: our live performance and being able to play to big rooms and small rooms and big stages and small stages as a trio. I think we captured everything that the band is about from every dynamic aspect whether it’s playing in a small room and playing a more intimate feel for people to playing a giant stadium playing as big as you can be and trying to entertain the guy in the last row type of thing. We’re all really excited about the music and being able to perform the album as as live show.
BS: What are some of the potential songs to be on this album? I know you’ve been playing like five new songs recently over the past year and there’s been a lot of speculation?
PW: It will be all new songs, except maybe a couple that we’ve written in the last few years that will make the album. I think we probably have about 15 tunes that we want to pare it down to 11 and maybe release some bonus stuff in different territories, but we’ll see how it all works out. We’ll throw it all out there and see what makes a cohesive album and see what we want this album to be like, you know? There’s certain songs that have a certain genre type sound and have a more reggae, relaxed merit. Others are uptempo rock and others are groovy, disco/electronica type of feel, so it is all about how you want the album to go really. I think in the end, we’ll have bits and pieces of all that kind of gelled together in song formation. It is hard for me to relay exactly what’s going to be on there, but I think we’ll have one song on there that we’ve definitely played many, many times and the rest will be all new.
BS: Can you tell me the name of the song?
PW: The name of that song is called “Cut Your Brakes,” but we’ve changed the song so much that it doesn’t actually say that in the song anymore, so we may change the title of that. “Cut Your Brakes” is a riff that Joe had done on The Bravery tour so that was early…20…I want to be sure I get this right…
BS: 2007, I think.
PW: Yeah, I think that’s right. So that song evolved from stage to stage playing it on every stage possible. We played it on the Police tour, we played it at Summer festivals in Holland and other festivals. We just played it with Bruce Springsteen and the Killers at des vielles charrues, which is a French festival, which was great. That one we’re really excited because it has taken on new, more exciting form. That’s kind of the only one that might stick on there. There was another one, “Sadr City Blues,” that may or may not be on there. We’re not sure. Some of these songs, you play them for so long that they start to feel old even though no one has heard them, so to speak, on a recorded format. You have to gauge if it is just your feeling or if it is just an old song that shouldn’t be on there.
BS: As you guys do your writing process, Fiction Plane is a UK band, but you personally are based in New York. How does that effect you guys with your writing process?
PW: It just makes you really have to plan on a writing session if we are going to write as a band. We’ve done it all sorts of ways. Joe, sometimes in the past, has brought in full songs and we take our approach to our instrument and add it to the song. Or we’ve done a lot of jamming as a band and come up with a song all together and Joe adds the lyrics. For this album, it was 93 percent getting together for three different writing sessions and just jamming and coming up with the basics in the song format as a band and Joe adds the lyrics. In that way, it was kind of a new page for the band. I think we all feel really excited about fully contributing-except for the lyrics. It is kind of a new face, or at least, an emergence of an old face. It was a small part of the band that is now a big part of the band.
BS: When you guys release the album, you mentioned touring plans and right now you have a French festival announced as your only tour date in 2010. What are you looking at tour-wise?
PW: We’re going to try and do as many festivals as we can during the summer, so we’re nailing those down as we speak. Then there will also be a nice tour in Europe probably for three to four weeks, then it depends on where else the album is released. If it is released in North America, then we’ll do a North American tour. Then if it is released in Japan, Australia, etc, etc. All that stuff is getting nailed down while we’re finishing up the album, so there is a lot going on, but there is also a lot of hurry up and wait. The idea is that we want to tour as much as we can. That’s how you can get your fanbase secured and grow your base is for us to personally go out and play and to cover your internet bases as much as you can. We really enjoy going out and playing the music live and the songs really come to life when you play them over and over. They take on a different form than just a recorded side, so we’re going to do as much as we can within our own schedules, so we’re all excited.
BS: You do have a pretty strong fanbase. I know recently there was this online push to get you guys on the New Moon Soundtrack. Did you see the movie? What do you think of your fans doing that?
PW: We really honored that everyone was so proactive with the band. We have a lot of fans that don’t just sit back. They really think that like, “We love Fiction Plane and everyone else should like Fiction Plane,” so they want to shout it to the world. It is really cool that they are so proactive and it’s rare. Honestly, the three of us are not really like that. We don’t go out and toot our own horn, which is kind of detriment because nowadays as a band, you can’t be overexposed. You have to go out and bang people over the head in order to get anything done, but we’re excited that people are excited about the band. The life of a musician, you have a lot of ups and downs. You come to the realization that things can change for the good and the bad, instantaneously. Your expectations get lowered a little bit in the reality of what it takes to succeed in this industry and it sometimes becomes overwhelming as musicians. It is nice that people have that kind of young enthusiasm about the band. As much as we all do, it’s deeper because we’re in it. It’s our lives and you do as much as you possibly can. I’m excited about this new album. We’re all excited as we’ve ever been about the music and where the band’s at. Thank you to the fans to try and get us on that soundtrack. It was quite an honor to even be considered.
Photo by Lana Theo
BS: You talked about how you planned about a big European tour, but weren’t sure you’d even have an American release. Do you find it harder to break out in the North American market? Do you ever consciously think, alright, we need to tackle America?
PW: America is one of those nuts where it is the crown jewel. If you can make it in the States, it is a huge accomplishment as a band. It’s sort of like it’s its own Europe. It’s not just one market. It’s about 12 different markets and they all take time and they all take money and they all take effort. We’ve always tried to apply ourselves in the States just as much as other places, but now that we have a fanbase in Europe, we’ve tried to focus on that to keep it going. For the States, for us where we’re at in our career, we need to get on the right tour in the States. If you try and go out and tour the States on your own as a headlining act, it can really be detrimental if you’re not accomplishing positive results. It can do more harm than good if you go out and tour for three months and half your shows are empty or not promoted correctly. You just have bad gigs. It is all about the right tour and the right focus and focusing our energy and touring schedule so we feel like we’re getting the most bang for our buck, I guess. You can wear yourself thin and it is a big world. If you’re going to tour the entire world, you better have a plan on how you’re going to accomplish positive results or you’ll just be burned out in a year. If the band gets a proper release in the United States, we’ll definitely tour it. We love playing in the States and we are well-received in certain parts of America and it is just a matter of keeping it rolling. I feel like this industry more than ever is here today, gone today. You really have to be in people’s faces to keep their interests almost. As a band, the amount of stuff we’ve done in the United States is pretty staggering when you put it altogether. The net result of what you feel like you’ve accomplished is a little bit less. We’ve done Jimmy Kimmel, we’ve done the Tonight Show, Craig Kilbourn, MTV, MTV2. We’ve done all these thongs: all the major magazines, touring with the Police, 311, Snoop Dogg and all this stuff, but at the end of the day, we can still go play a show in the States and have a mediocre turnout, which is, I don’t know what it means. You have to keep on if you want to break America. It has to be a focused effort with a smart marketing strategy, etc, etc. Unless you’re 18 year olds that don’t care and just want to get in a van and just play for four people every night. You can do that, too, which I have done for about 10 years. That was long-winded answer. Haha.
BS: It was a good answer. You have done a lot in the States. I caught you with Snoop and 311.
PW: That was really fun. It was a combination of a big party and just trying to win over a different kind of crowd, playing early in the day and just enjoying it. I would do that tour again.
BS: I was surprised. It seemed like a really random tour, but the I went to the show and I was like, wow, this fits together pretty well.
PW: Yeah. It’s true. I think it was because Snoop had a live band that was really good. They were all really good players and were all really energetic and big. I think if he had gone out there with two turntables or something, it would have been kind of boring and predictable. I think he was the best the part of the tour, to be honest with you. Anyways…
BS: Not going to toot your own horn there? He was good. You have toured with a lot of really diverse people and bands. What was your favorite tour to play with and if you could pick your dream tour, who would you tour with in the future?
PW: Man, I don’t know. Every tour had its ups and downs and every tour had moments where it was like, “I can’t believe we’re doing this.” The Police tour had more “I can’t believe we’re doing this” moments than down moments, just because of the nature of the tour. So much excitement around that tour and that was one tour that I never thought I would see let alone be a part of. That was a really special tour. That one takes the cake for me. It was such a grand tour. It was like a traveling military circus. It was run with real efficiency, but it was still a circus. We got to play stadiums of the world and play in front of a hundred thousand people and be well-received. That was an amazing experience that I would definitely do again. I guess dream tours for me, there are so many bands that I love and would love to tour with. I think we all really appreciate Radiohead. As a band that would be a dream tour, but maybe genre-specific we’re not necessarily the same. I love Foo Fighters, which we’ve actually played with them in L.A. even though it was us and then them and then the Police, but that was a real treat. They were an opening act for the Police and they were the best opening act that I’ve ever seen. That would be a dream tour to play more with them. U2 would certainly be a dream tour. They’re an amazing band that has managed to stay on top year after year. I think we all really love Muse. Muse would be a lot of fun.
BS: Two UK trios.
PW: From one trio to the next, they’ve found a way to certainly fill up the stage. I don’t know. There are tons of bands like that and I could go on and on. We’re open for many things as our track record has show. We’ll play just about any gig within reason. I think we passed on the Ashlee Simpson tour.
BS: That would be an odd tour. OK. For a final question, recently you got to go home and do a hometown show in your high school. What was that like to have a homecoming and be recognized as this hometown celebrity?
PW: It was a bit strange, I have to say, walking around my old high school as a featured artist was really strange. Seeing old teachers and classrooms and all that stuff was definitely a walk down memory lane. Bloomington is a special place because there are actually so many amazing musicians that are already there because of the university and then you have Mellencamp and Mike Wanchek who call it home. There are a lot of very successful musicians that are already from there, so I certainly didn’t feel like I was going to see any super ticker-tape parade for myself. It was nice to go back and having at least been around the world having experienced music and go home and see people I hadn’t seen for awhile and share those experiences. And then to play for the kids in high school at the place that I used to go and see bands play at, I enjoyed the experience. I hope get to do it again and hopefully Fiction Plane will get to play there again and we’ll be as well-received as we were last time.
BS: Alright. Well, that’s all the time I have. I appreciate all your great answers.
PW: Great. Thanks.