Live & Listen's 'Bands You Should Know': Dank August 26, 2016 09:58
Photo by Christian Stewart
Live & Listen is pleased to continue a brand new weekly feature known as Bands You Should Know. This new concept will highlight a different band each Friday with an interview, general background information, current happenings, as well as videos and audio from each band. After nearly two years of various interviews and artist spotlights, we feel that installing a consistent weekly feature is the best next step for Live & Listen.
For our seventh edition of Bands You Should Know, we sat down with Matt Henderson of Dank, one of our favorite up-and-coming bands out of Atlanta. We were first introduced to Dank as they toured around the southeast, and we couldn't be more excited for their upcoming sets at CukoRakko and Funksgiving. Dank's funky nature leaves you wanting more with every track, and there is no doubt that the future is bright for this group that only seems to get tighter with every show.
Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
So you guys officially started the band back in 2010 in Athens. That's obviously a hotbed for musicians and live music in general. How did you guys initially get connected and put things into motion?
Matt: Right. So this current lineup didn't really get solidified until about two years ago. Athens is such a small community of music and such a small little town. Everyone kind of knows everyone through friends, or you've played together, or you seen each other's bands play. That's really how things were born. Friends of friends got together, started playing, and that's how I got to know all of these guys that are in the band now. There's just so much music going on, and Athens is such a great atmosphere for playing music.
Things have obviously evolved a bit in the past year. The band is now operating as a four-piece, and the new EP Get Up definitely has a new, energized sound to it. Tell me a little bit about the direction the band is moving in right now.
Matt: Absolutely. I think a lot of it is just that the band has really matured and grown our songwriting. What we like and want to do musically has changed a bit. What we listen to, and what we're striving for. We're really focusing on the songs, and we're trying to write the best songs that we can. What parts does the song need for the studio? We've been trying to look at the live show and the record as two entirely different things. Taking advantage of the studio in different ways, and not always thinking about what would be cool to play live.
We've focused more on what would be cool for each track once we're in the studio. How can we make it the best possible song? How can we use different recording techniques to enhance each song? That was a conversation that we were having a lot for the Get Up EP. Moving forward, we want everything to sound a little more mature and tight on the record, while still having a show that is wide open, as far as us being able to improvise and bounce ideas off of each other in the moment. Trying to keep both aspects of that alive.
Watch Dank's official music video for "Get Up" here:
How does the improv element work for you guys? Are there particular songs that you're always looking to really open up and run with?
Matt: Definitely. There are usually a few that we know we are going to open up and see what happens. There are other songs, like "Get Up" for example, that has that little "end section," which we can kind of adjust accordingly each night. If we only have a 45-minute set, we usually keep it pretty straight. If we have more time, we can open up that certain section. Then, there are other times where we take a song that we've been playing for a few years and haven't really jammed it too much, and we might say, "Lets open up this section tonight and see what happens." That allows us to keep things fresh for ourselves, too. If we've been playing the song for a long time, and we feel like it's getting stale, we try to find a way to reinvent what is in the song, for ourselves. We want to keep in interesting from night to night. Then, there are other times when we just kind of stumble onto something, and we go from there.
I've talked to several bands who are moving more in the direction of the 3-5 song EPs, rather than putting out full length albums. There are obviously two sides to that concept. Studio time isn't cheap, and people's attention spans aren't always there. Is this something you feel you guys are headed towards?
Matt: Right. It's funny...we've had that conversation a lot. It's kind of an ongoing thing that everyone seems to be talking about. The music industry is so different now. There is so much content out there. We decided to go that route this time; keeping things short and sweet. It's new stuff for people to hear, but yet there is something about the concept of the full album that all of us really love. You think back to your favorite bands, and most of the time, there is one record that has really stuck with you and made an impact as a whole. That's something that we really like and haven't taken off of the table. I think the full record sometimes gives you a little more room to do interesting and creative things with soundscapes between tracks, interludes, or just weirdness in general. Whereas an EP is more about sticking to the songs and getting them released. A record allows you to create an entire vibe for 45-60 minutes or so.
We're trying to balance both, because at the same time, I do thing that people's attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. It's hard to get people's attention for long enough to really listen to an entire record. We've been trying to think of ways to maybe have both. We feel like the music video is really making a comeback these days. That's a nice way to shorten up things. People can watch it and hopefully like the song, then that might lead them towards wanting the rest of the record, or whatever else we put out.
Photo by Jim Dimitroff of Showlove Media
So, I guess to elaborate on that...the way music is released and delivered is a totally different things these days. Album sales are nearly extinct, but you have the ability to get music in front of people easily and quickly. How do you view the pros and cons of this concept as a touring musician?
Matt: Right. It's definitely tough. From a digital/online perspective, we like to keep it free. There's so much stuff out there, and we want to get the music out and in front of as many people as we can. I was reading your interview with Justin (Hasting) from Zoogma, and he mentioned something about still having a bunch of extras CDs sitting around from previous releases. We have that same thing. You get these records pressed, and people just don't really buy CDs like they used to. Some people do, but most people just go to Spotify and stream it from their phone.
We've been talking about totally abandoning the concept of getting CDs pressed. We've talked about records as well, and I feel like that's something still worth investing in. We know that about 80% of people are listening to music on their phones, in the cars, or whatever. It's an interesting climate we're in for sure.
I'm sure that it's hard to justify spending that money sometimes. You don't want to abandon the CD, because it's so much of what you've known, and it's a tangible object that is part of a collection. That can be an easy expense to avoid though, especially when you see the market really trending in that direction.
Matt: Definitely. People still like to have something to take home that connects them with the music. So we're trying to come up with creative ways to still have something that people can tangibly get to connect them with the music, but we don't have to order 1,000 CDs that might end up sitting in our basement.
Listen to Dank's 'Get Up' EP here:
Shifting a little more towards what's coming up this Fall, I know you guys are returning to CukoRakko in October. The band is billed as "Dank and Friends" for this particular performance. Can you elaborate on that? Should fans expect anything different?
Matt: Super, super excited about that. I won't give too much away, but we're really good buddies with the Funk You guys. Those are some of our good friends. We saw that they were playing, and even though we knew some of our guys would be at a wedding that weekend we still wanted to be involved. So we started talking to Greg (Entrekin) and Jamie (Glass) about the idea, who are just awesome dudes that we've known from playing the festival a couple times in the past, and they were open to the idea. Me and Jimmy (Bones) actually went up there this past spring, when we weren't even playing. It's just that awesome of a place. I try to tell everyone who has never been up there how cool it is, and it's hard to really put into words. But yeah, we really wanted to be involved, and we talked to the Funk You guys, as well as some friends that have a horn section. We put together a set of some really great, fun songs. We'll be focusing on southern heritage...southeast United States. Dank and friends is really what it is.
Very cool. I've been really intrigued as to what you guys have planned for that set, so I appreciate you giving a little insight on that. That's going to make for a really fun set.
Matt: Definitely. We saw that Mama's Love and Maradeen is on there now too. We know all of those guys. Backup Planet, too. There is a really cool group of connected bands on the lineup this year. We've definitely been reaching out to everyone. Anyone that is going to be there that wants to join in on the party is more than welcome. We're really looking forward to it. Should be a really fun set with a lot of friends sitting in.
That type of situation always creates a really great energy. That always translates over onto the stage.
Matt: Definitely. Horse Pens 40 is just an incredible spot for music, so there is always a good energy there. Any of the bands who have played there know that.
How are things shaping up for the fall and winter? What can we expect to see and hear from Dank in the coming months?
Matt: You can check out CrankTheDank.com. We've got all of our dates for the fall. We'll be heading around the Carolinas, Alabama, Georgia. All of the normal places that we go. Mainly, on the horizon, I would say that new music is really what we're focusing on. We just put out this EP, but we've been writing a ton, and we have a lot of new material. We're excited about that, and we want to get to work on it as soon as possible.
Photo by Christian Stewart
Live & Listen's 'Bands You Should Know': BIG Something July 15, 2016 01:38
Photo by Jordan August Photography
Live & Listen is pleased to introduce a brand new weekly feature known as Bands You Should Know. This new concept will highlight a different band each Friday with an interview, general background information, current happenings, as well as videos and audio from each band. After nearly two years of various interviews and artist spotlights, we feel that installing a consistent weekly feature is the perfect move as we progress forward.
For our third edition of Bands You Should Know, we sat down with Nick MacDaniels (guitar/vocals) of BIG Something, a North Carolina-based band who is making major noise across the country. Thanks to the power of SiriusXM JamOn, we were introduced to this band in early 2015, and they have been a mainstay on our personal playlist ever since. BIG Something blends elements of rock, funk, pop, reggae, and even hip hop, all while providing truly compelling lyrics and a distinct level of improvisation. If you're in the market for a band that offers the total package, today is your lucky day.
Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
BIG Something formed in North Carolina in 2009, and it didn't take long for things to really start clicking. Tell me a little bit about how everything came together, and how things have progressed since.
Nick: Well, I grew up in Maryland but ended up going to a small school in North Carolina called Elon University. That’s where I met a few of the guys in the band. We played in another band called Anonymous, or The Anonymous Band, for a little while. We got started as a college band and played every week at a local bar. Slowly but surely, we met a few of the other guys, and that’s how BIG Something was formed. Everybody came into the picture, and things kind of fell into place from there.
Right on. So it didn’t take too long for you guys to get into the studio and cut your first album. You worked with Grammy-nominated producer John Custer on Stories From the Middle of Nowhere in 2010, right?
Nick: Yea John kind of helped us create a new identity for the band. That first album that we released was how we introduced the name of the band. It kind of took off from there.
It seems like the initial response from that album was strong, to say the least. You guys won an Homegrown Music Network’s “Album of the Year” award. The album spent several weeks at #1 on Jambands.com’s charts.
Nick: It was received a lot better than I was expecting. Ever since then, every album that we have recorded has been with John (Custer). We try and grow a little bit on each one and give them their own unique touch. We actually have a new album that we’re releasing sometime this fall. We haven’t really released too much information on it yet, but it was recorded with John, and we’re all really excited about it. It will be our fourth full length album.
Very cool. It seems like whatever he is doing in the studio certainly works. Makes perfect sense to continue working with him.
Nick: Yeah man. John is awesome. He’s kind of like our seventh man, in a way. He helps keep the band moving forward and really brings the best performance out of each of us. It’s really great having him there in the studio.
So I was first introduced to you guys thanks to Sirius JamOn. I distinctly remember the first time I heard "Megalodon" in the car in early 2015, and it's been one of my go-to songs ever since. It grabs people’s attention from the first note. It took me a while to realize that the song is about a shark, right?
Nick: Right. It usually takes people a couple of listens to figure out that it’s about floating in the ocean with a shark kind of circling around and waiting to attack. It can be interpreted in a bunch of different ways. We kind of left it open to interpretation on purpose.
I can see that. That song is really powerful. I guess maybe a better word would be explosive. It’s one that you just can’t turn off once it starts, and I’ve yet to get tired of hearing it. DJ Logic really adds a nice touch to it as well. It had to be fun to bring him in for that one. Had you guys worked with him before the recording?
Nick: We had done some shows with him and he ended up sitting in on that song live with us one night at a Widespread Panic afterparty in Wilmington NC. And it was just so dope and such a perfect fit for the song. We knew we were about to record later that year and everyone was like 'lets get Logic to sit in on the track.' So we invited him to do it, but he wasn't available to come record in person so we actually had him send in his parts digitally. Really happy we got him on there and made it work cause I love the way it turned out.
Watch BIG Something's official music video for "Megalodon" here:
I've noticed what seems to be a recurring outer space theme with you guys. You have the live album Live From Uranus, the song "UFOs are real"…And it really seems to fall in line with the Big Something funk sound. Would I be correct in assuming this is a special interest for you guys?
Nick: Absolutely. I think we’re all kind of space geeks, and space in general is a big theme that happens with the band in a lot of different ways. Even with the name of the band, BIG Something, it’s kind of a metaphor for outer space in and of itself. The sound of the band definitely has a spacey influence that kind of plays into that imagery. There are a lot of lyrics that deal with outer space as well; UFOs and things like that.
That’s a really cool concept. Outer space is obviously an endless topic. I’m sure that delving into that world through the songwriting process can take you to some really interesting places.
Nick: Yeah…it really all comes from the name BIG Something. Looking at that bigger picture of the universe at large is a big part of it.
So we already talked a little bit about the band’s debut album. You’ve since released the live album (Live from Uranus), as well as BIG Something and Truth Syrum. Now that you’ve finished recording the next release, how would you say that each experience has been different from the other? Have you taken a different approach each go-round?
Nick: (laughs) Yes. The first two albums (Stories From the Middle of Nowhere and BIG Something) were recorded in a private home. The second one (Truth Syrum) was recorded in a storage unit. And the new album was actually recorded in a really legit, nice studio. We spent a week at Echo Mountain Studios in Asheville, North Carolina. A bunch of great artists have recorded there. Making this album in a real studio was a really special experience. I think you can definitely hear it in the final result.
So how did you guys end up recording in the storage unit?
Nick: So, it’s kind of a makeshift recording studio. It was actually a nice space and pretty decent studio, but it just happened to be inside of a storage unit (laughs). Each album has definitely had their own feel and unique qualities.
Watch BIG Something perform "UFOs Are Real" at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater in Wilmington, NC here:
I know you said you guys aren’t revealing much about the new album, so I won’t ask much. Is this going to be a lot of totally new material, or do you guys like to test them out in a live setting and let them develop before taking them into the studio?
Nick: Absolutely. A lot of the songs have been played out on the road, so it’s really road tested and still has a great live feel to it. What usually ends up happening with us is we will write some new material, and then we’ll tour on it and let it develop and tighten. Then we will record it. None of these songs had ever been recorded, but they have all been played on the road many times. They have taken on a new life in the studio so it will be cool to see how people respond to that.
That seems to be a pretty common practice. Getting that initial crowd reaction, feeling the energy in the room, and seeing how that translates over must make a big impact on the decision as to what makes the final cut for the album.
Nick: Absolutely. We try to be a good studio band and a good live band. That’s not necessarily the same thing. There is a balance to how you do stuff in the studio. We’ve learned that over the course of doing each of these four albums. It’s definitely going to have a slightly different feel to it. It’s going to be a little heavier, a little darker. I think it will be the most progressive sounding album we have released yet. I’m excited about it. We’re still figuring out when it will be released, but we’re looking at the fall.
You've had a very busy year; touring with The Werks in the spring and landing several great festival spots. Just finished up a run out west, and it looked like this weekend's set at The Ride Festival was a big one. What are a few of the highlights from 2016 thus far?
Nick: You know you pretty much just covered all of them. That run with The Werks was really great. We got to play a lot of awesome venues and new cities with them. We had a great show out in Denver on that run. We played Detroit for the first time. It was a packed house, and that was awesome. This past weekend in Telluride was really special. I’d say that was probably in everyone’s top 5 experiences as a band. The setting was so beautiful, and playing that little stage tucked into the mountains in front of one of the biggest crowds that we have ever played for was such a rush.
We’ve got our own festival, The Big What?, coming up, and that’s always a big highlight for us. The experience of recording the album in Asheville was amazing too. We got to all stay together in an artist house in Asheville. We cooked dinner every night and had a lot of fun with it. It’s the first time we’ve ever recorded like that, where we’ve had a little band retreat; shacking up and cutting off communication with the outside world and knocking it out over the span of 2 weeks instead of a little at a time over several months. Its a more clear snap shot of the band. We just focused on recording, and it was really, really cool.
There’s a lot of great things happening. Wanee was absolutely incredible. We played at 11AM, and I was on stage brushing my teeth literally 10 minutes before we started. All of the sudden, out of nowhere, a couple thousand people came down to the stage. It was packed. I wasn’t really expecting it to be like that, but it was great. Jam Cruise is coming up, which is really exciting. Peach Festival is another really big one we're honored to be a part of.
That venue (Wanee) is absolutely amazing. That amphitheater stage, surrounded by all of the Spanish moss trees, might be my favorite place to see a band. I haven’t had the chance to get out to Red Rocks or The Gorge yet, but I absolutely love Suwannee. I can’t imagine how great the energy is as a performer.
Nick: There is a palpable energy there. That’s for sure. You kind of have to soak it up. There isn’t much you can say to describe it, but it is a very special place. It’s one of my favorite places to play music as well.
If I’ve ever been anywhere that has felt like there is a little bit of magic in the air, it’s definitely Suwannee. You know?
Nick: Oh yeah. I would suggest trying to see a show out in Telluride. It has that same type of vibe to it. There’s just a spirit in the air.
I definitely need to spend some time out there. Let’s talk about The Big What?, which is coming up next weekend in North Carolina. You've put together an amazing lineup this year with The Werks, Turkuaz, Zach Deputy, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, etc. The festival is now in it's 5th year. How did this event originally come together, and how critical has it been for the development of the band to have this big annual party?
Nick: It’s interesting. It’s been through a progression on it’s own in a lot of different ways. When we first started doing it, we had already been doing our own little festival-like parties out on farms in North Carolina. Through doing that, we started meeting more and more people within this community in North Carolina. Everyone started coming together, and we decided we wanted to do a BIG Something-themed festival and bring all of these different communities together. We wanted to do our own thing and make it unique.
So we called it The Big What?, which is kind of a joke and a play on the band’s name itself. People always ask us if we forgot our own band name. “The Big Something? The Big What?” That’s where the name of the festival came from. It’s been a really awesome way to help spread the word about the band. People come from far and wide. It has become such a positive weekend for us, and there is just a great community of people involved. It’s all about southern hospitality, and everyone seems to take care of each other.
Here lately, we’ve been trying to not let The Big What? take over our entire focus as a band. We have our sights set on playing other parts of the country and not letting the festival define us. Obviously we still put our heart and soul into it. It’s a great piece of the puzzle, but we have a lot of other stuff that we want to try and get to as we continue our musical adventure.
Watch the official recap video from The Big What? (2015) here:
I’m sure it never hurts to have an event like this, where so many of your biggest fans get to come together for the weekend. It’s cool that you get to include so many other bands who are in similar places as a band. Like you said, it brings a really great group of people together, and it seems like it’s mutually beneficial for the fans and performers alike. I’d love to make it up there next weekend.
Nick: You should definitely come if you can, man. If not, no worries, but it’s definitely a good time. I think you would like it. It’s kind of got a vibe like Suwannee, where there is just an energy in the air. It’s a special thing for all of us.
Where is it located in North Carolina?
Nick: It’s kind of near Chapel Hill and Durham. It’s right between Greensboro and Raleigh on a 300-acre farm right off of Interstate 40. It will be three nights, Thursday to Saturday, July 21st-23rd.
I’m a big fan of the Thursday to Saturday schedule. There’s nothing worse than having to leave a festival on Sunday afternoon and miss an act you really wanted to see. It happens though, as sometimes you have a long trek home and obligations on Monday.
Nick: It makes it a lot easier on our staff too. People are pretty worn out by that point in time.
I think everybody wins with that formula So I know you’ve had the opportunity to share the stage with some amazing bands: Robert Randolph & The Family band, The B52s, Galactic just to name a few. What do you consider some of the biggest moments this band has had on stage?
Nick: All of those that you just mentioned were really special. Playing in front of The B52’s in front of 8,000 people at an outdoor amphitheater was probably our first “big moment”. That was crazy. We ended up meeting a lot of people after that show. That was actually on a day where we played three shows in one day. We played a beer festival in Charlotte at like noon. Then we drove to Raleigh and played at the amphitheater with the B52’s in front of 8,000 people. Then we went and played small, crazy hippie festival in the woods that night in front of like 500 people. It was such a wide range of shows. That was a fun day.
Opening for Galactic at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater was really awesome. Same thing with Robert Randolph. We’ve done a bunch of shows with other bands that we really love and look up to. Dopapod…it’s always fun playing with those guys. Pigeons Playing Ping Pong…we’ve done a bunch of great shows with them. Our buddies - Spiritual Rez up in Boston. We’ve had some great shows with Zach Deputy. Our first time out to Colorado was such a special experience; just because of the way people embrace music out there. All of our first shows out there were just crazy. We weren’t expecting it at all. It was just like, “Wow! Let’s keep coming back here. Its like the promised land."
Well before we wrap things up, I know you mentioned several big festivals coming up. It looks like you guys have dates announced up to early October at this point. Then you have the album release this fall. What else can people expect from BIG Something here in the second half of 2016? Will you guys be spending most of your time on the road?
Nick: Yes…we’re going to pick up touring in September, and from that point on, it’s going to be pretty heavy. We’re going to hit as many spots all over the country as we possibly can. We’re trying to team up with a bunch of different bands over the course of the year, so there should be some really good shows in there that we haven’t announced yet. We also do our own Halloween show at The Lincoln Theatre in Raleigh called The Big Something Costume Ball. That’s always really fun. We always plan our set around some crazy theme, and it’s always a surprise. Last year, it was two sets, and we did an angels set and a devils set. The first set was all kind of heaven-inspired songs, and the second set was all related to hell and fire and all of that.
We’re doing New Year’s Eve again at The Lincoln Theatre in Raleigh, which is always fun. We’re playing Catskill Chill for the first time. That’s going to be great. We’re really looking forward to playing Marvin’s Mountain Top, where All Good used to be. That’s for a new festival in September called Deep Roots River Revival. Then of course there is JamCruise, which is a dream come true. We’re really excited about that.
Live & Listen's 'Bands You Should Know': Backup Planet June 30, 2016 23:54
Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
Live & Listen is pleased to introduce a brand new weekly feature known as Bands You Should Know. This new concept will highlight a different band each Friday with an interview, general background information, current happenings, as well as videos and audio from each band. After nearly two years of various interviews and artist spotlights, we feel that installing a consistent weekly feature is the best next step for Live & Listen.
For our first edition of Bands You Should Know, we sat down with Ben Cooper (keys/vocals) and Gavin Donati (guitar/vocals) of Backup Planet, a band we simply can't stop listening to. This band's sound is truly infectious and compelling - and for all of the right reasons. We had the pleasure of catching their set earlier this year at AURA Music & Arts Festival, and we haven't turned back since. Backup Planet's eclectic sound will lock you in from the moment you press play, and we can't wait to watch the future unfold for this explosive young four-piece.
Ben Cooper (left) and Gavin Donati (right) of Backup Planet // aLive Coverage
Backup Planet has made quite a name for itself in just under four years. Tell me a little bit about how this thing came together back in 2012.
Ben: Totally…Gavin and I actually met at a Phish show back in 2009 through a mutual friend who introduced us. Our friend just said, “Hey, you play keys, and he plays guitar. You should probably play together.” I guess the following January we started playing at this house called “The Hell House,” and it was basically just a party two nights a week. They just kind of said, “If you guys want to be the house band, you got it.” So we played just about every weekend for a while and cut our teeth a little bit. So, we started playing a long time ago, but we played with different bassists and drummers. We started the actual band in 2012. Then, we moved to Nashville in 2013 and just kind of hit the ground running.
So at what point did Blake (Gallant) and Chris (Potocik) get up with you guys?
Ben: Well it was just Gavin and I playing around for a while. Chris has been playing with us since we formed in 2012. We went through a bunch of different bassists at the time…to the point that we couldn’t really stick with one. I started playing left hand bass with the Moog, which is really fun, but it was somewhat limiting, as far as being able to play what we do with harmonized licks. I’ll do stuff with Gavin where we do some harmonized stuff with guitar and Moog. So, we decided we needed a bass player. That’s when Blake joined in the summer of 2014.
Gotcha. So the Nashville music scene is obviously a world of it’s own. There is live music on nearly every street corner. How has being a part of such a rich music culture impacted you guys as a band?
Ben: Well, honestly when we first got to town, it really made us get our act together. You know? Just for that reason. Nashville has such an appeal in the southeast, just because it is "The Music City.” For us, when we moved here we kind of had that expectation, but when we actually got here, we saw it for real and realized that everybody is good at music, and if not just music, something else like production and engineering. It really made us get our act together; practicing for hours and getting out on the road…figuring out how to do things the right way and learning to stay competitive. It’s also been a lot of other markets, you know? Just because we’ve been able to take it on the road with us and learn from a lot of people that are a lot better than us.
Ben Cooper of Backup Planet // Shot Stalker Photography
That makes sense. Nashville clearly presents plenty of opportunities to play, but I’m sure it presents it’s challenges with the amount of options people have when looking to get out and see live music.
Ben: Yeah absolutely. It’s cool because lately our crowd in Nashville has really started to grow. It’s great to develop a little bit of a following. We’ve been able to play in front of 350-400 people lately, and when we first moved here we had about six people in a dive bar. Little bars would finally give us a chance to play…and it felt like you might get stabbed or get a staph infection (laughs). They weren’t the nicest places. Then all of the sudden, we have a little bit of a following. It’s really cool to see it develop and start to move throughout the Southeast. We’re really trying to hit it hard this fall.
Right on...I’m always amazed to hear how different bands approach the songwriting process, You guys have Incredibly unique sound - mixing elements of old school funk, progressive rock, with just the right amount of pop. How do you guys go about your songwriting and building on your sound.
Gavin: I don't know...I guess I've grown up seeing "jam bands" and southern rock bands my entire life. Southern rock has always been my favorite type of music. I really want us to be one of the frontier bands in the jam scene who is able to cross over into different genres and appeal to way bigger markets. A lot of bands fall into the "jam band" category, and it can be hard to get out of that scene. I'd like to be in both of them. There aren't too many bands that really do that. We're currently working on our next album, and we're gonna start recording at the end of next month. The plan is to release it sometime in early fall. I think this album is really going to show a lot of that diversity. I'm really excited about it.
Listen to Backup Planet's "Revival" from the 2014 release 'Element' here:
So when it comes to the writing process, are different band members bringing different things to the table and just building it up from there?
Gavin: Oh yeah...the best songs, ideally, come about when we're all together and start to develop them. That's rarely the case though. I'll record what I have, and we'll demo it out, you know? Then we'll rehearse it and add different parts to it. Then we'll practice it live, and if it works live, then we might try to make it something even better. There are a lot of bands out there who record songs on an album, but they don't end up playing them live, because they don't hit that well live. They're great album songs, but they don't really translate. I really want to specialize in making everything that's on our next album extremely, extremely well received live. I'm all about the studio and doing all the tricks you can...adding all of the fancy harmonies and effects to make it the best you can. But it's gotta be able to come across live just as well as it does in the studio.
That's a great point. There are so many albums that I've listened to over the years with songs that are never played live. You forget that the song even exists until you circle back to that album.
Gavin: Yeah...I think with the jam scene there are a lot of people who don't care quite as much about studio albums as they do the jams and seeing them playing live. I want to focus on having really good songs in the studio and making those songs even better. That way you can leave a show really content, and then you can put the album on and not feel like you've lost out, if that makes sense.
Gavin Donati of Backup Planet // Phil Thach Photography
Do you find that you guys will introduce new material live, before ever doing any recording?
Gavin: Oh yeah, definitely. Right now, we're trying to record every show we play, then go back and listen. Even some of the material we recorded on Element, we don't play some of that stuff live today, because it doesn't come across that well live. We recorded it thinking that it would, and over we time we learned that some of it just doesn't translate that well. A big part of it is making up some new things live and and in the moment. We're not going to be a band that has 45-minute long improv sections, but we do like to have some extended improv sections. In the recording, if we hear something in there that we like, I wouldn't be against putting elements of it into the studio album. I think that's a great way to do it too. Whatever you're going to put on the record came up spontaneously.
Definitely...the song builds on itself and comes to life. That gives you a chance to see how the crowd reacts right away.
Gavin: Yeah, that's huge for me. One of my biggest things is how the crowd reacts to the songs.
So you guys recorded your first album, Element, in 2014. I would imagine there was plenty of songs to choose from at this point. What was it like getting in the studio and formally recording some of this material?
Ben: Yeah, most definitely. It's always a fun process. It's like a double-edged sword, because you feel like you have so much material that you want people to hear, but you have to decide what you feel works best. It's a blessing and a curse, because it's a really fun process, but there is also that bittersweet aspect that you don't get to include all of it, you know? If we could, we'd probably stay in the studio for weeks at a time. It's always a blast to go into the studio.
Gavin: It is. It is. I don't know though. The first album we ever did was kind of a learning curve, because it was all tracked separately. We recorded it at Holmes Studio in Knoxville, so we didn't all track live, which is what we want to do. That was our first time ever doing something like that, so it was a learning experience. That's why I'm excited for the new record to be a real example of what we sound like.
Ben: We're really excited. We've been shopping around with several different producers, but we're pretty sure we've found the guy. We are really excited about his involvement.
Gavin: We're hoping to record in late July / early August for a few weeks...kind of going nonstop for about 14 days. Hopefully we'll have it mastered and get it released sometime around late September.
Watch Backup Planet's official music video for "The Road" here:
Recording this new album is obviously a big moment for the band. Aside from the production, how do you feel this experience will differ from the last?
Ben: Well, this will be the first album that we record as a Red Light artist. Their involvement, as far as helping us with networking, distribution, marketing, and finding the right producer has really allowed us to shop around. It's cool, because Phish, My Morning Jacket, and all of these other artists we listen to have so much history with Red Light. They have the ability to help us talk to the right people and get to know them. It's really helped us figure out how we want to record and follow in the footsteps of so many bands that we really dig. I think that's one major difference, as well as just getting into a bigger studio with a producer who has done a lot of records.
I can only imagine. So, playing the festival circuit and touring the country gives you guys a chance to see so many different bands. Is there anyone in particular that you guys have recently been turned onto? What’s been playing in the Backup Planet van recently?
Gavin: Well, one thing we always do when we're loading out from a show...is we crank up Pantera. That's just great load-out music. We're big Pantera fans. I listen to a lot of southern classic rock, hard rock, and funk.
Ben: I'm real big into funk, but I like hard rock too. You've probably heard of the band Turkuaz. I've really been digging them lately. Then there is a group called Polyphia, and they don't have any keyboards, so it's kind of weird that I listen to them. I really dig them, and they've got some really melodic stuff. I look to bands like ZAPP and Juno What when it comes to the talk box. I've been listening to a lot of Allen Stone and Donny Hathaway and some of the older jazz players too.
Gavin: Dopapod is really great too. They did an orchestra thing recently where they played with a bunch of horns. I don't know if you saw that. I thought that was really cool; hearing them with horns. It was definitely different, but I really like Rob Compa's guitar playing.
Ben: Yeah...and Dopapod just signed with Red Light as well, so we're really hoping to work with them at again some point in the future.
Gavin: We're playing a festival this weekend called The Great Outdoors Jam. A lot of the AURA family is involved. You've got bands like Aqueous, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, The Fritz...a bunch of really good bands are on it. We're playing two sets, one of which will be all covers from all of the artists who have died this year.
Gavin Donati (left) and Ben Cooper (right) of Backup Planet // aLive Coverage
That sounds like a big weekend ahead. I couldn't agree more about Turkuaz and Dopapod. Those two bands are really blowing up, and once you see them live, it's obvious why. So, before we wrap this up, tell me about how the 2nd half of 2016 is shaping up. What can we expect from you guys?
Gavin: Yeah...hell yeah. Obviously we're dropping this new album, so I'm really looking forward to having our first really big album release. More or less, we're looking to be playing pretty much all of the fall. We should be booked up for three or four months, then maybe take a break around January.
Ben: We have a bunch of stuff coming up in mid to late fall that we're really excited to announce. We're really excited and getting a great strategy together. There are definitely some cool things in the works.
Backup Planet is a progressive funk-rock band based out of Nashville, Tennessee. To see Backup Planet perform live is to simultaneously travel back in time and forward into the future. Their truly unique sound emanates from a place that seems familiar, yet unchartered.
Elements of jazz, funk, roots, blues, electronic, and progressive rock all emerge during the course of their shows. Their sound draws from so much you’ve heard before—‘70s rock and funk, high-energy improv, a touch of pop, and a sliver of metal. But the members of Backup Planet mix and match those elements—with just a hint of modern tech to burnish a sturdy nucleus of retro-minded organ and guitar—in ways that never fail to astonish. With a fantastic repertoire of original songs, they’re able to build fluid sets interspersed with extended improvisation.
Incorporating some degree of uncertainty into live performances is innate to the improvisational, or ‘jam band,’ music scene. Audiences can sense when a group takes major risks onstage; the elements of surprise and unpredictability foster a level of joy unparalleled in other types of musical performances. Masters of this process, Ben Cooper, Gavin Donati, Blake Gallant, and Chris Potocik, are doing all of the above while their rapidly growing fan base nods in approval and shouts for more.
Bands You Should Know: A New Weekly Feature From Live & Listen June 23, 2016 12:38
Photo by Taylor Wallace: iWally Photography
Live And Listen is pleased to reveal the details on a new weekly feature known as "Bands You Should Know". This new concept will highlight a different band each Friday with an interview, general background information, current happenings (new material, upcoming shows), as well as videos and audio from each band. After nearly two years of various interviews and artist spotlights and nearly 30,000 social media followers, we feel that installing a consistent weekly feature is the best next step for Live And Listen.
"Live And Listen" is a motto and a lifestyle. We strive to make a difference in the community through charitable concerts, while providing bands and festivals with a unique, creative avenue to build their audience. We feature various established and up-and-coming bands through a tireless social media campaign. We strive to help bands increase exposure to new markets and demographics.
All bands will have the opportunity to apply for this new weekly feature. Our awareness campaign is aimed to open up new opportunities for exposure in markets and demographics that each band might be looking to reach. To submit your application for Live And Listen's "Bands You Should Know", please send your electronic press kit to Jordan@liveandlisten.com. Each application will be reviewed and considered in a timely fashion.
Photo by Taylor Wallace: iWally Photography