Fiction Plane Biography
Produced by the veteran David Kahne (Sublime, Earshot, Sugar Ray), the new album marks a brilliant and accomplished major label debut. Artfully arranged guitars, bass and drums, coupled with personal, meaningful lyrics drive Fiction Plane, led by gifted lead singer/guitarist/chief songwriter Joe Sumner.
Working with Kahne aided the band in its vision quest. "David helped us to calm down," says the modest and reflective Sumner. Adds bassist Dan Brown, "We needed strong guidance from someone who was also very musical. We trusted David and had a great time working with him." Recording the album's twelve songs live to 8-track analog added tension and intimacy to the final results. "The idea was to capture the energy of us playing together live," notes guitarist Seton Daunt, "But when you do that, there's no room for screw-ups."
Everything Will Never Be OK, a true album of songs, is diverse yet cohesive in its range and depth. The album kicks off with "Listen," a wryly-humorous track about love, death and misdirected empathy featuring a snarling guitar motif and Sumner's wrenching vocals. The deceptively upbeat title track explores fleeting cynical feelings we all face, while "Hate" delivers a surprising twist on youthful malaise and angst, as Sumner's words hover above, bearing witness to the fray. "I understand why people are hypocrites," says Sumner. "I do it as much as anyone I criticize."
The sparse, acoustic "Fallow" and the starkly plaintive "I Wish I Would Die" offer oblique, contrasting perspectives on sadness and death, subjects that hold more than a little fascination for Sumner. "It's an easy thing to get dramatic about," he says with a smile. "Everyone tries to convince themselves they're special somehow, but it's just not entirely true. There are six billion of us out there."
"Cigarette" is a 'fool me once'-themed anti-love missive, and the timely "Soldier Machismo" is an ardent protest against knee-jerk militarism and an exploration of the spin machine of modern war. "There are so many twisted opinions and propaganda out there," he says, "it's hard to know who's right. I see that the world is messed up, and I wish I could do something about it."
"Real Real" strips away metaphorical armor to reveal what breathes beneath, while the introspective "Silence" dons the breastplate, and in "Sickness," wide-eyed, lovestruck wonder meets with less sublime reality.
Fiction Plane's Dan Brown, himself a skilled songwriter, contributed two tracks to the album: "Everybody Lies," another strike against duplicity, and "Wise," which makes the most of Sumner and Daunt's blithe guitar atmospherics.
Some observers will likely marvel at the musical maturity of Fiction Plane. Yet this is a band that took years to percolate upwards. The story begins with Joe Sumner, who wasn't initially into music. "I hated piano lessons as a kid, so I spent the whole of my youth avoiding it," he recalls, "playing video games instead."
However averse the London native may have been to music as a child, it was nothing that his discovery of ska and, a bit later, grunge couldn't cure. "I got into the Specials, and then into Nirvana," says Sumner. "After that, I spent all my time playing guitar and drums and writing songs." Around this time, he met Dan Brown, a fellow high school student. Dan had grown up listening to his parents' James Taylor and Joni Mitchell records, but he too was turned around by Nirvana. "That band inspired Joe and me to start a band," he remembers. "I had been a piano player, but I wanted to rock, so I picked up the bass. We were bloody awful to start with. In those days, Joe made up the words as we went, adlibbing things that sounded like lyrics."
That period didn't last long. Sumner spent time in U.S. schools, then attended college, as did Brown. But the lure of music proved strong, and on the very day they graduated in 1999, the two old friends reunited to form a new band, which they originally called Santa's Boyfriend
Brown says, "We spawned some amazing ideas. Even in songs with 9/4 or 13/8 time signature, there would be these incredibly sweet moments. Then Joe would say, 'We have to stick this jazz/death metal bit in here.' He was very much against the pop musical establishment."
Enter Seton Daunt, a guitarist originally from Hastings, Sussex, in the south of England. The former art student-turned-musician headed straight for London upon turning 18. A chance encounter led him to a meeting with Dan Brown, who was mightily impressed with the young guitarist.
"Dan and I got on musically," recalls Daunt, "and I was friends with them. I loved their shows; the music was so different from anything else going on, so much more experimental. Joe was a great songwriter and a strong front-man." Daunt joined the band and according to Sumner, "He changed everything, he added so much texture."
The guys proceeded to play shows in the U.S., UK and Europe and independently released a collection of demos entitled "Swings and Roundabouts" in May 2001. Their work began to build a fan base that extended to the broader record industry as well. By the spring of 2002, the band changed their name to Fiction Plane (after an early Sumner song title) and signed a deal with MCA Records.
Then in June, producer David Kahne was persuaded to check them out at the King's Head Pub, the London club that serves as the band's home court. "Luckily, it was the best gig we'd ever done," says Sumner. Within weeks, Kahne was in pre-production with the trio in London, selecting songs and working on new arrangements. Kahne introduced the trio to drum wizard Abe Laboriel Jr., who loaned his abilities to the recording.
"It was like summer camp," says Brown of the recording process. "Everyone knew his role, everyone had space to consider what was best for the song. It wasn't about creating the most clever arrangement, but about creating emotion, creating music that would move people."
Heavy North American touring is set to support the release of Everything Will Never Be OK. Pete Wilhoit, an Indiana resident who drove cross-country to audition for the trio in November, rounds out the Fiction Plane lineup on drums. The mood within the band is one of anxious anticipation as they rehearse and prepare to go to all of the places their music takes them.