Hail! The Planes make a lovely folky racket down in Cardiff. They’ve got some love from Radio 1, supported British Sea Power and carved out a name as a cracking live act. We asked Dave (guitar) about the past, present and future for H!TP, he tried to respond as seriously as he could. Nice lad.
FKZ: Tell us about the day of the birth of Hail the Planes – was it on a stormy clifftop in the Brecon Beacons, or over espressos in a Cardiff jazz cafe? Details are crucial folks.
I wish it were as romantic as that. Holly IS from Brecon, and Rob does listen to an awful lot of jazz, but in reality it began in an a room above an estate agents. Rob, Lee and I were living together in Cardiff. The three of us had been in other bands so it was unsurprising that we decided to do something new. Holly and I had been together since uni and the rest of us bullied her into picking up her violin after not playing it for 8 years. Things went from there. We didn’t decide on a genre as such, but the folkyness emerged early on – mostly because of the violin, I suppose.
Hail! The Planes. L-R: Dave, Holly, Rob, Mark.
FKZ: Knowing you and Rob from back in Weymouth, you always were in loud/fast/heavy bands – why the folky change of direction?
I think with the later Serena Joy stuff we were already shifting away from the post-hardcore into a more progressive sound. There is a definite thread through all the music that Rob and I have made. The desire to experiment has always been there, even from the very start when we were playing three chord punk songs. We’ve always tried to move forward and do new things. We were fed up of not fitting on any bills, too. We ended up playing shows with metal/hardcore bands because we were too loud to play the indie shows. In the case of Hail! The Planes it was that Holly played violin which the rest of us found exciting. It was good to realise that we didn’t HAVE to play in a loud band.
FKZ: Leading on from that, is the tinnitus a thing of the past? Any heavier side project plans?
The tinnitus is still ringing loud and clear, unfortunately. Things have got louder and more intense than when we formed H!TP, but I don’t think we’ll be inducing ringing in anyone’s ears just yet. We’ve stuck to the stripped down setup – no distortion, no effects, tiny drum kit etc. We’re never going to be the loudest, most epic band out there so it seems there’s little point trying. The parts of our set I enjoy most are the quietest.
As for other projects; Rob isn’t in any other bands at the moment, but Mark plays in a great band called Strange News From Another Star. They play loud and fast and they will give you tinnitus. I’ve just started a band with a work mate and his brother. We’re calling ourselves Comms Book at the moment. It’s a Fugazi/Shellac/Slint style post-hardcore thing. It’s very early days yet, but it’s nice to get back into the heavier side of things and to feel a little more prolific with the songwriting (which can be pretty slow with H!TP).
FKZ: Are you finding it’s a good time to be in a folky band? Do you think the success of Laura Marling, Mumford and Sons etc made it easier to get some recognition?
Folk is certainly on people’s minds at the moment, so maybe we’re receiving more appreciation than if we were playing reggae or thrash or something. But this folk trend will pass and there’ll be a backlash. Perhaps it’s already happening? That’s inevitable when awful corporations start using some twee folk song to sell you things. Besides, I don’t think we’re all that ‘folk’, anyway – we’re coming at the music from a very different place, I think.
FKZ: What’s been the best H!TP moment to date?
That has to be playing Green Man Festival last year. We were so excited to be going at all, let alone playing. It was a real privilege. We were on first on the opening day and it was completely lashing it down. But quite a crowd gathered and as our set progressed the weather eased. That’s the most fun we’ve had playing, and it felt like we were a proper band for the weekend which was great. The sound that day was incredible, too. It makes such a difference when you can hear all the details when you’re playing. We were treated very nicely indeed. It was strange playing in front of so many people – not at all nerve wracking which was a surprise for us all, I think. We’re used to playing to a handful of people which can be quite intimidating and intense.
FKZ: Neil Young’s Harvest Moon or Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks?
Erm…The Beach Boys ‘Pet Sounds’? But if I had to choose, Harvest Moon. Obv.
FKZ: We like your video – any advice for bands looking to get a video shot? Anything you wish you would have done different?
We’re lucky enough to have a friend called Andrew Trace who works on films for a living, so it made it really easy for us. It was a spur of the moment thing, really. Andy had a digital SLR which he’d attached a CCTV camera lens to that he wanted to try out. It was a pretty day so we decided to go to the seaside and see what we could come up with. It was essentially just Holly and I going for a swim, but somehow Andy managed to give the video some sense of plot. The light that day was incredible and he captured it really well.
I’d recommend just doing things yourself. It’s easy enough to do – just shoot it on your iPhone, or whatever. Most people discover new music on YouTube, so videos are pretty important. That’s something we should bear in mind ourselves, actually. It’s easy to become too precious about things, so I’d say just shoot something and get it out there.
FKZ: The old classic – what’s next for you guys? What are you most excited about?
Well we’re writing songs for an album at the moment, so we’ve not been playing too many shows. We supported British Sea Power in Cardiff in February, which was incredible (and terrifying), but there is nothing lined up for the immediate future. It’d be nice to do a mini-tour in spring/summer sometime. There’s a Cardiff band called Among Brothers that we keep meaning to tour with, so that’d be good.
We’re recording another couple of tracks with Charlie Francis at Music Box in the next month or two. Those will probably go towards the album, too. It’s nice to set smaller, shorter term goals – thinking ‘right, let’s write an album’ can be daunting. And recording is my favourite part of being in a band, so that something I always look forward to. The new tracks are a little different to what we’ve done in the past – more vocally oriented and more compact, so it’ll be interesting to see how they turn out.
You can check ‘em out at http://hailtheplanes.tumblr.com/