Pete Roberts, guitarist and co-founder of Welsh rock band People in Planes, was finally on the line from New York—and only 45 minutes late.
“Most people are taking it at face value, as like a self-loathing song where they need help,” he began when I asked about their new single, “Mayday (M’aidez),” which means SOS or “help me” in French. “[But] it’s kind of the opposite of what most people think. It’s partly about, ‘I know you better than you know yourself,’ and that is possibly the most ignorant thing you can say to someone. …So, it’s kind of a ‘fuck you’ to those people.”
“Mayday (M’aidez),” which can be heard on the People in Planes MySpace page, was released via iTunes on May 6 as the band’s first official single off their upcoming sophomore record, “Beyond The Horizon.” It comes bundled with two other tracks off the 12-track album—”Last Man Standing” and a video of their much-hyped “Pretty Buildings.” The video, which originally debuted on PureVolume as an exclusive, is now streaming on YouTube. Newsweek called it a ballad “rich in melody with strong searching lyrics”—and named it the reason why the band is one to watch.
People in Planes is a five-piece indie rock band from Cardiff, Wales. The quintet was formed by Roberts and lead vocalist Gareth Jones, who first met in elementary school when Roberts accidentally smashed a tennis ball into Jones’ face—(“I guess that’s when I first introduced myself to him,” Roberts chuckled)—leaving Jones with a bloody lip. The band was originally called Robots in the Sky in 2000—and then Tetra Splendour in 2001—before settling for People in Planes in 2005. Now, signed to Wind-Up Records in New York and with a final lineup of Roberts on guitar and backup vocals; Jones on lead vocals, rhythm guitar, and keyboards; Kris Blight on bass; John Maloney on drums; and Ian Russell on keyboards, People in Planes has just kicked off their first-ever headlining tour in promotion of “Beyond The Horizon.”
The upcoming sophomore release boasts collaborations with some well-known producers in the music industry—including Panic At The Disco producer Matt Squire and Canada’s own Raine Maida from Our Lady Peace. In total, the quintet worked with four different producers in seven different studios, making for an eclectic mix of ideas.
“We didn’t really know any of the producers beforehand [so] it was kind of a shot in the dark—we didn’t really know what was going to happen,” Roberts admits. “I just think—as we always did—we tried to explore different musical stuff and tried to be as creative as possible.”
But the creativity didn’t stop in the studio. “I did perform most of the demos in my bedroom on my laptop, and sung most of the songs myself,” says Roberts, who acts as the band’s main songwriter. “I’m singing a couple of lead bits on the new record too, [which] adds another dimension to the band.”
Although fans will be able to buy a digital copy of “Beyond The Horizon” on June 24, they won’t be able to get their hands on a physical copy for another month and a half—the album hits shelves August 12. But why the wait? “I don’t really know the reason,” Roberts admits. “I think it’s just [the label's] little game they have to play. There [are] a whole lot of things I’ll never understand about the music industry.”
One thing Roberts does understand is the importance of making friends. One click to the band’s MySpace and it’s clear they keep in touch with their old tour mates. In 2006, while People in Planes were promoting their debut album, “As Far As The Eye Can See,” they toured with Canadian indie rockers Pilot Speed and Wintersleep. Two years later, both are still on the band’s top 5 friends list. So exactly how important is it to make friends with the bands they tour with?
“It’s very important,” explains Roberts. “When you get back home, nobody really understands what you go through. You are sort of outcast when you try to get in with your friends again, because most of [them] have 9-5 jobs. …When you’re on tour, it’s like everyone you’re around understands. It’s the best place to meet friends.”
So far, People in Planes have only scheduled dates in four Canadian cities— they just played in Vancouver and Victoria and hit Ottawa on Tuesday (May 13) and Toronto Thursday (May 15).
But that’s not to say the rest of their Canadian fans will be out of luck. “We don’t want to say we’re only playing four shows in Canada [because] the whole schedule is literally being worked out as we speak,” says Roberts. “We’re gonna be touring constantly this year. We really want to get on the road as much as possible.”
With 21 tour dates already set for the rest of May and June, it looks like People in Planes will be keeping busy this summer. But while life on the road can eventually get dull, there’s bound to be moments of unadulterated hilarity—especially for five attractive young guys living the life of rock ‘n’ roll. So what’s the craziest thing they’ve ever done on tour?
“Ugh, I hate that question.”
“Oh—uh, I’m sorry.”
“I really hate that question.”
Guess I’ll never know.