INTRO BY MADDEN LEVIN
INTERVIEW BY JAMIE LANGLEY
For all our rock fans out there, you might need no introduction for this talented band. However, for all the rest of you, meet Gared O’Donnell, lead singer and guitarist of Planes Mistaken for Stars. The band of almost twenty years spoke with us about some very pressing topics that any new and old fan must read.
So, I wanted to ask you some off the wall questions here, questions you guys haven’t gotten asked a lot. So, first question would be, what would you say is the most important factor of playing live shows? For example: the energy, the atmosphere, etc.
GARED: "Like why I do it?"
I would say like when you play a show and there’s not as many people…
GARED: "It doesn’t matter. I was talking about this when we got here, because some of these shows have been kinda like, not that packed at all, kind of small turnouts, but I went back in my mind and I thought about like when we’ve played shows when there’s 300 people there and there was no energy or there were just like twenty kids that were stoked and like 300 other people who didn’t give a shit. So, it’s fine, I guess what I’m saying is the kids that have come out to the shows have all been very fucking enthusiastic and like 'with us.'"
Like they came to see you, not just because their boyfriend wanted to go or something?
GARED: "Yeah! They came to do the thing with us, to be at the show. That feels really nice."
Yeah, I find more in the punk/hardcore scene I see a very present cult-following, these bands might not have a ton of likes on Facebook, but everyone just gets so involved at the show.
GARED: "We don’t have like a huge core audience, but at our core, core, the people that really love us are extremely loyal, and like, have followed us for twenty years now. I think about almost every night on this tour I’ve had somebody come up and show me a tattoo of our band name, artwork or lyrics. A guy came up to us and was just like, 'Hey, I just want to tell you a story about how your song got me sober. My shit was fucked up and your words were the only thing that got to me.' So every night we’ve heard a story, they’re all different, but they’ve all been very special and amazing to kind of like, step back and realize that outside of my own vanity, my own reasons for doing this, I feel like I’m serving a purpose. I feel like we have collectively been able to change certain small threads in the fabric for the better, and that’s really a special feeling. I had somebody who told us he proposed to his wife at our show ten years ago. So, whether it’s somebody getting sober, or somebody proposing, as far as what makes it the best show is just honesty. It’s just an honest union between all the threads and the loom."
What are some of your go-to tour essentials? Something you can’t be on the road without?
GARED: "Mine are all just weird, little unique tokens. My youngest son bought me this rainbow neck pillow for Father’s Day, so that’s been my go to. Everyday, if I’m feeling a little blue or like a little frustrated I just lay on that and it grounds me. And then, you know, there’s all sorts of regular comfort creatures that you have. We buy a lot of Club Soda, ‘cause it helps when you’re not drinking a shit ton of beer. It hydrates you and it seems like you’re drinking a beer. We just can’t hit it as hard as we used to, it used to be (like ten years ago) I could drink all fucking day, I’ve had six drinks today and I’m tired. We also bring Bitters, it’s a thing you put in drinks, you can even put some in Club Soda. I always bring mixed CD’s, I think we started it on our first tour. Mixed CD’s have always been crucial for me…"
And now you can just make Spotify playlists.
GARED: "Yeah, well these guys use their phones, so it’s kind of like a mix but it doesn’t have the same magic. You’re not purposely putting together a set of songs, because when I put together a mixtape, I do it like I would the sequence of a record, like songs that are supposed to be next to each other. Again, tailoring the fabric of reality, ya know?"
I think this next question is really interesting because from my experience in living in New York to DC to Virginia, I often see a lot of people confuse genres and they’re like, “Oh no, this band is emo,” “No, they’re metal,” and they just fight over it, and I don’t see why a band can’t be classified as a few or just one, why do they need a genre?
GARED: "We’re just a rock band. You know, I don’t know, I mean I know that if you were to really get down to who we are, I guess you could label us as ‘punk rock’ but that means so many different things in itself and to so many different people, but I’d say we’re all little punk rockers at heart, because that’s what got us into music. It was skateboarding, and punk rock, the whole counter culture. I would say we’re heavy. When people ask, 'Well, what do you sound like?' I’m like, I guess we’re heavy? I listen to Thin Lizzy as much as I listen to Black Flag as much as I listen to Marvin Gaye. So I’m always just trying to take little pieces of fabric from everything you love."
Yeah, yeah. You wanna be versatile. No one person just likes one music genre. So who writes your songs? Is it a collaborative effort?
GARED: "It’s collaborative, I would say that there’s a large part of me conceptualizing something and I bring an in or an idea and these guys basically my crappy songs really good. These guys are all world class musicians, any of them could be studio musicians, and I’m just sort of like the odd ball."
And going on that, what would you say the main themes or topics that come up over again in most of your songs, or would you classify them as all different?
GARED: "I mean, you know, love, loss, fucking injustice, just the whole thing of life. They’re all true stories. I used to think I was being clever, in that I just wrote clever lyrics, and then I realized, they were all autobiographical. I didn’t realize they were like predestined things, you know? It’s just kind of the path you walk. I never tell people what the songs are about when they ask, I can’t really tell them because as soon as we record it, it’s everybody's. Whatever they want it to be to them is what it is to them. What it is to me might have been a totally different thing. But sometimes it takes me awhile to understand what records I write mean."
What has been your greatest challenge as a band? I’m sure the hiatus you guys took has been a challenge, but at the same time, you probably needed that time to grow and develop maybe certain styles that you didn’t have before.
GARED: "I’ve noticed that a lot of the hiatus---we started pretty early after we broke up to play shows here and there just to get together. Because when we’re not together, we’re still all integral parts of each other's lives. Like, my wife’s best friend is our drummer’s girlfriend. You know, so it’s like, we always see each other and it kinda got to be like: why don’t we just see, let’s write a record and if it doesn’t sound good then we just won’t put it out. But yes, the time that we did have apart from writing, which was over ten years, was good, I think. I believe we all learned a lot and added stuff to our quivers."
Could you describe how you think your show comes off to the audience? For example; the visual aspect, or just musically. Basically, what do you try to put into the performance so someone seeing it gets something out of it?
GARED: "I don’t know if I consciously do anything, I just put all into it. It’s all in, it’s like sex, you know? We’re like good sex, at least. Or like anything good... it’s like, why would you paint if you weren’t really trying to create something special? Why would I ever phone anything in? Everything with intent. Do everything in your life with intent, even if it’s drinking a glass of water. You know, you’re giving yourself something you need and vice versa when you cook for somebody, cook with intent, give them love, give them care. Because there’s too little of that in the world and I don’t think people understand how much better off we would all be if we did things with intent. And that could be darker things too, like if you’re going to haul off and fucking slug somebody or do something fucking wack, then do it with intent so at least people know what kind of person you are, don’t mask it. So basically, to wrap the question full circle would be: I’m not masking anything, this is exactly what I mean, this is exactly who I am."
GARED: "Yeah, no bullshit, there you go. You know, it’s all with intent."
I’m always interested in what people are listening as for new music or just an album that you can listen to over and over again without it getting on your nerves after awhile. It could be old music too, that you’ve just discovered and loved hearing.
GARED: "Well I guess it’s all relative, 'new' doesn’t mean in the now. My shit’s all over the map, I’ve been listening to this old funk band called McNeal and Miles which is the perfect shit to play at a barbeque or drink wine on the porch, and on the flip, I’ve been really getting into Sisters of Mercy, who the fuck knew, you know? I’m revisiting old punk rock that I forgot how good it was, like the UK Subs, The Ruts, anything honest, really! I wanna be like ah, I listen to a lot of old soul, but I also listen to a lot of old punk rock. But there’s just so much out there, so much shit, so it makes the 'so much good stuff' so much better. I was excited that Afghan Whigs put a new record out, I love that band. Satyricon, I was at a re-sale shop in Peoria, IL, where I live and there's just a grip of CD’s and a lot of them were just burnt CD’s. Like somebody died or something, and just their whole collection was donated maybe. So, there’s this band called Satyricon which is like a Norwegian black metal band, and I don’t really like metal that much, but I really kind of dug it once I’d found it there, but my wife became really into it, although you’d never guess she would’ve been. It’s her go-to driving record. And it’s just like a burnt CD that someone made their friend."
That’s awesome, and you probably got it for real cheap too!
GARED: "I got it for like, a nickel! It was totally worth it (laughs)."
Why do you choose the songs you choose to play live? And a lot of times I think people wonder just that because I’ve even been to shows where the crowd requests a certain song and the band doesn’t want to play it live, and I just wonder why they would write a song that they didn’t want to perform.
GARED: "Some of our early stuff, people will ask us to play and I just simply can’t. I just can’t because I feel like I’m phoning it in, I feel like I’m acting. Because the guy that wrote that song that was twenty years ago and I don’t really relate to it anymore, I understand why it’s relatable but it’s kind of like if I were to try on clothes that I wore when I was fifteen, you don’t want to see me in that, I would look ridiculous. We have probably about 45 - 50 songs to choose from. We have four full lengths, so at least 45 songs that we can play at any given show. It’s kind of like, we just have to stick to what feels good…"
And what people like?
GARED: "Eh, I don’t really care what people like.."
Well if you can play it well then that should be the top priority.
GARED: "That’s what it is. Because there’s some songs that people ask for and some songs I love but just aren’t so easy to pull off and also part of it is that my register has changed over the years and some songs I could nail in the studio but not live, and I don’t want to be a guy squawking up there."
Yeah, unless you’re 80 years old and it’s the reunion tour.
GARED: "Yeah, right. And that’s a perfect analogy there because we’re not a reunion, we feel like a band. So, I think a good band plays what it knows and knows how to lock down. Some shows if people don’t go bananas, or they don’t care as much as you’d want them to, if we played tight then I’m stoked. You know, like, if we had that connection, the four of us, because ultimately…."
That’s why you started?
GARED: "And that’s why we’ll finish."
So for our last question, I’d like to ask you something that I have gotten asked a lot over the years in school. They would ask where do you see yourself in a few years and I think bands can be asked the same question with the same intent, because you don’t start for nothing, that’s your passion, you’re not a musician as a hobby, or it might start out that way and then you just end up loving it, you can’t leave it.
GARED: "You know, that’s interesting with us, because I think at this point we like realize that it’s not a career and it’s not really a hobby because a hobby makes it sound so much more insignificant. I don’t know, and that’s kind of one of the good things, one of the things I love about the position we’re in, because none of us have to do it. There’s no deadline, we don’t have the thing where we have to get together and make a record every two years or so, for us it’s just sort of like, if it feels right, we’ll do it. So, in two years, I don’t fucking know. I mean, I’d like to go to Europe again, that would be cool, and we could. But we also have lots of other shit going on in our lives, every one of us. So when people ask what do you see yourself doing, I see myself taking care of my own and that’s the band, that’s the kids, my wife, my friends, or anyone at all that needs tended to, really. I hope I can get some music done in the meantime though. Just intent, do everything with intent."