The band talks about Santa’s Boyfriend, living in the shadow of Sting, and a little bit of politics…
The members of Fiction Plane took time before their Kansas City show to talk. Along with Snoop Dogg, they are supporting 311 on the 2008 Unity Tour. Drummer Pete Wilhoit, singer/bassist Joe Sumner, and guitarist Seton Daunt are enjoying a laid back summer of touring after their opening slot for the Police ended in April.
So, I’ve read that Nirvana had a big impact on you guys.
Pete: I was already in a band by the time Nirvana was already going but they were still a huge influence on me, too, cause it was sort of…I was kind of the same as them, sort of fed up with where I felt like the music industry was going and what was popular at the time. They were sort of like a breath of fresh air – not anti-image – but it was an image which was definitely not a product.
They were definitely anti-establishment. Did Cobain’s death affect you guys at all? I remember the day it happened. Was it pretty huge for you?
Pete: Yeah, it wasn’t like I cried, I was just shocked and thought wow, that’s almost like I mean, I never met the guy and never even saw the band live so for me the whole thing seemed surreal. Some band that was bigger than life on the screen that had influenced me and that was a chapter gone. Actually, Jeff Buckley’s death really hit me. I was like man there’s a guy that’s gonna become more popular now that he’s dead, I mean a lot of people knew of him.
He had more of a cult following…
Joe: I knew about him actually – I had the record – and I didn’t really like it. I was like it’s whiny, kind of girly sh** whatever…then he died and I remember listening to it – me and my girlfriend listened to it together – and we were both crying. And it’s like, is that just because he died that makes it poignant? I don’t know.
You feel kind of shallow…
Like, “I wish I’d liked it before he died.”
Joe: Yeah, I don’t have the prescience of others, but it still, you know, it has a meaning regardless of what context it’s because of.
What about the extension going to Pearl Jam, I mean they’re in the grunge thing, but they were, I think they were way different from Nirvana. So were they an influence at all?
Joe: I loved Pearl Jam at the time but I didn’t…I felt conflicted cause it was like it was Nirvana vs. Pearl Jam and I had the Pearl Jam records but I didn’t say I had them.
Your allegiance was to Nirvana.
Pete: I loved Pearl Jam and still do. I think even though they’re not like at the forefront of trendy music, I think that they’re…they’ve always done whatever they wanted and I think they were lucky enough to have a album that really broke through at the right time (“Ten”) and it was music that I could identify with, you know, sort of like Nirvana, you know, not all keyboards or whatever and it was real guys playing real music and it was a little bit sloppy and it had a edge and an attitude and I really liked that.
Joe: They were very anti-establishment as well. Like even more so, like they did the live video for “Alive” which was kind of a big deal, and then the Ticketmaster thing…
The Ticketmaster thing, then all the bootlegs they put in the stores so, “Here you go fans, if you want it…”
Joe: And then just making album after album without stylists. Now, you know, they’re like forty years old, or whatever, this is a picture of us we’re here whatever we’ll make a new image and reinvent ourselves.
Eddie (Vedder) did the music for “Into the Wild” and I think that opened him up to a greater audience. They’ve got all the generations now. You’ve got the parents now in their thirties and forties and you’ve got their kids. And you’ve got the grunger kids who weren’t even born when Kurt Cobain died and they’re playing his music.
Joe: Yeah, that’s weird.
Alright, the tour, what’s it like? How is it? 311, Snoop…what’s the good, the bad, and the ugly?
Pete: Actually, really fun. Both bands and both crews are really fun. And it’s sort of a party atmosphere with a little bit of business. But mostly it’s just party.
Pete: More like 95 party, 5 business. And you know the positives are that it’s a big tour and we get to play some amazing venues like Red Rocks, we got to play some good festivals which have been really fun. The negatives are we are still definitely an opening band that people don’t really know. You know, we’re trying to enlighten some people as to what we’re doing. And I think the people that are there are definitely getting a good taste of what Fiction Plane is, while we’re also getting quite a few confused looks.
Is that because of the diversity with Snoop’s fans?
Joe: Everyone here has been white.
Pete: Yeah, it’s true.
Pete: It’s a majority white audience.
So, Snoop’s getting some exposure here, too.
Joe: You know it’s strange, if I call out during a show, “Who’s here to see Snoop?” no one responds. If I say “Who’s here to see 311?” they’re like, “Yeah, we’re here to see 311!” But when Snoop comes on, he completely dominates everything. It’s amazing, like…
Pete: Yeah, everybody loves it. He puts on a great, fun show.
Joe: It’s a really good show and you should definitely watch it.
Pete: His character as a person is larger than life and it just…he brings everything you want him to bring, you know.
So, he’s got the gin and juice in his cup?
Joe: And the band is f***ing awesome.
Pete: And it’s nice to see a real band playing because it gives it that real, raw kind of energy.
And what a great mixture, it’s called the Unity Tour, right? That’s a great name because you’ve got…it’s almost like 311 is kind of in the middle. They’ve got the combo of alternative rock, reggae, and rap. I think it works out well on a continuum in that they should perform second and Snoop should open and you guys should finish. Bring that up…maybe tonight.
Joe: I think we should play throughout. In between songs we should do like a little Paul Schaffer jazz thing.
Speaking of the fans, your website…well not yours, because when we go to yours at http://www.fictionplane.com, it links to your MySpace page, but http://www.fictionplane.net where it’s the “official/unofficial” site…
…and you guys don’t run that?
Because that’s an excellent site. I mean it’s beautiful.
Joe: The reason we don’t really have our own site is because that site is just better. They know sh** before we know it.
Do you know the people who run that?
Have you talked about making it an official site with them or is it going to remain…
Joe: It’s kind of fun to have it like that, plus then we don’t have to take responsibility. But they do a really amazing job and they literally find out dates before we know sometimes.
Really? They have connections somewhere?
Pete: They’re actually doing the puppet strings for us.
So, the band’s previous name Santa’s Boyfriend…why would you ever let that name go? Don’t you think you’d be so much more popular in America if you’d kept that?
Joe: I think we would.
Pete: We could be Santa’s Ex-boyfriend.
Joe: I think Fiction Plane as a marketing name is terrible. Well, I know that nobody can remember it. But there’s a meaning behind it – a deep meaning – which all of us relate to about freedom and music and ideas which is very important to us. But, sometimes you just need to be called the Hotcakes or something.
So, they might see your name and listen to it just because of the name, not because of your music?
Joe: Yeah, and people have a hard time pronouncing Fiction Plane. They’re like Picture Frame? Friction Pain?
Those are your uneducated fans.
Joe: Those are the people we need!
Pete: We’ll go to settle (after playing a gig) and they say, “The guys from Fiction Plan are here to settle.” They say “Plan” a lot. They leave off the “e.” And we just played the show!
I was Googling you guys and found this anagram thing were the letters from Fiction Plane can be made into “Infant Police,” and I mean, what the hell were the odds of that?
And how many people are gonna believe that was a coincidence?
Joe: I would pay like a million dollars for that just not to be true.
I got your first CD (“Everything Will Never Be OK,” 2003) and have been following you since then and saw you on one of the late night shows…
Pete: Craig Kilborn. Then last year we did Leno and uh, what’s his face…
Joe: Shimmel. Shimmel Richards.
So yeah, in all those appearances you-know-who was never mentioned. Who you are (Joe is Sting’s son), and how that was intentional on your part obviously, I mean you wanted to avoid that. And then I see you’re opening up for the Police the whole tour, so you just said, “F*** it, we’re just gonna go ahead, they know anyway, let’s get some exposure?”
Joe: That’s the thing. We’ll be playing a club with 25 people and everyone’s still talking about that shit anyway. So, why not play in stadiums.
Pete: It used to be that the band pushed away from that and it was even in the contract with MCA that they were not allowed to use Sting’s name in marketing or anything like that. And then you go on your first tour and I looked at one of the posters and it’s like, “Sting’s son’s band, Fiction Plane!” At least they got Fiction Plane right. It’s like no matter what, it’s a shadow that you’re never gonna get out from under, but you know the band has so much to offer outside of that lineage and it is what it is and it’s much easier to embrace it and just move on. Because fighting it is really difficult.
“Running The Country,” that’s not a political song is it? I have somebody in mind…
Joe: It’s a nursery story about sheep.
Okay. Because I’m thinking about somebody else who lives on the east coast.
Pete: It’s about marathon runners.
There you go! And “Death Machine?”
Joe: Those two songs you mentioned, you can pretty much guess what they’re about.
Yeah, which leads me into our elections. Do you (Joe) have citizenship?
Joe: No, I’m a resident. And I can’t vote, but I can get on and tell everyone what I think.
Do you ever get into politics onstage?
Joe: Not really, cause it’s uh…well I like to let the lyrics in the songs do the talking most of the time, unless it’s like some kind of fun thing. I think if you can understand that it doesn’t matter. I mean, I would say I’m probably Democrat but I disagree with Democrats plenty.
Yeah, you’re saying that so you don’t piss off everybody cause you know you’ve got some right-wing fans and you need them!
Joe: But if you say, “F*** the Republicans,” which I kind of do, that’s my general opinion…if you have a song which has the idea that this is (politically) a stupid idea, like a president who’s not qualified to do his job…it doesn’t matter if it’s Democrat or Republican, black or white, Rocky, American, whatever, it’s just done. So, you can take it from that side.
Pete: Every time I go out of the country, I’m really pro-Bush and I raise the American flag. I’m just kidding.
I’m afraid to go anywhere.
Pete: Well you know what? The majority overseas didn’t vote him in. But you do get those with stereotypical American ideals and you carry that baggage with you.
Joe: He really hasn’t helped that.
Pete: No, he hasn’t.
Joe: I do remember, like people in Europe and England started to sort of realize that, oh yeah, Americans are just people.
That’s what I want them to think, that’s what they need to think. Half the country has some sense, just so they know that.
Joe: That’s why you need a president that can speak English.
Back to your tour…I think maybe your last show in the states is in Sedalia, at the State Fair?
Joe: Yeah, Missouri State Fair, man! When that offer came in we were just like, you know what? That’s like the f***in’ best thing ever. Opening for Foreigner at the Missouri State Fair (August 12).
If there’s one thing you’d want your fans to know besides anything we’ve talked about that you think most of them don’t know, what would it be?
Joe: Our hardcore fans know everything.
But for those people who are just meeting you and don’t have your CD yet, what do you want to tell them?
Pete: Find a way to come see us live.
Joe: Come see us live.
Pete: I mean, I really do think that’s an important thing.
That is an important thing. You’re a great live band.
Pete: I mean like listening to the CD, a lot of people are like, “I liked the CD, but when I saw you live I was blown away.” And we get that a lot, and I think there’s a lot of merit to that. And I think that’s where we’re most happy is when we’re playing live. I mean recording a CD is a special thing and putting that music together and listening to it and making it the way you want it is cool. But going to play it live and experiencing people giving you energy back and pushing it offstage is really…you can’t match it. So, I would say come see us live. Find a way to come see us live.
I caught you opening for the Police last November in Atlanta.
Joe: Oh, love Atlanta.
Pete: We love Atlanta.
I was checking the crowd for your opening set and it was a pretty good response. I wondered how many in the crowd knew Fiction Plane and how much your CD sales spiked from those who got to know you that night.
Joe: We sold a shit-load that night.
Pete: And we’re out of shirts. Only mediums left. You know the Police tour was amazing not only because we were exposed to those giant audiences, but also they let us do whatever we wanted. We had 45 minutes to play whatever we wanted, and Seton commented the other day when we were looking at one of the videos that they had put up our CD picture in the back so it would look like our banner. And, you know, we got our own crew and they let us play and it was almost like our own show. We felt like that.
But you didn’t get the big screens. They (the Police) are like, “We don’t want them to outdo us, so we’re keeping the screens…”
Pete: Once in a while we did.
Joe: In the stadiums, that’s because you can’t hear the music in the back of the stadiums.
Speaking of CDs, have your sales gone up since the Police tour started?
Pete: During it, yeah.
Joe: Traditionally, we always sell our shit off the stage. “Two Sisters” had quite a good run. A lot better than Europe.
That’s all I have. Thanks, guys. Have a great show.
Check out http://www.myspace.com/fictionplane for more on Fiction Plane.