Space-men Planet Parade sit down with Orla Keaveney to discuss their new album Mercury, doing it yourself, and making it from your sitting room.
PLANET Parade are an Irish pop-dance duo comprised of Michael Hopkins and Andrew Lloyd. Since 2009, the Kildare natives released a steady stream of EPs and singles such as, ‘Face to Face’, ‘Blue Sky’, and ‘Cardiac’, and opened for such names as Passion Pit and Ellie Goulding. 2014, however, saw Hopkins and Lloyd take a step back from the stage to focus full-time on writing and recording their first album. This album, and the fruits of their labour, is finally due to be released at the end of the month.
Unlike the classic backstory of most bandmates meeting in college, Hopkins and Lloyd began collaborating at a much younger age. “We met when we were both 15 or 16,” Hopkins reveals, “we had a mutual friend who was a singer for another band. He knew I played drums and Andrew played bass so he kind of put us together. We’ve been together for fifteen years or so ever since!”
Defying yet another band cliché, Planet Parade did not rush towards the musical capitals of the world to kickstart their careers – they’re currently based in a home studio in Maynooth. “We actually grew up in Clane. We started rehearsing in school bands so we really started even more rural than Maynooth! I’d only want to go somewhere else for nicer weather,” Hopkins laughs.
“But for music, Ireland is as good as anywhere. It’s all very much online these days, so you might as well be in Ireland. There’s a great Irish music scene, and it’s a small enough country where everyone knows everyone – I don’t know why we’d move and start again.”
The elusive creative process behind the music varies greatly from artist to artist, whether it comes after hours of painstaking attempts or just a flash of inspiration. Reflecting on their own process, Hopkins admits that: “It could come from anywhere, could be any day – some days you have nothing, and other days you could have three songs. I could be walking to the shops one day and make a recording, with trucks going past and me humming any old gibberish into the phone, and you come back and do something with it, even months later.”
“I could be walking to the shops one day and make a recording, with trucks going past and me humming any old gibberish into the phone”
Planet Parade have released a number of music videos for their songs, but Hopkins isn’t comfortable with the over-emphasis on appearance in the music industry. He reveals his frustrations, explaining that “videos can be a bit annoying to deal with for musicians because they’re more interested in their music, but there’s this pressure to have a video these days. They can be expensive, and if it looks crap, you don’t want it to jeopardise the song, so we try and be careful with videos… We don’t like showing our faces too much either. We always mess them up or ‘effect’ them a little bit, so there’s a quirk to it rather than just a plain image.”
The pair are much happier with their album art, designed by Maynooth-based American artist Lauren Varian. Singing her praises, Hopkins explains: “She’s been doing all the artwork and keeping a continuity to everything. There’s just the main image, and for every other bit of artwork we try to work off that main image, so it’s all connected rather than just random images every time you have a song.”
Although Planet Parade was formed back in 2008, Mercury will be their first full album, the fruit of four years’ work. Reflecting on their time spent away from the spotlight, Hopkins admits: “We’ve been mostly writing and working on the studio, it wasn’t like we were in every day trying to write songs for four years! In that time, we almost have our second album finished, which we’re hoping to release pretty soon after this one. We’re ready with a good few songs – way more than we need!”
The two, however, aren’t content to rest on their laurels just yet. “We’ve a gig, kind of an album party thing in Whelan’s on March 30th,” Hopkins says. “We’re intentionally leaving it a few weeks after the album so people can get familiar with it. We’re hoping we’ll play all the festivals over the summer, and get a few decent supports in, just see what happens, maybe plan another album! We’re doing it all DIY, nothing’s stopping us from just putting songs out, we’re not too protective.”
Over the past decade or so, the music industry has been changed beyond recognition by the internet, giving more power to the bands instead of the record companies. Hopkins, though, doesn’t think this makes life much easier for aspiring musicians: “Compared to how I would have been when I was younger, I’ve a more realistic view of how things work – it doesn’t matter how good you are, or how hard you work, sometimes it just doesn’t happen, things just take time. “
“it doesn’t matter how good you are, or how hard you work, sometimes it just doesn’t happen, things just take time. “
On the bright side, the convenience of online music enables musicians to release their material without taking huge risks. “I think that’s the beauty of it,” Hopkins reflects, “because people have nothing to lose now. They can release music themselves, like we did in our own studio. There’s a great app called TuneCore, where you can just upload your music and it takes care of all your royalties and stats, so you can manage it all yourself. It’s great, some bands could take off on Spotify just from putting something online from their sitting room. But it’s hard to know what to recommend to young bands, except to just work on music for the love of it rather than to make a load of money.”
“But it’s hard to know what to recommend to young bands, except to just work on music for the love of it rather than to make a load of money.”
The album, Mercury, will be available on February 24th. For more on Planet Parade, check out their Facebook page or look them up on Spotify, SoundCloud or iTunes.