Someday I hope my job allows me to work from home. This has always been a dream of mine – ever since my parents introduced me to some warped home-schooled kids as a child. To me, the idea of working from home comes off like a dream. You get to work in your pajamas, space out lunch breaks, never see your boss, and, for anyone who has ever worked a day in the life of retail, no handling obnoxious customers (unless you’re in teleconferencing). For the most part, however, working from home would be, for lack of a better term, fucking legit.
That’s why a band like southern California’s Mad Planet has it right. Members/roommates/couple Cooper Gillespie and Greg Gordon started their bass and drum outfit a couple years back. At the time, they were working at a bar. Today, they they live together, and they’ve just recorded their new album, All Elephants. Along with a Mac laptop (their “third band member,” they jokingly tell me), the two have been able to create some pretty interesting sounds.
“Musically, we’ve been heavily influenced by Portishead and Massive Attack,” says bassist/vocalist Gillespie. And when you listen to their songs, you can totally see that connection. But that seems kind of pigeon-holed, as there’s a lot more going on with this record. After a little more prying, Cooper digs deeper into their influences: “One band who was one of the biggest influences in my life was the Sex Pistols. When I heard songs like “Anarchy in the UK” at 11, my world opened up. It changed my whole artistic perception of music. But I’m inspired by any great music, art or food; I had some risotto last night that had me all sorts of inspired.”
Like Cooper, drummer/programmer Gordon seems to have a wide range of influences, as well. “I come from the jazz world,” he explains. “So, I love Max Roche and John Coltrane. But also bands like Led Zeppelin, the Doors, and Hendrix.” Following this, we have a three minute conversation about Usher.
Why Usher? Well, Gordon’s other job is working for Jimmy Kimmel’s late night show, in which he recently got to see Usher perform. “Usher isn’t our music, but he performs,” he says enviously. And that’s what Mad Planet just wants to do: perform. They certainly have enough material to do so. Their first album is definitely a bit eerie, with its soothing, yet haunting vocals, slightly dark melodies, minimalistic drums, and sporadic loops. Songs like “Been Diagnosed” send chills down the spine, with Cooper chanting “Na na na,” over some tubular bells and finger-nails-on-chalkboard synthesizers. “I Live Alone” features a down-tempo drum beat and keyboard loop from Gordon, while Gillespie takes on the persona of Enya, conjuring up all sorts of emotions as she sings.
“Love Addicts” is a beat and scratch instrumental reminiscent of some of Jurassic 5’s work, but on a less child-friendly level. The song “Tonight” is one of the most elegant numbers on the album with its piano and string instrumentation, all as Gillespie sings about conditions of the human heart. “Now I Know” is a synth-saturated tune with a much more upbeat drum pattern, with a triumphantly emotional outro. Then there’s “October”, which brings back memories of the fall in New England, as Cooper sings about “the crackling of leaves,” a feeling a Masshole cannot soon forget. The closer, “Watch”, kicks off almost like Sublime but morphs into a spacey, trip-hop finale as the instrumentation builds and builds, only to fade away into nothing.
Mad Planet took a year to conceive All Elephants. “We have two different ways of writing,” Gordon says. “Sometimes Cooper will come up with a melody or a bass line. I take it and go into my music program and try adding things. She’ll say yes or no, and so on. Another way is I’ll just sit at the keyboard and once something catches my ear, we’ll both go and elaborate on it.” And as for the next album, they tell me they’re already composing new material, and will select cuts soon enough.
But now that they’ve been able to make everything happen from home, they want to go out into the world and prosper. Mad Planet is aware that no A & R person is just going to be waiting for them in a club. “We’ve got to just keep working it,” Gordon says. “It’s not like a producer is just going to sit around waiting for us. We’re in a time in the music business where the only way to get ahead is to keep doing what you want to do.” As of now, the band is on tour, and will be taking America by storm.
Mad Planet doesn’t want to be famous though, they just want to rock. When I ask them about their mission as a band, they jokingly tell me they want to play in space, but everything comes back to their home. “It all happens here,” Gordon says. This is true. It all comes from the heart, the home, whatever H you like, but when making art, you want to get it to a place where everyone can hear it.
“I just want to tour, be successful by touring, write music, pay my bills and enjoy it,” Gordon says. “With global domination and all that of course.”
Photography by JLSFoto.com
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