Plastic Yellow Band - Above Gravity

The name Plastic Yellow Band was apparently inspired by the Plastic Ono Band. What’s the story behind this choice of name? Do you think the concept of plastic plays into (or consciously contradicts) the approach to your music?

I like the concept behind Plastic Ono Band which was John Lennon and whatever musicians he was working with at the time to produce his music. A lot of talented musicians help me produce the music that is in my head. And I like the song Yellow by Coldplay, so the two came together and became Plastic Yellow Band. I’ve read some reviews that make way too much of this connection with John Lennon, like I have some fixation with him. Not true. When I say the band is built around the concept of Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band…. that’s what I mean. I could have stumbled across some other John Doe musician that used that concept and liked it. While I do agree I have been influenced by Lennon’s music, I don’t wear John Lennon T-shirts every day.

So, this is the first time I’ve heard anyone come up with a “plastic” connection with the band and my original music. That’s very interesting and it would, of course, be unintended because of what I just told you about how the name came about. BUT, now I wonder what the hell plastic means?

How would you describe Plastic Yellow Band’s music to someone who had never heard your work before?

If you like classic rock and how that has evolved into progressive rock, that’s what I hope you hear…some of both and sometimes a mixture of both.

What is your musical background, both as a listener and musician? I hear everything from Elton John to the Beatles to Floyd and beyond on “Above Gravity”, and get the feeling you are very versed in all the classics of the rock canon.

In the past, my performing would tend to be more singer/songwriter like James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Elton John, etc since I can play both guitar and piano. In the studio, I can work with a number of musicians and rock out, and create complex pieces. Starlight, for example, has 51 tracks to mix and master to create the final product. I loved doing that!

When I was in school, I would come home and put on a Jimi Hendrix album and listen from start to finish half-asleep on the couch. That’s still my favourite way of listening to music but it’s very rare that I can do that now. When you listen to an album from beginning to end, it is so much more full-filling than just listening to one track.

“Above Gravity” is PYB’s second album. How do you think it matches up to the debut? What did you do differently this time around?

Well, my favourite composition on Breathe Air is Sunlight which is another long composition but it is split into three tracks… Sunlight I, II, and III. This time I put a long composition, Starlight, as track 1 and did not split it into parts, because I think that it is ONE composition and should be heard as ONE piece to feel the emotions. A lot of listeners are not going to invest 21 minutes for the first track. Well, maybe they should.

The centrepiece (and easily my favourite PYB tune) of “Above Gravity” is the epic 20+ minute “Starlight”, a sweeping piece in the vein of Pink Floyd that’s been dedicated to everyone who’s lost someone they care about. What are your feelings towards this composition now that the album is out?

I think it should have been the album. I should have added another twenty minutes and had a 41 minute album that’s one track which ebbs and flows. Then you would have to find time to lie down on the couch half asleep just to listen to it.

Barring “Starlight”, are there any other songs on the new album that stand out to you in particular?

Obviously I like them all or they would not be there. I thought “America” would create some push-back because of all the political focus on immigration, but not one reviewer has brought that up.

On your band’s page, you also offer backing track versions of your songs, so musicians at a beginning to intermediate level can play along. What was the intention behind adding this extra goodie to the PYB experience?

I don’t read music. I learned to play piano and guitar by playing records over and over, and over again to pick out the parts. I thought the Play Along mixes would be helpful to those who may learn to play the way I learned.

What advice would you impart to other musicians looking to make their way in the world?

I’m really not one to give advice. But I would say play and write music out of love for it and not because you want to be rich and famous.

What have you been listening to lately? Are there any albums in 2015 that really caught your ear?

I spent most of 2015 recording and producing Starlight and Above Gravity so that’s what I listened to all year long! I just downloaded the new Jeff Lynn ELO album which I’ve been told is great and hope to spend some time with it.

What are PYB’s plans for 2016?

A 2016 CD release. It will be a little different than Breathe Air and Above Gravity in that there will be more rock songs featuring harmonies with my friend Dana Rideout who sang on track 5 of Breathe Air… I Want To Feel Your Love. Probably won’t be any songs over 5 minutes!

Anything I might have missed?

Maybe, if I think of it later I’ll call you! Thanks for listening to me.

Thanks for taking the time to respond to this interview.

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