Shooting the Shit with James Plane Wreck

Originally Published March 21st 2019

Besides being a kickass band, the guys in James Plane Wreck are a total hoot.  I had them over to my place a couple weeks ago to fill me in on their history. And maybe their plans for the future.  To get the biographical details outta the way, I ask them to give us their names, instruments and how long they’ve been in the band.

“Aaron. I play guitar and sing. Been in since ‘99, did we decide?”

“Shaun. I play bass. It was probably more like 2000, 2001 when I started actually playing bass [in the group].”

“Andrew, drums. Probably been in since Shaun.”

“Shane. I joined summer of…2011? 2011, we’ll call it. And I play guitar. And try to sing backup.”  After a pause, he adds, “I had to audition! Like four times, before they were finally like–”

Andrew sarcastically shrugs and says, “He’s gonna keep showing up!”

Asked to classify the James Plane Wreck sound, and list some influences, Aaron gives it some thought and says, “I’ve always had a very hard time classifying our music.  I’d say it’s rock/punk-rock with a tinge of alt-country. I’ve always wanted a review of us to hear how we are described. The first one we got was: ‘Replacements-like.’  Influences of mine are Archers of Loaf, Built to Spill, Treepeople, Bob Dylan, Hot Water Music, Knapsack, Phil Spector pop.”

And how did the band start, exactly?

“I always had a bunch of acoustic songs,” Aaron explains, “got a 4-track, loved the way things sounded with multiple instruments.  These guys were all in numerous other bands, good bands, and I was very lucky to have them play with me. ‘Cuz they’re wonderful.”

“We all kinda hung out…in high school, right?” Andrew asks.

Grinning, Aaron confirms this.  “We had a shared love of underage smoking, is how we met.”

Shaun gives us his side of the story:  “While [Aaron] was doing that, me and a bunch of my friends were playing in punkrock bands, or whatever, and we saw what Aaron was doing recording acoustically, and it kinda blew our minds.  And we said, ‘Hey man, if you ever wanna do a full band, let us know!’”

So were the guys brought in as side-men?  Session guys playing prearranged songs?

“I was alot more ‘writing all the parts’ back then,” Aaron admits.  “I was a lot bigger of a dick.” This elicits some knowing snickers from his bandmates.

I press the guys on their earliest shows and recordings.

Aaron again:  “Well, the first [recording] we did was 17 songs.  Like, a looooong fucking album.  I think there’s like six acoustic [songs] on there.  But I think we only played like three or four shows before we started recording.  It was just writing material, and rehearsing.”

“We used to have crazy-long rehearsals,” Andrew interjects.  

Aaron seconds this, “Fuck yeah, like five, six hours.”

“It was very scattered at that time,” says Shaun, “because we had two different dudes playing guitar with us–that aren’t here now–”

Aaron crosses himself, then looks upward, as if the guitarists are dead, and everyone loses their shit, laughing hysterically.

Shane picks up the thread:  “Back then, there were hiatuses, too, where there would be other bands going on.”

Shaun nods.  “We had a break in, what? 2003? 2004? And then picked back up in ‘05 or ‘06 for another year or two.”

After a bit of a digression here, where multiple former bandmates are mentioned, I ask, “Were the players who rotated in and out pretty much filling in the second guitar, prior to Shane coming in?”

“Yeah,” Aaron says.  Shaun adds, “But it was, sorta, like I feel like we just wrote different songs.”

“Yeah, less singer-songwritery,” Aaron elaborates.

But the work ethic has stayed the same?

“We’ve always been pretty gung ho,” according to Shaun.  Previous and current members, all? “Once we started with a new band member, that earlier band’s done,” Aaron laughs.  “Move on, and….yeah.”

Asked if retiring so many old songs makes for a heavier workload, Aaron shrugs and says, “I write sooooo many songs, though.  It’s not like I’m worried I won’t write another song.”

“And even if that happened,” Shane says (and the guys all agree), “there’s plenty of old, good material.  But it’s good to kinda move on.”

When I press the band about the writing process, who adds what to the song, Shane calls it: “I’d say it’s 70/30.  He comes in with 70 percent and then we flesh it out.” And then Aaron elaborates, “I don’t write basslines or drum parts anymore, ‘cuz these guys are fucking awesome.”

“But he comes with the basic riffs, and the vocals, and melodies–that’s all him,” Shane continues, then pauses, “and then, sometimes, if it’s a newer jam and he’s only got two parts, then that’s when Shaun and I will help him write a third or fourth part.”  But, I ask, it sounds like the rest of you write the lion’s share of your own individual lines, right? “Yes.”

Talking about how drummers can really shape a song, Aaron gets enthusiastic.  “That’s one of the greatest fucking feelings! You come in with something that’s almost like a dirge, and Andrew plays, like, a much faster beat to it, and you’re just like, ‘Holy shit! This song just opened up!”

I ask Andrew, is that intentional, or is that…?

“I just don’t know what else to do,” says Andrew, completely deadpan, and the rest of the guys erupt with laughter.  “I just try to compliment what he does,” he continues, referring to Aaron.

To which Shane adds, “I think he speaks for all of us.”

Then there’s plenty of aimless talk about dick pics, Aaron’s weird colored pants, the joys of a full head of hair versus balding.  “Last time I tried to grow a skullet, I ended up looking a lot like Gallagher,” Shane confesses. Laughter fills the room.

“Nothin’ wrong with that!” says Andrew, which has us all roaring again.  And that sends us on another tangent about smashing watermelons, and other, more vulgar things.  

It was hard for me to stay in a journalist role, because these guys are just so hilarious in conversation.  There were stories about misadventures in drinking, including a bit about Andrew vomiting after 18 shots, at which someone says, “That’s more than two octopuses.  Or octopi, isn’t it?” Shaun throws in, “Anything ending in ‘-us’ becomes ‘-i,’” and I believe it’s Aaron who adds, “Like ‘Jesi?”–a plural of Jesus, I guess. We were all cackling so much, it’s a bit tricky to determine who said what at this point in the recording of interview.

I ask them about their rehearsal schedule leading up to their shows at Treefort this year.  They break down which days of the week they’re getting together, and then Aaron confides, “We have two shows coming up, and we haven’t really played in five years…but what’s great is, I’m not too worried about it.  ‘Cuz these guys are rad!”

Do you have two separate sets, I ask, one for each show?  “Yeah,” he says matter-of-factly, “one set we’ll basically do the majority of our as-of-yet unreleased album.  And then the other one, we’ll kinda do just…fun songs.”

“New ones, maybe?” Shane asks.

“Yeah.  A couple new ones.”

Regarding that new release, which Jet Black Records is rushing to have pressed on cassette just in time for Treefort, I quiz them for some details.

“So that’s, uh…” Aaron pauses to do the math, “a five-song EP, recorded with Nathan Barnes at Osmosis Studios in Meridian.  And it’s a rockin’ EP. Then the b-side is gonna be a couple of acoustic songs and some other material no one will ever hear otherwise.”  Which translates to about ten songs and 36+ minutes of music. Price? “8 bucks apiece, and there’s only gonna be a hundred of them. …Limited edition.  Super limited.”

Cassette only?  “Nah, we’ll put a download code in as well, or something.”

So if you’re cruising around Boise during Treefort, I recommend you drop in on one of the band’s shows.  Opening night (March 20th), they play an all-ages gig at The Shredder at 11pm. And then on the final night of the Festival (March 24th) there’s a 21-and-over show at Pre-Funk Beer Bar at 5pm.  And don’t forget to drop by their merch table and pick up their new cassette, which just dropped via Jet Black Records! It might be available at local record shops later, and you could always find a digital copy on the Jet Black website, but if you know what’s good for ya, you’ll snatch up one of these tapes before they’re gone.

New Cassette by James Plane Wreck