Aeroplane Pageant is not a pop band all the time.
But after fourteen months in a studio that sits directly under the rattle of the Wantagh train station and following fifteen years of brutal friendship, Aeroplane Pageant now introduces its latest effort: FLOAT ABOVE THE YARD (LP3).
And so in this ‘yard,’ or better yet on this genre-less album, you might ‘float above’ an impressionistic landscape dappled with some wolves, some apples, a crowd that gathers and then cheers on a horse, a family being pushed off a house, a few birds and flowers, some black flowers, a lovely garden, some teeth , a hundred or more ghosts, and always a TV, always a billboard, a big moon, a few cities, some cake that’s been left on the floor, and of course the compulsory ‘confessing young bear,’ a bit of blood, some of it fake, a rope hanging by a tree…
…as these songs are often dark and quirky and intimate narratives where a blend of real and imaginary ‘desperate characters,’ beg to love, to be loved, and to make sense of things, “as time, it burns us thin,” and loss, death, and confusion undo youthful expectations. And this idea of struggle and disillusionment is never more obvious than midway through the album on, We Were Once a Boy, when singer/songwriter Brian Kelly proclaims over cut-up horns, primordial drums, and panicky guitars, “Now we’re hanging by a rope on a tree in our front yard…and this kind of heaven isn’t what we’d said it be.
So how does one recover in the face of disappointment? How to begin again? “To see again with plain eyes, to be again this time and not pretend I’m alive…and we didn’t dream enough in this house!” shouts the band in harmony during the minimalist and electronic, Brief Confessions of a Young Bear, a buoyant track held together by jittery percussion and a zigzagging bass line. And this “we” sentiment of starting again together, of understanding, overcoming, and rising above the bleaker moments echoes throughout here, as the songs and music urge us to observe and celebrate, and to listen to each other, and to consider hope and the human imagination first, even as we grow and sheer apart, “Part of you has drifted/Like a voice that breaks with distance/ And I hate that I’ll admit it/So I came here to listen/ I came here for you,” we hear on the cinematic orchestral number Desperate Characters. And then the hushed playful exit, when light breaks for a moment, a sense of release or acceptance on the album’s closing track, Hello Radio; it’s a blurry-ballad that fights and breathes through shards of noise, as children laugh in the backdrop, when Kelly gently asks of someone or everyone, “I want you to be good to yourself, good to you and everyone else.”
…and yet this album, according to Kelly, “is a hyperrealistic paean to the suburbs—where the events within could happen in anyone’s backyard,” in repeating landscapes, houses stacked on top of each other, amid the drone and anxiety of shopping mall America, amid the comforts of television and self-imposed alienation—all deliberately infused with sharp juxtapositions of image and sound, at once insular and celebratory, bright and dark, abstract and material, noisy and melodic, repetitious and formless, organic and electronic.
This brace of songs is most often motivated by the sensibilities of the early dark folk idiom, the earthy confusion of psych-pop, the exploratory provocations of bands like the Velvet Underground, Guided by Voices, and the Flaming Lips. “It’s the sheer excitation of the imagination. It’s trying to make things happen. And this time we wanted to combine literary-minded content with some of the latest experimental production techniques. Our idea was if we can hear or visualize the sound in our heads then let’s figure out a way to build it,” says Brian Kelly.
The making of this album is an over-dramatic love-story. It’s a story suffered by a collection of best friends, all of whom have known each other since the earliest days of high school—as they now plug away at their perfunctory day-jobs as writing instructors, journalists, mailmen, parks department employees and tech-managers, and unemployed US citizens— developed in a concerted fanaticism with sound, with creating sounds, with constructing ideas and tying songs together, “We really wanted to blur the content of these songs so it’d be difficult to distinguish between what’s real and what’s fake…we wanted to disrupt the illusion or the expectation of what traditionally makes up ‘the song,’” offers bassist Tim Watson. Drummer Mike DeLorenzo elaborates on this idea, by stating, “The ideas we’d established from the get-go were something we’d all felt closely mirrored our own little realities—constantly in flux and discontinuous, almost schizophrenic, and never quite real, perhaps sometimes too real.”
And so in comes 2-time Grammy Winning Mixer “Bassy” Bob Brockman to materialize Aeroplane Pageant’s “little realities.” Through a mutual contact at Technicolor Studios—the studio that produced the brand new AP video (written/directed by Brian Kelly) for “Help Me Shoot This Apple off My Head”—Brian Kelly happened to hook up and interview Brockman for a MEDIA Magazine article he was writing on the plight of the music industry. Somewhere along their discussions Brian emailed Brockman some new material AP was working on, and shortly thereafter Brockman came down to see AP live, “It was just the right blend of weird and pop…and it’s refreshing to see a band play their instruments, not just their computers, and make songs that aren’t so ‘detached and cool’…there’s a vulnerability and warmness that’s especially inviting in this digital age,” says Brockman of Aeroplane Pageant’s sound.
And of course these warm feelings were immediately reciprocated, as the band was now fixed on collaborating with an expert like Brockman, resulting in “some bigger and lower end sounds for this record,” says, multi-instrumentalist Chris Aguis, “something that Brockman is well-known for producing.” “We saw it as an opportunity for the band to generate this odd-Frankenstein by bringing Bob’s distinct R&B, pop, and hip-hop influences in conjunction with some of our fringier tastes,” explains lead guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Michael Areephituk.
And sure some of the sounds on FLOAT ABOVE THE YARD are small, and some are just grotesquely big, others are looped or stretched and frequently destroyed, and then sometimes unnecessarily put back together. But nevertheless Aeroplane Pageant produced all of these sounds, Grammy Award Winning mixer “Bassy” Bob Brockman (Notorious BIG, Debbie Gibson, Bob Dylan) mixed it all, and Joe Lambert (Deerhunter, the National, Animal Collective) mastered them. And so with the completion of their third full-length album, this collection of childhood friends is simply thrilled to be making sounds and songs, and ultimately “making things happen!”