By Brian Turk
By Drew AIles
By Taylor Boylston
By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
By Gina Tron
By Jon Solomon
As four friends who happen to play music together, they spit out "we as a band" like a frankenword and make career decisions based on what feels right. When founding member/guitarist Matt Bellinger split with the group this past fall, Planes almost crashed. But with a natural grace, the remaining three members -- singer/guitarist Gared O'Donnell, drummer Mikey Ricketts and guitarist Chuck French (who replaced Jamie Drier on bass) -- chose longtime friend Neil Keener to keep them airborne. With Keener on board, French moved over to guitar, and the band was flight-ready once again.
"It was the only decision," O'Donnell insists. "When Jamie left, if Chuck hadn't joined Planes, we would have broken up. And when Matt left, if Neil hadn't stepped up to the plate, we would have broken up."
Amid the turbulence of losing members, it's been crucial for Planes to keep as steady as possible. Internal changes are one thing, but there have been professional shifts, as well. Gossip spun for months that the act was going to shack up with prominent label Relapse Records, but the deal never materialized; the two sides just couldn't work things out.
"It was the first time that we've ever really dealt with contracts, and we were forced to get a lawyer to look at it for us," Ricketts explains. "And our lawyer wasn't recommending us to sign it."
"We're very, very protective of Planes," adds O'Donnell.
The band instead gave its name to the lesser-known but just as worthy Abacus Recordings, a subsidiary of metal overlords Century Media. It was a contract that made sense and would enable the group to grow comfortably. At worst, it will be a continual learning experience for a group that, after seven years of heavy touring and sporadic albums, is spreading its wings wider than ever.
"We can't come home with $200 after being on tour for two months anymore," says O' Donnell. "Some of us have kids. It's a very delicate ground to walk on, because you don't want to talk shit, but in the past we were just sort of running around with our asses in the breeze. Which is great in a way, because it made us the people who we are and the band that we are. We're just trying to get our ducks in a row and make sure that we have as much control as possible over anything that has our name on it and our spirit behind it."
"Dang ducks," interjects French, summing up the brazen and gallant attitude of Planes in a near-perfect conciseness. "Gotta get 'em in a row and shoot 'em."