She Eats Planets has brought a new claim to fame for Connecticut which has formerly been famous for accomplishing the feat of furnishing frisbees. SEP is boasting not that the boys are back in town, but that basketball is not the only thing women can brag about in Connecticut: rock music is no longer a man’s medium. Believing that it’s best to leave the ballads to the boys, with Sara Hart on lead vocals, Tal Goodman on bass and backing vocals, Matt Mello on drums and percussion and Laura Robida on guitar and backing vocals, SEP has been causing a commotion not just in Connecticut but has been gathering new groupies up and down the east coast. If the past is a prelude to the future, then She Eats Planets is presently in perfect position.
Their song “Shut Up (I Love You)” bagged the “Best Indie Song of 2008” from blogofsound.com readers and snagged the FM102X Song of the Day on February 9, 2009. “Music Inside” also found success as a semi-finalist in the Spin Hot Pursuit Contest in the summer of 2008 sponsored by Spin Magazine, Hennessy and Gibson Guitars. SEP was named Band of the Week at Hartford’s 106.9 FM WCCC in April of 2009. Their self titled EP is available at shows and across the web, and in January the band entered the studio to record their first full-length album, Liftoff, which was released in fierce fashion at their CD release party on May 1st at Zen Bar in Plainville, CT.
SEP played their entire album live including the fan-favorite cover of “Heartbreaker” which is also on the album. There were many prominent patrons who came out to support and promote the release party, including a live broadcast from BigBar Productions. Besides bringing down the bar with their beats and banter and focusing on their first CD, the band also made a magnificent musical impression.
Sara’s voice was a spectacle: strong, striking, substantial and storied. It was reminiscent of renowned, raw rock and roll singers who really reached a rare level of redemption with their words.
They reveled in riffs you remember and requisite rhythms. It’s music that you can air drum yet dance to, sing along with or sit in silence and surmise. Their melting pot of music has obvious influences yet it’s organic and original. They were engaging, earnest and enjoyable. Their music will make your speakers smile and it doesn’t get lost in the background.
Ready to take their show on the road after their release party, SEP has another rock and roll problem to resolve: their van, Major Tom, is ruptured and needs repaired. “Tom is actually eating the planet with his high emissions!” their website warns. “Tom sits unable to be driven. He stalls, backfires, and can barely get up to low speed limits. We could really use some help to get him back on the road!” Laura and Sara from the gratifying group answered some questions post-cd release party show:
Sara Fincham: First and foremost, how is Major Tom doing?
Laura Robida: Major Tom is sad. He’s sitting in my front yard and hasn’t moved more than 100 feet in the last few months. The catalytic converters are all shot and there’s almost zero backpressure when you hit the gas. I had to move him back in March so my dad could get to our RV and the ground was soft but not mud or anything. A healthy vehicle wouldn’t get stuck but Tom did. My dad is yelling at me to hit the gas and I had the pedal all the way to the floor but we couldn’t get him out without pushing.
Sara Hart: Major Tom is still grounded for now. All our money, time and effort is going into our CD release so we can’t fund fixing the van right now. After the release we’ll hit the streets, dancing for nickels so we can fix him and go on tour!
SF: Is it hard to combine all your musical tastes into something you can all agree on?
LR: I’ve never really given any thought to combining our musical tastes. I just play what I think sounds good with whatever else is being played. We’ve taken plenty of 20 minute jazz odysseys and metal breakdowns but we also seem to be able to just pull it all together. I never really think about it. I hear what Matt’s playing or what Tal’s playing and try to come up with whatever sounds best.
SH: I think our differing musical tastes only helps us—we bring them together to make something unique. We just go off one another and use it to our advantage.
SF: Your music has a past feel but a present patter. How much does your musical influences influence your particular style of music playing/singing and then how hard is it, if at all, to add your own allotment to it and make it honor the past yet pander to the present?
LR: Personally, my musical influences have dictated my guitar and amp tone and maybe my playing style a bit but more than anything the people I cite as influences are people who make me want to be a better guitarist. They’re usually musicians who I think are just really great at what they do. I hear what they’re doing and try to reach their level. So—they play great music in a balls- to –the- wall kind of way. If I could do that I’d be happy. I don’t try to mimic their style but more than anything I learn from them. I’d like to think that while I’m influenced by a variety of guitarists – Allison Robertson from The Donnas, Angus Young from AC/DC, Ace Frehley from Kiss to name a few—that when I play I sound like me and not them even though I’ve taken a lot of lessons from what they do and how they play. Allison might not know it, but I learned to finger-tap by watching her during the Feather Nation Tour in 2007.
SH: We wanted to write rock…real rock. So we want to pay tribute to real rock music but still make it relatable for today. How do we do it? I’m not sure….we just do. As far as my writing, I was raised on classic rock but came into pop as I got older. I think that really influences how I write lyrics and melodies. It has the pop hook of today with the power of the past—it’s a love child of my musical tastes!
SF: You are a very interactive band what with the website, message board, etc. How important is it to you to have that outlet to communicate with your audience and how has it been helpful?
LR: Being very approachable and interactive and communicative was very important to me when we started putting together the website and really getting organized. I’ve seen a lot of bands on a local level as well as an international level that seem to just take advantage of the fact that there are people who like and enjoy their music. They treat them like fans who are solely there to purchase CDs and fill otherwise empty rooms. That’s always bothered me.
I want people who enjoy our music to feel important and that they’re not just another number. I like talking to fans and I wanted to create a place on our website that was for our fans and friends. I modeled this section after what The Donnas have on their site and the community that they’ve built. Their fan base is very much like a close knit family and they’re very active and supportive of the band. I wanted something like that. I wanted the people who enjoy She Eats Planets to have a place to go where they can interact with other fans and with us.
I always tell people that the website might be SheEatsPlanets.com but it was built for fans and not for the band. We’re slowly building a community there. I’d definitely like to see it grow more but I can say the same thing for our fan base. There are a number of people who enjoy She Eats Planets’ music and there are a few people who are entering the diehard category in that they’ve traveled a great distance for shows or have donated to our Major Tom Fund but don’t know us aside from being in the band. I think as that fan base grows so will our interactive community.
SH: I think being interactive with fans is the most important thing we can do. We want to be friends with all our fans and friendship takes effort. If you had a friend who couldn’t even bother to talk to you on facebook, send you an e-mail, would you want to keep up a relationship with them? No way! It shouldn’t be any different with bands and their fans.
SF: This question is particularly for Sara but I then have a question for the band as well, so let me try to incorporate this compound question into something that makes sense! Sara – it seems that more and more music is becoming intertwined with technology and things like auto-tune are becoming increasingly more popular. Do you think it’s something that’s helpful or hurtful to music, especially for people like you who have voices that can completely stand on their own and are moving and powerful and what do you think accounts for the increasing use of technology and it’s popularity—is it because people have a lack of local bands, or is it because it can add a different dynamic to music that instruments and singers can’t?
This is a forever question, I apologize, but for the band as well—I’d like to also ask you if you think technology is helpful or hurtful and what accounts for its popularity and also now people can buy programs to put on their computer and become a one person band. What are your thoughts on this and what it says about authenticity of music and minds and that magical something that can come out of bands breaking through and brainstorming and being a family because I think part of the experience is being that band yet now you don’t even need any other people to make music? Hopefully you understand this question. If not, let me know, and I’ll try to unravel its layers!
LR: Technology can be great when used in moderation. A small touch of technology can really make a standard track stand out. I am bothered by artists – particularly vocalists – who use auto-tune or so many effects. I hate hearing a band’s CD and then going to see them live and they sound nothing like they do on the recording. The singer is out of tune or can barely carry a tune. The guitarist is lost without all those pre-programmed triple-tracked riffs.
We’ve played with bands that bring a laptop on stage with them with some pre-programmed garbage on it. My thought on all that is if you can’t do it live, you have no business doing it on a recording. And while I think that there is always a place for a small bit of technology—I’m not adverse to the idea of using a vocoder on a small part for example—I think that some of the bands and singers that rely so heavily on it are just making it harder for genuine musicians and people with actual talent to get noticed. Some of this technology—auto-tune in particular—does a disservice to so many people. It makes everyone perfect and takes a lot of the genuineness and the character out of music. I wonder if auto-tune had been around during the 1960s if it would have been used on artists like Buddy Holly or John Lennon who could be flat or nasal. It would have changed their voices, very signature and identifiable voices. It may have changed the music landscape and I think that’s what’s happening now.
SH: I completely agree with Laura. Today’s technology can be used here and there to make a track really pop but when every track on the album is completely laden with it, you’ve killed it. If you can’t sing without auto-tune…you can’t really sing. If I painted a picture with paint-by-numbers, I wouldn’t call myself an artist.
Music would be a lot different now if it were judged solely on talent. Unfortunately, marketability is the first thing addressed now, so talent comes second. That being the case, they have to do what they can with artists who don’t possess the natural talent to sing on key or play a particular degree of difficulty on their chosen instrument. You dub things, you auto-tune, you use recordings. But is that really music? Does it count when it’s phoned in? I would prefer my music with imperfections—we are all imperfect, our music should be too. I personally don’t believe in auto-tune, I’ve never used it and I never intend to.
SF: Do you want to make a statement about women and rock—is it an intention and has it been from the start, or do you leave the politics of it to people who want to make it an issue?
LR: I’m not here to be political. I’m here to play rock and roll. Do I think that we’re under-estimated because we’re primarily a female rock band? Yes. And it’s unfortunate and I certainly wish it wasn’t the case but I’m not here to make any statements. I play guitar in a rock and roll band and we play rock and roll songs.
Some people are going to try and make the girl power statement out of it and good for them. That’s not what I’m about. And while I have political opinions about the state of the world I’m not Bono. I have no business sticking my nose in it and I have no intentions to do so. People should form their own opinions and make their own decisions, not depend on some musician or celebrity or pseudo celebrity to tell them how to think or what to do.
SH: We’re a rock band. End of story. To quote one of my favorite songs “Boys, girls, I can’t help it baby.” We are who we are and that has absolutely NOTHING to do with our passion. I don’t want to make an issue of gender because it isn’t an issue for me and it shouldn’t be for anyone else. I don’t want to be underestimated and just want a fair chance, I think that’s what everyone wants.
If a band was judged on their race or religion, if a singer wasn’t given a chance because he had green eyes or red hair, because they were overweight or too short, people would be up in arms. Why is gender discrimination one of the last acceptable forms of prejudice in music? If we’re no good, fine. Tell us that, we can take it. But don’t brush us off because the majority of the band is female. We’re not asking for special treatment, we’re asking for the same treatment as everyone else.
SF: What are your favorite lyrics that you’ve written and also your favorite that someone else has written?
LR: Favorite SEP lyric, three way tie: “Misery loves company but I can’t stand you. Why dontcha stick around we’re gonna have some fun. I’ll tell you when we’re done,” from “Shut Up (I Love You).” “You gotta know you’re not that slick, baby. I don’t believe a word you say,” from “No Time At All,” and “I see you’re drinking that Kool-Aid again. Don’t you see that girl is poison,” from “Old Girlfriend.”
Favorite other lyric: “So sorry you never wanted me but that’s how you made me want the gold medal,” from The Donnas’ “Gold Medal.”
SH: I’m gonna pick three. It’s hard because they all have some meaning to me but the ones that came from relationships of mine are “You say I’m spiteful/I just know what I want/That’s why I won’t let go/Fucked up but beautiful/That’s what we got right here/You know you can’t say no,” from “Shut Up (I Love You),” “I was in it, had to spin it ’cause it didn’t feel right/And you weren’t out of mind, you were just out of sight,” from “No Time At All,” and “Time to shake off that old girlfriend ’cause she don’t know you like I do/
Just forget whatever she said and shake them thoughts out of your head,” From “Old Girlfriend.”
I feel like no one can have only one favorite song of all time, it kinda changes like life does. Bayside is one of my favorite bands; their lyrics are fantastic. One of my favorites: “So if you hear this and you think you’re ready meet me in Montauk where we’ll write out in the sand/Here lies the destiny of two hurt souls afraid to be cured again/That could be our epitaph.”