It often seems that the popular music scene of today is saturated by formulaic pop music, which is aimed at the masses. In this climate, the conversely edgy yet catchy tunes of Dundee’s Model Aeroplanes are warmly welcomed, capturing a timeless youthful energy in their sound. With elements of a perkier Foster the People and a Kooks-esque tone to the vocals, this group of four are part of an apparent new wave of upbeat and innovative music that maintains the importance of meaningful lyrics and proves indie-pop still has something to offer.
The warm-up set is often an underrated part of any live music performance, as opening to a crowd who are not necessarily there to see you playing is understandably daunting. Indeed, many acts – either through a lack of or an inappropriate level of confidence – seem to flop when faced with an audience unfamiliar with their work. Perfect to dance to and an easy listen, Model Aeroplanes are, however, an ideal opening band for any act, and Unknown caught them supporting Little Comets earlier this month at York’s Fibbers. Their interaction on stage make it clear that they play out of a long standing friendship and their vivacity that comes as a result of this makes them all the more enjoyable to watch. Indeed, their genuine and infectious enthusiasm is a somewhat rare and undervalued quality in many contemporary performances.
Before the show, lead vocal Rory Fleming-Stewert, guitarist Grant Irvine, drummer Kieran Smith and bassist Ben Buist chat with us about the tour, inspiration and future plans.
On Touring and Studio
Q: First off, thank you very much for taking the time to talk to Unknown Magazine – I imagine it can get quite busy on the road. How have you found the tour so far?
Grant: “Good, really good. The gigs so far have been absolutely ace. Great crowds, busy venues and the Little Comets guys are total legends, so it’s good to just hang out with cool guys.”
Q: Obviously it’s personal to each of you, but do you tend to prefer bigger festivals or smaller gigs in local clubs?
G: “I think it’s hard to say because it’s kind of case by case. The big festivals have their pros and so do the smaller intimate gigs. I think it’s just down to the atmosphere to be honest.”
Rory: “I feel like festivals seem like more of a chore at the time: lugging gear around, it’s usually raining or super hot so it’s one extreme or the other and you kinda hate it at the time, but then a week later you’re like ‘Ah, that was a great weekend.’ I think festivals have that effect, whereas gigs are just fun in general.”
Q: You’ve got the Dot to Dot festival coming up in May with Prides again. Are you looking forward to it?
G: “Yeah I think it’ll be great.”
Ben: “It’s great to see Callum [Burrows] from Saint Raymond headlining. We’ve been pally with him for a wee while now so it’s really cool to see him step up and to catch up with him again will be really nice.”
G: “It’ll be really good, though we’ve never played Bristol, I don’t know if anyone’s ever been to Bristol.”
Q: Do you prefer being in the studio or performing live and doing gigs?
Kieran: “Again they’re both very different. At the time when you’re in the studio it’s fun to muck about and create different sounds and sculpt what you’re writing, but live is just the excitement, the atmosphere.”
R: “We’re at the point now as well where it’s not a nervous excitement, it’s more like, this is our job, we’ve come all this way. Because we’re playing England a lot more now, it’s like we’ve driven seven eight hours to get here and this is the crux of it. But studio, I think for me personally, I think the studio is the most fun because a lot of the time in the set it’s songs that have maybe been in there for a year and a half, two years and that.”
K: “There’s no pressure when you’re in the studio. There’s always that little sadness when you finish a session in the studio like, ‘Oh, it’s over.’”
R: “I suppose we’ve been getting that on tour as well because we’ve started to form a little team of people that come with us and do different jobs.”
G: “It’s like a happy family. A vulgar, vile, dysfunctional, foul happy family.” (Laughs)
Q: You describe your music as “fun, fresh and honest music you can drink cocktails to” – so where does the inspiration for your music come from?
G: “Binge drinking.” (Laughs)
R: “When we’re writing it tends to be funky or happy kind of progressions. A lot of the time lyrically it’s not as happy as the music would seem but I think the way we write, I don’t know why, it’s just formulated in a way that just seems happy.”
G: “Without sounding cheesy, when we’re writing because we’re always together and because we’re happy when we’re writing, we write happy melodies. We don’t decide what we’re writing, we just kind of write.”
R: “It’s just always a jam.”
And a quick search on YouTube proves that this jovial music isn’t all they have in their repertoire. That isn’t to say that their cheery tunes aren’t full of soul either, as shown by the chorus of ‘Innocent Love’:
“We lost our innocent love, innocent love
To late nights and making love, making love.”
Q: Are there any bands in particular that you look to for inspiration?
R: “It changes every day. We listen to System of a Down and Rage Against the Machine.”
B: “Yeah, I’m the only man to ever listen to System of a Down and Rage Against the Machine in a Taylor Swift t-shirt.” (Laughs)
R: “It does change all the time and I think a lot of bands maybe go, ‘these are our kind of few main influences,’ but I think we’ve been at it long enough that our influences have changed. I think we’re constantly adapting and you just kind of take what you want from certain styles of music. We’ve listened to loads of hip hop recently and the rhythm sections that we’re working with now is so hip hop orientated but you wouldn’t hear it in our music, but at the ground level that’s kind of what it is.”
On Supporting Artists
Q: Talking of Taylor Swift, is there anyone you’d ideally like to support? Would it be Taylor?
G: “We do like Taylor Swift, but I don’t think we’d be the best match to support her.”
B: “I do actually have a Taylor Swift top on right now.” (Laughs)
G: “There’s only so many times we could get away with sneaking into someone’s dressing room without getting kicked off the tour.” (Laughs)
R: “I would love to support Haim.”
B: “Haim would be cool.”
G: “Haim or Foals.”
R: “Foals, Bombay, they were the bands we really looked up to when starting the band and Kings of Leon as well.”
G: “Yeah, Kings of Leon that would be the dream too.”
R: “I don’t think we’d be a very good musical fit but our first like five six songs were like cheap Kings of Leon songs, they really were. I think that as well the kind of vocal style that we use all started trying to mimic Caleb [Followill]’s voice and it’s just kind of what we do naturally now, but I definitely think that was a part of it. So probably Kings of Leon, that would be a really special kind of gig.”
On Favourite Song
Q: And finally, do you have a favourite song to perform live?
R: “I think to be honest because it’s last in the set and most people know it, even if they’ve not seen us live, if they have checked us out, they probably know Club Low, it tends to work best. It’s always fun playing that live, ‘cos if any song people know, it’s that.’”
G: “Aye, I would go for Club Low.”
Indeed an excellent close to their set, this latest single ‘Club Low’ is similarly a subtle triumph in song writing, making clear that they are clever lyricists and not just another run-of-the-mill pop band :
“So much regret stuck in your teeth
And you’re too proud to pick it out.”
The stone walls and dim lights of Fibbers – perhaps better known to students as a relatively alternative club venue– is somewhat reminiscent of Liverpool’s The Cavern Club and suited the band’s pop-indie tone. Whether Fibbers does for Model Aeroplanes what The Cavern Club did for the Beatles must wait to be seen. I certainly eagerly await Rory, Grant, Ben and Kieran becoming big names in the near future and welcoming them back to York as soon as possible.