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Silent Planet Interview: Vans Warped Tour Denver 2017

Los Angeles metal band Silent Planet use their music to bring awareness to mental illness and PTSD.  We caught up with Garrett Russell, Thomas Freckleton, and Mitch Stark at the Denver, CO stop of the Vans Warped Tour to discuss their message and their recent video for ‘Understanding Love As Loss’.

GTV: This is Silent Planet’s first time on the full Warped Tour. What’s it been like?
Thomas Freckleton: So far so good; it’s been hot everyday. I think yesterday was our first show that collectively as a band we all felt really good. I guess getting that first week’s worth of kinks out is a real thing.

GTV: How did you guys prepare for being on the full tour?
Mitch Stark: A lot of planning as far as merchandise goes, and marketing, things like that. In terms of us as a band together, we didn’t really do anything. We are honestly so spread out and busy doing our own things when we’re at home. We kind of just convene a few days before any tour and make sure that we can still play our instruments.
TF: We’re also constantly on tour. Even our driver, one of our best friends, was like ‘you didn’t run through the song fives times but you just played it and it’s great’. We play our instruments at home and we’re always on tour.  The two months we had before Warped Tour, no one even wanted to look at their instruments until we had to.

GTV: You released your album Everything Was Sound last year while on Warped Tour. What is different this year from last year?
TF: They know the songs!
MS: The biggest difference is that people didn’t know the songs back then. We still had a couple weeks left on Warped when it released so we started to see it a little bit at the end of last years tour. We were on the Full Sail stage and we just didn’t really have the reach to get it out to as many people as we do now, which we are super grateful for. People know the new songs and they’ve had them for a year. People who are really into our band have allowed those songs to really take on meaning in their life so it’s cool to see people super into it and know all the words.
TF: We’re just really stoked about our song ‘Understanding Love As Loss’, which we released a video for right before Warped.  It seems like when people start to hear the intro they’re are like ‘no way, are they playing that?’ It’s kind of a cool feeling.

GTV: The video for ‘Understanding Love As Loss’ debuted about a month ago and has an emotionally dark feeling to it. Where did you get the idea and why was it important to make this video?
MS: I’m speaking for Garrett because his voice is really shot. The song is about some of Garrett’s favorite authors who all committed suicide for one reason or another. Our good friend Kevin Johnson, who’s done a couple of our music videos now, he’s the man. He and Garrett spoke and they kind of took the reins and developed the idea of having a lot of mud in the video and using that as a metaphor for being weighed down and depressed. He told us that where we were shooting the video in Georgia there is this very specific dirt called Georgia Clay. It’s red and if you watch the video you can see that being flung all over us and we’re in a pool of it. It was a messy video to make but it was so much fun.
TF: It was pretty cold down there too. Laying in that thing was just freezing.
MS: We had a tractor dig out a six-foot pit in this guy’s front yard; it was crazy. Conceptually, that’s kind of how it came about. I think the way that our band works when we do videos is that all of us are in the shoot going ‘this would be cool, lets try it’.
TF: And that’s Kevin too. He’s all about, ‘I know we didn’t agree on this but lets try it’ and we all think ‘yeah!’ He had really good ideas. And this video wasn’t necessarily going to be a live-band video, it was going to be very abstract and we were going to try to find some abstract animation stuff for it, but it just turned out so good. Collectively this is our favorite video as a band.

GTV: The album as a whole is a very personal journey through emotional distress and depression. Is it cathartic to put out such personal work and have fans relate to it?
MS: Absolutely, it’s hard to explain though.
Garrett Russell: I think that I was a little nervous to put that out. Some bands are like ‘this song is for anyone who has ever felt sad’. I think for a lot of bands, even in a music scene like this, the goal is to relate to as many people as possible, which it doesn’t have to be that way. So they write a song about suburban-breakup, because there’s a lot of people that have had those. I think that writing about mental illness, I wanted to get really deep into it; take it seriously. Depression is different than sadness and we kind of get into that. It was interesting to see people connect with that and how many soldiers have come up to me at shows who have PTSD and combat related trauma.

GTV: What do you think fans can do either by themselves or as a scene to educate themselves and help to start changing the stigma of mental illness?
GR: Just keep talking about it. There’s a lot of bands that are like ‘hey, this is for you being depressed. I was there once, lets get through this’. That’s great, that’s one way to talk about it. But if you’re just going to talk about it and do nothing about it – I’ve seen a lot of others like politicians, people in power, doing that and it’s kind of bullshit. ‘This is for you guys, but we’re going to go do this’. That’s bullshit. We’re trying to be like ‘this is for you and if you need a shoulder to cry on; if you need someone to be in pain with you; if you need someone to laugh with you, hug you, eat with you.’ Whatever it might be, we want to be that pathway. I encourage any other band saying that to step up and to actually continue with it.
MS: I think collaboration is a big part of that for us too. We had a big headlining tour and we were able to bring out heartsupport. They’re on this Warped Tour too and that’s their goal. They have full-time employees who are trying to have the conversations. Some of them are therapists, some of them used to be pastors. I see them walking around Warped Tour just trying to talk to people. They’re just trying to bring about a positive change in people’s lives no matter what they believe in. Collaborating has been great and being on Warped Tour, we’re collaborating with different non-profits that we can help out. I would say to people to just find a group that you align with because sometimes you don’t have to start it, it’s already been started and it needs help.

GTV: Your EP lastsleep (1944 – 1946) is based off stories from victims of the atom-bomb droppings during WWII. Is the band a bunch of history buffs?
TF: I guess so. My wife’s a history major. I’m into it, I’m just not factually knowledgeable about dates. Garrett is very date savvy.
GR: There’s really only three full songs and two ambient songs. One of them is about a French lady during a lesser known massacre that happened during the war. Funny story, someone actually sent me a screenshot of Wikipedia, if you read about the massacre, we’re on the media list. It’s really weird because I remember reading it while I was writing the song, before we were on it. Anyway, the second one is the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The last one, Wasteland, was about more of the Russian side of the war and this lady that led an underground church. She was captured after the war by the communist. According to legend, she was shot several times in captivity and just refused to die. When they asked her why she refused to die, she said ‘because I love my captures too much to let them kill me’. She was eventually returned to her people. It was kind of these three different stories from seemingly nobodies when the world was at war. I thought it was really interesting.

GTV: Silent Planet is big in the Christian metal genre and has been deemed Christian-Metal. Was that intentional or did it just happen?
MS: No!
TF: I cannot stand it.
GR: We’re not all Christians. I’m a Christian and because I write the lyrics and because I’m the guy that loses his voice into a microphone everyday that I’m the guy that people think of when they think that. But that’s definitely not a distinction we ever chose. I don’t think we actively fight it but we are super down to clarify that we’re not trying to be a Christian band and that’s not something we set out to be. I guess it depends on what people think of Christian. Because if they think of Christian as being ‘I love people’ and about the good of humanity then it’s like, ‘cool, I’ll take that title’. But if it’s the thought of all Christians just making music for Christians, it’s not.
TF: It blows my mind. I think about this, like, I’m a Christian, I’m in this band as my job, so it’s a Christian band. But my mom is a nurse, but on her title she’s not a Christian nurse. She’s a nurse, but she’s also a Christian. I’m so sick and tired of people looking at us on a pedestal thinking ‘you guys need to be this’ ‘I thought you were a Christian band’. It’s like, no, we’re dudes that love people, that love each other that want to love more and more, and… we’re in a band? There doesn’t need to be that dichotomy of ‘Christian band’. I think it’s so silly.
MS: It also has to do with the fact that there’s a specific market for Christian music. But if a band is playing and none of the guys in the band believe in God, they’re not an atheist-metal band. It’s bizarre that we are labeled that for the sake of ‘you can find music that aligns with your ideals when it comes to Christianity’. But when you’re like ‘oh man, I love Dr. Pepper’ there isn’t a Dr. Pepper metal band.
GR: It is interesting.   There is this ever-shrinking window of Christian music. About 10 years ago we had a friend named Daniel who was in a band called Becoming The Archetype and they did very well as a Christian band. Christian bands used to do youth-group tours where everyday you would go to a different church and you would get paid out the wazoo because these mega-churches are so rich. Like anything, you follow the money trail. But that kind of fell apart almost completely, especially with heavy music. So bands can call themselves Christian metal bands if they want to, but they’re not benefitting from it anymore. I think there were a lot of bands that maybe nominally believed in a higher power and just said they were a Christian metal band because it was a shoe-in. They got to go on tour and make money.
TF: In 2003 to 2008 it was like a cool thing to be a Christian metal band.
MS: I also kind of think that on the Warped Tour it’s almost more detrimental to label yourself that because a lot of people just immediately will not be interested.
GR: I’ve definitely wondered that. There was a kid watching our show the other day and I could see him getting into our set.  At the end I pretty much say the same thing, partially because I only have a ten second window to say it, ‘this song is called Depths II and it’s about being diagnosed with bipolar disorder and finding the love of Jesus inside of my own hell’. Because that’s what happened. I’m not much for preaching, I like telling people what each song is about. So I watched this kid’s face and he almost smiled like I was playing with him. He didn’t seemed pissed about it but it definitely occurred to me that it’s definitely not cool to believe in God on this tour. And I don’t think you’re a martyr if you do. It’s funny how the culture changed, like ‘this song is for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ’.
TF: ‘This is why we’re up here today’. Well, duh! You don’t have to say that. You’re just pitching. So yes, we’re a band. Some of us are Christians, some of us aren’t. It doesn’t matter. We love people, and that’s it.

GTV: You’ll be on Warped Tour all summer, but does the band have any plans for the fall that they can let us in on?
TF: We’re touring after this tour through the end of this year.
GR: We’re supporting a band for 30 something shows on that tour, then we’re supporting another band in Europe.
MS: And I’m going on vacation

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