Interview :: Joe Franklin of Planet Love Sound
June 19th 2012
People these days are always going on about networking. Getting your name out there, meeting people, setting up a network network network. I once attended a university lecture that dedicated around 45 minutes to the fine art of the handshake, and another half hour to the dispersion and collection of business cards. Networking, nevertheless, became something I was rather skeptical of.
But then I spoke to Joe Franklin, producer and bassist for Melbourne band Planet Love Sound. And I couldn’t help being struck by something: damnit, Joe Franklin seems to have this networking business down-pat. His life almost requires a flow chart. He met singer Tina Stefanou at music school in Melbourne when they were teenagers. Still at 18, he joined the Dukes of Windsor, beginning his friendship with guitarist Oscar Dawson and relocating to Berlin. There, five years later, Joe, Oscar and Tina began their own independent project – Planet Love Sound (PLS) – boasting support slots for Holy Fuck and Warpaint among their very first shows. Before they’d even released an album, they had a mini-documentary made about the band by a German filmmaker at whose exhibition they played their debut gig.
Joe and Oscar also produce under the moniker The Brothers Todd – not only for their own Planet Love Sound, but for Tina’s little brother Costa’s band, Tehachapi. Joe taught Costa scales on the piano when he was 13… now THAT is some impressive networking.
On Friday night, PLS and Tehachapi are coming together in Sydney for The Grunge Safari: a night of psychedelic post-rock madness, or as Joe put it, “a big melting pot of chaotic improvisations”. I asked Joe a few questions about his role in the two bands and what it’s like to come back home after mixing it up in the Berlin music scene.
Flog: You have produced for both Planet Love Sound and Tehachapi. Has it been hard to divide your time between projects? Like playing favourites between your children?
Joe Franklin: Tina (singer from PLS) and I have known each other and been playing together since we were 17 at VCA Secondary School. Her brother Costa (lead singer of Tehachapi) was 13 at the time and hadn’t yet started playing music. I remember teaching him the C major scale on the piano which is so bizarre as nowadays he’s one of my favourite Melbourne artists and continually pushes everyone around him to go deeper and be more present. These two are my family and it’s not hard to love them both equally.
Planet Love Sound is my love so that always comes first and I divide my time between PLS and any other musical opportunities that come my way.
There are actual familial ties between the bands, too… Have there been any domestic incidents thus far – a little sibling rivalry perhaps?
Hmm, rivalry. The only thing I can think of is Tina having to kick Costa on-stage in the Grunge Safari to get him to stop playing so much on his guitar to make way for some vocals. I guess that comes under sibling rivalry..??
Other than that, they connect really well both on and off-stage and are both pretty out there.
PLS played their very first shows in Berlin – how did that come about? Was your sound well received in Germany?
Our first few shows were very interesting and the band had really grown a lot since then. Our very first show we ever played was just acoustic guitar and three vocals at an exhibition in Berlin. I can’t remember the second one but our third show was supporting US band Warpaint to a sold out crowd of around 700. We played with some backing tracks on an iPod as we didn’t yet have a drummer. It was pretty nerve racing and or live show felt pretty undercooked – although we did get a positive response from the crowd. So yeah – the shows we did over there were all really well received.
Do you think that starting out internationally has given you a different approach to the local scene?
It’s certainly made me realised how amazing the music scene really is in Melbourne. It does feel a long way from the rest of the world which makes it much more of an independent local music scene. Whereas Berlin for example, has amazing international touring bands every week but not much of a local scene, at least for music. It’s really great for visual arts.
Both of these projects are a lot more progressive and psychedelic than your previous project, Dukes of Windsor. Does that reflect something of a personal change for you and Oscar?
For Os and I, PLS really represents a lot of freedom. We both learnt so much from playing and touring in that band for around 5 years. I was 18 and super green when I joined so mistakes were definitely made. There has been so much growth since that period and PLS really gives us a platform for channeling whatever it is we are feeling at any given point in time. Also, PLS is totally independent on every level – which is a far cry from the Dukes in that we had labels, management, bookers etc who all had an opinion and always took their piece of the pie before we ever did – which totally doesn’t exist now at all. The music scene had also changed quite a lot in the past 8 or so years.
PLS already have a mini-documentary to their name – can you tell us a bit about that?
Peurto Rican artist Osvaldo Budet – at whose exhibition we played our first show – really connected with us at the opening of his show and asked us if he could make a documentary about us as part of a series of documentaries he was making at the time. It was shot at our apartment in Neukölln and also at the old Nazi airport-turned-park Tempelhof in an old ruined plane. Looking back to that point in time which is close to two years ago, I can definitely see, feel and hear so much growth in the band. Particularly since the addition of our drummer Cristo, who totally completed the unit.
How important do you think it is to have videos or some kind of visual accompaniment to your music?
Visuals open up a whole other world of expression, creativity and opportunity for connection. Other times the music can be more than enough. The challenging thing for us is that we haven’t spent our lives focusing on honing or visual skills so it definitely requires a bit more hard work to make it happen. We really love collaborating so music videos in particular are a great opportunity for this. We are working on a new clip at the moment which will be done in a month or so.
[ED: See the wicked video for their single ‘My Shadow’ here.]
The joint tour is called ‘The Grunge Safari’ – something of an odd coupling… can we expect a little more Kurt Cobain or Nigel Thornberry?
It seems to be more of a safari rather than grunge at this point. Think more along the lines of 8 white kids from Melbourne playing in the spirit of Fela Kuti and it’s totally authentic .. two basses, two drummers, two guitars, synth, percussion and as many vocal mics as possible. It definitely gets a little post-rock also. The amazing thing is that we’ve played a few shows as the Grunge Safari and people are really connecting. It’s a big melting pot of chaotic improvisations and at our Melbourne show a whole bunch of people felt inspired enough to jump on stage and join in.
WHAT: The Grunge Safari w/ Tehachapi + Planet Love Sound + Batterie + Luchi
WHEN: Friday 22 June, 8pm
WHERE: FBi Social, Kings Cross Hotel
HOW MUCH: $10 at the door
MORE INFO: here at FBi Social
*** I’m probably going to head down with a whole bunch of business cards, just in case anyone wants to invite me to Berlin, kay?