Aaron Marsh

Digging Into Silent Planet

With a mutual love for a closing track and appreciation for backstory, The Aquarian‘s Valentino and Silent Planet’s Garrett really hit it off.

Silent Planet have just released their fifth album and they’ve never sounded better. The band could stop writing music all together and SUPERBLOOM would still live on in eternity. Despite it being such a recent release, it’s already favored by fans as a dynamic and powerful concept album; one that really feels like a band utilizing their maximum potential. Silent Planet is not taking anything for granted. 

A very serious van accident almost derailed the band’s career, and it happened exactly one year before the release of SUPERBLOOM. They’re lucky to be alive… and this does not shy away from that. This is a concept album about a person in Northern California who goes missing, so the themes and motifs of trauma are found in every note. While going through this metal journey with the characters, listeners are treated to an atmosphere that – at times – feels almost as if you’re in a purgatory of existence.

From the somber intro, “Lights Off The Coast,” all the way throughout the record, and into the epic closing track, SUPERBLOOM is a masterpiece of modern metal. The album has chugging guitars that never take away its emotional center. We are impressed, and even more so after we had the chance to sit down with Garrett Russell, the band’s frontman. 

SUPERBLOOM dropped on November 3. What was the lead up like and how are you feeling now?

Man, I [was] just so pumped to finally get it out. Besides a few family members and friends, I had not really shown it to many people and was just kind of curious what people make of it. I’ll be honest, I didn’t think people are going to hate it, but I didn’t know if they were going to love it (or something in between). It’s been [exciting] to see reactions, see what people think of it. There’s also a deeper story with the SUPERBLOOM thing and I’m really excited for people to get more into the backstory of the concept album. 

The hype on the internet through X (Twitter) and Instagram is palpable. Not just fans of Silent Planet, but fans of metal, death metal, and rock were gravitating towards these singles. 

Wow! That’s cool. To be completely honest with you, I didn’t know there was that much of a hype. I’ll take it! [Laughs] I think there has been one obvious growth which has been digitally: Spotify, YouTube, etc. The Spotify monthly listener/play count on “Antimatter,” specifically, was pretty noticeable. I think that monthly listener metric can be misleading; the monthly listener number becomes an all encompassing metric for the popularity of bands. I think for a long time we felt like, “I think we have more fans than our monthly listener count shows,” and now it’s quadrupled, so now I’m like, “I think our monthly listener count might be pumping us up more than it should. It’s almost like an overcorrection!” For a long time it was around 120k and we thought that was a little low for ourselves. Now it’s approaching 500 [thousand] and we’re like, “That might be a little high!” Who really knows? I’m sure it will all work out. 

What’s crazy is that you are almost at 500k monthly listeners, but four out of the five most popular tracks are from the new record. That tells you all you need to know. 

That is really cool for us to see and really encouraging. Anytime a band tries something new, especially in regards to a new singer/vocal approach, it is always nervewracking to wonder what people are going to make of it. That’s been really encouraging to know – people are going to be relatively receptive towards it.

I do want to dive into the record cover. It’s one of the most gorgeous pieces of nature I’ve ever seen under this red tint. Tell me about how that was born.

Yeah! So the record is a concept album, based on the disappearance of someone in 1996 from Humboldt County. There’s a backstory to the concept album of the whole thing, but I think with this record in particular, we really wanted to dive into the story.

I explain a lot of the concepts to the gentleman whose done the last few [albums], and he did the 2018 album When The End Begana nd the 2021 one, Iridescent, and now this one. This is his third straight one with us. His name is Ryan Sanders, goes by @ModernDivison on socials. I just did the same thing I’ve always done where I explained the concept of the record. I’m not a visual artist myself, I’m not visually gifted whatsoever, and I can’t even draw a stick figure right, so I trust him with the project. He nailed it, which I’m not surprised by because he always nails it for us.

This one in particular is definitely one of my favorites he’s done. It captured the setting of being in Humboldt County which is [in the] very northwest corner of California; a lot of themes of extra-terrestrial beings and inter-dimensional experiences and things that make you wonder, “Am I crazy or is this really happening?”

That is perfectly put. I feel like I got those themes while listening to the record. The biggest compliment I can say when listening through this record is, I didn’t want to stop looking at the record cover while I was listening to it because it just matched the atmosphere. 

Dude… c’mon. That’s so cool. I’m going to text my band about that right now! 

Is there symbolism behind the three stars in the corner?

Yeah, there is! It gets more into the backstory, but those are like the three major ultra-terrestrial and different creatures/species that the protagonist discovers on their journey.

Was it tricky to write a concept record with a story but also have it be personal?

It was! As it went on I just kind of allowed more of myself and more of my band’s selves into the record. I do think early on it was tough. It was difficult to get there because initially I had thought, “Only a concept record.” Then, as life does, life events came to fruition and things happened in our lives – some really tough stuff, some really great stuff. I think from all of it I started realizing, and I’ve come to believe, that things that we bring into reality – even if they’re only as real as a fiction or a song or a concept album – start to find us and dictate our reality. I don’t think reality is a one way mirror where it just exists out there and we make things and they don’t touch. I think we do, to some degree, project things into being. At least, that’s been my experience, and it definitely happened a lot with the making of this record. Things happening and being like, “Weird, I’m writing about this,” and then the deeper I think it’s like… this was manifested into happening. 

If I’m understanding right, the struggles of your real life bled into the characters?

Exactly… and vice versa. I think the characters bled into my life.

There are different ways of seeing it depending on who you ask. I’m sure some people would say, “Oh, I’m sure that’s just a self-fulfilling prophecy,” and other people would say, “Yeah, that’s just the reality you’re projecting,” and who knows? Regardless of what tradition of faith or philosophy you’re coming from, it just seems to be the nature of reality; the things you seek end up seeking you. 

That is so beautifully put. You’re focusing very hard on making this art, so it’s going to shape you as you’re making it.

Exactly! That was definitely my experience of all of this for sure. 

When we talk about this new record, we do have to talk about the van accident that occurred a year ago on the release date, November 3. Obviously that effected the writing process, too – how could it not? How much of that dictated the rest of the record?

Oh, yeah… a lot. I think it dictated our record both in like obvious and apparent ways, in the way we had that experience and made us come together as a band, but I think even more in the experience of surviving – that shows up a lot in the record. We were halfway through writing the song “Antimatter” when the van flip happened. We were already on tour and we had already written half of it, then I was initially going to change the lyrics because I came up with them on the spot. Normally lyrics come from hours of tinkering and researching. There was this, though: “I’d give anything to be in over my head.” I remember re-listening to it in the van the night it wrecked and  having a concussion from flipping across the van, seeing all these colors when I woke up, and having literally gone over my head. “Whoa, this is meant to stay the same, I guess.”

You had been in this horrible accident. You started recovering. At what point do you start writing again? 

If anything, I think it made us more creative. I think after the initial [feeling] of being grateful everyone’s alive, what follows that is… the reality of being a smaller, DIY metal band is. It’s a blue collar genre. If you want to make money, you have to go out and tour. You play your ass off, sell merch, and you have a bunch of bills. You hope you make use of it. All that’s to say, I think that what came out of all of this was definitely a sense of, “Man, we’ve worked at this for so long, so hard, and here we are still grinding.” There’s nothing wrong with grinding – I remember specifically one of my band members saying, “Let’s write the best album we can ever write so next time we’re in a bus or a bigger vehicle that’s safer.” That really stuck with me. It motivated us. We weren’t mad at a particular person about the accident, but we were mad. Here we are, flipped over on the side of the road after doing our 100th van tour of our lives, and we were thankful to be alive, but also thinking about what were we going to do now.

It added fuel to the fire. You had second chance at life – you were not going to waste it and not make the best record you could. Veering into a new direction and the perspective of bands, people think if you can sell out a 500-cap room, you’ve made it and you’re rolling in dough. A lot of fans don’t realize how tight it can be for a band financially. 

Oh, definitely! That is one million percent the case. It’s one of those things where you have to have realistic expectations, but also want to be trying to push yourself to do better. You touched on an interesting point – I was talking to someone about this the other day, about when I first started touring at 23, and how my friends were all, “Dude! You’re like a rockstar! You’re seeing the world!” I was like, “I’m playing to five people in a dive bar in Kent, Ohio and the sound guy is yelling at us to get off the stage.” [Laughs] Definitely not a rockstar… I’m like the furthest thing from a rockstar when we’re touring. We’re out here just trying to make ends meet.

I’m thankful for it, for sure. I hope I don’t come across like I’m not grateful for the opportunity. There’s also just a reality that you have to give this everything you’ve got. Even still, even if you give it everything you’ve got, the chance of success is probably not super great. But you do it and sometimes it pans out afterwards. When we talk about this potential record taking off, it is exciting for sure. We don’t take any of this stuff for granted.

I love this conversation because we’re peeling behind the curtain. Playing a show itself is so glamorous, but one time I was watching an artist interview with someone and they said, “When you’re on tour, it’s not like you’re just seeing the world. You’re seeing a venue that’s identical to the venue you played last night,” and I realized it can be taxing.

It very much is hard on every level. My band, we have privileges where we go that, as a band, a lot of bands never get – and it’s a lot of the opportunities we get. It’s not lost on me. As much as we worked for this stuff, we’re incredibly fortunate. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve played shows with bands who are just freakishly talented people who never get a shot (that could blow my band, or any band, out of the water). It’s definitely very humbling when you have those chances to tour and try to make the most of the whole thing. 

Of course! Diving back into the music and you, you have a masters degree in psychology. That is such an interesting thing. Does it help you songwriting at all?

I think so! The most that I got from psychology probably came from having the opportunity to do [conduct] therapy. I think that taught me so much more than any particular class in psychology taught me. When you’re doing therapy with someone who is going through it, you’re coming face to face with the uniqueness. When you learn about a disorder, that’s one thing, but when you see it happen in someone’s life and see how it’s affecting them… it is just a whole other thing. It really shakes you to your core when you get those opportunities to work with people that are struggling. I think that, specifically, our second album, Everything Was Sound, was influenced by that.

I understand. We talked earlier about SUPERBLOOM being a concept album. At the end of the day, you’re telling stories, though, and if I am hearing what you’re saying, you are absorbing everyone else’s stories and that shapes you as a storyteller.

Exactly! It’s crazy, man. Doing therapy was one of the biggest privileges of my lifetime. Being able to work with people and having that trust with the people you work with? It’s a challenge, for sure, too, and it can be scary when you’re in that place – you don’t want to [mess it up]. It was definitely a huge gift and opportunity. It changed the way I see the world. That’s why I go back to that a lot more than anything I learned; I did learn a lot in school, but it was so much more about the process of trying to learn about people up close and personal.

Do you feel that the progress you made, learning from people up close and personal, helped you in the music industry, or just songwriting?

Definitely. It’s interesting you say that. Yeah, I think that working with various people in the music industry has helped [me] navigate different interpersonal situations. I have the privilege of managing a band called Dayseeker. They’ve just grown so much recently. I think a lot of psychology is learning a language that, at in its least ideal form, can also be used for a lot of harm, unfortunately. Psychology at its best, though, is about finding a shared language with people. It’s about learning how to use that language as a tool to connect instead of to cause [division] or distinction, especially on the internet these days where language is doing that.

You mentioned that you’re the manager of Dayseeker. You just wrapped a tour with Dayseeker and have got one more show in California at the end of the year. Tell us how that’s been.

You did your homework, by the way! I’m very impressed!

The tour with Dayseeker was amazing. It was really fun to open for a band that I’m also working with on a professional level. I mean, man, that band has just blown up. It’s crazy trying to even think about, and I don’t take much credit for that if any at all – maybe my credit would go so far that early on I was like, “Hey, let’s work with Dan!” I knew Dan would do a great job producing them and thankfully he did. It’s probably been a mixture of that and having the opportunity to go and be like, “Hey, you guys are really good at this pop direction. What if we went more with that direction?” Thankfully they did that and knocked it out of the park. They wrote some great music and now it’s like they’re the biggest thing on Earth or something. I swear, dude, it’s crazy. They announced an Anaheim House of Blues show the other day and it was sold out in three weeks – mind blowing! I started working with them because they were homies and they needed a manager that cared about their music. Silent Planet had taken a lot of the steps they were hoping to take. Now they’re taking all these steps that Silent Planet hopes to take one day. It’s cool to see that!

I think in general I don’t have a competitive view of music. I just like to see good artists succeed, but even more so when it’s your friends. It’s awesome to see them pass where you’re at as far as popularity goes because they’re some of my closest friends. That goes well beyond management.

Of course! My last question is more of an ambiguous one about the last track, the title track, “SUPERBLOOM.” How the hell did you do that? 

Dude! That’s my favorite song we’ve ever written! You’re one of the only people on earth that’s heard it [at this time]. I’m really glad we can talk about it. 

The first time I heard it I was stunned. I couldn’t believe it. It was such a finale. How did it come to be?

I like to joke [about] that song; the first third is Jimmy Eat World, the second third is Radiohead, and the last part is just Silent Planet. Honestly, man, that song just came together in a cool way for us. It felt very real to where we were at. We had been working on that song for a year-and-a-half at least, and I think the process of making that song was the longest process that has ever gone into anything for us. It just kept changing forms over and over again. 

It’s crazy to think that when we first started writing that song, Thomas [Freckleton, bass/vocals] was in the band. He told us while we were in the studio in March/April that this year he was going to be doing the ‘dad thing’ full time. Obviously we’re really happy and excited for him, but that did have some influence on what we decided to do vocally as far as me taking the parts. We love Thomas, but we didn’t want to have a record come out having a member all over it who was not going to be there live. It’s so funny to think that song was written before Thomas’ son was even born in 2021 and before his son was even in the womb or anything. Then, in 2022, we were still working on it when his son was born, and now to finally to be tracking that in 2023 after the decision for his son to take precedent in his life and step away from touring… It’s fun and beautiful to see how our lives changed over the course of that song.  I will say that “SUPERBLOOM,” specifically, is my favorite thing we’ve ever written by far. We were able to write a song that’s indicative of all of our musical interests, not just the metal ones. Thank you for listening to that song! Obviously we could talk about “Antimatter” and “Collider,” and I’d be down for that [conversation], but I’ve had a lot of conversations with people about those. It’s a special moment when we get to talk about something like “SUPERBLOOM.”