Californian metalcore outfit Silent Planet have seamlessly slotted themselves into the scene in less than a decade, and with context to making/breaking this scene with the abundance of bands, it’s undoubtedly an impressive feat to have seen their last couple of records in the top three album charts for various U.S. categories.
As the heavy music quartet emerge from the COVID carnage, they bring with them their most seasoned record to date, Iridescent (our review here). The band’s fourth studio album invites fans into the fold, with a drip-feed of tracks over the past couple of months, namely ‘Panopticon’, ‘Trilogy‘, ‘Terminal / (liminal);‘ and their most recent (arguably most impressive) track ‘Anhedonia‘.
Vocalist Garrett Russell is beyond ready to get the record out. “We started working on it in June 1st of 2020,” he says in front of a Zoom background that encapsulates what seems like the ideal combination of comfort and character.
“It’s just been such a long time comin’, it’s just weird to finally be putting it out ‘cause most albums have taken us like four, five, six, or even seven weeks at max,” – not over a year.
In terms of what Russell boils down the extended production to is multi-faceted. Alluding to just a couple of them, the front-man says, “there were so many factors, like COVID and the Black Lives Matter demonstrations,” an overture suggesting those things just scraped the surface. And what we got to learn was that aspects like the demonstrations were a big part in what continued to shape the record from its thematic infancy that had a different focal point all together.
The vocalist/guitarist alludes to how the composition of his own mental health battles and the prevalent-culminating sociopolitical led to the way the new record came to be. The studio in LA where Silent Planet were recording their record had imposed curfews due to the Black Lives Matter civil unrest.
“We would have to leave the studio after sometimes only working for like two hours after we got there,” and as Russell conveys his reflective perspectives on the situation, he ensures to make it clear that he considered the situation as a welcome disruption, and expressed his fierce urge to be involved, make attempt to make a difference to matters like this.
He found that the physical proximity to the protests helped to talk about their meaning through music. “So when this was all happening, I just saw it as a sign that I wanted it to inform the album with it.”
However, as suggested, the band’s vision for their 2021 record was a different nucleus to that of what it evolved. “My initial concept for the album was that it would be about this 24-hour period of my life,” – he pauses considering his words, “from a time when slipped into a very severe mental illness, and a lot of pretty bad things happened in a very small amount of time, and it was going to be a very personal sort of inquiry.”
Albeit fascinating and introspective, Russell felt dutiful to pivot toward present cultural perspectives. “I think is important that can like teach people something that I don’t feel is very well represented, [particularly] in the metal genre, I guess.”
Interestingly though, the former premise of the singer’s mental health vignette and somewhat fused with the progression towards the visceral currency of the Black Lives Matters protests.
“I remember being approached by police in Belgium, when I was like severely mentally ill, and I remember one of them being like, ‘hey, you can calm down, we’re not like your police in America’, and it just stuck with me. I was so self-aware of this cop to know that I’m an American.”
The epiphany is clarified, as his “interactions with the police were definitely a part of this whole situation. I don’t know if it’s because of my privilege or that would lead to that situation going as well as it did, or if those police were maybe just a bit more trained or well-adjusted than a lot of what we see,” – he says diplomatically, leaving cause and effect to the eye of the opinion.
In his closing thoughts about the album’s integrating topics, he says that it led him to reflect – “this system in the United States is so dysfunctional that this Dutch or Flemish police officer would just be able to see that right away.”
“There were a lot of things in general that sometimes made it seem like there was a supernatural force that was trying to stop this album from happening,” and as they kept delving into the process, it seemed like they needed to regroup based on what was happening around them.
Circling back to the prospect of releasing Iridescent this month, the metalcore musician is still feeling stunned. “It was just such a process that even talking about it now is a trip, because we’re like kind of halfway deep into something else,” he teases, alluding to even new music in the works. The nature of something else may be is unknown at this stage, but perhaps sensible to predict a 2022 EP if placing bets, based on the current cadence of music releases in today’s landscape.
Zoning in on the band’s latest single ‘Anhedonia‘, Russell opens up to its background and context. “That was a song that I’ve wanted to write for a long time because it’s about my hometown, actually the city that I’m in right now, called Redding, it’s at the top of California,” he says with the emotional intelligence to realise the potential need to inform an Australian who may not be overly familiar with the state’s surroundings.
“It’s very rural, a lot of mountains and lakes – not at all the beachy sunny paradise that most people think of with California.” Describing Redding as relatively socially conservative and homogenous, the vocalist explains why he decided to leave when he turned 18. “I went to LA and that’s where I met some of the guys and we started this band, and think I spent a lot of my 20s just trying to like to stay away from this town as much as I could.”
Post-setting the context, he explains that when the band where on tour, he felt like he couldn’t be further away from his hometown during a horrific time. “We were actually in Australia at the time, and we had fires that were so big that it was world news and you could see it on the satellite images,” – he says referencing the Make Them Suffer Australian tour where Silent Planet joined Oceans Ate Alaska and Thornhill.
Despite outgrowing Redding, Russell conveyed that the greater area his hometown had a lot of fond and sentimental memories. “Literally an entire city called Paradise who we played against basketball – the entire city burned down, a lot of people died, and this is a city of like 30,000 people.”
“When I saw that suffering I realised that if anything, I just want to write about it because it’s a big part of my personal journey, and I called the song Anhedonia, because I think I went a long time not really feeling much of anything. kind of a numbness.”
The Silent Planet lyricist realises that this experience is relatable to Aussies, with full cognisance of the recent bushfires that faced the continent, only shortly after the tragic fires in Redding. In fact, the heavy music scene has really embraced the historic and emotive natural disaster, just look at bands like Alchemy with their recent track ‘Gehenna 451.”
In relating to Australians with the horrors of bushfires, and being downunder when the Redding fires hit, Russell really relates to our culture and expresses adoration to our country, particularly when remembering the band’s performance at Melbourne’s Corner Hotel.
“That’s one of the coolest places I’ve ever been,” he says, seriously. “As you may know, our label is literally next door and (when in Richmond), we met up with a really cool photo photographer and walked around the neighbourhood taking some promo shots,” Russell recalls nostalgically.
“And I was like ‘this is a little slice of music paradise, with so much art, graffiti under bridges, and it kind of reminded me of the artistic parts of Berlin, but obviously a little bit more refined.”
As the wordily musician snaps out of his memorable trance, he bounces back with enthusiasm to look ahead at what Australia has in the pipeline. “I was looking at your Unify lineup, and I noticed that it’s only Australian [musicians], which makes sense,” he says before smiling and implying how much the band would love to play one day. Hello, Unify 2023?
Before peering too far ahead to what else Silent Planet have got cooking in the studio, or what prospective tours/festivals we might see them play at in the future, it’s time to be present and appreciate Iridescent as it is released to the world.
“I just hope it is whatever folks need it to be. I will just say this, I didn’t put footnotes on the lyrics for a reason; there’s a lot that I needed (at least for now) to be open to interpretation.”
Interview by Ricky Aarons (@rickysaul90)
Iridescent comes out this Friday via UNFD. Pre-order here.
Silent Planet – Iridescent tracklisting
2. Translate the Night
4. Second Sun
6. The Sound of Sleep
7. Alive, as a Housefire
11. Till We Have Faces