Q&A: The Airplanes gaining attention with perfect pop songs from the Fayetteville hills

The Airplanes


Living in Fayetteville, we are constantly impressed with the local talent on display at the watering holes and music venues in our fair city.

Every once in a while, however, we’re blown away by a band whose name has barely ever graced the Flyer’s music calendar. Local pop band The Airplanes are an example of this.

The Airplanes are the brainchild of local musician Joshua Vest, who instead of honing his musical ability in front of audiences on the stages of The Smoke & Barrel Tavern, The Lightbulb Club, and George’s Majestic Lounge, has focused on crafting his perfect pop recordings in his home studio for the last several years.

Those recordings have caught the attention of music blogs all over the country recently, but until this past February, the band had never played a live show.

Vest recently enlisted guitarist Andrew Donovan (Voyageurs), bass player Joel Paul (SW/MM/NG), and drummer Rob Storms (Left Holding the Gun), and the foursome have spent the last several months bringing his ear-catching recordings to life for the stage.

The band has a couple shows coming up in Northwest Arkansas over the next few weeks. They’ll be at Crystal Bridges on Saturday, June 21 for the museum’s Summer Solstice Night at the Skyspace, and they are set to perform at The Lightbulb Club next Friday, June 27 with excellent 60’s pop outfit, Jail Weddings.

We got in touch with them earlier this week, and they were nice enough to answer some questions for us.

What have you been listening to lately?

Andrew: Ted Lucas’s self titled record (1975) which got reissued on Yoga Records. It just has this mesmerizing effect on me that puts me in a soothing trance. The new Tony Molina record, Dissed and Dismissed, on Slumberland Records is extremely good as well. Brings me back to the Blue Album.

Joshua: Lately, it’s been a lot of Real Estate and Teenage Fanclub. I tend to obsess over a couple of bands for an extended period of time. Right now, it’s those two.

Rob: I’ve been listening to the new Umphrey’s McGee, Animals as Leaders, Protest the Hero, Bigelf and White Denim.

Tell us a bit about how the band started playing together. For the most part, it was just Joshua recording everything by himself until recently, correct?

Andrew: Yeah. I discovered The Airplanes on a blog and sent a message to the Soundcloud account to see if they were going to play some local shows. Joshua told me he didn’t have a band at the moment. I told him to hit me up if he needs a guitar player which he did a couple months later. We then got Joel Paul from SW/MM/NG to play bass for us.

Joshua: Yeah. Eventually, I scoped out Andrew’s band Voyageurs after he sent the message, loved what I heard, and we met up. Andrew, Rob, and Joel have worked out great.

You guys had your first ever show not too long ago. How’d that go?

Andrew: The show was awesome. We had a good turnout.

Joshua: And it was great to start things off at a proper venue like JR’s.

Andrew: There are so many venues that cater to the dad rock, bluegrass, jam band crowd and then you have JR’s which is a refreshing escape from all of that.

We remember Joel, Andrew and Rob from other bands in town. What are some other bands you guys have been involved in?

Joshua: A few friends and I used to play slacker and shoegaze stuff several years back, but true to form, we never got around to playing shows. Since then, I have been recording at a steady pace when I get the chance.

Andrew: Voyageurs for me.

You’ve been able to generate a pretty good buzz via several music blogs without having to tour, which is pretty interesting (it’s also a testament to the quality of the music). It also seems like a pretty efficient way to do things. Do you feel like it’s been effective for you so far?

Joshua: I do. A lot of it is luck. We were fortunate to have a few sites pick up the songs from our Soundcloud page. After that, others followed.

I also enjoy your philosophy of releasing music a few tracks at a time instead of in the full length album format. Is that a calculated decision, or just the way it works out?

Joshua: It’s definitely calculated. It’s hard to get anything to stick these days because anyone is able to record, upload, and gain a little following. I thought it might be a gamble to throw out a huge chunk of songs without much backing because people move on so quickly. Eventually, an album would be great. But right now, a steady drip seems to be the best thing for us.

What kind of studio set up do you have? Does it take a really long time to record all the tracks yourself?

Joshua: Most of the songs were recorded at home on a Tascam 8-track Portastudio. Our releases this year were recorded with an interface which really simplified things. It usually doesn’t take too long to record the basic tracks, but mixing and mastering is awful, and I’m not the best at either of those two.

Can you tell us anything interesting about the band name? (How was that not taken?)

Joshua: I have no idea how the name wasn’t already taken! When I came up with it, I was deep into little 60s pop bands like The Choir and The Byrds. I wanted to focus on short, catchy, jangly songs and “The Airplanes” went along with that.

What’s are you guys working on other than recording and shows these days? Any touring plans? Label interest? Do you even need those things anymore?

Joshua: Right now, we’re looking at booking more shows and getting better as a four-piece. We had to pass up playing at San Francisco’s Noise Pop Festival earlier this year, but we are hoping to play it next year along with some other festivals and shows between now and then. We all work full time, too, so we have to be selective about what we can do.

Andrew: Looking at getting a physical release and demos out there. Also looking to play regional shows and Noise Pop next year.

We feel like there’s quite a bit of quality music happening in Fayetteville right now. How do you perceive the local music scene at the moment?

Andrew: Thriving as it always is – Grim Creeper, SW/MM/NG, Dr. Nod, Pagiins are all so good. I think there are a lot of talented people in Fayetteville who have such an intense appreciation for music that they feel compelled to be creative and make music themselves. These same people support each other when it comes to collaborative efforts, promoting shows, etc. It’s a really cool community.

Joshua: JR’s cultivates a strong scene. It always has. Fayetteville has several good bands, and the scene is getting stronger.

What are some other local bands that are doing cool things in Arkansas right now?

Joshua: SW/MM/NG, of course. High Lonesome is solid. I recently heard The Coasts out of Little Rock and I liked what I heard, too.


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