It’s not often that we sit down with a little-known band outside our home city of Brighton. However, with a self-released debut album out later this year, recorded at none other than Abbey Road Studio Two itself, it’s clear that Al Ross & the Planets are not just any other band.
Starting off as a popular blues covers band in the Nineties, the sextet returned at the end of last year with a string of live dates, resurrecting the sound that had thrust them into London’s lively Britpop-era party scene twenty-something years ago.
With the imminent release of their debut LP The Planets 1, which showcases over thirty years of musicianship over 11 original tracks, we thought it high time we chat with the band that refuse to believe it’s ever ‘too late’ to follow your dreams…
BN1: So first off – your debut album The Planets 1 is being released later this year. What made you decide to record your album at Abbey Road after so many years of working together?
Alan Ramirez (vocals/bass): When we started, we were primarily a live rhythm and blues band, but Alex (Mungo, keys/vocals) and I had written some songs together over the years and it always bothered me that they had not seen the light of day. I had encouraged Paul (Miller, vocals) to develop his songwriting skills and he had some tracks he wanted to write, so we decided to reform the Planets, start gigging again and go to the very best place to record our album: Abbey Road’s Studio 2.
BN1: You recorded a couple of tracks completely live, but then you have complex production numbers involving gospel choirs, brass instruments and big production. How did you manage to achieve that in only four days of recording?
AR: Alex (Mungo) is a great producer and very talented musician – having him there helped enormously. Alex and I go way back and are on the same wavelength musically, so that all helped to achieve the sounds we wanted under strict time constraints. It felt very satisfying to work so efficiently.
BN1: One thing that struck us is the diversity of the album – there are four vocalists with each their own individual style. When you were around before, you were the solo vocalist – what changed?
AR: As the band developed, I wanted to give a bit more variety to the band – the multi-vocalist model worked very well for The Beatles. And I think that really works with the Planets too, as it shows off each character and our different vocal styles, while keeping to the same musical framework. I see it as a major strength.
BN1: How was it recording at Abbey Road? Not many artists tend to record their debut there…
AR: I remember on the first session being completely overwhelmed by recording in the same space where John Lennon and Paul McCartney pretty much changed the world. By the second session though, it felt a bit more like coming home. Recording with the pianos and the Hammond organ that The Beatles used was magical. There is a really special atmosphere when you go into Studio 2 – it certainly made us step up to the mark.
BN1: The album is quite varied, isn’t it? It seems to pay homage to the golden era of music, with nods to Sixties’ motown, rock ’n’ roll and a couple of real balladic numbers. What are your favourites?
AR: I like all of them but My Love For You is very special because it captured a great moment in the studio. But all eleven are great songs we’re proud of, and there is real variety between them, which keeps it interesting. I can still remember listening to the great albums of the 60s and 70s as a listening experience, and I wanted this album to be well thought-out and overall a great listening experience. Hopefully it manages to flow in the right direction from start to finish and people will enjoy it.
BN1: If your debut single My Love For You and follow-up track The River are of any indication for the upcoming album, we’ve every confidence that it will be enjoyed.
The Planets 1, the debut album from the brilliant Al Ross & the Planets (APG Records), is due for release in May later this year.