Rock ‘n’ roll epitomizes escapism in its purest form.
It’s not just artistic anesthetization either, but rather a galvanizing force that inspires us to keep pushing through life’s trials and tribulations. That’s why we still listen to Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Rush, and countless others all these years later. It’s the same reason audiences will be talking about Backup Planet’s second full-length album, Reactions, for a long time to come. The Nashville, TN quartet—Ben Cooper [keys, vocals], Chris Potocik [drums, vocals], Gavin Donati [guitar, vocals], and Blake Gallant [bass, vocals]—write arena-size anthems echoing with progressive intricacy, funk swagger, and even a little metallic edge. Giving listeners an inspiring and invigorating aural haven, their moniker couldn’t be more apropos…
“I worked at a liquor store all through college,” remembers Ben. “I was sitting there one night in a funk because of school work and a fight with my girl at the time. Every channel on TV decried, ‘The end of the world is nigh!’ I thought, ‘Man, I wish I had a Backup Planet where I could go and escape.’ It dawned on me. That’s what naturally happens when you play music; you’re transported somewhere else. It’s a shared experience where everybody goes together.”
The name perfectly fit the tunes Ben and his college buddy Gavin wrote starting in 2013. Rounded out by Chris and Blake, Backup Planet became a local favorite around the University of Tennessee Knoxville. They independently released their full-length debut, Element, during 2015 and began sharing the stage with the likes of The Revivalists, Papadosio, and more in addition to headlining countless packed shows. Relix proclaimed them “On The Verge,” and one fateful gig led to signing with powerhouse management firm Red Light Management [Dave Matthews Band, My Morning Jacket, Dopapod, Phish,].
However, tragedy struck Backup Planet only weeks after this big milestone.
“I had a weird sense of premonition,” admits Ben. “We had just left a show, and within 30 seconds, our van was flipped over on the interstate sliding. There were sparks, glass, and metal flying everywhere and people screaming. Fortunately, we were all alive, but we lost our van, gear, and trailer. It flipped our whole lives figuratively and literally on their sides.”
Rather than engage audiences via crowd-funding, the band quietly saved throughout the rest of the year by performing local headline gigs to re-build their infrastructure. Bruised but not broken, they entered Syncromesh Studios in Birmingham, AL with producer Jason Elgin [Collective Soul, Maylene & The Sons of Disaster,] to record Reactions during 2016. In just three weeks, they tracked everything analog the old-fashioned way.
“We love production in all of its forms, and working with Jason was an awesome learning experience,” the singer goes on. “He knew every in-and-out and possible thing you could do in the studio, and it became like a creative sanctuary.”
Now, “Earth As A Dream” rises like a phoenix from a torrent of shimmering keys, bombastic percussion, and incendiary guitars before exploding on an expansive refrain.
“Lyrically and thematically, there were a lot of things going on for us and in the world at large,” Ben comments. “There’s this pervasive mindset, particularly in Western society, that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. However, the earth could be hit by a comet or some crazy catastrophe completely out of our control might happen. It’s supposed to make everyone think. It’s a visual journey where you might be looking at the earth from the stars or on some distant planet millions of years later, reminiscing. It’s a testament to how cool it is that we get to live here and have this place while we do.”
Then, there’s the haunting and heartfelt “Sublimation,” which conjures up a simmering stew of impressive fretwork, percussion, and towering vocals. “Two days after the wreck, one of our close friends passed away,” he continues. “It was a crazy tragic house fire. It really hit home, because I just lost everything. My girlfriend was cheating. My buddy died. I was sitting in my room in a state of reflection. I felt like I was having a conversation with him, and the chorus, ‘Take my hand child, let me show you how to breathe’ was his advice to get out of this slump.”
The title REACTIONS evokes the devotion of these four musicians, facing a near death experience and bouncing back with a deeper appreciation for their craft and a definitive body of work.
“It plays into the laws of physics and thermodynamics,” he says. “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. You never know what’s going to happen. Everything can change in an instant. It’s about how you react. There are those thematic elements in the music and songwriting. That’s been the story of the last year and ties into what we created.”
As these four talents continue “reacting” at the highest level, listeners everywhere fall into an escape fueled by mind-blowing musicianship, poetic songwriting, and hooks that resound past the heavens.
“This is what we live by musically,” Ben leaves off. “We say this all the time, ‘You can play to three people or three-thousand people, but if you’re not enjoying it and connecting with your band mates, what’s the point?’ Our approach is to take something negative and turn it into a positive by using the language of music. It comes down to overcoming adversity. This makes us complete, and we hope you feel that.”
Hailed as a breakthrough act to watch in 2017, lespecial, based in Boston and upstate New York, have established themselves as innovators and tastemakers on their own unique trajectory. “Disguised as an average power trio from Boston, lespecial creeps around corners and reaches into the darkest depths of the absurd. lespecial is meticulous, creative and defiant; eclectic, multi-talented and driven. The band prides itself in extending the boundaries of musical ability, rebelliously laying waste to the limits of popular music.” (Ragin Randy Entertainment) Labeled with such unique descriptions as “dark future groove” or “death funk” to “trance metal” or “haunted house party music”, it is tough to put one’s finger on this dangerous and determined trifecta’s distinct sound. A lespecial set brings their signature blend of psychedelic metal infused funk along with deep, thumping synths and 808s that will have your hips swaying as quick as your head banging. From the band’s origins as three friends in high school in the woods of Connecticut who shared a passion for building unique instruments and hitting them with drum sticks, through studying music at a collegiate level to now running their own music school and studio, The Music Cellar, in Millerton NY, Jonny Grusauskas (guitar/synth/sampler/percussion/vocals), Luke Bemand (bass/synth/percussion) and Rory Dolan’s (drums/samples) unique chemistry is what gives them their incomparable personality. As Steve Morse, Boston Globe writer and Berklee College of Music professor, claims, “They are virtuoso players- and they really listen to each other closely, which is what raises them apart from today’s progressive wannabees”. After several, eclectic EP releases, their debut album, “Omnisquid”, released in 2015, finds the band “jumping through periods of hypnotic rhythms, catchy riffs, and synth grooves fit for a club… throw in a healthy dose of heavy metal and punk influenced guitar, and you have one of the most interesting new albums out there.” (Monkeygoose Magazine). ITDJENTS claims “For fans of King Crimson, Tool, Nine Inch Nails and Battles this is definitely the album for you”. The band’s expansive catalogue of singles and videos, including arrangements of everyone from Kanye West to Skrillex to Fela Kuti, is keeping all eyes and ears on lespecial as they prove in clubs and festivals nationwide why Relix Magazine claims “Amidst the rest of the noise, lespecial is the squeaky wheel that demands attention.”