Are you into Blues? Folk? Soul? Rock N Roll?
How important are deep, bluesy guitar riffs to you?
What about a hard-hitting rhythm section?
How much do you dig some keys? Trombone? Lap steel? Mandolin?
If you said yes to all of these, and they are all important to you or peak your interest, then the eargasmic tunes that come out of this next Badass Band will ease your mind and have you grooving along in no time. Badass Band 69 is Terraplane Sun.
Terraplane Sun was a band that came to my attention via Badass Band The Janks. When I interviewed them, Terraplane Sun was one of the bands they suggested I take a listen to. Christ, am I glad I took the suggestion. Not long after they told me about TS, I caught their show at The Viper Room. I decided I was going to go in with virgin ears to experience all that is Terraplane Sun at once. I didn’t know what to expect and let me tell you, in the time that I walked out the door of The Viper Room and to my car, I downloaded both of their albums and have been a fan ever since.
Terraplane Sun has both a nine song album, and a six song EP readily available for listen, both unique. You can easily hear the growth and diversity of this band from one album to the next. ‘Coyote’ was their first release, boasting strong bluesy, rhythm heavy tunes like ‘Funnel of Love’, ‘Slow Train’ and ‘L.A. Blues’ which are reminiscent of the early Rolling Stones Muddy Waters inspired tunes. Then you have slower tracks on ‘Coyote’ like ‘Where I Stand’ and ‘Lightning’, which consist of smooth, slow rhythms and drawn out hypnotic vocals.
As for their newest EP ‘Friends’, this album is pop-ier than ‘Coyote’ but not in a bad way. TS still sticks to their bluesy roots while constructing songs that encompass such a range of genres and are so pleasing to the ears, that anyone could get into them. Standouts on this album include ‘Get Me Golden’, ‘No Regrets’ and ‘Tell me I’m Wrong’ (Also on ‘Coyote’). Vocally, Ben’s voice is mesmerizing and insanely unique, I have no one that even comes to mind to compare it to. It is strong, and deep, yet whiny and light hearted all at the same time. Lyrically I could talk easily about every one of their songs, so I am going to just say that this is a band that evokes imagery to portray their message about life better than many bands out there. Get to the chorus in any of their tracks and you will easily hear/see what I mean. Their hooks will dig into you and stay there.
Terraplane Sun is comprised of Ben Rothbard- vocals/guitar, Lyle Riddle- drums, Johnny Zambetti- lead guitar/mandolin, Cecil Campanaro- bass, and Gabe Feenberg- keys, lap steel, trombone. When you go to a Terraplane Sun show, you are not just going to simply stand in a crowd to watch these guys simply stand on stage playing music. You go to a TS show knowing you will be going to a party. The energy that radiates from these guys on stage seeps into your bones gets even the most statuesque audience member moving their feet, swaying and clapping their hands. It’s just a damn good time.
The gentlemen of Terraplane Sun were kind enough to take some time to answer some questions for BBB so read on to find out how they met, what a Robert Johnson song has to do with their name, and why they strive to create a language that we can all enjoy and understand.
LR- Lyle Riddle, BR- Ben Rothbard, JZ – Johnny Zambetti, CC – Cecil Campanaro, GF – Gabe Feenberg
When and why did each of you start playing?
LR: We have all been playing music for quite a while. I started playing when I was 12 years old. My grandpa was a show biz drummer and played for the Johnny Carson show and was the drum major for the Los Angeles Scottish marching band. When I was 11 years old I was a huge Nirvana fan (still am) and loved Dave Grohl. My neighbor was a few years older than me and had a drum set in his garage. We started a band just playing Nirvana covers and the rest is history
What kind of music did you listen to growing up? How does that differ from what you listen to now?
LR: I grew up listening to a lot of punk/rock/hardcore music. It definitely opened my mind to a lot of different genres of music and thinking outside the box. As I grew as a musician I started being influenced by all different genres for different reasons. The Beatles have great song arrangements, Fania All Stars for the epic Latin chops and Motown for the simplistic back beat grooves. Now my Ipod ranges from Jackson 5 to Napalm Death…Hank Williams to The Roots.
Which musicians do you admire? Why?
LR: Levon Helm because he is the back beat master and plays for the melody. Ringo Starr because he plays never over plays or under plays what the song needs. Keith Moon because he plays the drums like no other. John Bonham is the heaviest drummer ever!!! Tony Williams has the craziest chops and played drums for everyone!!! As far as current living legends, I really like Josh Tillman of the band Father John Misty. He writes amazing music and is using it as a vehicle to have an impact and question society as a whole, while still keeping it fun!!
How did you guys meet?
BR: Cecil and I have know each other the longest. We’d played together in another project prior to Terraplane Sun and were off doing our own separate things when I met Johnny on a commercial. Johnny and I started jamming shortly after and clicked pretty immediately. It was either the first or second time that we hung out, that we wrote a song called “Misdirection” that actually made it onto our debut album “Coyote”. Once Johnny and I got under way, I hit up Cecil to see if he was available to start jamming again, which lucky for us, he was and the initial core was formed. I’d heard about Gabe for some time through a group of La Jolla musicians and got the word that he was moving up to LA around the same time that we were forming the band. We were on the lookout for a multi instrumentalist and there’s nobody better than the man himself, so we snagged him quick and made sure never to let go. Lyle was last to join and was really the piece that completed our sound. Our good friend Brian Stanley of The Diamond Light tipped us off that Lyle was on the market and that if we could track him down, we’d be stoked on him. It took about three weeks to locate his crazy ass, but once we did, it was pretty evident that he was our guy. We had tried out a handful of drummers by this point and were starting to get pretty discouraged. One of the songs that we’d play during these try outs, was ‘Slow Train’ and I remember being blown away at how good and deep it felt with Lyle behind the kit. Johnny and I looked up at each other at one point with a smile on our faces, at which point I realized this was our dude. Our sound is all about the groove and our rhythm section creates it like no other.
Why the name Terraplane Sun?
BR: Terraplane Blues is an old delta blues song by the great Robert Johnson. The Hudson Terraplane is an old, popular American car from the 1930’s. In the song, he talks about returning from the road to find his Terraplane not working properly.
“Now, you know the coils ain’t even buzzin’, little generator won’t get the spark;
Motor’s in a bad condition, you gotta have these batteries charged
But I’m cryin’, please, please don’t do me wrong.
Who been drivin’ my Terraplane now for you since I been gone.”
He uses his Terraplane as a metaphor for his woman, which I thought was brilliant. There are a million and one blues songs about unfaithful women and this one just struck a chord with me. I chose “Sun” as a way to always keep us humble. It is greater than all and responsible for bringing beauty to our planet.
Describe your show visually & musically for those who have never been.
BR: Visually, I like to think of us as a classic rock n’ roll band with 5 stylish, sexy monkeys at the helm. We hope to add lights one day that will tremendously enhance the visual aspect of our show.
Musically, our show is high energy and uplifting. We want a Terraplane Sun show to be an event. A party, that leaves you walking away feeling FEELING GOOD!!!! Every song has an uplifting groove to it and hopefully makes you appreciate life. If we can accomplish that, than I believe we were successful.
How does your creative process typically work?
JZ: If we’re not already inspired going into a writing session, we’ll typically start off with some sort of creative lubricant aka coffee/tea/whiskey/etc. and pick up some acoustic guitars and see what happens. If we’re lucky we’ll get a cool progression out of it and then one of us will start humming a melody, usually with gibberish words as lyrics so we can find out what sort of spacing and rhythm works the best with the chord progression, and then we’ll riff on that for a bit. Next step is the jam room, and if it survives that then there’s a good chance we’ll play it live.
What do you think you biggest break or greatest opportunity has been in your career so far?
JZ: That’s tough because we’re really thankful for a lot of opportunities in our short career so far, but I think one of our biggest breaks was our residency at The Satellite. Besides being really helpful in giving us a presence on the east side, being that we’re based in Venice, it legitimized us as a player in the LA music scene because of the reputation that venue has for only booking quality talent. Since we were also responsible for booking the other bands for our residency, we were introduced to so many amazing local bands, some which we still play with frequently and have become really close with.
What has been the biggest challenge for you so far?
JZ: I think the biggest challenge so far really has been making it so everyone in the band can do music full time and be somewhat comfortable. I can definitely see how it could be the downfall of a million bands losing members based on financial troubles and scheduling issues with other jobs, and the overall stress of trying to juggle all of that. It was an issue for us, but we’re finally over the hump and it feels great having all hands on deck!
You guys just came off a West Coast Tour with Shwayze, favorite moments or shows?
JZ: That whole tour was so much fun, literally just laughs for three weeks straight. Never once did it feel like a grind or a struggle and that’s the way it should always be. I think my favorite moment was our first show of the tour in Vancouver and it was really the first time our two bands had met (excluding myself since I grew up with Shwayze). Most of us hadn’t seen each other play but just off vibing and hanging we thought it’d be perfect to come out and rock a song together, never rehearsed or even suggested prior to 20 minutes before we hit the stage. We got up there and did “Under the Bridge” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and people loved it. It really was a beautiful moment of mutual respect and trust, and it was so successful that we ended up doing it every night for the rest of tour.
What are you working on now, and what can we expect from you the rest of this year?
CC: Well, we have been doing a lot of traveling over the last couple of months and it always seems to spark impromptu jams and it allows us to stumble on intriguing riffs or melodies, Now, that we are home a for a bit we are starting to explore some of those ideas. Also, we are gearing up to enter the studio soon to lay down the additional tunes that will, in turn, be our full length follow up to our EP “Friends”. After that, we gear up to go out and light up some shows! This year will be a busy one for us…so keep an eye out, come join us!
Why should people listen to your band? What makes you unique? If your band had a slogan, what would it be?
CC: Well the obvious answer to that would be that we truly enjoy what we are creating and obviously we want to share ‘em with you. Maybe we can share a different perspective of our surroundings or a look into our lives here in Venice, Ca. For me personally, what I think makes us “unique” is that we all come from different musical backgrounds and when we get together we seem to create a language that we all enjoy and understand. Since we all come from such a wide range of musical influences, it doesn’t limit us in creating a specific sound or genre. We have the freedom to explore all our tastes and styles. Therefore, it hopefully as a listener, will keep your ears intrigued.
If you had the opportunity to change something about the music industry, what would it be?
CC: Hmm, that’s a tricky one. We all know how the music industry has changed…the good and the bad. I still come from the school of listening to entire records from start to finish. We know we live in an Ipod generation where people can pluck tunes from the Itunes tree. And to me, I think a lot gets lost or left behind. It’s that lack of “commitment” in buying music that I feel is changing the attitude in listeners. There’s definitely a shorter attention span or that loss of anticipation in waiting to hear your favorite band’s next body of work. But obviously, it’s tough to criticize the progression of the music industry because there are a lot more conveniences to sharing music or being exposed to all types of music. As an artist, we have a lot more outlets to share our music, and as a listener, we all have the resources, conveniences and freedom to explore all different types of artists and music at a incredibly reasonable cost. It’s hard to complain about that.
One song you never get tired of.
GF: Aretha Franklin’s cover of “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. She turns the sweet ballad into the funkiest gospel groove ever..Guaranteed goosebumps every time I hear it.
Best live show you’ve ever gone to?
GF: It’s tough to answer that but the most impactful was probably seeing The Mighty Diamonds play in Paris when I was about 12 on vacation with my parents. The bass was pumping so hard and the music was so damn good and I just remember thinking they were the coolest cats I’d ever seen and all I wanted to do was be in a band from then on.
Favorite non-musical thing to do?
GF: Womping, which is basically body surfing in the shorebreak…(high tide) There’s probably nothing more fun in my opinion. I also dig playing golf and most recently Bocci Ball.
If you could be a fictional character who would you be?
GF: Another tough one but for some reason the first thing that comes to mind is Denzel Washington’s character in “Man On Fire”. Dude don’t play…
If you ran Badass Bands Blog, what is one band you would feature? (Exempting yourselves of course.)
BR: The Record Company
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