All the world's a stage
The members of Adelaide outfit PlanB are no strangers to the rigours of life on the road. The band has completed 10 international tours, playing in Thailand, China, England, Scotland Wales, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia and Mongolia. They have also toured domestically in Victoria and ACT. The eight-piece ensemble is made up of highly competent and experienced musicians, all looking to take their irresistible sound to as many audiences in as many locations as possible
I catch up with manager and bass player Peter Flierl, keyboard player Adrian Miller, and front man David Robinson. I ask Pete what the biggest challenges are when arranging and executing an overseas tour for PlanB.
“Over the 10 years that PlanB have been touring globally the challenges have evolved,” Pete begins. “Initially it was very much centred around actually getting an eight-piece band together that was willing and able to perform internationally. Then came the even more time intensive challenge of identifying, contacting and convincing overseas venues that it was in their interests to have PlanB - a completely unknown quantity to them - perform at their establishments."
“While PlanB now has a substantially settled line-up of musicians and it is a little easier, due to our increasingly successful global footprint, to secure venues with in-house backlines, the logistics of co-ordinating an itinerary for a touring entourage of up to 12 people in a foreign country remain.”
Adrian, the “PlanB Shuffle” video strives to capture the essence of touring, both visually and musically. How did the lyrics to the song come into existence?
“The low budget nature of our travels sees us all lugging our instruments through various airports, railway and bus stations, working out the order to load instruments into taxis and the like,” he explains. “There are other necessary tasks, such as minding an enormous stack of instruments while others go off to find coffee or food. It wasn’t too long before the band noticed a pattern emerging, one that was worthy of putting into some kind of story or song. Knowing there was a style of music called “shuffle” this seemed a good fit. It also allowed for a cheeky reference to the age of the band members - old men shuffling around in slippers – but, luckily, I had the good grace to keep this reference out of the lyric! The title is self-referential - it is our story after all - but I think the lyric probably relates to the experience of many musicians on the road.”
It appears that the band prefers touring to playing locally. Is that the case and, if so, why?
“It’s true that the experience of performing our music in exotic and unique places is pretty intoxicating for band members,” says Pete. “The gradually increasing recognition of the band in countries as diverse as the UK, Mongolia and China is a strong incentive for PlanB’s continuing global touring.
“The opportunities afforded the band with this approach ensure that our music is enjoyed by a potentially much larger and varied audience than if we simply played around Adelaide. Overseas touring was something that the band never experienced back in the 80s, when playing locally was 95% of the band’s modus operandi. In addition to the obvious advantage of taking our exciting live show to all corners of the globe, band members are getting the opportunity to get first-hand experience of cultures that are very different from their own.”
Do you have a standout touring memory?
“There have been many,” replies David. “It’s exceedingly difficult to single out just one. Some shows are brilliant because they are part of a big event, or there’s a huge crowd, but there are other times when everything clicks and we do something on stage that is really special. When that happens, the size of the venue, event or crowd is irrelevant.
“We raised the roof in a venue in East London a few years back, a smallish place called Luna. The joint was packed, and we went off. That was a very good night indeed! Another one that sticks in the memory is the outdoor show at the UB Jazz Club in Ulaanbaatar, on the last night of the 2017 tour. The crowd was spilling onto the street, people of all ages were dancing, they couldn’t get enough of the band.”
“PlanB performed at two large Woodstock-esque festivals when we toured China,” Pete adds. “The band played on main stages and went down very well with the huge crowds of Chinese music fans. This was their first exposure to our music.”
It can’t all be beer and skittles. What is the hardest thing about touring overseas?
“Being responsible on tour for ensuring that it actually plays out smoothly and successfully both on and off stage,” Pete explains. “That is probably the hardest thing for me, although it is admittedly becoming a bit easier with each tour.”
“For me,” David adds, “it’s being away from home. It’s made doubly worse when my wife can’t come on the tours. Outside of that it’s a pretty cool job.”
What’s next for PlanB?
“Obviously, in these uncertain times, the band isn’t playing or rehearsing,” says Pete. “We are still keeping busy though; we are creating videos, recording our third studio album, building the new website, writing new material and investigating the feasibility of remote rehearsal. And I’m planning the next tour!”
"We raised the roof in a venue in East London a few years back, a smallish place called Luna. The joint was packed, and we went off. That was a very good night indeed!"
David Robinson - PlanB