INTERVIEW // We Catch Up With ... On Planets

By Alex Brown - 6.6.17

Sean Wharton, better known as On Planets,  is a Vancouver - based producer, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist who specializes in his own brand of off-beat bittersweet indie electronic music. If forced to, file him somewhere between Chet Faker, Lido and Ramzoid.

On Planets recently released his EP Personal Space on Majestic Casual Records to widespread critical acclaim - including coverage in NESTHQ, Dancing Astronaut, Your EDM, Live Nation’s Ones To Watch, The Music Ninja and more…

We hooked up with him and got his take on the music industry, his songwriting and his inspirations...

Hi there, how are you and what are you up to today?
Hi! I'm doing alright, looking at a pretty typical Saturday ahead of me here. Coffee and catching up on emails for the morning, then some studio work. I've got a ham on deck, so planning to go for a bike ride later while it's in the oven and then back in the studio for the evening.

To those not familiar with you, how would you describe your sound?
I always have a hard time with this question... I blend a lot of organic and natural sounds recorded from my life with synthetic, over-produced elements; it's a juxtaposition in a way, but the end result is supposed to be relatable and emotive. I grew up playing folk music and earthy, traditional instruments, but always felt a little bit constricted by the available palette of sounds - there are only so many different ways to play an instrument, and I was always more drawn towards composing than perfecting my playing technique. With this project I try to take a simple and grounded approach to writing music while painting with more stark, modern colours.

What are the 5 albums that have influenced you the most?
Bibio - Silver Wilkinson
An exposition of beautiful sounds and fuzzy analogue waves. I barely know the song titles because I always listen to this one front to back, usually in the evenings or when I'm stressed out.

The Roots - Undun
The first concept album that really struck me, The Roots blew my mind with this one.

Mount Kimbie - Cold Spring Fault Less Youth
I listen to this album to be inspired to push myself in exploring textures and song structure; I love how simple themes go hand-in-hand with wild sonics.

Passion Pit - Gossamer
This sound of this album is so catchy, glittery, and impossible to replicate. It kind of made me realize how lovely it sounds to have dark lyrical themes pushed up against bright and energetic production.

Bon Iver - Bon Iver, Bon Iver
A staple. I hope one day I can capture in my music as much emotion and rawness as this album does.

Which other artists are you into at the moment and why?
My indie side is really into The Japanese House right now; it's highly emotional and resonant music for me. My producer side is hearing Laxcity. I find it hard to listen to most of the beat scene/"trap" (whatever that means anymore) music that has taken over my Soundcloud stream, but this guy brings a lot of touch and beauty to that style that I think is quite artistic and unique.

Are there any key pieces of equipment that you are using to define your sound?
My field recorder. I don't know how I ever lived without it. For me it's like the universal instrument; anything can be music if you listen carefully.

Where do you gather songwriting inspiration?
Sometimes I have a hard time being forthcoming and open, so songwriting is often an outlet for me to say things without actually saying them. Most of my songs begin with a field recording that I use as an outline for the structure and cadence - sometimes it gets buried and inaudible, and sometimes it stays at the forefront as part of the song. First Tour, the leading track of my recent EP, is built around a recording of me walking around my empty house during my first stay there. For me, that sound is connected to the headspace I was in at the time, which is what the song is about; I believe that including those real elements help to shape the way I write by keeping it grounded, while at the same time giving some leeway to experiment with song structure and lyrics around the one sonic theme.

What’s the best gig you have ever done and why?
I recently played School Night in LA - that was for sure the coolest gig I've played so far. The venue is really intimate and I think it conveyed what I was trying to do pretty well; the ambient/atmospheric stuff came through clearly on the system and just in general it was a little more immersive than other shows I've done.

And the worst?
One time I played this street festival thing in the middle of the day, on a stage tucked away from the main event... there were a couple empty plastic chairs in front and most people just kind of drifted by. Really the opposite of intimate. I don't think my show went over well with anyone; my parents were there and even they were kind of like "yikes". I should have just brought a guitar and sang Bob Dylan songs or something.

If you weren't a musician what would you be?
An engineer.

Do you have any particular gigs or festivals that you dream about playing?
Honestly, I'm a little more on the reclusive side. My dreams look more like a cabin studio in the woods, somewhere natural and kind of a retreat that people can come to escape, write, and relax.

Do you have any information regarding upcoming releases, projects or gigs in the pipeline that you would like to tell us about?
I'm currently working on a host of new music that I can't wait to release; I've been able to dig a little deeper into my creativity and it feels really good. No concrete dates that I can divulge on the release front, but as for shows, I'll be playing down in Palm Springs in early June at Splash House, and I'm opening for Teen Daze in Vancouver at the end of June.

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