Fronted by singer/songwriter Joe Sumner — who is the adult son of pop/rock superstar and former Police vocalist Sting — Fiction Plane is a mostly British alternative pop/rock band that started to acquire a U.K. following in the early 2000s.
The fact that Sumner is Sting’s son has inevitably been mentioned quite a bit in the British press, and yet, Fiction Plane’s members have never gone out of their way to exploit the Sting connection. If anything, they have downplayed it; when MCA did a promotional mailing for Fiction Plane’s debut album, Everything Will Never Be OK, in 2003, the official bio didn’t even mention that Sting was Sumner’s dad. Thus, no one can accuse Sumner of trying to ride his father’s coattails. Nor can Fiction Plane be accused of going out of its way to emulate Sting or the Police; even if Sting has affected some of Sumner’s singing and writing, U2 is actually a more noticeable influence. His voice, in fact, has a somewhat Bono-ish quality. But while the highly sociopolitical U2 can be very idealistic, the words that are typically used to describe Fiction Plane’s lyrics include cynical, dark, melancholy, and world-weary — and it should be noted that Sumner has cited ’90s angst-rockers like Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins as influences.
Born in England in the late ’70s, Sumner was only a baby when the Police recorded their 1978 debut, Outlandos d’Amour. As a child, Sumner rebelled against music; he hated taking piano lessons and was more interested in video games. Nonetheless, he began studying the guitar at the age of ten and went on to learn the drums as well. It wasn’t until 1991 — when Sumner was 14 — that he really became passionate about music. That year, Sumner heard Nirvana’s amazingly influential Nevermind, which inspired him to start writing songs. A few years later, Sumner was jamming with his bass-playing friend Dan Brown, who shared his love of Nirvana and went on to become part of Fiction Plane. The start of Fiction Plane came in 1999, when the band was still called Santa’s Boyfriend; subsequently, former art student Seton Daunt was hired to play lead guitar.
In 2001, they recorded a demo called Swings and Roundabouts, but their first official album, Everything Will Never Be OK, wasn’t recorded until after they had signed with MCA and changed their name from Santa’s Boyfriend to Fiction Plane. When David Kahne (known for his work with everyone from Tony Bennett to Sublime, the Bangles, and Sugar Ray) produced Everything Will Never Be OK in 2002, Fiction Plane didn’t have a full-time drummer — and the person who ended up filling in on that album was session player Abe Laboriel Jr., who had been a member of Paul McCartney’s band. After that, Sumner and Brown hired an American drummer, Paul Wilhoit, to go on tour with them.
MCA released Everything Will Never Be OK in England in 2002 and in the United States in March 2003 with the single “Hate.” Shortly after the release of the album, the band was joined by Bloomington, IN drummer Pete Wilhoit. Though they received positive critical acclaim, they were dropped by MCA in 2005.
In 2005 Fiction Plane was the support act for Sting’s Broken Music Tour. The tour took the band all over Europe playing 29 shows in 25 countries. During this tour, the band released a 4-song EP on the Geffen imprint label Everybody’s Records entitled Bitter Forces and Lame Race Horses. The EP exhibited musical growth for the band and is a collector’s item on the secondary market, due to its limited pressing.
With a move from Geffen Records to Interscope Records in 2006, this four piece become a trio when bass/keyboard player Dan Brown left the band. Joe Sumner took over on bass and the band started working on a new album.
Fiction Plane supported The Police on the North American, European, Australian/New Zealand, and Asian legs of their 2007 Reunion Tour, playing 87 shows. Just prior to that tour, a new Fiction Plane album entitled Left Side of the Brain was released on Bieler Bros. Records on May 22, 2007.
The singles “Two Sisters” and “Death Machine” were released to select stations. In support of the album and the singles, Fiction Plane performed on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel Live.
On January 23, 2008, Left Side of the Brain was released in Japan through Sideout Records with two bonus tracks: “Drink (acoustic)” and “Put On Your Shoes.”
In April 2008, Left Side of the Brain was released in France through XIII Bis Records, containing five bonus tracks (“VIP (fast)”, “Coolest Kid”, “At Ease”, “Sleepwalker”, “Drink (acoustic)”), a video clip (“Two Sisters”), and a hidden track, “The Circus Trouser Enthusiast”. Four of the bonus cuts were demos recorded in 2006 but were never used. “Sleepwalker” is an early version of what would become “Anyone,” the lead track on Left Side of the Brain.
In the spring of 2008, Fiction Plane toured America with The Bravery and Your Vegas. Fiction Plane also supported 311 and Snoop Dogg on the 2008 Summer Unity Tour in America.
In Europe, the band was featured on several high-profile music festivals, including Paaspop and Pinkpop in The Netherlands, Rock Am Ring and Rock Im Park in Germany, and AquaViva Canaries in Spain.
On November 10, 2008, Fiction Plane launched the video for the single “It’s A Lie” at YouTube. The video was directed by Sumner’s younger half-brother Jake, and is based on the storyline to the 1983 Tom Cruise film Risky Business.
In December, 2008, Fiction Plane performed a largely sold-out run through Europe, culminating in selling out the 1800-capacity Paradiso in Amsterdam. The show was simultaneously broadcast at Fabchannel and is currently streaming in the site’s archive. At the same time, Fiction Plane was also the recipient of a “Fabby Award” for having their previous FabChannel performance at the Melkweg viewed over 250,000 times.
On February 27, 2009, Fiction Plane previewed five brand new songs at a concert at Arlene’s Grocery in New York City. The song titles were “Telephone Unknown,” “Humanoid,” “Denied,” “Zero,” and “Contagious.” It is undetermined as to whether or not the songs will be included on the next studio album.
On March 23, 2009, the band released its first-ever live DVD and CD package, simply entitled Paradiso, through XIII Bis Records. It was recorded on December 7, 2008 at the band’s sold-out performance in Amsterdam. Paradiso is offered in three packages. One set consists of a DTS Sound DVD of the show and two CDs featuring the entire audio performance. Special features on the DVD include the unedited version of the “It’s A Lie” video, and a photo gallery comprised of images taken along the band’s touring journey. The DVD will also be available separately, as will a limited edition Blu-Ray disc. Paradiso was mixed by Ash Howes and mastered by Andy Walters at Abbey Road.
Fiction Plane is currently writing and recording music for a brand new studio album that is slated for release later in 2009.
* Everything Will Never Be OK (MCA Records, 2003)
* Bitter Forces and Lame Race Horses EP (Universal Records, 2005)
* Left Side of the Brain (Bieler Bros Records, 2007) (#46 Billboard Heatseekers)
* Paradiso (live DVD and double live CD) (XIII Bis Records, 2009)
* Joe Sumner (lead vocals, guitar, bass)
* Seton Daunt(guitar)
* Pete Wilhoit (drums)
* Dan Brown (bass, keyboards, backing vocals) – until 2006