Dark Rides and Grim Visions
, the latest long player from the local psychedelic rock band New Planet Trampoline, has a particularly long and convoluted history. The group actually started working on the album, a terrific 13-song collection of trippy songs inspired by the lysergic late ’60s, eight years ago. Six Parts Seven’s Tim Gerak initially helmed the project.
“Tim did his due diligence,” says NPT singer-guitarist Matt Cassidy one afternoon over coffee at the Phoenix coffeehouse on Coventry in Cleveland Heights. “It wasn’t his fault at all the recordings were lost. We had finished all the basic tracks. He held onto the recordings. The band had just gotten back together. We were two thirds done with that record and wanted to finish it. Tim had moved to Colorado. He just unpacked and the hard drives were destroyed. At that point, we just realized we needed to start over.”
The soft-spoken Cassidy’s been a fixture on the local scene ever since he started up a number of indie rock acts while he was in college at Kent State in the ’90s. After he moved to Cleveland in 1998, he launched a “four-track project” called Planetarium. Eventually, that band would morph into New Planet Trampoline after he started playing with members of the like-minded psychedelic rock act Volta Sound.
“We were just goofing around,” says Cassidy of the initial NPT sessions. “We went through different lineups and eventually I recorded the first album half by myself and half with the help of other folks, including [drummer] Charlie [Druesdow] and [bassist] Dave [Molnar] who were in Dreadful Yawns at the time. They just joined New Planet Trampoline. That’s the live set up that came together at that point.”
Part of Lakewood’s loosely organized Davenport Collective, the band quickly released two fantastic records, 2004’s The Curse of the New Planet Trampoline
and 2005’s Blimps & Aeroplanes EP
. All appeared to going well. But Cassidy wasn’t feeling it.
“We ran out of money and the touring was tough. I booked our own tours, and it got grueling,” he says. “I hit a wall. After we did one big tour, I couldn’t imagine putting another ounce of energy into it. I was just burned out. I told them we were done and I wanted to get the recording done and play one or two more shows.”
Cassidy then devoted his time to his noise project, 9-Volt Haunted House.
But after participating in 2013’s Lottery League and seeing its participants rally around the death of Lottery Leaguer Ted Flynn and the It Men’s Ken Janssen’s diagnosis with Lou Gehrig’s disease, Cassidy realized he wanted to bring NPT back into the scene.
“It was a bunch of things,” he says when asked about what inspired him to return to NPT. “Ken [Janssen] talked me into doing an Oasis cover thing. We did that, and I hadn’t talked to him in a year or two. He was in crutches, and they were just looking into his illness. Then, we found out about his ALS. We knew how that was going to end. We did a great big final It Men thing. It was at the same time that Ted Flynn passed away. He was very eclectic and had a Captain Beefheart-like vibe. He was an impressive guy.”
For its comeback show, the band reconvened to play a faithful rendition of Pink Floyd’s The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
at a Halloween show at Pat’s in the Flats. That concert marked the band’s first show in nearly eight years. And Cassidy managed to find the duck call and every other bell, whistle and garbage can you hear on the original album, so he could duplicate it as precisely as possible.
“We thought we’d do that and it would be it,” he says of the Pat’s concert. “It was a couple of months of prep work. Charlie had mentioned it would be funny if we did a reunion show and did a cover show. We learned Piper real quick for that Halloween show. It was a lot of fun.”
The group also performed the Floyd album in its entirety at a bar that was unofficially participating in the annual Austin Psych Fest as well.
In 2014, the band returned with The Wisconsin Witch House EP
, an album that puts the emphasis on intricate prog-rock jams.
“We had an idea back then that we would put out a short EP before our next album,” he says when asked about The Wisconsin Witch House EP
. “We wanted to do a new EP really quick. One song is from a compilation that barely saw the light of day. One song is one that got lost when the hard drive got smashed. We had mostly recorded and we finished that based on a back up copy I found. With the big long song at the end, I thought was going to be a four-minute song and we just added more and more into it and let it go. It was an EP but is like an hour long.”
Cassidy admits that when he started writing the songs for Dark Rides and Grim Visions
, he was in a different frame of mind.
“I think when I wrote most of the words, I was feeling very paranoid,” he says. “You can look at the lyrics and say, ‘This guy is going to break this band up.’ It’s all grim and haunted. At the time, I was fascinated with ghosts and stuff like that and the idea when people say their house is haunted or something like that, it’s a manifestation of fears they have. Kind of like, ‘It’s not me. It’s the ghost.’ That’s where most of the lyrics come from.”
The band recorded in an apartment; Cassidy said band members enjoyed the challenge of trying to improve upon the album's original incarnation.
“Re-recording it again was really fun,” he says. “The vast majority we had played live. We had a frame of reference for what they were. There were somewhere we had a root idea that I had to flesh out and decide what weird effects and turns to put on those. Everyone collaborated on that. For a long time, we just had a rough track on a CD-R.”
A song like “Ex-President” has harmony vocals, old school synthesizers and jangly guitars that are layered on top of one another. Cassidy says it took some tweaking to get it right.
“At first, I thought if any song would be left off, it would be that one,” he says. “I felt like the words were arrogant. I ended up keeping the lyrics. Originally, it sounded like ‘Tomorrow Never Knows.’ We had to retool the bass and drum part and put a keyboard part on it. Dave [Molnar] did a lot to help arrange the vocal harmonies. I came up with a new guitar solo. It ended up becoming almost everyone’s favorite song on the album. We used a farfisa and Hammond B-4.”
With its ricocheting guitar riff, bellowing vocals and funky bass riff, “Confidence Man” sounds a little punkier and comes off more like the Stranglers than the Stones.
“I was really feeling the Back from the Grave
compilations and [Jimi Hendrix's] ‘Manic Depression,’" says Cassidy. "I think Dave wrote half the words and I wrote half the words. We included our big prog rock guitar solos and keyboard solos. We had to have a place for those.”
Cassidy says he’s currently recording a “secret project” that he says will be “very funny,” and he imagines another New Planet Trampoline will come together in the future now that the band has successfully started touring and recording again.
“Everyone is committed to it because it’s fun,” he says. “I’m trying to stay away from the thing where I’m pushing it all the time. Everyone is involved in other projects too, but I’ve come up with a bunch of ideas for stuff and I think the other guys have been working on ideas for songs too. I imagine we’ll record something new in a year or so.”
New Planet Trampoline, Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor, Hiram- Maxim, 9 p.m., Saturday, March 12, 5801 Detroit Ave. Cleveland, OH 44102 | 216-651-9474. Tickets: $5, happydogcleveland.com.