Volume 92, Issue 40

Friday, November 13, 1998

listening or hearing


Shaking hands with pop music

Photo by Una Knox
HEY GUYS, HAS ANYONE SEEN MICKEY? Catch Vancouver's Pluto opening for Reel Big Fish tonight at The Embassy.

By Jamie Lynn

Gazette Staff

After the release of a successful major label debut, most music artists pride themselves in the knowledge and wisdom gained from their "freshman" musical experiences. As a result, they are able to approach their next recording equipped with the poise and vigilance needed to produce an adequate follow up. John Ounipuu, bass player and vocalist for the band Pluto, found things to be completely the opposite.

"We were a little naive going into things [on Pluto] but I kind of like that," Ounipuu explains. "There's a line on one of our songs that says 'I think I wanna stay naive' and it's true. You don't want to become too much of an expert on the business or else you'll get jaded or wrapped up in it and it doesn't lead to good music. You always want to remember what made you want to do it in the first place."

While the whirlwind of excitement which followed their eponymous debut has clearly kept this Vancouver band grounded, it did not prevent them from growing as both songwriters and musicians. The latest album, Shake Hands With The Future, which was released this past summer, remains close to the band's pop rock roots but feels more complete as an album. Ounipuu says he feels this was due to circumstance.

"On the last one we didn't have a chance to plan it is as an album," he claims. "That's why we didn't give it a title. It was just a document of where we were and where we'd been.

"[Shake Hands...] was a product of things calming down finally and having a chance to sit back and plan a little more. The main goal was to record the entire record at the same time. We wanted a well-balanced album that had more than one mood on it and showed our many sides. It wasn't like a huge concept album."

For Pluto, however, their accessible sound isn't always as easy to promote as one might think. Falling somewhere between rock and pop has been a mixed blessing of sorts for the band.

"I like rock music as a genre," Ounipuu says. "But I kind of like the fact that we get played on pop radio, because I always thought of us as a pop band as much as a rock band. We're a rock band, but we're really into melody and I'm very into pop culture."

Case in point, the band's release of their new lead single "Goodbye Girl" received moderate rock radio play, but was deemed to be "too poppy" by the medium. When the record company re-released the song in a more synthesized remix form, it received significant play on pop radio. Ounipuu finds this whole situation rather amusing.

"It's definitely a little strange for the band because [the remix] is not what we sound like live. But it's better than it not getting played at all. The last thing I would want to do is start thinking about what rock radio thought before I wrote a song.

"I think radio's a confusing entity," Ounipuu continues. "Especially these days when music is resisting categorization, more than it has before and I think radio is resisting that resistance. Still, I got kick of hearing [our] song after the Spice Girls as much as I got a kick out of hearing it after Ozzy."

Currently crossing the country with Southern California's Reel Big Fish, Pluto bring their pop stylings to The Embassy tonight for an all-ages gig.

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department: gazette.entertainment@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998