As opening act for the Police, Fiction Plane was all set to play this month’s Bonnaroo fest, the coolest gig on the tour. But the band got stranded for eight hours at the Houston airport and never made it to Tennessee.
Why didn’t Fiction Plane just fly on the Police’s private plane?
“It depends on how many friends and family they bring,” said Fiction Plane frontman Joe Sumner.
Wait a minute. Sumner is the son of Police frontman Sting (aka Gordon Sumner). Couldn’t he have played the family trump card?
“It’s a professional thingie,” said Sumner. In fact, he’s usually driving to gigs when there isn’t room on the Police’s plane.
Still, he admits his trio got the opening slot out of nepotism.
“We earned it, man. We worked from the street,” he joked. “No, my dad called me up and gave me the gig. I almost said no because I feel like it’s a big sellout in a lot of ways. I figured if I don’t do it, I’ll just be pissed for a long time.”
But Sumner, 30, let his agent negotiate the fee. The frontman is guessing that Fiction Plane is probably getting paid less than Maroon 5, which takes over the opening slot later in the tour.
Last time Fiction Plane visited Minneapolis, in 2003, the band was on a major label, opening for the reggae-rock Samples at a local club. This time, Fiction Plane is on a no-name indie label, opening for the biggest reggae-rock band in history at a sold-out arena.
“Everything is all switched around—the indie label and the super-corporate tour,” he said recently before a concert in Los Angeles. “And it seems to be working out a little better that way, actually. We’re having more fun.”
Sumner couldn’t be happier. Being on MCA “was a waste of time in corporate vortexes and noncreativity,” he said without elaborating. “We officially got dropped in December 2006 and the Bieler Brothers signed us the next day.”
That’s a Florida indie label specializing in hardcore metal. But Fiction Plane is definitely alt-rock, as evidenced by its newly released second CD, “Left Side of the Brain.”
The most striking song is “Running the Country,” which Sumner explained is about President Bush and himself. The London-based singer considers himself a failure to a certain extent, yet he has ended up on the year’s biggest tour. He sees parallels to the president.
“Bush’s record is like not being very good at college, not really going in the Army, not really doing really well at business. Yet he’s the most powerful man in the world.”
Sumner’s lyrics on “Left Side of the Brain” are generally more intriguing than the garden-variety alt-rock of his band (a little grunge, Smashing Pumpkins, U2 and the Police).
Fiction Plane opened for Sting’s 2005 solo tour. “This is a lot more fun because it’s happening for our band,” Sumner said. “We’ve got an album. We became a three-piece, and we’re playing a lot better than we ever have. We’re feeling good and moving forward.”
On the current tour, Sumner said Sting treats him both as son and opening act.
“But honestly, if he didn’t like us, he wouldn’t have us on the tour for more than a couple of days,” said Sumner, a singer-bassist whose voice and face resemble his dad’s. “Being in a band, you are mixing business and pleasure the entire time.”
Sumner isn’t the only second-generation Police-man on tour. Police drummer Stewart Copeland’s son, Jordan, is shooting the tour for a movie.
“I’ve met him once before at a gig,” said Sumner. “Then I met him again when the tour started. He’s pretty busy. There’s something like 90 crew on the tour, and he’s doing a proper documentary on every aspect of the tour. He’s working hard. He’s about to come in and film us being lazy in the dressing room.”
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