The Park Plan
Released January 28th, 2017
By Duncan H. Ros
Pittsburgh indie-rockers The Park Plan will be playing a record release show on January 28th at Howler’s in support of their second EP Last Looks alongside supporting acts LoFi Delphi, Old Game and Lorenzo’s Oil.
The Park Plan began in the spring of 2014 when Jenn Jannon-Fischer decided to pick up the bass guitar. Her husband, guitarist and songwriter Adam Jannon-Fischer had played in bands previously (namely Bethesda, based in Ohio) without anticipating the fact that he would soon be writing and performing in a band again. “I thought I was done with the whole thing or taking a break, but [Jenn] was interested and wanted to play,” said Adam. Shortly thereafter they ran into longtime friend and drummer Ian White at a bar, recruited their neighbor Eric Gorman on second guitar (who has since been replaced by guitarist Joe Tarowsky of Action Camp) and began performing and recording, releasing their Junior Achievement EP in 2015.
The band initially started with the name General Malaise and the First World Problems. “[It was] generally a joke to ourselves about being a couple of suburbanites complaining about politics and socio-economic problems,” said Adam, laughing. However, as the band began to write about more serious topics such as misogyny and violence against women, they decided to lean away from the tongue-in-cheek connotation of a joke name. They settled on The Park Plan–something more neutral sounding–named after the neighborhood community from which three of the four original members were from.
Their sophomore release, Last Looks, is somewhat of a departure from their previously politically pointed material. Songs like “I Should Have Known” and ”Hang On To You” focus on loss of love, loss of friendship and even death at times. “Any record we do, it’s sort of a snapshot, a freezing in amber of a particular moment in time,” said Adam. “I think a year ago [when we were writing the album] we were a little more focused on the interpersonal.”
The release is also a departure from the band’s previous recording method, moving into the multi-track layering of a digital platform instead of capturing live takes on analog tape. The band worked with local sound technician Bengt Alexsander, who in a way acted as an artistic director. They tracked the drums on stage at local Pittsburgh venue The Smiling Moose, then continued layering instruments and vocals in their basement studio. “We wanted to take the opportunity this time with being able to layer, being able to overdub and have Queen-esque backing vocals, and make sounds that weren’t necessarily from our guitars,” said Adam.
Indeed, the songs on Last Looks exemplify the band’s evolution towards more intricate and complex soundscapes. Songs like “Memoria” begin simply, with sparse instrumentation and a simple drum pattern in the verse, then explode into post-rock psychedelia with effect-laden guitar during the refrain. “I’m Not in This Business to Make Friends” is driving and anthemic. The hook-oriented bass line, raspy vocal melody and shifts in dynamics seem to take inspiration from J. Mascis and Built to Spill. Last Looks is exciting in the sense that listeners familiar with their catalog can hear the band actualizing their inherent potential as musicians and songwriters. However, the band would like for it be known that they have not left their politically charged roots, and that future releases will return to addressing core issues. “Even though this record is more interpersonal we haven’t abandoned our political message,” said Adam.