An Interview With PLAIN WHITE T’S Front-Man Tom Higgenson On Their Forthcoming Album ‘Parallel Universe,’ Their Musical Goals, Fave Songs This Summer and A Lot More!
Posted On 20 Aug 2018
Later this week, on August 24th, the GRAMMY-nominated multi-platinum alt-pop band Plain White T’s will be releasing a new studio album, titled Parallel Universe.
They have already released two new tracks from the collection to celebrate the unveiling. PRESS HERE to watch the video for lead single “Your Body” and HERE to listen to “Bonnie I Want You.”
The album marks the band’s 13 year return on Fearless Records following their independent 2015 release American Nights. Parallel Universe displays the band’s new shift in sound as they have evolved into more ethereal electronic pop strengthened by lush guitar tones and synth transmissions.
Since emerging in 1997, the GRAMMY® Award-nominated Chicago quintet— Tom Higgenson [vocals], Tim Lopez [lead guitar, vocals], Dave Tirio [rhythm guitar], Mike Retondo [bass], and De’Mar Hamilton [drums]—has amassed an enduring, engaging, and enigmatic catalog, spanning two gold-certified offerings All That We Needed (2005) and Every Second Counts (2006) and unshakable anthems such as the double-platinum “1,2,3,4” and platinum “Rhythm of Love.” Among the discography, “Hey There Delilah” went quadruple-platinum, topped the Billboard Hot 100, and earned a pair of 2008 GRAMMY® Award nominations in the categories of “Song of the Year” and “Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.”
Along the way, the five-piece logged countless miles on the road in front of sold out crowds in nearly every corner of the globe. After a whirlwind tour cycle supporting 2015’s American Nights, the guys hunkered down and began writing the ideas that would eventually comprise Parallel Universe. The band’s endlessly hummable signature melodies still shine at the center of this galaxy, but their Universe morphed into an otherworldly atmosphere of ethereal electronic pop strengthened by lush guitar tones and synth transmissions.
Learn more about Plain White T’s in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! What is on tap for the rest of your day?
Hello! Well I’m currently flying to Denver for a concert tomorrow night, so upon landing I will most likely meet up with the rest of the T’s for dinner and drinks. 🙂 Mmmmm…
All Access Music is currently compiling a list of our artists favorite songs this summer so what is YOUR song of the summer?
You mean besides Plain White T’s “Your Body”?? Ha jk.. I’ve been loving the new Drake album. Mob Ties and Can’t Take A Joke are my faves off it. The new Panic! At The Disco album is great too. Roaring 20’s and Dying In LA are my faves off that album. I also started a label called Humans Were Here that released a few cool things this summer, like the song Our Little Secret by the group Fairview, and an ep from the artist LIIV. All of that is up on Spotify and all the platforms..
How has 2018 been treating you all? What is one musical goal that you have had for this year?
I just wanna put out cool shit. We’ve got this new Plain White T’s album, Parallel Universe, that we are putting out. I couldn’t be more proud of this album. Also like I mentioned, I started a label called Humans Were Here, which has had 3 releases already this year, including my side project TLB, which is such a fun album… I’m just so excited to be making and putting out music right now!
Can you recall the moment when you thought you could be in this group together? Has anything surprised you about this ride so far?
I’ve always known that the T’s were gonna make it. There was never a point, even through all the ups and downs that comes with being in a band, that I doubted it or thought of giving up.
How difficult was it to come up with your band name? What other names were you considering? What name was the runner up?
So Plain White T’s was in a list with a bunch of other really bad band names.. Two that stick out in my memory are Spotless, and Where’s Arnie? (Which is a line from the movie What’s Eating Gilbert Grape) Great movie, but I think we ended up choosing the right name for our band!:)
How do you think your hometown has influenced the sound and how you all carry yourselves in this group?
Chicago!! You know, no matter where we go in the world, all the traveling, all the different cities, countries, etc… Chicago still feels like home. Chicago is like the underdog to LA and NYC, and sometimes in this band we feel like the underdogs. But people work hard in Chicago. People are authentic in Chicago. We wouldn’t be the band we are if we grew up anywhere else.
Let’s talk about your forthcoming studio album, “Parallel Universe.” What was it like putting this collection together? Did you approach the making of it any differently than your previous albums? How would you describe your new sound on this new collection?
Best album we’ve made so far. Most of the songs came so easily in the writing process. Even the recording process was so easy and fun, with such a good and positive flow. There were times I almost had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming because things were going so smooth! We took the best approach possible with this album, which was basically fuck everything we’ve done before… We don’t have to sound a certain way, we don’t have to look a certain way… Let’s just make a bad ass album that will fuck some shit up and that we will all look back on and be proud of. And the crazy thing is? We did just that.
Why did you decide to rejoin Fearless Records after a 13 year break? Why do you think they are the right place for you and your music now?
Ha well that 13 year break consisted of us being on a different label. We started on Fearless and soon after leaving the other label (Hollywood Records) it was obvious that we had to go back to Fearless. Lots of mutual love there to say the least.
How would you say that your already released tracks “Your Body” and “Bonnie I Want You” prepare listeners for the rest of the album? What other songs on the collection are you excited for your fans to hear? Generally, how do you all go about writing a song? Is it a completely joint effort?
This is a long question.. ha. So the album is called Parallel Universe. We wanted to start out by releasing the most “Plain White T’s” -ish song on the album, which is Your Body.. But also, at the same time, give people one of the more gritty and raw tracks on the album, Bonnie I Want You. By the time this interview comes out we will have released another “Parallel” pair of songs: a dark love song called Light Up The Room, and another gritty and vulnerable one called Low. It’s hard to pick favorites on this album because literally, start to finish, I love every song. Lying About Me And You, Lips, Call Me… I really can’t pick a favorite! I wrote a few of the songs on the album myself. I wrote about 7 with Tim, and a couple more with other friends outside the band.
What was it like making the music video for “Your Body’? What do you think is the best and most challenging part about making a music video? How creatively involved do you all get with the entire process?
Videos are one of my favorite parts of being in a band! I’m a huge movie buff, so I get super into making the videos. So far we have shot 4 videos for this album and I have written the treatments for all of them. I think the guys are getting annoyed with my obsessiveness but it’s so fun! Making Your Body was fun but very uncomfortable.. I had to walk around with blacked out contacts and a very uncomfortable robot suit all day. It was rough, but all worth it once I saw the final cut of the video.
Where do you think you are all happiest- in the studio recording new music, on stage performing or elsewhere?
My favorite part is the writing process. Then again, videos rule.. Playing live rules… But there is something about the buzz you get from creating something out of thin air. A song that didn’t exist an hour ago, but now it does.. That feeling is my favorite.
Do you have any upcoming tour dates this summer that you would like to tell our readers about?
I’m probably most excited about a record store we are playing in Chicago the day the album comes out called Reckless Records. I just can’t wait for this album to come out! I’m also excited to play a bunch of great radio shows once the album is out.. And we are doing some west coast dates where we play the Roxy in LA (which we’ve never played) and the Brooklyn Bowl in Vegas! Gonna have some good times for sure!
How do you think being musicians and in this band gives you all the most joy in life today?
We are so lucky to be able to do what we love for a living, and we never take that for granted. A big thank you to everyone out there who appreciates what we do by listening to the music and coming to the shows!
We are currently living through a very trying and politically charged time right now so I am curious to know how your own music is reflecting this time period? If you don’t think it is, why is that? Would you say that other musicians are making music that has been influenced by this climate?
We don’t usually get very political but the last song on our new album Parallel Universe is called “End Of The World.” It’s all about these crazy ass times we are living in, and how no matter how dark and hopeless things may seem, you have to just keep dancing and keep living. Find the beautiful things in the world and put your focus on that. Focus on love.
Who would you love to work with in the future? Who are some of your favorite artists right now? What do you think would be a dream collaboration for this group?
Oh that’s impossible. You never know what kind of magic would happen if you get some crazy combos together. Favorite artists? The Weeknd, The Strokes… I love Skrillex and everything he has done for music..
If you guys were all going to be stranded on a deserted island, what musical item would you want to take with you and why?
Musical item? I mean, a guitar I guess.. then I could just fumble through all my favorite songs all day..
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
Music is all that matters to me, and I want my contribution to be meaningful. I know how my favorite songs make me feel, and I always just want to create something that makes people feel that same way..