There’s something uniquely magnetic about Tallahassee-based Wild Planet. Though I didn’t officially meet the band until last September, my first experiences with them began over a year ago, when they were still calling themselves, “David and the Phoenix.”
I had seen them play around town a few times, but always seemed to miss their introduction, meaning, I never caught the name of their band, and, being distracted by friends and work, never got the opportunity to find the members before any of us left the venue. I would always leave after their shows wishing I could have introduced myself and give praise, but with a band that good, I knew I would have a million more opportunities. Right I was.
By some coincidence or twist of fate, I was introduced to the band’s lead singer Dartanyan Melendez in the Spring of 2016, and was later introduced to the band’s other lead singer, Madison Fields, at work in the Fall of 2016. When they told me they were working on new stuff, I knew I had to grab my chance at working with them, so I scored an interview them in the Spring of 2017, and began attending their shows and taking their photos. Very quickly, they became one of my favorite acts in town, and some of my favorite people to work alongside, and now, as they gear up for the release of their debut EP, I decided to take a trip to South Florida to hang out with Melendez and guitarist, Justin Fogel, to talk about what’s next.
Before talking about the EP, the two took me to lunch and drove me around Miami. We walked around a little beach-park at the side of the road, and I took photos of the two as we walked around Wynwood and admired its galleries and graffitied walls. They caught me up on their summers and we joked around as our faces melted in the hot Florida sun. We finally decided to huddle up beneath the shade outside a coffee shop, where they two told me more about their plans for the coming year, beginning with the EP release.
“We’re not sure about a name yet, but we’re really close,” said Fogel.
“Nah, I think that we do have a name,” responded Melendez. The two laugh.
“I mean, we do have a name, but we have to clear with with Maddie and Dan first,” Fogel quips back.
“Yeah…” replies Melendez.
“It definitely encapsulates our style as a band-” says Fogel.
“At least a little bit of it,” offers Melendez.
The two go back-and-forth for a minute or two and try and discuss the name without saying it aloud. Their eyes dart back and forth between each other and myself, until finally Dartanyan looks at me and says “I mean, we might as well just say it.”
The two begin to talk about the theme of the album, every song working together to tell a story in an introspective sort of way. According to Melendez, each song “dissects a specific type of mood or emotion” and gives off a feeling of “living in the past.” With this theme and these ideas being at the heart of the EP, the two finally settled on “Subtle Spectres” as the chosen name for the finished product.
“We were thinking along the lines of light spectrums-” says Fogel.
“And ghosts!” Melendez adds.
“What we were thinking about was how the album is reflection based, and the ghosts of once we what were, and, you know how we are, we’re go with the flow, and ‘Subtle Spectres’ suits us.” Continues Fogel. “It’s about being relaxed but also saying something meaningful.”
Though each of the four members comes from a different musical background and has their own unique tastes and interests, they describe their song-writing process as very collaborative, everyone lending a hand to write the music and the lyrics.
“Wild Planet is a diverse collective, not of people, but of music,” says Fogel. “We all have such different tastes but they form in the weirdest way.”
“The diversity is something we wanted to keep,” says Melendez. “We’ve been in bands before where someone tried to dictate everything and it’s just not fun,” say Melendez. “When we started this band, we just wanted to be able to have that freedom.
“Wild Planet is just supposed to encapsulate a journey through sound,” continues Melendez, “and all of our sonic spaces in our heads.”
Staying true to their chosen name’s theme, the lyrics are often based on lived life experiences, though these experiences may not always be easily understood by listeners.
“Some of the songs, lyrically, can be pretty ambiguous,” says Melendez, “but, I think, that’s just to leave listeners with their own imagination. How they interpret each song is up to them.
“A lot of the songs are a reflection of what was going on with our lives, so, it just drives back to why ‘Subtle Specters’ means so much to us,” continues Melendez.
The EP will be small, only about 20 minutes long, but it’s full of months of hard work. Being indie, the four have financed everything themselves, and not only wrote the songs, but with the help of two engineers, also recorded their EP at Florida State’s College of music after hours (while also trying to do homework and study for exams), and mixed everything as well.
“We recorded all of these songs in a handful of sessions with minimal overdubbing,” says Melendez. “We really wanted to capture what we were playing live in these tracks, and I feel like, for the most part, we were able to do that.
“Whether or not there’s a guitar flub, that’s shit you would hear at a live show,” Melendez continues.
While the Indie genre can often be ridiculed as a collective of people who don’t seem to care, Wild Planet is doing just the opposite: they’re making it obvious that they care, so much so that it’s haunting them. Not only do they care about the people they’ve encountered and the experiences they’ve had, they also care about music that’s come before them and the music they create, as well as the connections they’ll continue to make through that.
“We love playing shows,” says Melendez. “That’s really our number one.”
“Yeah,” adds Fogel, “because you can connect with people firsthand. Getting a lot of streams doesn’t really show that you’re connecting with them, but playing with them, feeling them and sweating on them and sweating with them proves a deeper connection, and a human connection in a time where there’s less human connection than normal because of phones and stuff.
“We want to play everywhere, for all of the people,” continues Fogel.
Though the EP is officially finished, “Subtle Spectres” won’t officially release until September. Until then, you can listen to their single “Running from the Sun” and follow them on Instagram @WildPlanetBand for all of the latest.