Travel Profile: Joe Sumner of Fiction Plane
By Sean Ritchie | Published on November 13, 2015
Travel Profile: Joe Sumner of Fiction Plane

A British rock band, Fiction Plane is comprised of Joe Sumner (Bass & Vocals), Seton Daunt (Guitar) and Pete Wilhoit (Drums). Formed in 2001, their debut album “Everything Will Never Be OK” dropped in 2003, followed by two other albums “Left Side of the Brain” (2007) and “Sparks” (2010). Be sure to check out their fourth album, “Mondo Lumina“, just released today on Rhyme & Reason Records.

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Read the interview highlights below, or listen to SCP Radio’s full-length podcast:

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Sean Ritchie: Coming from London, describe the city’s atmosphere a little bit. What about it appeals to you?

Joe Sumner: With complete transparency, you’re calling me in Los Angeles. I’ve lived here for five years. So yeah, London is specifically about my childhood, because that’s where I was when I was a kid. I pretty much feel like a kid. The places that I know in London are about being a kid and about being a teenager. After that it’s not really a place for me anymore.

Travel Profile: Joe Sumner of Fiction PlanePhoto courtesy | Nikos Koutoulas

I guess this is stereotypical, but London for me is like gray and oppressive. It’s kind of dark and small. It’s tough. It’s a kind of grounding place. There’s a lot of green. Where I grew up was near Camden Town called Hampstead. That’s where I spent as much time as I could when I was a kid. That’s where I kind of go. It’s a place that, still to this day, I can get lost there. That’s my number one favorite thing to do anywhere really.

SR: Just to get lost in a destination?

JS: Yeah, absolutely. These days having all the information, maps and everything is quite strange. It takes away almost the possibility of that happening. If you’re going to get lost you have to work at it. It’s a totally worthwhile thing to do.

Travel Profile: Joe Sumner of Fiction PlanePhoto courtesy | Jack Pease

SR: So, going off that when you try to get lost and just completely immersed in a destination, is it to kind of to get ingrained in the local culture, or to find that hole-in-the-wall restaurant or sight to see?

JS: If I’m traveling anywhere else, I want to have locals take us to those places. In Japan, for example, just meeting the right person and they take you to endless incredible restaurants — literally holes in the wall there. You just go deeper and deeper into this city that you didn’t have any clue was there. And, that’s so different than any touristy experiences. In terms of totally getting lost in a place there’s a joy to that too. I like to get lost in the woods rather than in the city, but getting lost in the city can also be great.

SR: Yeah, immersing yourself in the local culture is one of the biggest things that appeals to me about traveling. When traveling anywhere and only seeing the touristy areas you get a cookie-cutter vibe and you don’t really get a true sense of the destination.

JS: Yeah, you can sort of end up judging places by how good were the valet parkers or something like that. You need to have such a different experience in a place that it’s not apples and oranges, it’s like apples versus salamanders. You just can’t compare the experiences.

SR: So, how for you does music and travel fit together?

JS: For me, it’s pretty literally because I tour and play music, and traveling becomes one of the big plus points being a musician. It ends up being a major part of it. This is more a general thing, but there’s a real pleasure in traveling and working. I really like that, not exclusively, but I really like that. I really love the idea of going to a place, doing my thing, doing my gig, giving up myself and then letting that lead where the journey goes.

SR: Music is really an international language. Someone doesn’t have to speak the language to really rock out and get a vibe of their music. So, going off that, how does music bring people together? Does traveling increase that connection?

JS: Yeah, totally. You go to places and they like different things. Music can also be divisive in that way. It’s very tribal. We had the experience when we first toured going to through the south — Atlanta, Louisiana and Florida. We figured everyone listened to country, or Malaysia, they’re not going to get it. Then you realize that people everywhere have all kinds of different music. People are not just about where they’re from. They’re about all kinds of other stuff. People are down to hear stuff and experience things that are not just what they’re about. You don’t travel across the world to have exactly what you have at home.

Travel Profile: Joe Sumner of Fiction PlanePhoto courtesy | Ken Marshall

SR: Right, something that just adds to that perspective.

JS: It brings people together in a lot of ways. Like globally you can have Radiohead right? At the same time you can have Radiohead people that can’t stand the Metallica people and they live on the same street. So, it brings people together in different ways. I like in any medium, not just music, to continue to break down barriers. When you break down a barrier and you make a connection, you almost put up a new barrier. I think it’s a really good thing to keep pushing those down.

SR: Absolutely, that’s one of our main motivations for what we do here. It’s awesome to hear you say the same. Bringing it back to more local, where your current situation is now in Las Angeles, what drew you to the city? Was it the music?

JS: I started working here for music, because this is where most of the stuff was. I didn’t live here for a long time. I actually ended up here because I got married. My wife was here and I made that choice. So, I took the leap. I didn’t really choose it as a location. I chose to get married to be clear. I didn’t go to LA and that’s what it’s going to be. I had to go to LA if I wanted to get married to the love of my life. So, lets do that. Then slowly, but surely it’s like, “You know what? I’m not having a problem with this.” People say that LA is superficial, cheesy, Hollywood and all this stuff, and it can be, but you get to make a choice. It’s a big, big city.

Travel Profile: Joe Sumner of Fiction PlanePhoto courtesy | Göran Höglund

SR: Back to a broader level, I know you’re well traveled, but are there any destinations that you haven’t been to that you want to see?

JS: I’ve never been to Mainland China. I’d love to go there before it all becomes super concrete — Mainland China and Mongolia and that whole, massive, empty region. There are still places where there are no significant connections to the outside world. That’s really interesting to me. I’d love to go to Bhutan. It’s been on my list for years and I’ve never made it.

SR: What country is that?

JS: It’s in the Himalayas, next to Nepal. They have a thing called gross national happiness, which replaces the gross national product. It seems like kind of a magical place. Anything up in the Himalayas is good. It’s so isolated that it hasn’t really been touched by wars as far as I know. I’d definitely love to go there.

This is slightly dodging the question, but whenever I go to a country I love to learn as much of the language as I can. So, I’d love to go to any country, it could be anywhere, and just absolutely be able to speak the language as if I was almost a native or really fluent. I think that would change the experience.

Travel Profile: Joe Sumner of Fiction Plane

SR: Oh absolutely, that’s the best way to get ingrained. You couldn’t beat it any other way. So, lastly to wrap this up, when’s the next trip and what for?

JS: I just had three kids so it’s been a bit of a crazy three years. So in December, I’m going to take my family somewhere in California to go skiing. We’re going to drive there. I’ve never skied here. I’ve never driven from the place I lived and ended up at a ski resort. So, that’s what I’m looking forward to.

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For more on Joe Sumner and Fiction Plane visit their Tumblr page:

Travel Profile: Joe Sumner of Fiction Plane

Photo’s of Fiction Plane courtesy of | Robin Looy

About The Writer
Sean Ritchie

By: Sean Ritchie | Published on November 13, 2015

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