Thor Platter Offers Banjo Rich Debut With ‘Take Time’ (INTERVIEW)

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Thor Platter named his debut album well. Take Time is an album that’s patient, empathetic and introspective in a way that most listeners would be wise to learn from.

In most cases, the music matches the mood. The best tracks on Take Time are characterized by relaxed banjo or guitar work and an equally relaxed pace. When Platter does add flourishes to his sound, he tends to opt for soulful emphasis on important lyrics or vocal harmonies. The best flourish he adds is Paul Kovac, a veteran player whose banjo work on the album is near perfection.

The theme of the album seems to be reaching out. “Open up Your Heart” offers support to a friend and benefits greatly from Platter’s experience with friends falling victim to the opioid epidemic in his Rust Belt home. It does, however, simplify the issues swirling around addiction to the point that I wasn’t terribly surprised when Platter told me during our interview that he didn’t really know how to help and just wanted to try. For the sake of fairness and transparency, I don’t think I have the patience and temperament to provide real help either. The next track, “There For You,” offers a similar message with a much more emotional performance and an interesting verse about how a physically intimidating man is better able to protect his woman by relaxing his muscles and offering to listen and provide moral support.

Neither work nearly as well as “Fallout (Take Time,)” a track that offers so much in the way of patience and tampered expectations that the offer of support feels both more real and painfully bittersweet. Here, the singer strains to interpret a request for money from an ex as a sign that she misses him. He offers to be there for her until they fall out, something he seems to fully realize will happen eventually. It’s through that character work that his desperation and dedication come through. Also of note is “Tear Stained Eye,” a Son Volt cover. I happen to prefer Platter’s version. It’s slower than the original, relies much more on the banjo, and features stronger harmonies.

 

Thor. That cannot be an easy name to have in the age of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Well, Growing up I didn’t have that. I had pretty much a gap because the comics weren’t big anymore. There was a wrestler named Thor who came around for a couple of weeks and I was a little bit nervous that he would turn into something like The Rock or Hulk or things like that. But I didn’t really have to deal with it too much. Then the movie came out and started making money, but I didn’t get any of that money.

Where are you based out of these days?

I’m in Cleveland. I was born raised in Western New York and I’ve been in Cleveland for nine years.

On your first track you talk about being “Destined” for San Francisco but even though you call it dark and snowy I get the feeling you enjoy it up here.

I wrote that song after I moved to Cleveland from Buffalo. I always imagined myself heading out West, and that still may be in the cards a little bit, but those were just time that I was thinking about where I’d come from and where I was going. There’s definitely a warm sentiment about Buffalo, which is really as dark and snowy as it gets. Around November it starts to get like that until April. Cleveland’s a little bit warmer by like 10 degrees or so and has a little bit less snow, but it’s still a pretty hard winter season.

The next track on the album, “Fallout”, seems to be from the perspective of the most patient man in the world. I mean you there’s just this hopefulness when you’re when you’re saying “I know you miss my voice” in regards to an ex-asking for money. It’s someone who is, to me, beyond understanding perhaps to the point of wishing that things are going to go.

I feel like there’s a time that even my mom thinks that when I’m calling I’m asking for money or something. Because when you have these relationships with people whether it’s your parents or cousins or brothers and sisters or even some friends you don’t talk to one another awhile, when you call, you definitely need something. I mean, sometimes you’re just trying to check on them but for the most part, I think that’s that’s probably true. Not to touch on a dark subject, but as I got into the writing of this album and recording of it, we had a pool of songs to pick from and some of the songs have this underlying theme. When I moved to Northeast Ohio, I moved not into Cleveland proper but into some of the places like Lorain Ohio that are really depressed areas. They’re starting to come comeback, but when I first moved here 10 years ago they were really depressed and in this epidemic of opioids. But you’re starting to see it everywhere. And I would run into people that I knew that I couldn’t help and maybe that’s my own downfall, not having the patience and the ability to help them. So a couple of the songs, while they might also have a love theme like “Fallout,” that song “There for You” is about two people that I saw when I was living out west of Cleveland and they were just in a really bad place. I thought no matter how bad you could get, if two people have each other, maybe they can make it through. It gave me a little bit of hope and then I looked in the ways that I could help and reach out to friends of mine who I feel were you know were dealing with some of those struggles that we’re going through now.

On Captain Black, I think you have a pretty nice tribute to your father going.

That was one that when I first started singing, it was hard for me to sing because it’s pretty literal. When I grew up in Buffalo, I would go fishing with my father on Lake Ontario and we would go on some other trips. I forgot how old I was, but I asked him to stop smoking cigarettes. He had been smoking from the time he was in the army up till whenever that was that I asked him. I think I was nine or 10 years old and I just it made a little card and I asked him to stop smoking cigarettes for me. And that day he stopped smoking cigarettes but he started smoking a pipe, which I guess is better because you’re not inhaling it. I don’t know. But as a kid I thought wow, I just I just changed my dad’s thoughts on this. He always smoked. He smoked a lot of tobacco, aromatics, and stuff like that from the local tobacco shop. But if we were just going somewhere, or if we were in this Chevy Suburban that he always had, there was always a pack of Captain Black pipe tobacco. So that was where that you know that whole vision came from and I just figured I’d write more of a literal song.

Oh, I had absolutely no doubt that that one was autobiographical because the way the human brain works, smell is so attached to memory. And the fact that you were using a smell to recall your memories, it just seemed like that’s got to be the smell that actually triggers it for you.

I think smoking and all cigarettes and everything is not good for you, but I have a couple of friends in Nashville, and one of them smokes Merit cigarettes, and that was what my dad used to smoke. A couple of years ago, I went out to visit him and I didn’t realize what was going on, but he lit a cigarette up and that memory came firing back at me. Not a lot of people smoke Merits, or maybe just not anymore. And then my grandmother smoked Parliaments and another friend’s girlfriend smoked those. It’s an uncanny thing. More so than even some pictures from childhood I looked at. I don’t remember being part of those pictures, but I could completely remember something based off a smell.

Last track I want to talk about is a pretty bold thing that you did on this album. You took a classic Son Volt song and did some significant reworking with it.

I picked that song because they’re not really one of my biggest influences. I dig the stuff. I definitely like the Uncle Tupelo and all that stuff was somewhat of an influence on me, but I grew up listening to Neil Young and to some classic country and old blues. Uncle Tupelo wasn’t really on my radar until after I discovered Wilco you know so whatever that was late late 90s early early 2000s. Then I started to see what the spinoffs were bout and all the different bands. When we looked through all the possible songs that I could play, including covers, that was one that we had been playing live for a little while the band and I decided that would probably be a good idea to try out.

I especially appreciate the banjo work on that song — and the whole album, really.

This whole album we wanted to kind of showcase the banjo is an instrument and not just as a bluegrass throwdown kind of thing. And I think that comes across on tracks like that and “Destined.” With Paul Kovac, I started to realize the difference between him and other banjo players for a few years now. He’s got 40 years under his belt playing banjo and he’s a very accomplished player. But I see other younger people that maybe are just starting out, or other bands that have banjos, and they can definitely do the quick t roll as fast as they can. But it’s hard to play the banjo slower. It’s actually really tough to stay in line. And then with Paul Lewis playing the bass, they intertwined themselves really nice on a song like that. This record definitely has more of a theme that I thought it was going to. I think that’s why I scrapped the other full electric project. It just wasn’t cohesive, it didn’t come together.

 

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