Smart recorded all three EPs with legendary veteran producer Jack Douglas, renowned for his vintage work with John Lennon, Aerosmith, The Who and Cheap Trick. For each EP, he called upon a notable veteran engineer to mix the tracks: Jay Messina, known for his work with Aerosmith, KISS and Supertramp; Shelly Yakus, whose extensive resume includes albums with U2, Tom Petty and Lou Reed; and Geoff Emerick, who worked on some of the Beatles' most innovative releases as well as albums by Badfinger, Elvis Costello and Jeff Beck.
The meeting of Smart's fresh talent and the seasoned skills of his collaborators lend depth and resonance to his canon of memorable original tunes. All three EPs find Smart, who sings and plays drums and rhythm guitar, anchoring a studio band comprised of bassist Billy Mohler, guitarists Jason Johnson, Rand Ray Mitchell and Sean Woolstenhulme, and keyboardist Matt Rohde.
The three Silverplanes EPs are the product of an extended creative binge, during which Smart, Douglas and company recorded 33 new Smart compositions.
"This group of songs," Smart states, "feels so vast to me. There's a lot of variation in the songwriting styles and recording approaches, but there are also some sonic threads that go through all of them.
"Musically, the EPs aren't that far off from each other," he continues, "other than the way we chose different styles of songs for each mixer. The common link in all of the EPs is my songwriting and Jack Douglas' producing genius. They will all be released together at some point in a huge full-length with some extra bonus tracks. I have been told that I am prolific, but I don’t think I'm as prolific as some of my heroes, like Neil Young, Radiohead and Pink Floyd."
Smart acknowledges Douglas as a major force in the new material's direction.
"Jack really helped me to shape the songs," he says. "What originally made me want to work with him was knowing that he recorded Imagine with John Lennon, and then listening to it and thinking what he must have thought when it was happening. Also, the fact that he worked on 'Sweet Emotion' by Aerosmith, because sonically that song is ridiculously amazing and intricate. And I love the realness and honesty that he captured on Lennon's Double Fantasy. We've become really good friends over the past few years; the man is salt of the earth and I love him."
Smart also credits Douglas with coming up with the idea of releasing multiple EPs, as well as bringing in Messina, Yakus and Emerick to handle the mixing.
"We had done one record of 15 songs and then we decided to do another 18, because we were having so much fun,” he explains. "Then we decided to release the songs as three EPs because we thought it would be cool to keep fresh material coming out in shorter intervals for the ADD generation. Jack said, 'You have so many songs here, let's not let them get lost.'"
Aaron Smart grew up in Napa, California, and began singing, drumming and playing guitar in early childhood. In his early 20s, the self-taught artist moved to San Francisco and then Los Angeles, where he joined a series of bands while honing his songwriting skills. He also opened a successful recording studio that's copiously outfitted with vintage gear, which is where he's recorded all of Silverplanes' material.
"Having my own studio has been an amazing luxury and it definitely influenced the way that these recordings turned out," Aaron notes. "The drum sound is huge and thick, and the guitars have a smooth '70s-meets-'90s-meets-now sound going on. Despite all the songs we've recorded, we haven't ever felt rushed, because we can come in any time we want and stop any time we want. I'm a vintage recording gear addict, and Jack is as well, since he's seen the evolution of the best gear from the late '60s until now."
With Silverplanes' prolific first burst of recordings in the can, Smart now looks forward to the challenge of translating the music to the live stage.
"I'm in the process of putting a live band together now, and I've put a lot of thought into how to present these songs on the road," he says, adding, "The people who played on the recordings are friends, and friends of friends, and it was all about 'Lets record some cool sounds and make some recordings to stand the test of time.' We never really thought, 'How will we do this live?' I would love to have all the guys that played on the record, but we'll have to see where everyone is at in their lives when it's time to go on tour."
When asked about his artistic and career goals, Smart responds, "Some of my goals have been accomplished already, mainly writing and recording music for the intrinsic value of doing so. I want to create sonically the things that I hear in my head, and to get them out of my head and onto some type of media. I feel that we have achieved that. Beyond that, the main goal now to get as many people as we can to hear and experience these songs."