Like all Angelenos, Joe Sumner would rather not drive. He rides his skateboard when he can. He prefers playing bass over electric guitar in his three-piece band, Fiction Plane, even though the instrument inevitably invites comparisons to his father, Sting. When he was younger, he dreamed of saving the world through environmental science, but that gave way to a decision to follow in his father's footsteps as a “long-haired, stinky, crazy” musician.
Though he wasn’t “depressed enough” to emulate his hero, Kurt Cobain, he did bring a healthy sense of Cobain-esque sarcasm to his early music career. His first band was jokingly called Santa’s Boyfriend. After catching heat for that name, Sumner decided to drop it, and Fiction Plane took flight from one of their song titles.
On Nov. 13th, Sumner and his bandmates, Seton Daunt and Pete Wilhoit, released Mondo Lumina, their fourth album, recorded at Henson Studios in Hollywood. They play an album release show tonight (Friday, Dec. 11) at the Roxy.
Begrudgingly driving out of his neighborhood in Venice, Sumner talked about the new album and answered our inevitable question about his famous dad.
Where do you usually perform in L.A.?
We used to come here and play the Viper Room every three months, but it’ll be the first time at the Roxy, I can’t wait.
Did you play Viper Room yet with this album?
Not with this album. We figured out we were too loud for the Viper Room. It could only take so much. We like to live loud.
Fiction Plane’s last album was in 2010, what was your process gathering material for Mondo Lumina?
We took our sweet time. We wrote songs very quickly, but then we didn’t do anything with them for awhile. We got together in London, New York, and L.A. We had sessions where we would write 10 songs in a day. We’d write a song in a half hour, finish it, boom.
What’s your current favorite song?
“In My Shoes.” I still relate to it fully when I sing it. We all write tunes, then I go away into a private universe and just write lyrics. Singing is a personal instrument. I have a hard time singing words I don’t believe, so I have to make sure I can really get behind it.
Is “In My Shoes” reflective of your experience as an artist, with your father being so big in the music business?
In terms of that song, yeah, it’s just about whoever you are, that’s who you are. Everybody’s got their stuff. For me, it’s about withholding judgment as long as you possibly can with what somebody’s up to and what their motivations are.
How did collaborations with Rain Phoenix and Ashley Monroe happen?
I’ll collaborate with almost anybody. It’s funny because [recording this album] in [Henson] studio, there were a lot of pop producers who — I’d be their enemy.
What do you mean?
I still come from a place of grunge. We were against hair metal, pop music, and selling out. Like John Shanks is across the way in the studio. He produced Bon Jovi, yet he sang on [our] record. It was a bit hard for me to take in the beginning, but it is an absolute honor to have him involved. Monroe … she’s great! Rain, she’s lovely, creative and up for anything. I’m all over the chart.
Do you get annoyed that people ask you about your father?
Totally. [Laughs] It’s nobody’s fault. I’m very zen about it now.
Fiction Plane play the Roxy tonight, Friday, Dec. 11. More info.