Aircraft’s Music Odyssey

Photo by David Khorassani.

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It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s the Buffalo-based psychedelic space band Aircraft landing in New Paltz.

On Saturday, Sept. 26 Aircraft performed their second show at local dive bar Snug Harbor (Snugs). The concert served to promote the band’s new EP “7 Gems From the Sparkling Void,” which debuted on Aug. 28 and it allowed the group a reunion with a certain quaint and funky town in the heartlands of the Hudson Valley.

Once a twinkle in frontman Justin John Smith and guitarist Tyler Skelton’s eyes, Aircraft finally came to life in 2011. The childhood friends met at the age of six and aside from the inevitable separation of college, they have been together ever since.

“I kind of know what he’s thinking and he knows what I’m thinking,” Skelton said.

Skelton said he grew up in a very musical home and his piano teacher mother consistently encouraged Smith and Skelton’s magnetic pull toward sound. She often critiqued the instrumental and lyrical brainchildren of the duo.

They regularly practiced at Skelton’s boyhood home, but when they each received electric guitars one Christmas morning, the concert venue switched to the garage.

“We played all day long and only stopped when my dad shut off the power,” Skelton said.

Since then the now-roommates and band-mates have played much larger venues. Like most musicians, however, Aircraft isn’t their first band. Similar to rock legends such as The Beatles and Radiohead, Skelton and Smith were originally members of another group called Dali’s Ghost.

Smith said that they both recognized the inevitable decline of Dali’s Ghost and the dynamic duo decided to embark on their own musical adventure before their current endeavor collapsed in on itself.

Through a series of fated events, Skelton and Smith were invited to the rehearsal of a currently disbanded group. Instead of a well-versed recital, the session was cut short by a horrible fight. Smith recruited the bassist James Warren and drummer Ian Belknap to be a part of his new venture.

“I saved them from a dysfunctional band and I put them in a healthy home,” Smith said.

Drummer Matt Cossman eventually replaced Belknap, and Aircraft emerged.

According to Smith, the group’s name is based on the literal conception of a band, which he believes to be the actual act of creating music from air. However, the multi-faceted name also reflects the idea of music traveling through air like a real aircraft.

“When we make sound, it creates an audible sensation that we experience, but there is a visual component too,” he said.

The melodic indie-art-rock created by these sound waves, is influenced by an amalgamation of the musical troupes favorite bands from the past, present and future. Smith said that ultimately their style cannot be defined because it shifts from song to song.

Yet, the band always seems to return to the same feel of modern day indie rock film score meets the psychedelic space obsessed aura of ‘60s bands like Pink Floyd.

This was evident on Saturday evening as the group entertained the stage from midnight until the wee hours of the morning.

Aircraft performed in front of the grungy auditorium of Snugs packed with drunk college students and local residents alike. They took the stage after the New Paltz based band The Other Brothers.

Silver tinsel and a strand of white lights wrapped around each mic stand as Aircraft hurled through time and space with songs from their new EP. The bombastic song “White Light” opened the show while Skelton wailed on the guitar and Smith sang each word with such passion and fever that his eyes seemed to stay shut the whole time.

After the opening ballad, Warren interrupted the set to introduce themselves and then the band bounded back into their next tune, “Space Euphoria.” This song is ostensibly the essence of Aircraft. It is the first song on “7 Gems From the Sparkling Void” and the group’s live version is just as crisp and clear as the CD. The ethereal lyrics, pounding drum beat and trippy guitar strokes make you want to dance in the moon’s craters.

The crowd crammed together like a pack of sardines and gyrated on the dance floor while they sang along with Smith to the “nananas” of the chorus.

Later in the set the group played the soulful rock anthem, “Nightfall,” which Smith considers to be one of his favorites. According to Smith, the song shows the evolution of the band and exemplifies how tight their sound has become.

“The song is a little bit more than just verse, chorus, verse. The flow is elegant but beautiful in its simplicity,” he said.

Smith attributes the more cohesive sound to their newfound focus on the power of a strong song without the fancy accouterments of every bell and whistle possible.

The crowd appeared to be in agreement with Smith as they continued to dance wildely and one passionate concertgoer even breathlessly exclaimed, “I love their music!”

At the end of Aircraft’s set everyone in the bar chanted “one more song” repeatedly until the band finally gave in. The encore song, “Rising While I Fall,” is an older tune by the band, but it still ended the deep space odyssey on a groovy note.

Aircraft is currently working on a full-length album that they are hoping to release in the spring.

“We’re taking off on our spaceship and seeing where we end up,” Smith said.