Q&A with Pass By Catastrophe musician Zach Plante ’18
From left to right: Max Kilberg (guitar), Dexter Simpson (vox), Sam Silverman (drums), Zach Plante (bass, piano, guitar).
Alumnus and musician Zach Plante ’18 has taken his passion for music coast to coast and is set to release his first extended play record with the band Pass By Catastrophe on Sept. 27. Plante, who plays bass, guitar and piano in Pass By Catastrophe, is accompanied by Dexter Simpson, Max Kilberg and Sam Silverman. The band produces rock, indie rock and pop rock that is, according to Plante, reminiscent of the past but with a new modern twist.
Produced by Chris Marquez and recorded at the historic Hyde Street Studios in San Francisco, the three tracks on the EP draw on a variety of genres in addition to classic rock — such as indie rock and jazz — and use American and British elements.
According to their press release, Pass By Catastrophe’s work “launches the listener stratospheric and then gently brings them down to earth, takes them on a paper route into the suburbs and through the emotional landscape of young people growing up today and yesterday.” In an interview with The Dartmouth, Plante described the band’s process and his personal relationship to music further.
How did you join Pass By Catastrophe?
ZP: This year, I’ve been working as a research assistant at Stanford, so I’ve been trying to find opportunities for me to play music with people. I texted a couple undergrads I knew who were in the music scene looking for potential opportunities. One guy got back to me and said they needed someone to fill in for bass on an upcoming show, so I practiced with them a couple times. Their drummer was Sam Silverman and he pulled me aside at the end of the first practice and said, “Hey, I like your playing a lot. I’m starting this new project, are you in or are you out?” And I said, “I’m totally in,” and that’s how the four of us got together.
What is your EP about, if you had to describe it?
ZP: There are a number of overarching themes in our EP. The most important overarching theme is coming from elsewhere to California. Our guitarist, Max, wrote all three of the tracks and we all collectively arranged them. He’s from New York originally and he’s always played around with idealism and stereotypes and geographic imaginations of coming to California for college, so those themes are prevalent. And as any rock band does, you have to write a couple sappy love songs, so that’s two of the tracks on the EP. So, I would say coming to California and love and unrequited love are fairly prevalent themes through the album.
What process does your band go through when making an EP?
ZP: With this project specifically, we put a lot of prep work into the project before even getting to the studio. That involved a lot of practicing on my own time and a lot of practice as a group, workshopping, arranging, a little bit of lyrical revisions, a lot of detail work. And then when we got into the studio, we had three full 10-to-12 hour days all back-to-back. We did a little bit of mixing in the studio and then our engineer, who we asked to be our producer, Chris Marquez, did a bunch of the mixing. And then we took it to be mastered and left a little room for mastering in the mixes.
What was a highlight of making the EP?
ZP: I think one of the coolest experiences being in the studio for me was getting to the studio with our track “Pretty Lady” — being my least favorite of the three — and leaving the studio having taken it stratospheric. We shot that track straight into the stratosphere by the end and that was super cool to witness and be a part of. We were screaming the melody at the top of our lungs by the end. Fantastic experience.
What is your favorite song on the EP?
ZP: “Pretty Lady” is a bop but “Paperboys” is a rock anthem. They’re very different and I love them both in different ways. “What It Takes” just ties the whole project together, that’s our indie rock anthem. I love how cohesive our project is. All the tracks sound very different, but after recording and mixing and mastering, they still sound like us.
Did you do anything music related at Dartmouth?
ZP: I played bass and guitar for the campus band Winterhill for a little over two years at Dartmouth. We were very active on the live music scene on campus. It was a super fun and enjoyable experience and also enjoyable to share our music with the Dartmouth community in shows and our EP. We also got to collaborate with other artists on campus. During 17F, we played the Hard Rock in Boston. The morning of the show, I was in DHMC. My fever cleared, I was discharged and I drove down that night to play the show. That was one of the weirdest days at Dartmouth I ever had.
Do you have any advice for current students that are trying to pursue music?
ZP: Off the bat, there are a lot of musicians on campus of varying musical backgrounds and varying musical interests, but it’s difficult to find them and find time to play together and form projects. So, a piece of advice would be to actively pursue connections with other musicians. And, you might have to put in a lot of effort. It’s ultimately very worth it. Also, when it comes to music on campus, especially live music, pay it forward. Go to your friends’ shows, go to other bands’ shows, get in the front row, jump up and down, show up and have fun.
After the EP, what does the future hold for Pass By Catastrophe?
ZP: In the immediate future, with our EP release, we have zero expectations on how it’s going to be received. We’re super excited to see what happens there, who shows interest, how our family and friends will react, how the music industry will respond. Our focus now is going be in songwriting and building live sets. We’re going to do a lot more writing in a group setting. Max and I wrote a track that we want to develop further this fall; it’s called “Broken Souls.” We have other originals we haven’t recorded and have only played live.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.