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Paper Plane Pilots

Erin Cowell - November 1st, 2010
High Flying ; Female bandmates help propel Paper Plane Pilots
By Erin Crowell
By day, Chandra LaPointe and Jennifer Harrison earn their paychecks like any other person— LaPointe as a middle school teacher at Mancelona Public Schools; Harrison as a parts sales rep at Traverse Motors. But by night, they take center stage, representing the double X chromosome of the Paper Plane Pilots.
One of Northern Michigan’s most popular bands, The Paper Plane Pilots is a combination of male and female talents, glued by the rhythms of Harrison (on drums) and the unquestionably able voice of LaPointe (main vocals and keyboard).
“Other than designated dressing rooms, there’s really nothing to say about having two female band members,” says Jon Head (guitar and vocals). “They really nail it.”

TIGHT TIES
Barely a year old, The Pilots formed in January after several members decided to step away from other projects.
Although they didn’t step far.
LaPointe and Harrison were both part of the group Abandinus, an Indie rock band from Bellaire, while Head and Matt Sharp (Pilots’ lead guitar) were members of cover band Three Thumbs Up.
Harrison had previously played with Ron Swank (bass and vocals for The Pilots) as members of Common Cent$, a TC classic rock band; as well as with Sharp in the group Blu Frog and Three Thumbs Up.
“You could say (Harrison) has played with every single person in this band,” says Head. “She probably has the most experience out of all of us.”
Harrison says her musical experience runs to about 15 years, although it’s probably slightly longer since neither she nor many of her bandmates will say exactly how long they’ve been playing for fear of giving away their age.
“I will say that the first time I heard Joan Jett play, I was about 14 and I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” says Harrison, flashing her ever-present wide grin. “That probably gives it away right there!”
Regardless of age or gender, many who attend a Paper Plane Pilots performance can’t ignore the large presence of the petite Harrison.
“People will gather right by the stage where Jen is and watch her perform,” says Head. “She’s 97 pounds of drumming fury.”
Holding up the end of harmony on the keys and vocals is LaPointe, a commanding force of her own with a voice honed by 15 years of experience and training through Grand Valley State University and Central Michigan University.
“Chandra stuns people when she sings,” says Head.
And while her middle school students are listening to female artists such as Lady GaGa and Gwen Stefani, LaPointe is singing the artists’ songs every weekend, having a knack for nailing their sound and style.
“Some of my students know I’m in a band,” says LaPointe, “and some of them don’t believe me.”

A SPREAD OF SOUND AND DISTANCE
The Paper Plane Pilots have continued to grow their playbook, performing up to 50 songs a night from a spectrum of genres ranging from rock and punk to country and pop.
“A lot of people can’t peg us,” says Harrison. “We play all kinds of music like heavy and classic rock…”
“Katy Perry and Shakira…” adds LaPointe. “…Lately we’ve had a country-flavored sound. We really step out of the box,” Head concludes.
Just as their music is all over the place, so is the band’s physical makeup – with LaPointe living in Bellaire, Harrison in Rapid City, Swank in Petoskey and both Head and Sharp in Traverse City.
“We really only rehearse once a week,” says Head.
When learning a new song, each member has the job of learning his or her part before bringing it all together, playing at events and venues across Northern Michigan.
Members of the Paper Plane Pilots agree the next, and continuous step it seems, is finding their sound – and wherever the road leads, they will each bring something different to contribute.
“I have to say, this is the band I’ve been waiting for,” says Harrison. “I play with top notch musicians. We all have very different influences and backgrounds but we are here to combine them. Not fight them.”

You can hear the Paper Plane Pilots perform this weekend, Nov. 5 & 6, at Kilkenny’s in TC. Other performances include the Old Barn in Grayling, Nov. 19 & 20 and at Lumberjack’s in Honor, Nov. 26 & 27. Visit them online at myspace.com/paperplanepilotsband
 
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