James van Leuven’s first public release was as the drummer in the science-friction rock band Automaton Adventure Series (Self-Titled 7″ Vinyl) in 1997. Automaton was a experimental post-punk band sharing influences and concert halls with Fugazi, Blonde Redhead, Built To Spill, Modest Mouse, Murder City Devils, Man or Astro-Man, Servotron, Sweep The Leg Johnny, Carissa’s Weird, No Means No, etc
Plan B (born James van Leuven) is Seattle-native experimental indie rock/hip hop producer and drummer. Inspired by hip hop’s approach to putting drums at the center of song writing, James made Like A Ship Sailing in 2001 with all of his influences in tow; Post-Punk, Hip Hop, Swing, BeBop, and Indie Rock.
Started as a side project when James was still drumming in Automaton (Pacifico Recordings) and The Subdebs (K Records). James began writing songs with protools, recording himself playing the drums, guitar, bass, keys, etc. This experiment resulted in a more eno-esque instrumental hip-hop style. The first EP, “Like a Ship Sailing” (Luckyhorse Industries, U.S. 2001), introduced the Plan B sound to the world. In concert, van Leuven’s solo performances were often punctuated by him joining the crowd to breakdance to his own output.
Acclaim from the first EP sent van Leuven touring around Europe, including a long stint in Paris, where he released a second EP “Keepsake” (Ggoo22, France 2003), which moved Plan B into more group-oriented output. This continued upon van Leuven’s return to Seattle, with the performing collective often adopting the Plan B mini-orchestra moniker as their ranks grew. And in 2007 a first full length album, I’m the Captain, Where We Going? (Fourthcity, US/Ggoo22, France) was released featuring guest musicians cellist Brent Arnold (Modest Mouse, Built to Spill), violinist Jen Kozel (Quasi, Elliott Smith), violinist Sarah Standard (Carissa’s Weird) and analog mix down at Avast Studios in Seattle with Phil Ek (Built to Spill, Modest Mouse, Band of Horses, etc). ‘I’m The Captain, Where We Going?’ was written and produced on the road. When the touring slowed down in 2006, James mixed down and released the album. The concept was an experiment: ‘what kind of music will i make while traveling around the world?’ The answer: pretty mellow.
In 2007, Plan B installed himself in Paris, France. In 2010 he release a single called Crow’s Nest, a hip hop mix of Artie Shaw’s Nightmare. That same year James started a family and has been on hiatus since.
In 2013 James moved back to Seattle, WA with his french wife Véronique and daughter Josephine. James is now working on a new project with songwriter John Atkins, known for his work in Hush Harbor, 764-Hero and The Magic Magicians.
On The Internet System:
For the longest f’n time, this long dormant photo set of Seattle’s Plan B from CMJ 2004 has been itching at me as John Wayne may have said, “like a chigger under my skin”. For the longest time in the period after this show, I was too strung out most of the time to do anything with them and then for the period of time after that I inexplicably forgot about them, then finally after relaunching and restocking this site with old pics, the time is finally right a decade on for these to see the light of day.
Plan B is actually the brainchild of the guy in the background here, James van Leuven but obviously the standout performer for me was vocalist/accordionist Krista Warden who I’m sure has heard from many circles that she conjures up images of Iceland’s Mum in our heads.
Eerily haunting musically, and surrealistically theatrical visually, they put on a hell of a show that hopefully was seen by enough people that it deserved during their run as a band. Needless to say, this was one hell of a treat during my first CMJ as Pianos booker and makes me wonder why with shows like this to be so close to I ever bothered with all that other nasty stuff (oh, ‘cuz it was fun as hell for a while, I forgot!).