Plain White T’s are back with a new (but familiar) label home and a new music video for latest single “Land of the Living” — and it’s premiering exclusively on Billboard below.
The process behind creating the video began back in August, when Project Greenlight Digital Studios opened a competition for fans and aspiring directors to pitch their ideas. Submissions came flooding in, but one person who stood out to the band in particular was filmmaker Melanie D’Andrea, who thought it would be relevant and exciting to combine the theme of unachieved dreams with the latest hype of virtual reality.
The final video follows an Army veteran who lives in a nursing home where the residents use virtual reality to experience the lives they wish they had. One woman dreamt of dancing flamenco and a group of guys always hoped to be a band they call… Plain White T’s. The veteran, in particular, uses the technology to live his lifelong dream of performing as a drag queen. He soon breaks away from the nursing home and lives out his drag fantasy — this time in real life.
“The video is set in a place that we feel is a place of no return, a place of lost hope,” D’Andrea said of her winning idea. “If in this place, great changes and magic can happen — then what are we all waiting for?”
Watch the video premiere below:
“Land of the Living” marks Plain White T’s’ return to their original record label, Fearless Records — home of breakthrough hit “Hey There Delilah” — though the new song’s full-band sound is a departure from the acoustic love ballad that put them on the map.
The band left Fearless and signed with Hollywood Records in 2005, which was the right career move at the time, frontman Tom Higgenson tells Billboard. Eight years later, the relationship with Hollywood Records soured. “With majors, it’s all about the bottom line. Even though we had a big hit with every album we put out for them, for whatever reason, it was like, ‘This quarter, it doesn’t make sense. We’ve got Selena Gomez out,’ or whatever it was. It was a bummer that fell apart.”
In 2015, Plain White T’s self-released American Nights, an album that wasn’t as successful as the ones in the past — or a “disaster,” as Higgenson put it. That’s when the band knew they had to return to the label that fell in love with their music in the first place. “[Going back to Fearless] really was like going back to the people you know believe in you, and they got your back no matter what,” he says.
Fearless President Bob Becker was just as thrilled to have the band back home. “The Plain White T’s have not only have been one of the most successful bands ever on Fearless but the most hard-working, humble and nicest bands to work with,” he tells Billboard. “When we saw that they where interested in working with us again, we jumped at the chance.”
Higgenson says the band’s success is more than releasing the same kind of song they’ve put out in the past. “What we really think is that people don’t want to just hear us with an acoustic guitar. They just want to hear us do something that connects with them, whether it’s to a piano or guitar or full band — whatever. As long as you’re speaking something they can relate to and they can feel like they’re being understood, that’s our job.”
As for the future of Plain White T’s, Higgenson says the band is back and better than ever.
“I feel like I’m writing some really great songs, and I feel like the band is super energized. Everything is feeling fresh again, which is hard to believe when you’ve been a band for 20 years. I’m really believing in a lot of these songs I’m writing, and I’m ready to make another great Plain White T’s album.”