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This was once a palace of minerals

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Colorado mineral palace 1910s
Colorado mineral palace

Exterior of the Colorado Mineral Palace, c. 1920. Photo c/o Pueblo City-County Library Special Collections.

In 1889, the future seemed bright for Pueblo, Colorado. With three smelters and one steel mill, the mining industry had brought wealth to the rough and rapidly growing city, which saw itself developing into a major urban center. Part of fulfilling that promise was creating a splendid tourist attraction that would cement both Pueblo’s and Colorado’s status as a world cultural center. That attraction was the Mineral Palace, which exists today as only a vague memory encapsulating the best and the worst of Victorian Pueblo.

On July 6th, 1889, twenty men from Denver, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo met in secret in Manitou Springs to discuss forming a corporation. The corporation’s goal: to build a stunning exposition hall worthy of competition with London’s Crystal Palace. Who originally had the idea is unclear–some say it was General Robert A. Cameron, who founded Greeley Colony and Colorado Springs, and was one of the first wardens of Cañon City. But it was more likely William “Coin” Harvey who convinced the men to invest in the palace, whether it was his idea originally or not.

Harvey was an iconic western character who was always involved in shady enterprises. He moved to Pueblo in 1888, where he opened a real estate office–just one of a long line of businesses Harvey would start or get involved in during his lifetime. In addition to selling Pueblo real estate, he helped promote a sanatorium run by Dr. RW Corwin, whose claim to fame was “the elixir of life.”  This elixir was actually just water from Lake Minnequa, but Harvey claimed it could cure everything from chronic illness to psychosis (St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center now stands on the location of the former sanatorium).

colorado mineral palace interior

William Henry Jackson, one of the most famous photographers of the west, was either hired to photograph the Colorado Mineral Palace for promotional purposes, or came to Pueblo of his own accord. These photographs were likely taken shortly after the Palace opened in 1891. Photo c/o the Denver Public Library, Western History Collections.

Harvey believed Pueblo was going places–or, at the very least, he was going places and Pueblo could help him do it–and proposed to the twenty business men gathered on the neutral ground of Manitou that they should form a company for the building and management of a hall exhibiting all the treasures of Colorado–namely minerals pulled from mines. As several member of his audience were mine owners, this was sure to please. He suggested a budget of one hundred thousand dollars, and that the building be set on 40 acres north of Lake Minnequa (eventually the location was switched to a then-undeveloped part of town closer to the train depot, so as to make the Palace more accessible to tourists).

The original shareholders of the Palace were prominent businessmen, and not just on a local level. They included Benjamin Guggenheim, the father of Peggy Guggenheim who died aboard the RMS Titanic; the founder of the Rio Grande Railroad and the city of Colorado Springs, William Palmer; the original owner of the Brown Palace Hotel, Henry Brown; and Don Fletcher and “Chamberlain” from Denver. Other members included Harvey himself, of course; George Hobson; a Guggenheim mine manager by the name of CL Hill; George Parsons; Fred Barndollar; John Lavozey; and OHP Boxter and AJ McQuaid, who were both members of the socially prestigious Pueblo Club. Coincidentally, many of these men would start business or build in the area around Mineral Palace in the years to come.

Great building projects were hardly unusual in Pueblo at the time. Between 1888 and 1893, 3500 brick buildings were erected in Pueblo, and the city commissioned a number of nationally renowned architects to design them. These included the Pueblo Opera House, designed by Louis H. Sullivan, who is sometimes called the “father of modernism”; the Union Depot, designed by Frank V. Newell of Sprague & Newell; the Central Block, which was a five-story commercial building based on Chicago-style urban architecture; and the mansion of John Thatcher (now the Rosemount Museum), designed by Henry Hudson Holly and the largest home in Colorado at the time of its completion in 1893. Of all these buildings, however, the Colorado Mineral Palace was supposed to be the most impressive, garnering attention on a national level and promoting the riches of Colorado throughout the world.

colorado mineral palace interior

At its completion, the Colorado Mineral Palace was briefly the largest domed structure in the world. Photo c/o Pueblo City-County Library.

Thomas Nelson, the Colorado Mineral Palace Company’s secretary, put out a general call for Coloradoans to send samples of all the minerals in their areas so as to make the “collection as nearly exhaustive as possible.”  JP Morgan donated his entire personal collection of minerals for exhibition, and both Trinidad and Aspen promised to fund statues honoring coal and silver, respectively. These statues–King Coal and Queen Silver–would later be designed by Pueblo artist Hiram L. Johnson.

To house this grand collection, Pueblo needed an equally grand building, and put out a call to architects from all over the world. Yet the architect chosen was actually a resident of Pueblo. Otto Bulow, originally from Sweden, designed Routt Hall at Colorado State University, as well as other buildings in the state. Nothing he designed was as curiously fantastical as the Colorado Mineral Palace, however, which to modern eyes seems fascinatingly kitschy.

The exterior was “Egyptian” in style, surrounded by a colonnade and with four grand pillars at each corner, each holding a massive globe ten feet in diameter. The interior had an entrance hall that was 70 by 26 feet, which led into a formal interior 91 by 183 feet. Topped by a 72-foot tall dome, the Mineral Palace was the largest domed structure in the world at the time. Not content with just one large dome, however, there were 20 smaller domes as well, each 11 feet in diameter.

mineral palace stage

The stage of the Mineral Palace was designed to reflect “Rocky Mountain scenery.” Photo via the Colorado Historical Society.

To make the building even more grand, it was to be entirely coated, interior and exterior, in minerals. The interior was to be lit entirely by electric light and have 50 pillars that would double as viewing pilasters for the minerals. Finally, there was a stage with “appropriate Rocky Mountain scenery”–stalactites and stalagmites like a cave, with a small stream running behind. Beneath the great dome would be a “prismatic” fountain.

Why did Bulow choose such a complex design for the palace? Perhaps the mind behind the design wasn’t Bulow at all, but Harvey, who had a fondness for grandiose, ancient-style building projects. Later in his life, he built a resort in the Ozarks called Monte Ne, at the heart of which was a monumental pyramid commemorating–who else?–Harvey, as well as containing a library for the post-Apocalyptic generation. Fortunately, the Colorado Mineral Palace was simply overly ambitious and not as egomaniacal as Harvey’s pyramid. Not quite.

In any case, the project was quickly beset with problems. There was squabbling among the board members, and some suspicion that Secretary Nelson had “mishandled” the subscriptions. The company started to garner a bad reputation, so that many people–such as influential real estate developer SM Kirkland in Denver–denied involvement in the project.

king coal colorado mineral palace

King Coal as captured by William Henry Jackson, c. 1891. Photo c/o Denver Public Library, Western History Collections.

The anticipated date of completion came and went. The corporation had run through its money and, because of an economic downturn and the falling price of silver, raising more seemed impossible. After an infusion of cash from the city of Pueblo and a reorganization of the board with Benjamin Guggenheim as president, it was decided some serious cuts in the design of the building would have to be made: stone instead of brick, paint instead of minerals. The interior walls were painted terra cotta and gold, with “East Indian reliefs” (what this means is unclear) and a frieze of silver dollars surrounding the hall, along with coats of arms of all the US states and territories. 2200 electric lights burned in the hearts of painted flowers, and the smaller domes were painted with Colorado wildflowers and flowers from India. The great dome had putti figures and cameos of eight great Americans. No one knows who the eight great Americans were, but we do know they were nominated and selected by popular vote from across the country. Thomas Edison received the most nominations, but recused himself, saying he knew nothing about art.

But the real stars of the Mineral Palace were King Coal and Queen Silver. 14 feet high, dressed in a cloak of “dark minerals,” with “diamonds” (probably just glass) decorating his crown and coal topping his scepter, King Coal made his way into Trinidad cigar boxes but always played a dreary second to his glittering companion, Queen Silver.

According to legend, Queen Silver was made out of the largest nugget of silver ever pulled from the Gibson mine, which was made into her crown, her silver dollar-topped scepter, and her head with hair of white glass. Her gown was made of dark minerals, and she rode in a silver-covered combination chariot/barge. Her bust and arms were silver (or silver-coated, or tin coated), and she finished her ensemble with a scarf of blue crystal. After a brief appearance in the Mineral Palace for the grand opening, as seen in William Henry Jackson’s photographs, she traveled to Aspen. From there, she was sent to represent Colorado in the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, along with a jewel-encrusted miniature of the Mineral Palace created by Charles Otero.

queen silver colorado mineral palace

Queen Silver before she left Pueblo for the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, 1893. Photo c/o Denver Public Library, Western History Collections.

At the Columbian Exposition, the Silver Queen was more than just a pretty face—her real purpose in Chicago was revealed in the scroll in her lap that read, “Free Coinage,”  demonstrating a not-surprising loyalty to mine owners whose wealth was threatened by the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act. The act required the Federal Government to buy a certain amount of silver for coinage. But due to the Panic of 1893, President Grover Cleveland repealed it–the beginning of the end of the silver mining boom, just as the Columbian Exposition was the beginning of the end for the Silver Queen.

The statue remained in Chicago for a time after the World’s Fair closed, and when she finally came back to the Mineral Palace, the she was significantly altered. The stag on the prow of the Queen’s barge and the coins from the boys’ cornucopias were missing, and the Queen’s face and body didn’t look the same. Did the Silver Queen burn in one of the fires at the Columbian Exposition? Was she stolen, stripped for the silver? No one will ever know–the statue disappeared mysteriously after the Mineral Palace was destroyed, never to be seen again.

The fate of the Mineral Palace was no happier than that of the Silver Queen. Perhaps less, for there’s no mystery to add an air of intrigue to its inglorious demise. After a grand opening with parades, important guests, fireworks, and a fancy-dress ball that went on all night, financial troubles quickly revisited the company. The building had taken twice as long to complete and cost twice as much as originally anticipated. With the mining boom over, the optimism that had kept the Colorado Mineral Palace Company afloat was rapidly fading. Within a year the Palace was bought by the City of Pueblo at the company’s request, with a committee to direct it that read like a who’s who of Southern Colorado: William Palmer, Alva Adams, Andrew McClelland, and Mahlon Thatcher.

colorado mineral palace opening

Victorian Coloradoans turned out for an all-night-long grand opening and feast at the Palace in 1891. Photo c/o Pueblo City-County Library Special Collections.

For several years the Colorado Mineral Palace lured tourists to the city of Pueblo through the use of broadsheets and other promotional material. By 1927, however, the building was described as ramshackle. It was too expensive to keep up properly, or even heat (the designers had neglected to install windows, so it was always freezing). In 1938 and ’39, the WPA restored the building to its former glory, but by 1943 the city did a one-eighty and decided to tear it down completely for “the war effort” and public safety. All the minerals left in the building were liquidated for the sum total of eight hundred dollars, and the palace once called the eighth wonder of the world faded into memory.

The rise and fall of the Colorado Mineral Palace echoes the story of many Colorado towns that abruptly realized their limitations after a massive boom in the nineteenth century. What would we think of the Mineral Palace if it had survived the post-War boom? Would it be considered a monstrosity, or would it have fulfilled its promise as a treasure of Colorado, a monument to our state’s industrial roots and mining history? Perhaps the saddest thing about the Mineral Palace is that we’ll never know.

One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads or putting up restrictive paywalls and that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.

Arts & Culture

Acoustic heartbreak in the Colorado San Juans with John Statz

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John Statz by Veronica Holyfield

Songs about heartbreak should resinate. And with John Statz they do. They’re equally soft and striking.

His new full-length album “Darkness on the San Juans,” available May 11, takes an acoustic turn from his other recent work. Then, he had full bands in studios. With this project, he gathered a few friends in his living room to record.

Like heartbreak itself, the album is more personal, more raw and more intimate. The Wisconsin native who now calls Denver home said he hasn’t done something quite as stripped down in a while, and when it came to get back into songwriting after the release of his last album last summer, there was also a reason to write.

It was the aftermath of a breakup.

“We retrace our steps. We look at what we thought we knew. We ultimately discover and face the truth under the stories we told ourselves along the way,” he says of the album.

In addition to the post-love songs, the album features a few songs Statz previously worked on but didn’t have a place on an album, and songs that are meant to be more acoustic. “Presidential Valet” is the story of Armistead, President John Tyler’s valet, or slave, who died alongside seven others in an explosion after Tyler and members of cabinet were watching the firing of the “peacemaker” in 1844.

So, this album is about heartbreak. Did that change how you wrote or approached the album at all?

Yeah. It just kind of comes out more — I don’t know — when you’re writing about heartbreak it’s just seems like the easiest type of writing. It’s just pouring out of you. You don’t have to come up with a concept or a story or any of that.

In the bio you released ahead of this album, it references a pretty famous Ernest Hemingway quotation: “Write hard and clear about what hurts.” Maybe as a writer I hear about this all of the time, but there’s definitely a writing style associated with Hemingway — to write very concise and clear. Did you take any of that with you into the songwriting or was it all about the emotion?

You know, it was the emotion part. I didn’t think about that, but the songs are fairly concise and short. So I appreciate that might also be relevant there even though I didn’t intend that.

The title of this album is “Darkness on the San Juans.” Explain that a little bit.

It’s a line in the song “Highways.” Geographical references are all over my songwriting. On every album I’ve ever written. So it’s a song about driving places with someone and either ending up back at those places later and having other memories being their previously. The San Juans was one of those locations that was important.

Why do you think you end up writing about places so much?

I mean, an obvious answer is that I spend a lot of time driving around to gigs, and I’ve been a lot of places because of that. And just for fun. I love roadtripping around Colorado, and camping and that sort of thing. So it’s not a planned thing. I’m living and breathing this lifestyle from A to B to C and that infiltrates the writing. But also, it’s a convenient rhyming scheme. Sometimes it can be hard to find a word, but there’s usually a city that will fill in.

How long did it take you to finish this album, being that the concept is fairly raw?

It all happened pretty fast. The two non-heartbreak songs, “Presidential Valet” and “Old Men Drinking Seagrem’s,” were older. They’re social commentary tunes. But I just hadn’t recorded them to yet and I was waiting for an acoustic album to do that. I started writing in the summer. I decided in December to record them. I called my friend Nate, flew him out in January. And we recorded it in three days in my living room.

Had you recorded like that before?

It’s been a while, but yeah. My first couple albums that I made when I lived in Madison, Wisconsin, were like that: recorded at home and more stripped down with the production and just making use of what we had. The last three albums were full bands or went to a really professional studio. This is how I made records way back.

Why did you decide to do it this way?

The songs mostly had an acoustic feel, and I sing in my living room a lot. I have this open, high ceiling. So I play my guitar and sing in my living room a lot. I think it sounds cool in there. I thought we could make a cool recording there. I liked the idea of making this intimate album in my home. It was a comfortable, cozy way to make an album.

So everything about this album seems more intimate that what you’ve done in the last few years.
Yeah. Definitely. Everything is. There’s only four musicians on this album, and one of those is my roommate who did knee slaps.

I also noticed on the album credits was an oatmeal container.

So I bought a plastic egg shaker because I thought I maybe wanted to some percussion. But it just didn’t sound that cool. I was like, well we have oatmeal around the house. There wasn’t much left in one container and so we shook it and it was a way better shaker sound, you know?

The inspiration for these songs were the feelings that linger after a break-up. Was there a cut-off point there since emotions always evolve, especially in these instances?

It’s a process. A relationship ends and we all go through the phases. Months go by and you change how you feel. The me that wrote those songs and recorded them months back is a different person. I’ve evolved in the process.

Did you have to simmer to write these songs or was it immediate?

I wrote the first song like a month after. I was trying to write again because I write in cycles. I had just put out an album at the beginning of last summer and when I’m in album release mode I’m not writing as much. But when that’s over I want to write. This time I wanted to write again and I had a fresh reason. I find it a little uncontrollable. I’ve never not written about any breakup I’ve ever had. It’s just part of the territory of being writer. I haven’t written anymore since I wrote those. I’m in album-release mode. I think I decided I’m done with these songs on this album. That’s part of the reason why I wanted to get it out. This part of my life is completed and now I will write a bunch of songs about U.S. presidents or something like that.

I noticed on your social media you like presidential biographies.

Yeah, I do. My friend Jeffrey Foucault is a songwriter and he gave me a LBJ biography. I really liked it, so I thought I’d give George Washington a try and I just kept going.

How many are you up to?

I’m almost done with Grant, so 18.

So far do you have a favorite based off of biographies?

Grant has been really interesting. Lincoln was fascinating. Martin Van Buren. Great sideburns.

Back to the album. Do you think the listener can hear an evolution throughout the album?

Yeah, those songs were written at different times, so probably. I’d say it’s a snapshot of what somebody goes through, or at least what I went through. But I think what most of us go through after a breakup.I just think most people have been through it so I hope they can identify.

I just think most people have been through it so I hope they can identify.

You can purchase Darkness in the San Juans at johnstatz.com. 

One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads or putting up restrictive paywalls and that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.
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History

The Last Watchman: The lost story of Colorado’s worst train wreck

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The only reminder of one of the worst train wrecks in Colorado history is a weathered post with a small white sign that stands sentinel at the edge of an unassuming arroyo. It is cracked, and wrapped in barbed wire so you must stand very close to make out the fading words. “This historical marker is a tribute to author-historian Dow Helmers (1906-1976), author of THE TRAGEDY AT EDEN the story of Colorado’s most disastrous train wreck… ’” it begins.

In 1904, dirt roads may have been the main mode of travel, but they made going long distances impractical and often unpleasant, so the idea that a train could smoothly and quickly get you to your destination seemed an attractive choice for the regular traveler to take advantage of the special weekend rates.

The arroyo today. It was near bushes that probably looked a lot like this that Mayfield found the deceased Engineer Hinman after more searching. Many others were not as lucky to have been found. The Gartlands from Denver suffered profound losses. Kate Gartland and 4 of her 5 children were on the train. None survived and 9-year-old Walter was never found. (C.D. Prescott)

Nothing seemed out of the ordinary on that Sunday the 7th of August in 1904. A few scattered rain showers and even cloudbursts were often expected that time of year. The passenger train from Denver to Pueblo was running on schedule and ticket holders were gathering on the platform for their return trip home from their weekend jaunts.

The train was the No. 12 that had just made the trip from St. Louis to Pueblo where it picked up the dining car from the last southbound train and headed to Denver where it would be stocked, cleaned and staffed in preparation for the trip to Pueblo. Now that it would be heading south, it was redubbed the No. 11.

The No. 11 had seven cars including the engine. There was also a baggage car, a coach car, a chair car, two Pullman sleepers and the dining car. The well-regarded Henry Hinman would be the Engineer and his fireman would be David Mayfield. Both men were from Denver.

Passengers boarded and the No. 11 left the Denver station for its date with destiny on time at 5pm. It was in Colorado Springs that Hinman was given a bulletin order to use caution and watch for standing water. At least 50 more passengers also boarded. Many were headed for Pueblo but there were others that would be continuing on to further destinations.

Leaving the station about 5 minutes after the scheduled departure, Hinman carefully followed his orders and would eventually be running at least 15 minutes late. They were due in Pueblo at 8:15pm but were crossing Bridge 110-B over Hogan’s Gulch at almost 8:20pm at no more than 20 miles per hour.

The engine swayed to the sound of cracking timbers as Hinman eased the throttle forward hoping to quickly get to solid ground. The front had just reached the bank when it suddenly stopped, lurched backwards and began to slide into the churning waters below.

A panicked Mayfield managed to jump clear of the falling engine but after being struck by a timber from the bridge, he was washed downstream just far enough that when he crawled ashore, he was still able to see the train’s headlight shining into the sky. After searching and yelling for Hinman, to no avail, he made his way to the Eden Station for help.

Passengers that got out to investigate were immediately stunned to find that the engine, baggage, coach (smoker), and chair cars were gone. The bridge wasn’t simply empty as it was immediately apparent that it had also met the same fate. It was only the automatic air brakes that had kept the remaining cars from following suit.

Being the heaviest, the engine sank like a stone but the other three missing cars and their inhabitants tumbled in the rushing waters towards Fountain Creek. The angry waters smashed through glass and took lives quickly as they violently twisted the cars in an ultimate test of their very structure.

It was in this act of destruction that a few lucky survivors managed to find their escape. John Killin had to hold his breath as the car filled with water and it rolled with the current. He had just broken a window when the car collided with something and a large piece of the roof tore away.

Using the new exit, he was able to get out of the car and attempt a swim to shore. He was struck by a railroad tie and grabbed it for use as a floatation device. Falling from it a few times, he managed to find it again until he reached water shallow enough to wade to shore. Later, he would display the tie in his Pueblo store as he credited it to saving his life.

Henry Gilbert and Tony Fisher also managed to navigate their escape and the treacherous waters to find their way to shore where they met and immediately received medical attention. Rescue efforts started immediately as the water had already begun to recede and the first relief train took the survivors and the passengers from the remaining section of the train to Pueblo.

Men with lanterns rushed to try to find any other survivors. They lit fires along the shore for heat and light, but the searchers would have to wait for dawn before any real progress was made. Their rescue mission quickly became one of recovery and while they found most, they didn’t find everyone.

Word spread quickly that there had been an accident and it drew crowds wanting to help in the rescue efforts. It also brought looters that were willing to hunt for any bodies but only to relieve them of anything that they might be carrying of value. The macabre also arrived to spread blankets to picnic nearby as they watched the rescuers like they were attending a theater production.

The engine proved to be harder to recover than had been anticipated. The crane from Pueblo couldn’t handle the weight so a replacement from Salida had to be retrieved and that would take a little time. The bents from the new bridge were put in place while the engine still remained engulfed in the mud below.

The final death count had been 96. It would have been 97 if they had included Tony Fisher who survived the wreck but would die almost a month later from tetanus on September 1st from injuries related to the crash and his time in the water. The bridge was in place in time for the passenger train to run on schedule the next day.

At least 80 square miles of land used to drain through that arroyo but a better understanding of engineering and drainage improvements has changed that. Now water rarely flows through the dry ditch that was Hogan’s Gulch and when the sign was erected it wasn’t even called that anymore. It had been changed to Porter’s Draw as arroyos are usually named for the landowner.

Aside from what is left of the sign, there are no visible remnants of that fateful night. Even the replacement bridge has given way to the newer stronger, sleeker version to the east. The Eden train station has been moved and was used as a personal residence for a bit. Only the sign remains, but local lore claims that on cloudy nights, the lights from long gone lanterns bob in the distance along the banks searching for the lost to at last bring them home.

One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads or putting up restrictive paywalls and that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.
Continue Reading

Arts & Culture

Soul mates: An interview with Colorado’s in/Planes

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I feel the need to take a quick second to clear something up—I watched the band in/PLANES get married. Not for this article, mind you; the ceremony was years ago. I have been friends with musical and otherwise soulmates Inaiah Lujan and Desirae Garcia for over a decade at this point (due in no small part I’m sure to our mutual enthusiasm and passion for local music). As a result, I have had the opportunity to bear witness as not only their music but also relationship has burst and bloomed into multiple amazing endeavors. Whether it was their passionate and spirited take on Dustbowl-era Americana as members of folk revivalists the Haunted Windchimes or the wonderfully intimate lo-fi solo albums the both of them have released over the years, these two have a continually impressive musical output and a charm that I have always been excited to delve into. Hell, they even played in my basement once upon a time.

But none of them have struck me quite the same way as in/PLANES has. “Radio Wave,” their first full-length offering via Denver indie record label GROUPHUG, is something altogether different; something wondrously unique. It could be their voices. THOSE voices—honeyed and harmonious—especially whilst entwined in the duets that frequent the songs of in/PLANES. It could be the melodies they create—a riding-high blend of 50’s sha-la-la doo-wop, 60’s sunshine pop and indie-birthed soul—that feels distinctly pop without the trappings of sounding glossy or over-produced. Where tons of modern indie acts are ready to make a loud racket, in/PLANES instead opts to let the grooves play out sparsely and intimately, with inviting musicianship and vocal performances that envelop the space surrounding them. Whether live in concert or in the car, the music of in/PLANES holds on tightly and never lets go.

PULP: It’s weird trying to formally interview you guys; being friends makes it weird to ask you questions in a regular way.

Inaiah Lujan (guitar/vocals): That’s okay.

Desirae Garcia (bass guitar/vocals): We’ll be semi-formal.

IL: Business casual. (laughs)

I did do some research though, and I realized that in/PLANES has been around for longer than I remembered. But this new album is your first full length?

IL: Yeah. This is our first formal release that isn’t an EP. And also first physical release. There is some intention with that. You know that we are champions of analog stuff; Cassette tapes are my first love; I grew up making mixtapes. And CD’s have always felt pointless to me, but for so long we played the game because you used to HAVE to have CD’s on the merch table. But this band has been pretty vocal about our disdain for CD’s; “Radio Wave” is only going to be available on cassette. You’ll get a digital download with purchase of the tape.

Speaking of which, what does the name “Radio Wave” mean in regard to the band?

DG: It’s a line from the song “Why Didn’t You,” a song that is actually not on the record. (laughs). But it’s the very first in/PLANES song we ever wrote. We wrote that song, and it felt like it was part of a totally different project; it felt different than anything we were doing. So maybe it’s a nod to the beginning of the project. We like to think of the song as kind of a breadcrumb to where we are at now.

IL: The benefit of this band is getting to take our time with things; to be more intentional. So now we have been releasing stuff retroactively. The EP we released just last month is stuff we had recorded from our apartment; “Radio Wave” is stuff we put together with Adam Hawkins from Right Heel Music and our drummer Carl Sorensen, and we already have another album in the works.

For me, it also has dual meaning; in/PLANES seems to always create this kind of duality. “Radio Wave” also musically reminds me of when people were only listening to the radio. It kind of plays to idea of this vintage-pop genre we’re kind of going with.

DG: That’s also the music that this record is really inspired by.

IL: The EP feels like kind of a sampler or mixtape for what we’re all about, but this full length is more focused; a little more of that classic pop sound. It’s a fitting title for sure.

DG: Also it’s 1,000,000% love songs; which is bad and good. (laughs)

When you wrote “Why Didn’t You,” did it feel like a song intentionally for a new project?

IL: I think it just presented itself that way; I had been toying around with some chords, and I had been trying to write a song and I didn’t know where to start with melody or lyrics, so I had Desi help me out and it came together really quickly.

In doing so, we realized that we hadn’t collaborated in that way with just the two of us since the beginning of the Haunted Windchimes. At that point, the ‘Chimes had already become four contributing songwriters and had developed a strong formula; in that way it felt like not exactly a departure, but something new that we could try and explore on our own.

DG: It came out really naturally and organically. And it didn’t fit anywhere, either with the ‘Chimes songs or solo songs.

Do you feel like fans of the ‘Chimes and your solo efforts are following you down this path?

IL: I think so. We are all taking a break with the ‘Chimes for now, but we haven’t officially announced that to our fans, so sometimes we’ll get messages asking where we’ve been and why haven’t they heard any news about the band. So maybe some people are a little resistant to it. I don’t know.

DG: It sounds different enough so that some people aren’t going to be into it, which is okay. The other day, someone left a comment on the Windchimes Facebook page asking about us, and another person commented back saying “you should check out in/PLANES and (Haunted Windchimes member Mike Clark’s) the River Arkansas” and the first person commented back “We just like ‘Chimes’ style music,” which is okay! You don’t have to follow us everywhere.

IL: The great thing about being an artist and a musician is the ability to shift gears and follow rabbits down different holes. And with in/PLANES, we’re already trying to get out of our own box and comfort zone. But the common thread that ties it all is that we write all of the songs together, and we wear our influences on our sleeves.

So if you had to explain what you think in/PLANES sounds like, what would you say?

DG: That is my least favorite question, because it’s so hard to explain. The shortcut i usually go for is throwback, vintage pop with some rock tendencies. And if they’re listening after that, then I’ll just keep talking until they walk away, because it’s so difficult to answer.

But like to go with vintage-pop, because if someone says rock & roll, I don’t feel attached to that. We write pop music; all the formulas, the lack of formulas…

IL: It does feel like something you would turn on the radio and hear in the 50’ or 60’s to me, but our modern influences still sneak in; we’re both big fans of hip-hop and country music, and it all gets in one way or another.

DG: Digital drums are where we lose a lot of people. They’re like “WHAT? Is that a digital drum?” And I’m like, “Yup, it is.” (laughs) It’s those 808 beats.

The electronics are really subtle in your songs though.

IL: I think so too. I think we just want to be able to write a song without putting it in a box, you know? But at the same time, making sure to trim all of the fat; which may be contradictory.

We’re not trying to write complex songs. I don’t like to have any rules, but I do like to set limitations on myself; almost like limiting your color pallette if you’re a painter.

DG: Not to be pigeonholed, but also maintain some cohesion. Present yourself in a way people can understand. I don’t like to tell people what genre of music we are, but it is helpful for us; it makes us more focused.

IL: Knowing where the line or limitation is and knowing how far we can push it over causes a tension we like to work under. It’s good tension.

DG: You can’t put me in a box—only I can put me in a box!

“Radio Wave” from in/PLANES is out 5/3 on cassette via GROUPHUG records, with a slew of release shows and a digital release to come soon thereafter. For full dates and info, head to inPlanes.com

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