Monday, 23 April 2012

An Interview with My Plastic Sun.

My Plastic Sun is a 3 piece psychadelic rock band from Rochester NY. Formed less than a year ago, founding members Roy (drums, samples, backing vox) and Johnny (lead singer, pianist and guitarist) recruited guitarist Sam a few months after. After online exposure of their haunting rock ballad "Give it All Away" gained them an online fanbase, I finally managed to catch up with them to find out a bit more about this mysterious trio.

Me: How do you all know each other? Is this current line-up the original one?

Sam: We all had played in the studio together, and knew each other from bands around town. The original line up started as Roy and Johnny in the studio, and then they were smart enough to add me a few months ago.

The band's been together a matter of months. That's not a long time at all, yet you seem to have already built up a fanbase online... did the band gig a lot when you started out?

Roy: Well... We started in the studio because of our shared interest in music. And, being that we're basically brand new and getting songs together, our debut gig is May 4th.

To new listeners, I would describe your music as atmospheric, emotional post-rock, if I was feeling particularly aloof and pretentious that day, and I would definately recommend you to fans of slightly "progressive" and "intelligent" rock music like Deerhunter and Radiohead... would you say these are fair recommendations? Are you fans of music like that?

Roy: Yeah, we like a lot of ambient modern indie bands, as well as major acts like Radiohead. But... I also love the great writers from the 60's, like Bacarach, The Beatles, and Brian Wilson
Johnny: Yeah, some of my favorite music has really catchy melodies, and is typically really hooky, and when you dissect them you get to see how well put together it is.
Sam: I like pretty much all the music I get to hear, but there is definitely something about My Plastic Sun that keeps me super interested, especially when Johnny sings to us.

The sixties melodies definately show in the vocal melodies, the airy vibe of "Give it All Away" in Johnny's voice especially. Do you have any singers that inspired you particularly Johnny?

Johnny: Definitely influenced by the Beatles early on in my life, and in particular, McCartney's vocal inflections wore off on me. Later on I was def' influenced by Thom Yorke.

Some might say you sound like Thom Yorke without marbles in his mouth.

Johnny: That's because I spit them out before each take.

Despite the intelligent rock label I'm unfairly putting on you, there are multiple sides to your music, most noticably an emotional side and a rocking side. To a new listener, "Give it All Away" could almost be by a different band to "Silicone Junkie". How would you catagorize the band? Or would you at all?

Johnny: generally  we're a psychedelic melodic rock band, however we dont liked to feel boxed in musically. Much like the Beatles Albums, we like to explore a wide range of things, depending on what inspires us. The song "House of Fun" is very bouncy and upbeat, whereas Silicon Junkie is slicing and aggressive, and a song like "Falling Awake" is lush with an emphasis on melody.
Roy: Yeah, exactly... Always intrigued by The White album, and a writer and band that would put "I Will" and "Helter Skelter" or "Julia" and "Yer Blues" on the same disk... Why not?

One thing I admire about you as a band is the songwriting, which is of a standard that I personally thing is incredibly rare in the current music industry, where fitting into a scene seems more important than writing a good song regardless of genre. The referencing of the Beatles is certainly clear, My Plastic Sun's songs have a timeless quality to them. As a band, do you share the songwriting duties or is there on key member who writes all your material?

Roy: Initially, Johnny and I co-wrote everything. Now with Sam in the band, we are writing a lot more as a band. Silicone Junkie represents a collective band effort.

Did you bring some kick ass riffs with you when you came then Sam?

Sam: I'd like to think they were pretty kick ass.
Roy: He better have a lot more in him.

I would hazard a guess that Silicone Junkie is the most fun to play. What inspired that song?

Johnny: I don't know what inspired it musically aside from just riffing around.
Roy:  Lyrically it's kind of fun filled paranoia.

Where do you take inspiration to write lyrics from?

Roy: Always from personal experience some of it psychedelic, some of it literal, some of it metaphorical... We all like to read a lot.

What do you mean by psychedelic experience?

Roy: In America, the proper response is "I plead the 5th"
Johnny: Let's just say that too much cough syrup is never a good thing.

"Give it all away" was obviously the first song to gain you attention, and the first song I personally heard and was blown away by. Is that a particularly personal one?

Johnny: Yeah it's reflective, of the human journey.
Roy: Without getting too deep, there's a zen buddhist philosophy that underlies the lyrical intentions.

Go on, humour me.

Roy: Well, musicially, the song was a real challenge to record, with over 120 tracks, the majority of them played by Johnny, and programmed by me. Lyrically, it's very straight forward and direct.
Johnny: I think it's reflective of everything that you don't need in life. And that the only thing that truely exists is the present moment.

You recently filmed a video for the song. Who directed it? Did it reflect the message of the song well?

Roy: It was directed by the Olson brothers, who were a blast to work with, and super talented. We gave them complete artistic control of the scripting and vision for direction of the video. We felt really lucky that they would choose to work with us. The outcome was beautiful, but really their creation.

It's got a very "magical" and otherworldly feel, it feels quite escapist, as does the song it's for. Are there any more videos in the pipeline?

Roy: There are some live videos coming up in the next couple of months. And actually, a live performance by Johnny on the acoustic piano of Falling Awake to be posted in a week or so.

Now My Plastic Sun is a very deep, meaningful band with a skill in the long forgotten art of songcraft and a philosophical lyrical outlook... but there must be some bad taste amoungst the three of you somewhere, some bizarre influence...

Sam: I have a cover of a Ke$ha song online.*

...and there it is.

Johnny: I kinda dig Journey.

Who doesn't?

Roy: I like Procol Harum and Cormac McCarthy's writing.

I think yours are pretty lame Roy. I was hoping you were a Kylie Minogue superfan, but alas.

Roy: Honestly, I have no freaking idea who Kylie Minogue is, but I can sing for you the entire Procol Harum first album from start to finish.

I had a feeling after I wrote that you'd say that. She's freaking massive over here in the UK. I keep forgetting how damn big and, y'know, non-UK the US is.

Roy: Yeah, after Americans missed out on Marc Bolan, it's gotten worse ever since.
Johnny: I've been known to rock out to the Ting Ting's "Thats not my name"

Anything else you need to exorcise? 

Roy: I will not exorcise my demons, just hug them...
Johnny: I would now like to plug my new cook book. But we can rain check.


Johnny: Only kidding.

 - Interviewed by Joe Copplestone, 01/04/12

Get in touch with My Plastic Sun at the following links. 

Don't forget to catch their debut gig at Sticky Lips in Rochester NY on May 4th!

(*Unfortunately, Sam has asked me not to post the link)

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