Having gone quietly about their business since their 2013 inception, Melbourne-based Plastic have moulded their emotionally hard-hitting rock into something a little more eclectic. On their debut LP, New Hands, the five-piece present a kaleidoscope of groove-centric rock imbued with colourful electric embellishments, catapulting the listener through assorted realms on every track. With New Hands only a day old, we spoke with vocalist/ guitarist Louis McDonald about its formation.
With four of the five members hailing from New Zealand, McDonald and co. cast off for Melbourne in 2013 to chase music upon the dawning of their adulthood. Meeting Lewis Coleman (keys and vocals) upon their arrival, the band was born from their deeply moving debut EP, Nightmares; “We were all friends who played together and it just went from there. We ended up crystallising Plastic around our first EP and I feel like we’ve developed a lot since then”.
The transition into more experimental rock on their 2017 sophomore EP, Air Conditioning paved the way for what was to serve as the core sound for New Hands. Catalysed by McDonald wanting to move beyond his comfort zone; “I definitely feel like I’ve grown to want to do stuff a bit more exploratory and energetic. I always wanted to be in a kickin’ rock band but I was making a lot of music with feeling that was a bit more touchy-feely. It was a different time back then and I just didn’t want to fall back on that”, the band’s collective drive to tread new territory helped cement the move; “It can be cathartic to do heartfelt stuff but we’ve always had this carrot dangling in front of us about wanting to push stuff a bit more or push ourselves a bit more or just try something new”.
Album Opener ‘I Could Be Here All The Time’ is a perfect litmus test for noting Plastic’s progression. The woozy, slacker anthem bears an underlying tension that bubbles away before revealing itself in a chromatic verse; “It has this sense that the whole harmony is becoming completely unstable as the vocal keeps doing the same thing”. When paired with its opening and chorus lyrics, McDonald manages to maintain ambiguity whilst giving the listener colours to paint their own scene; “I started the lyrics for this song with what seemed like an interesting metaphor for something. Because you don’t know what IT is but it tastes like caramel and it feels like satin sheets. Then the main lyric, “I could be here all the time” keeps repeating as the tones around it change and you don’t really know in what way it’s being said. It’s like looking at an escher cube”.
Another track which evidences thematic development is ‘Safer With A Gun’. Bearing dark sentiments in the cloak of classic punk rock, McDonald takes a jab at those who bear firearms with a hero-complex; “It was funny to write a song about something ludicrous like feeling safer with a gun. Thinking that by taking the gun to the supermarket and shooting someone that you could be the hero. It feels funny because when would anyone non-ironically write a song like that?”. More oddities are involved on the frenetic grunge groover ‘Baby Steps’. Among the thunderous crash of guitars and cymbals lies a vocal synth the feels perfectly suited to help warp the soundscape; “I did it as kind of a joke. It’s not something I’d done or ever thought I’d do but its essentially a voice synth where I typed in the lyrics I wanted and cut them so the phrasing and the length of the syllables were right”.
Recorded at the band’s studio loft in Collingwood which they share with Karate Boogaloo (from which Henry Jenkins engineered and mixed their album), the fact it was composed over four weekends between 2017 and 2019 means there’s no solid compositional rule or routine for Plastic; “Every song is a different challenge. It always feels like you’re trying to learn to write a song again when you start a new one”. With instrumental ‘Container’ and the minimalist arrangement of ‘Grey Goo’, the next voyage for the group appears to be grounded in getting more out of less; “I really like instrumental stuff. I like how you can put all these symbols together and you start to see aspects of that instrumental in other songs on the record. I want to move towards more lyrically limited stuff where the vocals only play a supporting role. It’s hard but it’s also quite a burden to have to write 20-plus words over a 3-chord progression”.
Having performed recent livestreams with Isol-Aid and Leaps and Bounds Festival, McDonald imparts an appreciation for the experience, albeit with mixed feelings derived from doing them; “It was a cool opportunity but it’s really bizarre to be sitting in your room and talking into your camera with no feedback”. As a self-expressed introvert, time away from gigs has been a reprieve from the stresses associated with them; “I’m really happy being alone so I’m not bothered by not playing gigs. It’s totally fun, it’s just that we don’t make money from doing it and I’m not a hugely social person and all the organisational stuff can be a bit taxing. I more just wanna jam with people”.
Content with grinding out their own pathway, the quality of their latest record bears the weight of newfound potential. However, McDonald remains grounded in the reality of his time spent doing what he loves with expectations for success set at self-fulfilment and progress; “I’ve never been too daunted until this year. We’ve had our eyes set on being established enough to play regularly and have enough people come to shows but we’re not even there yet really. It’s always been a grind but we’ve never expected too much from it. We’ve just tried to work as hard as we can on our music and go from there”.