Just recently we had the fun of exploring Mechanics of Life, the new album from London alt indie trio Plastic Barricades, finding it a ‘collection of melody spun songs which entice with craft and warmth’. Offered the chance to get to the core of album and band we had the pleasure of quizzing Dan Kert, the Plastic Barricades vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist and one of the band’s founders, exploring the heart of their writing, sound, and album amongst many things…
Hi Dan, can you first introduce the band and give us some background to how it all started?
I had several different line-ups under Plastic Barricades moniker over the good part of the last decade, the current line up with Daniele Borgato on bass and Frazer James Webster on drums is active for 4 years. We’ve met through mutual friends at the ICMP (Institute of Contemporary Music Performance) in North-West London and dived straight into gigging and recording.
Have you been or are involved in other bands before? If so has how has that impacted on what you are doing now?
We’ve all played in different bands before, still mainly rock music. All those experiences definitely find their way into our current sounds, helping us to explore new territories.
What inspired the band name?
We’ve once built a fort out of plastic cups in the studio, the rest is history….
Was there any specific idea behind the forming of the band and also in what you wanted it and your sound to offer?
[The] Desperate need to write, record, and perform music. You cannot really do it on your own, unless you are called Ed.
Do the same things and desires still drive the band from when it was fresh-faced or have they evolved over time?
Pretty much…We are in a band because we always wanted to be in a band. But we’ve learned a lot of life lessons along the way and try to find fresh angles to approach certain things, like tour booking, recording or songwriting, for example.
Since those early days, how would you say your sound has evolved?
This is very hard for us to judge. But if you go to our website (http://www.plasticbarricades.eu/ ) you can hear everything we’ve ever released over the last 10 years, there is a lot of diversity in there.
Would you say your sound organically grows and evolves or moves more because the band deliberately goes out to try new things?
I would say it’s both. We all tend to get bored very quickly, so we do like to experiment. At the same time we are growing as musicians and people, so that reflects in the music for sure.
Presumably across the band there is a wide range of inspirations; are there any in particular which have impacted not only on the band’s music but your personal approach and ideas to creating?
Kurt Cobain and his sincerity definitely had a big impact on me personally and on PB as a band. But also the staggering emotional intent of The Shins, Death Cab for Cutie, Razorlight, Coldplay, Muse, Biffy Clyro and others.
How does the songwriting process work within the band?
There are two main approaches…record the jam, then edit the bits we like and rework them into a song. This is how several songs on Mechanics of Life LP were conceived. But most of the time it is a chord progression and a vocal melody with lyrics. The song has a title and the meaning well before it is finished musically.
Where do you, more often than not, draw the inspirations to the lyrical side of your songs?
The world around us has so many inspiring and thought-provoking stories, that all you have to do is just let them in, absorb and breathe them into songs. But some songs of the Mechanics of Life album have been inspired by the genius of Hemingway, Orwell, Huxley, Murakami and others.
Could you give us some background to your new album?
Mechanics of Life, released digitally worldwide on the 14th of September, is a culmination of about 3 years of work in our backyard Shed Studio. It is a collection of 11 stories that take the listeners through the world we live in today, gently poke them and ask them to step up their game, go out and make a difference. Like our dear Dani (bass guitar) once said – “Humans didn’t come with a manual, so we came up with one“.
How about a closer insight to the themes behind it and its songs?
The album starts with the song we usually end our gigs with called How Goldfish Grow. It is based on a simple fact that if you take a goldfish and you find a big tank for it – it will grow BIG! The environment affects the size of the goldfish, the same way as our environment affect our own growth. There is a funny animated music video for this song on our YouTube channel. Then we sing about artificial intelligence helping humans get their s**** together (Singularity-2045), being able to reinvent yourselves again and again (Our Favourite Delusions), caring about the environment and throwing all the mindless consumerism away (Be the Change), looking back and overthinking it instead of moving forward (Around the Sun), searching for meaning (Needles in Haystacks), shining a light to show others the way (Shine!), finding the one intended for you (Half of your Soul), Big pharma conspiracy (Medicine Man) and mental illness (Voices). The last song of the LP – Masterminds – kind of summarises the whole experience, reminding everyone that they are the ones responsible for the things happening around them – and they can take back control!
Are you a band which goes into the studio with songs pretty much in their final state or prefer to develop them as you record?
We usually have basic parts in place (guitars, bass, drums, vocals) but we do add textures and layers on the go, depending on what the actual song needs. It is interesting how different the same song can sound live vs. recorded. We try to work with the recording, giving the song everything it deserves. Sometimes it is pretty hard to figure those things out, so this arrangement process can take months.
Tell us about the live side to the band, presumably a favourite aspect to the band?
We try to gig as much as we can, playing shows all around the country. I believe that any band needs to go through a lot of Level 1 gigs before they will be capable of playing bigger stages and appreciating the unique opportunities they are getting. It is like building a structurally solid house from the ground up – you can only start working on interior design when the rest is in place. Unlike so many other bands, each gig we tell stories, because we want our audience to think about certain things, then come home, go to sleep and wake up with this brilliant idea, maybe a purpose, maybe just a promise to oneself. Our gigs are less about drinking and jumping around and more about the inner dialogue.
It is not easy for any new band to make an impact regionally let alone nationally and further afield. How have you found it? Are there definitely the opportunities to make a mark if the drive is there for new bands?
I do believe that nothing worth doing in life is ever easy. Music needs to come from the heart. You also need people around you with big hearts and bright shining eyes. Then even if you are lost in the dark, they will illuminate the way. It is not easy at all – but it is still the best job in the world!
How has the internet and social media impacted on the band to date? Do you see it as something key to increasing success with those which fail to make it work are simply lacking the knowledge and desire to keep it working to their advantage or is it ultimately more of a curse?
Knowledge is key obviously. My friend was recently talking to me about SEO (Search engine optimization). For years I thought that is all about putting the right keywords to the right articles. It is so so so much more than that. Internet is a vice and a virtue, and it all depends on whether a band can accept that all that social media work is part of the deal. You can write brilliant songs and even record them nicely, but if you need to share them with the world – you have to work very hard for it.
A big thanks Dan for sharing your time with us; anything you would like to add or reveal for the readers?
It is a very special time in Plastic Barricades camp. Our Mechanics of Life album finally came out and we will be touring UK on and off till the end of October. We will be very happy to see you guys there! Meanwhile, here are all the links:
And here is how a goldfish can conquer the world: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYpBYXMzwOg
Mechanics of Life album OUT on iTunes and Spotify on the 14th of September!
You can hear the album here: https://open.spotify.com/album/71tNyY0qX5fNgTsoXD0r3t
You can download our full press-kit with 320kbit mp3s, artwork, lyrics and HQ pictures at https://goo.gl/ogBdjm
Tour dates: http://www.plasticbarricades.eu/index.php/live
Check out our Plastic Barricades album review @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2017/09/26/plastic-barricades-mechanics-of-life/
Pete RingMaster 28/09/2017
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