Interview: Plush Finds Their Sound in Common Ground

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From left: Sinclair, Dylan, Eva, and Karli

We sat down with Plush in the Richmond area of San Francisco to catch up with the band ahead of their Noise Pop debut.

Plush came together as a group of friends with the desire to make something new, or something different, outside of their respective bands. Eva (guitar) and Sinclair (bass), both active members of The She’s, joined forces with Karli (vocals/guitar) and Dylan (drums) with the goal of starting a band, but without knowing exactly where it would head. Fast forward months later, and they’ve found themselves supporting Ringo Deathstarr at Bottom of the Hill for Noise Pop 2016. They released Pine last year, and recently wrapped up their first Pacific Northwest Tour, which surpassed their expectations in terms of success and support. They inform me that more good news is on the way, but we’ll have to hang tight until later this week.

We met outside of Simple Pleasures, then found ourselves tucked away in a chilly alley for a discussion on how Plush has developed their sound, their reflections on their recent tour, and their thoughts on being part of this year’s Noise Pop lineup.

When did Plush get started?

Karli: Around October of last year. In terms of having this lineup [of members] and having something to put out.

Dylan: Eva and I became really close and started sharing music. We both wanted to make music that was in line with what we listen to, and we couldn’t do it with our respective projects, so Eva and I wrote half of a song, then we recorded it on Garageband. We convinced Sinclair to play bass. Then Eva and I were hanging out and we get a text from Karli saying ‘I want to start a band.’

Karli: It was this big ‘Aha’ moment. Like, why did we not think of it before?!

Dylan: She was like, ‘I want it to sound like this, and this, and this’—Eva and I were literally saying the same thing.

Karli: I always wanted to branch out and do something different. I had all these demos and was like ‘it doesn’t have to sound like this, just imagine in it in the context of what we had talked about’ and then it just blossomed.

Sinclair: We just kept sending demos to each other and recording over them, and sending them back. And we were like, I think we got something.

Karli: It just clicked. It seemed like right after we released these tape demos,  everyone really cared about it. So then we felt like we had to start playing shows. It all happened very naturally.

So if Plush is more aligned with your music interests, what bands and artists would that refer to? 

K: Thinking back on the span of our friendship, before we were in a band, I think we all had our little paths that we went down in terms of music interests. A lot of 90s music—like Built to Spill, Pavement. I know we’re all super into Sports right now.

S: Alex G, too.

K: Our inspiration came from 90s shoegaze, but I think that we took it in a different direction. These are bands that we all had in common, but we’re not trying to emulate them in our music.

D: The goal was never to…god, I hate shoegaze. I hate that term.

K: But it helped us find the same niche in our music interests. I was raised by a jazz musician so I come from a lot of old jazz, swing, and blues.

D: We all come from super different backgrounds. I grew up listening to a lot of hardcore. My dad is from England so I grew up on all the English Creation bands and he listened to a lot of soul music. I got into a lot of hip hop and R&B.

How would you describe your music? I know you call it “sob rock…” which I think makes sense.

K: We didn’t know what to say…

D: For shows, they always ask what genre your music is…we don’t want to be pidgeonholed into a genre.

S: Stuff is either too broad or too specific, and sometimes its just not any of that.

D: I’m amazed that sob rock still follows us.

K: It was in the moment– I just said it as a joke and it stuck. It’s in all our write ups and interviews, and I mean, we write sad fuckin’ songs. You’re not going to see us at a show and feel sad, you’re going to be like boppin’ around. Like its a rock show, people aren’t going to be sobbing.

D: It’s also another way of saying emo…me and this guy Sean Paulson, who works at Different Fur, want to start DJing an emo night.

People love that stuff. Are you still recording music at Different Fur?

K: We recorded Pine there, which was our first formal release.

D: And then we did some stuff in November that will be announced in like four days. Can’t talk about it just yet…

K: We have a really good relationship with Different Fur because of Eva and Sinclair with the She’s.

S: We’ve been recording there for a long time, since we were sophomores in high school.

K: Patrick is the lead engineer and someone that we feel extremely comfortable with, and who just kind of understands us.

S: He’s been so supportive and always asks us for suggestions for bands to play shows.

K: In terms of the future, we don’t have a vision for recording again with them yet.

D: I can’t see us not recording there. We wouldn’t exist without Different Fur. They’re one of the best things about playing music here.

“We just can’t seem to eradicate gender from music. If someone is good at what they do, it shouldn’t matter.”

It’s really cool that you made that connection with them so early. How was your recent west coast tour?

S: It was pretty successful. We played a lot of house shows, which is more of what we did when we went to southern California, but they were all very well run. People came out and they all paid us–which we weren’t expecting. It pretty much covered gas and everything.

K: Dylan was really sick, we both got the flu and then everyone else had sinus infections. We were in a van with eight people…

D: We went on tour with our friends’ band Pardoner.

K: They’re like our best friends. But being sick the whole time, I know that I was extremely negative, but my take away is that the van didn’t break down, the van didn’t get broken into, and all of the shows were great.

D: We played a show in Bellingham and that was like the craziest thing. We had an off date so we set something up there. We played at this place called Karate Church—it’s a 120-year-old building. It was a church and then a self defense space.

S: Then like ten minutes before the show started, all these kids came.

K: This kid came up to me, shook my hand and said, “thank you, I’ve been waiting two weeks for this” and then another girl, probably like 18, told me “having a band like yours with female musicians come play is important to me.” And then I was like, ‘this is the most supportive show that we’ve had.’ In seemingly the middle of nowhere, people were excited about us. So gracious.

D: One of the best experiences.

S: In San Francisco there are so many shows all the time. People have so much access to shows that they’re like ‘okay, cool.’ They don’t get that excited.

D: A lot of places are 21 and up, and if I didn’t have access to shows growing up, I probably wouldn’t be playing music. Like, you never see kids at shows. At many of the spots on tour, a lot of kids came out and some were as young as 14. It was a nice reminder that spaces like that exist.

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Going off of what that girl said to you about female musicians playing music, do you feel like you’re surrounded by female artists around the bay?

K: Yeah, I think there is an increasingly growing supportive community, but we still have a lot of time until it’s level playing ground. I met Eva and Sinclair…well, so I saw Mac Demarco my sophomore more year at [SF] State before I even met them, and they’re were opening for him as the She’s. I went by myself and you guys were playing, and I was like ‘woah, all-girl band.’ Which, is such an ignorant thing to say, but I thought it was so cool as someone that’s only done acoustic stuff by myself—that was really inspiring, like I could see myself doing that. Then I really met them two years later. I think there are more women feeling more comfortable and starting to play music.

S: It’s hard, like with the She’s…the name doesn’t really help us, but it’s like people have made a genre of all-girl bands. Like, that’s all you need to know. People don’t talk about the music as much. When we were starting to gain recognition, that was the thing. It’s cool, but not cool because it has to be pointed out.

K: By pointing it out, you’re making it seem like such a novelty which, I don’t know, we don’t have a choice but to deal with it. I came from San Deigo where there was this stigma of like, girls only playing bass, the keyboard, or singing—and then I saw Sinclair, shredding on the drums. It’s really important that Dylan is in this band, too, because we’re also not just girls in a band saying ‘fuck men.’

D: There have been times at shows where people have said things like, ‘she’s really good for being a girl.’ And it’s like, come on—it has nothing to do with that. We just can’t seem to eradicate gender from music. If someone is good at what they do, it shouldn’t matter.

Is getting to play Noise Pop a big deal for you all?

S: It’s been a big deal for The She’s. When we first got to play…like it just feels like a good thing to be a part of. It’s really cool that Plush gets to play.

K: It’s been really good for us. Since we got announced, we’ve gotten a lot of people hitting us up to talk to us. It’s a great opportunity for us. We get to play at Bottom of the Hill again!

D: We’re so excited to play with Crush.

K: Finally!

S: The only bad thing is that there are a ton of shows that night.

K: I had a Mitski ticket for that night!

S: La Sera is playing!

Yeah, I’m going to the La Sera show! I wish I could go to yours but I’ve been trying to see La Sera for…forever.

K: Coming from San Diego where we don’t have festivals like this, it’s really cool.

S: It gets bigger and bigger every year.

K: Yeah, American Football? And Parquet Courts?

D: If 14-year old me knew that I would been the same lineup as the Mountain Goats, Metric and American football, I would’ve flipped. So it’s really funny.

I think Noise Pop has done a god job at trying to get smaller bands on bills, which is really cool.

K: Yeah a lot of local bands are playing.

S: They look for big bands to headline and then have a ton of local acts open for them.

K: I’m hoping that we’ll kind of be on the map now because of our show with Ringo Deathstarr. I think it’s a really good bill for us to be on.

Catch Plush Wednesday, February 24th, at Bottom of the Hill supporting Ringo Deathstar with Crush and Bed. 

All images copyright © Julie Juarez.