TMF meets Plant Plants
Plant Plants are completely and utterly brand new and his month sees the release of their debut EP. We'd had a sneaky preview and it had us pretty excited, treading a heady path between electronic dance and rocking out. Tonight was going to be their second ever gig. No pressure then! We caught up with Stuart Francis and Howard Whatley before soundcheck at Hoxton Bar and Kitchen. Howie is a natural born southerner, from outside London, while Stu is a Canadian import. Both are now located in in London, and have been working in some seclusion for a solid year before going public.
Your PR info says 'No laptops in sight' - that's a pretty bold statement?
I think people have been quick to pick up on the way we do things live. We wanted to make sure there were no laptops in our live setup, to run everything on samplers, predominantly because it was a lot more interesting for us to perform it that way, a lot more fun, instead of just hitting a space bar and making things play. Not to criticise people that are doing that.
That was my next question really - isn't that a comment on every band I see that's got a Macbook gaffer taped to an upturned crate?
Far from it. I don't want to have a go at anyone for doing that, people can do what they like. That's the beauty of music and technology. In fact I think it's really fucking cool that most bands now will have a laptop running, it shows how music and technology go hand in hand, more so now than ever. But it's cool (for us) to keep that human element, and not to get lost in the machines, and it not be like a metronome. We would prefer to trigger things off ourselves than to depend on a clicktrack.
There's one or two bands other around that are into analogue synths at the moment. Have you seen any parallels?
We know a few bands that are doing a similar thing to us, they way that they operate on stage, and will no doubt be compared with, but the music is quite different I think. I hate to use the word scene but there's definitely more people doing stuff like this.
There's something pretty exciting about seeing something built on stage...
Yeah, yeah. We were at a Starslinger and Baths show the other day and the laptop fell off the side of the stage. Everything cut out for a couple of minutes and we just went "Ohhhhh", so maybe that's why we don't ...
You're getting some pretty big comparisons: Foals, Battles...
That's flattering. Comparisons are always going to happen. Although I've also heard some pretty odd ones that I won't ever understand. We'll get lumped into something eventually. We're just doing what we're doing. We're pretty comfortable with that at the moment.
You're a pretty new band - you just played your first gig ever?
Last week, yeah. Well, we'd done a secret show as a warm up, then a show at Madame Jojo's last week, which was awesome, so officially our second gig tonight.
So what's your musical history then?
We've both been in a few, done our time in the London circuit, came out the other end. We started this project about a year ago just writing songs in Stu's bedroom with a view to always doing these live. It's been a year of hard work, of writing and rehearsing.
Stu then tells us that he was previously in London band Chow Chow, while Howie was last in Red Team. Things came to a sudden stop for Stu when Chow Chow singer Thomas Iain Smith died suddenly and tragically in 2007.
We both knew him quite well, and in the aftershock of that, two or three years down the line, we thought that we should should fucking write some songs about some of this shit and that's kinda how it started really.
There is a brief interlude while we are joined by their PR manager, during which Howie and Stu abuse my recorder by singing along with 'Tainted Love', playing in the background of the restaurant, and declaring that they "fucking love this tune". They can sing, I'll give them that, and they declare that I can have that bit of singing for free. Very generous boys that they are.
London I'd imagine is a very good and a very bad place to be trying to get a new band going.
Yeah, I've had friends that have lived in other places, Brighton and other places, and they always tell me that it's so much harder to do things. I think London is just what we know, it's good to be here. There's so much going on all the time, along with other bands and it just helps shape you into what you are now, you become part of it. I'd feel very detached and it's not always comfortable as well, which is good.
What can people expect to see, when they've heard your recorded stuff, what can they expect to see different on stage?
A lot more energy, a lot more aggressive ... a lot noisier. We take some stuff on some weird tangents depending on how we feel and the guitar is cut through a lot more. Aggressive guitar and vocals.
So what's next then?
We've been focussing on writing, then the EP's out at the end of June. We're going to play live shows, see how that develops. Then we'll be mixing more stuff with Jas.
I'm not going to ask you where you got the band name from, except to say, you do realise you've made yourselves virtually un-Google-able?
We kind of like that almost. I think a bit of mystery's alright, this way people can find us in their own way.
They've been working extensively with Jas Shaw from Simian Mobile Disco and are evidently pleased with his innate ability to work with their sound, add to it, without overly changing its character or intent. They describe the Jas effect as 'pimping it up', while respecting their patently strong views about what they want.
I ask my favourite question about the most ridiculous thing they've done in the pursuit of music. They declare this to be a careful subject, a walking on eggshells question, tell me they're thinking about all the rock'n'roll stuff you shouldn't say and then, after much debate, give me a really sincere line about working really hard for a year being it's own reward. I can see I'll have to come back when their defences are down to get an answer to this one
Naturally I stuck around to see this event. First of all, analogue does not mean simple in any sense of the word. For a 2 piece there was a hell of a lot of wiring on stage, multiple keyboards and boxes, then they add to that by playing bass and guitar alongside the desks. They have bursts of mad, spasming energy, spiking the on stage electricity. The whole thing drives along, rattling and banging. Considering their relatively unhyped newness, there is an informed crowd there that are immediately responsive to Plant Plants' version of punk-over-electronica. It's a short set, over too quickly. I find out afterwards that the last song, 'Shone', is the only one that hasn't so far had the Jas Shaw pimping, and sounds none the worse for it. It's early days, but the recorded tracks convinced me enough to spend an evening in Hoxton (not that I need an excuse) and seeing them live has left me wanting to see more.
Set list - I'm So Black / Hands That Sleep / She's No One / Shone