If you’ve had your ear to the ground of New Zealand’s alternative music scene for a while you’d be forgiven for wondering whether something about Plastic seemed strangely familiar. Go with that hunch: The band’s previous guise was that of Five Mile Town, the major change to the lineup being the addition of Lewis Coleman into the mix, so this predominantly Kiwi-expat Melbourne-based band go way back – having jammed together in various forms throughout their teens.
Shimmering synths, climatic guitars and battering drums, all backed by APRA Silver Scroll-nominated lyricism; Plastic have all the elements for something extremely solid on So Numb
So Numb, their debut single under Plastic, comes from their upcoming four-track EP Nightmares, with a conception and creation that was refreshingly old school – no dictation from A&R; just kicking it in the studio drinking champagne. And it’s this collaborative writing and recording process that winds its way right into the crux of the song.
The track begins with the hum of instrumentals that patter in a slow acceleration of sound. Carefully picked guitar riffs help weave the song together, edged on by Ryan Wilson’s drum bursts, but it’s frontman Louis McDonald’s soulful voice and introspective lyrics that really guide us through. Everything gathers momentum into a chorus that is interlaced with a plethora of shimmering synth from Coleman, layering in an ethereal edge. McDonald nudges us back into those barer melodies, anchored by steadily strummed guitars, then builds it up again to crash into a stunner of a climax, taking some time out from the vocals to allow us a moment to appreciate some all-out heavy synth distortion and embellished guitar riffs.
Let’s just take a moment to talk about those contemplative lyrics. Factor in that McDonald has an APRA Silver Scroll Award nomination and a first place win in the US-based International Songwriting Competition (ISC) firmly under his belt, and the pressure to deliver is firmly on, but he reels us in like a pro, with words that wriggle their way under your skin like: “Now you try your best with friends you tried for years to unimpress / it’s sad, but living without love isn’t that bad”, so that you’re left feeling like you’ve gone midnight swimming in a sapphire blue glacier, all breathless and wistful.
Those poignant lyrics perhaps should’ve been a hint that McDonald proves to be a pretty pensive kinda guy in general. Aside from being inspired by lyricists, he says he’s also influenced by “any instrumentation that is representative of emotion in the same way that lyrics are – rough, jagged guitars – anything un-beautifully human.” And while we’re getting all spine-tingly about it, he adds: “I’m also inspired by artists themselves and their attitude towards making art. Often the process of making something is more important and inspiring than the artistic product it produces.”
It can’t just be me that has the chills right now. If Plastic have plugged into that for Nightmares, which will be released at the tail of end of the month, we should get exactly what McDonald is hoping for: something of a ‘cathartic experience’.
Plastic are plying on September 18 at The Gasometer Hotel in Melbourne alongside Frida. Get your tickets here!