We sat down with The Plastic Youth to discuss their latest single, their time at Riverside, and being managed by Little Tiger - Riverside’s in-house, student-run Record Label.
—So the New Track, it’s quite different to what we’ve heard before!
Jack – Yeh, it’s got a bit more of a punch to it, a bit more punky than most of our other songs. It’s called “Comfort”, and actually it's one of our favourite songs we’ve written. it’s energetic, quite an immediate feeling to it and it’s exciting to play live, we can’t wait for it to be released!
— Could you describe The Plastic Youth’s style?
Nic – This is a question we get asked a lot, everyone sort of has their own differing interests, but it sort of focuses around a “circle of indie”. There’s a few common bands we all like, but we draw influence from lots of different genres and artists outside of the indie genre.
Jack – I agree, there’s quite a broad variety – some Beatles Influence, the Strokes, and more modern bands – Frankie Cosmos , Alvvays, Mild High Club, there’s definitely a mix of both modern and older bands, a sort of fusion of eras.
—Which must help to create your very unique sound?
Nic – this is something that we really like about what we’ve written, there’s a few common interests, but otherwise a good variety – but if everyone is into the exact same genre or music, you really run the risk of sounding too much like a certain artist and potentially turning into a cover band. I think this helps keeps us grounded and sounding distinctive.
It’s like the theory that everyone knows everybody else through about 6-7 people, and these are all individuals with their own personalities and traits, so it’s finding a common ground between a lot of the music we all listen to.
It’s the same when you’re looking at creating music as a group, if there’s a commonality of a few bands but a wider scope, you’ll get a very unique sound and style. Originality is a difficult thing with so much music out there, but there’s always ways to find something completely new or at least give a new spin on something that’s already established. I suppose there is only so much that you can do with music before songs sound similar, but the fact we are into pretty different stuff makes it interesting.
—So you don’t go to many gigs together then?
Jack - Yeh of course we do, there’s still stuff we all like to listen to and see live, and so many new bands to see, especially newer bands in Glasgow, there’s always great bands playing pretty regularly!
—Out of curiosity, if you had to pick one favourite band or artist, who would it be?
Jack – Has to be the Beatles. No
Nic – see this is where we differ on influence, a lot of the ideas that wouldn’t work for The Plastic Youth goes into my own project – so there is lots of inspiration from soundtrack/ composition-based music. If we had to pick favourite bands, then I really love Mild High Club. But to pick a band that sounds closest to us… probably Mac DeMarco.
Jack – see I disagree! I think vocally, a few artists come to mind: Jim Morrison, John Lennon, Steve Marriot and probably Morrissey. A big collection of vocalists have probably helped shape what I do when singing.
—You’ve recorded a few songs at Riverside now, what’s next after this Single? is there an album in the works? An EP? Or just a stream of a few singles until you build up more momentum?
Jack - Still trying to decide, maybe an EP at the end of the summer, or maybe another single while we look towards an album in early 2020. An album is obviously the top thing we’re looking towards of course.
Nic – but it’s obviously a lot more ambitious, a longer project. I think for any new musicians, an album is always the first big goal to strive for. Smaller bands at the moment with support slots, you see touring Scotland, the UK, then Europe and upwards they tend to have singles and Eps dotted about for a few years to establish themselves – as if to build hype for an album once they have a fanbase. It’s pretty common nowadays.
An album will always be the main thing we aim towards for sure, but we’ve been so lucky here, especially with Douglas MacIntyre (Senior Lecturer Music Business) running Little Tiger with the students and approaching us for the label after seeing some potential. It all depends on your circumstances, access to recording studios, contacts in the industry... I think we’ve been very fortunate to be given these opportunities. Aside from that, it’s also down to the bands own momentum, obviously factors like funds for recording, rehearsing, gear for live shows and of course the time to put into it all. These all factor into the build up and allow us to look into working on a full length LP.
Jack - But it’s also individual drive, focus and commitment from all parties in a band that can really make a difference, if you’re passionate about something you’ll usually work a lot harder for it. So hopefully it’ll pay off!
—You both started off on first year of the HND Music Performance course in 2017. Working with Little Tiger, how did that come about? Was it Douglas and Jamie Cameron (Senior Lecturer Music Performance) that approached you or did make the initial contact with them?
Jack – I think it was during the time we started recording Sweet Dreamer with Ross (Cameron - Studio Engineer + Lecturer on HNDSP/MP), we approached him asking if we could book studio time, outwith college, to record a single, probably about this time last year (Feb/March 2018), and to be fair this track kind of took a while between beginning to record the bare bones until completion, especially for a single. It was around a six month project!
Nic – it took a crazy amount of time to record it. We weren’t in the studio every day obviously, it was broken up sessions over evenings or on a weekend, just to clarify! It was intervals of a few hours or a day’s recording at a time getting everything perfect, along with some experimentation and adding additional instruments, harmonies etc...
—Could this not also be beneficial as, over time, your initial ideas of the song can develop and evolve into something very different from how it began?
Nic – well with Sweet Dreamer and Comfort, these songs have been written for so long that it was just extra development, but it’s so true, more so with some of our other songs that we’re still in the process of working on.
It’s either one of two things; a track that’s been rehearsed and worked and it’s just a case of getting in and recording, or a more explorative recording process where you’ve got a roughly finished track but look to develop it in the studio.
—How do your songs normally come about? Who normally brings new ideas to the table – or is it a group effort?
Jack – normally I’ll bring some chords and lyrics forward, but a very rough idea, bare bones for a verse and chorus for example. Then in rehearsals or songwriting sessions in the house, with the other guys we’ll give it more structure, a bit more development and fine tune the ideas, and make it good!
Nic – it's obviously different for everyone and each individual track, but there’s no secret formula to writing music! It’s usually a complete mix, like I might have this idea for a riff and jack has a few chords he’s been messing about with, then it's fitting lyrics in once you have a beat going, where it then takes shape. There’s no primary songwriter I don’t think, it’s usually the two of us that normally bring the initial ideas, but it’s very much a collaborative effort. Everyone will throw in ideas during sessions, then either Jack or Adam will help hone it into the direction of becoming a song. It’s from there that a bit more discipline is needed to work it to a structure and make something cohesive out of it!
Jack – everyone pitches in, and I think going back to what we talked about earlier, with all four of us having very different influences and inspiration from lots of different types of music, it brings totally different genres and ideas into the mix to hopefully create something really unique and different!
—Tell us about playing at Celtic Connections this year!
Jack – yeh that was amazing, we played the CCA with Port Sulphur, which is one of Douglas’ projects. It’s amazing playing the same bill with such a wealth of talented musicians, and it shows with Douglas working in the industry as well as teaching, the experiences and knowledge he and other lecturers are passing on from things that they’ve done in the past, and are currently doing, is invaluable!
Playing that gig was really different as it was a new audience, a bit of an older generation than we’re used to playing to! But I think they enjoyed what we were playing so that’s a plus! I think a lot the music we’ve written kind of replicates much of what was around in the 80’s, so probably what a lot of that audience listened to growing up.
— I see where they’re coming from, some of your songs could have easily been released in the late 60’s or 70’s but yet they still sound current. It’s a really cool sound you’ve got!
Nic – I never really thought of our music like that but we’ve been told this a few times, I suppose it’s a cool edge to have and maybe appeal to a wider audience. A few bands are doing that these days too, we’ve noticed that the kind of 80’s synth pop sound seems to be having a resurgence recently. I think everything kind of goes in circles to an extent; music, fashion, styles, they all come in and out of popularity in some kind of loop. Hopefully we just sound different with a combination of genres and eras.
—How do you feel the HND Music Performance course has helped you as musicians and individuals artists?
Jack - Networking opportunities and promotion/representation from Little Tiger aside, I think the HND has helped an incredible amount, notably, It gives you a real life perspective and as close to a real-life experience as possible. Working alongside the Sound Production and Music Business Students, cross assessments, when it came to planning the recording of Sweet Dreamer over a year ago, we’d only been on first year for a few months so we didn’t really know what we’d be doing with the track. You don’t realise going in how much behind the scenes work it takes for releasing a single. At first there’s probably a naivety where you think “we’ll record a song, then release it, then people will listen and we’ll be famous” (haha) and that’ll be it. You may not often realise that it’s everything to do with the how and why and also when of releasing a track, and how much effort goes into a release.
But the help from Little Tiger was incredible, not just with Douglas’ vast knowledge and experience in the industry, but with the students studying how and why certain things are done as part of a release, getting us radio play for the Single. It’s amazing that they’re doing it in the “real world” rather than in theory or a paper exercise, they’re actually seeing their work progressing in the industry, and its our song! It’s incredible. I can’t think of a better way to have spent the last 2 years.
Nic – I’d have to agree with all those points. Jack said exactly what I was going to! It’s definitely been an eye opener for how the industry works and how to be successful, with the amount of work and dedication required, not just for the single release or course work , but generally, as a musician. You kind of make your own success in a way with what you put in, aside from that it’s really down to if people enjoy your music or not!
—Which Music Performance class do you feel has benefitted you the most?
Jack – Probably Live Performance Skills, but on top of that, it’s the networking and people that you meet and potentially work with during your time as a student, then build a working relationship with that could lead onto greater things in the future.
Both students and staff, guest lecturers and seminars, workshops etc, these people will pass on life experience. Ask them questions, use their knowledge to your advantage as they can and will help you out, and have so much to give from what they’ve worked on over the years.
I think there will be some students that might feel this isn’t what they want to do, or certain things aren’t achievable in this day and age, but if you commit, throw yourself in head first and work hard, it pays off and opportunities will present themselves to you. A lot of the time it does take extra initiative and asking to be involved in other projects outside of college, you can’t just turn up and sit in classes and expect to end up famous or in a career right away, it’s about also being pro-active, and the lecturers constantly encourage and help anyone who works hard, approaches them and shows potential.
A lot of people know they want to perform or play music, but are not entirely sure what avenue they want to go down. [Riverside] really helps open up your eyes to how many different possibilities there are in the industry, even just in the Music Performance aspect. This can really help people focus on what they want to pursue as a career in the industry, I’m sure we’ll complete our HNDs as well rounded artists, and it’s also the music business aspect of the course that’s a huge help; being a self employed musician, how to make money, various income streams, taxation and that its not just being in a band, there’s so much more to it.
Jack – Also: Shoutout to Stuart Kidd! He taught most of us guitar, drums etc... but as well as lessons, he’d come to one of our houses and sit and help us write songs in the very early stages of the band, and obviously knowing Riverside for so long, recording here and playing in bands, touring with a lot of the lecturers and staff and now lecturing here himself, I suppose we have to thank him as he suggested we apply for the HND! He’s an amazing mentor and supremely talented musician and songwriter.
—Where can people find more about The Plastic Youth??
Facebook page! Instagram, Twitter – there’s going to be some new videos coming up with new songs that’ll be released on youtube!
Our Music is on Spotify, Apple Music and BandCamp. The new single will go up on release day.
Our Single Launch is also taking place on Friday 22nd March with a gig the following day in Stereo – Glasgow Saturday 23rd March
They will be Supported by Fawkes St., a band formed from HND MP2 students (peers of Jack and Nic) – Henry Wilson, David Walker & Cameron Robinson.
The Plastic Youth Are:
Jack Graham – Vocals, Guitar
Nic Sharp – Guitar & Synth
Adam Graham – Drums / Percussion
Jude Taylor – Bass