Plastic Picnic Interview: Origins Of The Group And Their Largest Inspirations

Photo by Jake Hanson

Photo by Jake Hanson

Words by Amanda Elman

Plastic Picnic is a Northwest originating four piece indie band, currently based in Brooklyn, New York. The band is built of two duos: Lute and Panerio, and Hunt and Taylor, who originally started separately, came together to curate the 80’s influenced and nostalgia fueled music. Their lead singer Emile talks about the context of the name and the juxtaposition of atmospheres that inspire their music.

Hi! Starting off, Plastic Picnic is a very interesting name, how did you come up with that?

The name was based on the juxtaposition between artificial and the organic. The project was kind of made of four people moving from the northwest to New York City. Both sonically and lyrically we wanted to use a lot of juxtaposition between the organic kind of representing our upbringing in the Northwest; it was kind of lush, and nature driven, and then the artificial which was kind of constructed ways of a bigger metropolitan city. So, the plastic was artificial, the picnic was representing the organic, both being places we’ve lived and written music in.

Do you think moving from the northwest to New York City influenced a change in or your current sound?

I think that juxtaposition is an advantage to our sound. All of the bands and artists we grew up listening to in the northwest definitely have a lasting effect on us, but combining those base layers with all these new textures that N.Y has introduced both, like, lifestyle wise and experiencing a bigger city and a new culture, as well as the nightlife here - those things kind of combating with the things we grew up with creates a unique factor. It definitely changed it, but we try and not shy away from what we grew up with so that we have the best of both worlds when we are contributing all those influences to new material.

You describe your sound as this sort of "indie post-rock project soundtrack off a John Hughes movie", does that influence how you build and write your songs?

Yeah, the John Hughes thing kind of became a “press-tag”, although the 80’s aesthetic is a part of our vision for a band, we are trying more and more to experiment with other textures. I think we are all drawn to the romanticism environmentally that those movies created. Whether or not our songs melodically end up sounding like an 80’s music soundtrack, I think I really like the nostalgia that that kind of environment brings. I like the idea that listeners can kind of escape into a new environment when listening to it. Obviously, nostalgia is a really helpful tool to bring the escapism in the music.

As far as our writing process goes, I think that we are organically drawn to that. I don’t know if right now if it's a conscious decision to make a song that fits the soundtrack, I just think that the bands we listen to, and the melodies we are drawn to seem to align with that. I don't know if it's a conscious or subconscious decision. I love the idea of the sparkle and the romantic atmosphere that those films create, they’re timeless. I like to draw a little more nostalgic that may live past the next four years of indie music. Those are some of the things we keep in mind during the writing process.  

Recently, your song “Bite” passed a million plays on Spotify, so first of all, congratulations! Why do you think it received very well?

It’s funny, we finished the first E.P. and just by default chose some of the brighter tracks as the ones that would be single, both from what colleagues gave us advice on and what we personally thought would be “popular”. We were kind of surprised that “Bite” ended up being the most popular track. I think it has to do with the darkness of the song, especially in the Spotify world when its put up against all the other indie tracks.

When you compare us to other indie bands that sound like us, maybe playing what you say would be an upbeat, polished feeling, “Bite” is a darker track. That is attractive to people. In that arena, there are so many positive, more pop genre songs. “Bite” goes against in the grain in that. I just think the textures and the content of that song are a little darker-themed. It’s hard to say the exact reasons why. I would hope that it’s because it has unique features. It’s cinematically dark and sonically bright. That juxtaposition we’re obsessing over hopefully was successful in this instance.

Last month you were at SXSW (South by South West). How was that?

It was great! It was our first trip to SXSW. I think Lincoln, who plays guitar, had been before. He was the only one of us who had gone, let alone played. We definitely went in ‘bushy tailed’. It’s kind of funny, we are all barely passed out mid-twenties. We have friends and colleagues that are that age and have been doing it for a long time and had a sour taste in their mouth when we had asked about it. The music industry, for some reason, sees SXSW as an annoying chore. However, I think because we had momentum going in, and we were really excited - that may also have to do with the New York weather being garbage at the time - we had a blast.

As far as the band goes, that was by far our most successful tour out of the few tours we have done. The whole week was really good. We met a bunch of new friends and fans. We have no complaints about any of the shows on our end, I really felt we came back recharged and excited to make more music. I think sometimes tours in a smaller band like this, you’re gone for 3 weeks, sacrificing money, and then you come back bummed. This was the opposite and validated the art we’ve created, and made us excited to create more.

When doing these shows, do you guys have pre-show rituals while making sure that you have the best show possible?

Photo by Jake Hanson

Photo by Jake Hanson

It’s funny, we have a new manager on the trip, who was actually really helpful in the process. Considering the size our band, we haven’t had the guarantee that every show is going to be the biggest size possible. It may also be hard being a market that we’ve never played or lived in that we don’t have concrete connections in. You hope people come through, sometimes you have Spotify listeners in a city and you show up, sometimes there are people there, sometimes not. It’s kind of like a crapshoot. It’s not negative, but you get beaten up if they aren’t great.

What we learned on this tour was that our management was really focused on making each show the best you can. Whether you’re playing a dive bar or a music festival, we realized it was worth it to give it your all, and not be bummed if the show isn’t perfect. That’s why we were so successful. Before every show we would psych ourselves out, or psych ourselves up, and get excited to play. It’s more like we wrote these awesome songs, and we sacrificed a lot, so let’s go play an awesome show. Whether it's five or five hundred people, we are going to have a good time, and get whoever is watching to enjoy it. Pre-show rituals were just validating, and getting hyped up to play whether the duration of the actual show itself.  

As you plan more tour, is there a dream lineup that you as a band would want to play with?

I think we’ve all grown up loving The National, and living in N.Y, it’s a little more close to home. We are branded as something little more upbeat, and more positive than The National may be at times, that would be a huge trigger for everybody. Additionally, The War On Drugs!

As far as newer bands we are stoked on, Japanese Breakfast just released their sophomore album, and we adore them. Their lyricism is to die for, and supporting them would be a dream. We definitely pull from older bands such as The Police or Tears For Fears. We are really excited about where indie music is going, and contemporary tours as well.

What can we expect to see Plastic Picnic working on next?

Right now we are in a writing frenzy. We don’t have any contractual obligations as far as labels go to release music. We are in the juxtaposition where we are playing and trying to write some things.  We have a little studio setup at Marshall and Gordon’s house, the bassist and drummer, and have been sitting a lot of long days and nights demoing, and coming up with new ideas. We write 100% collaboratively, so obviously that process can be democratic. It can also be inefficient at times, but for the better of the art, having four creative minds trying to come up with one product, it takes a lot. It goes through all these different caverns of creativity in the collaboration.

We are planning on releasing music this summer, but we're not obligated to release a huge collection of music. We are working on a large handful of songs, whether they make it out into the world or not. We are a young band, and we are trying to discover exactly what we want the band to sound like. The first EP happened so quickly, and we want the next one is a really conscious effort.

Check out Plastic Picnic on Spotify now, including "Bite".