The Plastics – An interview with South African teen royalty
Lindsay Lohan starred in a movie in 2004 as a homeschooled girl, who comes to an American high school after having lived in Africa for 15 years. Her character, Cady, semi-relucantly joins the clique of popular girls called The Plastics. We spoke to Pascal Righini of The Plastics (the band) about Lindsay’s career.
Cady: “Who are The Plastics?”
Damian: “They are teen royalty.”
“I think it’s pretty important that you like your band name,” said Pascal. “Whether other people like it or not really is debatable and it’s debatable whether that matters.”
Pascal believes that band names can be pretty irrelevant. “Like the Butthole Surfers or the Arctic Monkeys. They’re like kinda meaningless names. And if you can live with it for a prolonged period of time then it’s probably the right thing.”
“When we thought of ‘The Plastics’ it just kind of made sense, and we were surprised that no one had done it before, and it had the Mean Girls tie-in, which we thought was pretty cool, so we went for it.”
So I guess that means the name will stay. “At one stage I had watched the movie quite a few times. And it’s a great movie. One of Lindsay’s finest. But I can’t recite verbatim quotes from it… anymore. But it’s a good movie, it’s worth watching.”
The Plastics has learnt a few lessons about change throughout their long career. “We were doing an unplugged set for the launch of our Caves video. We were starting to rehash a bunch of our songs to make them fit better in an unplugged format, and this new way of doing Stereo Kids’ chorus and this new way of playing it came out of that.”
It represents a moment for the band, where they picked up on something, and started to like the alternate version more than the original. When an opportunity to record a new song came up, but they didn’t have any new material, they decided to try producing this new version of Stereo Kids.
“It was pretty similar, but it had this ridiculously, stupidly long intro with these breaks, and sounded like big, jammy – about two minutes before we even get to the chorus. And then Shai Hirschson, one of the guys working on the studio, picked up on the song, and was like ‘cool, the recording’s rad; but do you guys mind if I fiddle around with it and kind of produce it a bit?’
And he actually came up with the new arrangement that eventually made it onto the album and that was the first song on Pyramid. And then we actually ended up using Shai, based on his arrangement ideas and production on Stereo Kids, to be the front guy to produce Pyramid. And since then we’ve had a really great relationship with Shai, and he’s a very good producer, and he ended up doing the whole thing. That did very much guide the way we did the whole album. We realised: this is the guy, and this is the sound that we’re going for.”
“I feel like we are the kind of band that has changed. Albeit not like 180 turns every year, but we started off in one place and where we are now is very different to that.” But that’s how they want it, says Pascal – to progress and keep things interesting, “at least for ourselves”.
“As we progressed we got closer and closer to discovering what we think we are and what we can actually do. But I don’t know if we had our Eureka-moment of ‘oh my gosh; this is The Plastics 100%’. And I think in terms of having a consistency of style, some bands have that moment, and they’re like ‘this is us, forever now. We can’t go back, cause people just identify this as being so uniquely us. And it’s done so well for us.’”
“And although we’ve done well, and we’re very happy with how we’ve done with all our albums and we’re proud of each one of them, we still feel like we’re gonna have that moment, still maybe to come. So we always like to progress, and try and push it, and see, hey, maybe if we do this, maybe if we try these tempos or chords, or let’s try these new guitar lines, or whatever it might be, then we might find that place where we discover something totally brand new, and totally Plastics.”
With the launch of their latest album, In Threes, they kept changing. “The song must stand on its own,” says Pascal. “Like just lyrics and chords and that’s how to build a good song – you’ve got to be able to play it on acoustic guitar and sing and it [must] still be interesting and good and poetic.”
“I did opt for a more lucid style of lyrics, and there are some tracks on Pyramid where this method is also used. Some of the more psychedelic songs like Hallway of Mirrors and Mud and Money, et cetera.”
“On Pyramid, we wanted to do a sixties pop-inspired indie album. And with this album, we wanted to do a psychedelic pop album. So we wanted to use more synths, we wanted to have wilder imagery in the lyrics, and we wanted more lush, experimental production. And we worked so much more on the textures and the synths and the scope of the music. So in a way it does take a little bit away from the vocals, and also, it’s the nature of psychedelic pop music that the vocals are drenched in reverb, and that’s the sound.”
The accompanying album artwork, just as psychedelic as the music, is a very important aspect to the band.
“There are so many great artists in South Africa, that there’s no excuse for having your artwork fall short. And as a band I think it’s your obligation to find the people who identify with your sound because as much as the game has changed, and having a CD doesn’t really matter anymore, it’s still very important to have a visual aspect to everything you do. Whether it’s music videos, whether it’s posters, whether it’s photographs.”
“If South Africa wants to compete with people overseas, there’s no cutting corners, there’s no doing it half-arsed. You’ve got to take it seriously and you’ve got to do cool shit and work with as many inspiring people as you can.”
The Plastics is headed to South Africa’s North soon, specifically and notably, to Mieliepop Festival.
“I know some of the people involved with organising Mieliepop and they are synonymous, in my mind, with only world-class parties. The lineup is insane, which is just another showing of how much people trust in them to put together a good show. And I think there’s gonna be a lot of friends there, and only good music, as far as I could tell. And probably a lot of brandy and a lot of good times!”
But what can audiences expect from the band at Mieliepop?
“We actually haven’t had a band practice this year, so it’s hard for me to say. It’s gonna be a great show. We’re gonna be playing a couple of new ones off our album.”
“It’s gonna be some of the Plastics songs that have been in most of our sets, but expect to hear more stuff from our album, as well as some interesting rehashed covers – either old or some new, contemporary ones, done in a Plastics style.”
“So if you are from Africa, why are you white?”
-Karen, Mean Girls
The Plastics’ latest album, In Threes, is available for pay-what-you-want on Bandcamp.
Floris sometimes writes things when he’s not watching movies or playing video games or editing videos or folk-rock singing/songwriting.