Article Posted on Seacoast Online
"By Christopher Hislop
Posted at 3:01 AM
“Psych-Punk.” That’s how Newmarket-based band Plains describes its music. And, well, there’s no better way to put it, quite honestly. It’s so fresh. Reverb soaked, and grittily fantastic. It’s a gut punch that keeps you moving forward, and a clever workout for your underutilized neck muscles. Plains (Timmy Graff, Sander Casale, Casey Coupe and Sumner Bright) are fine, and their sonic geographic makeup is far from flat.
The band is set to release its debut LP, “Peace in Restland,” at the Stone Church on Friday, March 1.
EDGE caught up with singer-guitarist Sumner Bright to yap all things Plains, and a few things more.
EDGE: Let’s talk about “Peace in Restland,” your debut LP. What were the goals behind this thing?
Bright: I think that we had a lot of music we’d been playing for a year or two that we hadn’t had a good chance to record and actually get down. It’s amazing how much more we learn about our songs when we sit and record and listen to them. It’s pretty funny when it’s like “Oh, a song!”
We also wanted and needed something to stand for ourselves and our effort. I think the album is very much us trying to prove that we’re trying to do something here, something honest and hopefully palatable for people to enjoy. We couldn’t get far if all we had was a 5-song EP.
I think we share that mentality in recording; that wanting and desire to show people that we’re not just f---ing around most days of the week. We care a lot about this band, and although we have a blast doing it, we all put a lot of time and heart into it and it was important for us to have something that we think stands for that.
EDGE: What excites you about having this record out in the world for the masses to consume?
Bright: We’re excited about a lot, I think. As much as this album is like a proving bid, it’s as much of an offer to the gods, (laughs). Since it’s our debut LP, it’s also our first stance as like a real gigging and hopefully touring band. We’re excited to see where it takes us in that sense. We’re not expecting a big record executive to come knocking on our doors, but we’re trying to be a little hopeful with it, you know? Who knows who will listen to it and who knows what they’ll think. We can only hope that it’ll fall into the right person’s lap, but that’s a big dream. I think most realistically and most presently is that we want the album to be able to book us some gigs and get us some support in areas other than just like New England.
EDGE: How did Plains come together? Why did Plains come together?
Bright: Interesting story! Our first formation was for a house party at this kid Rico’s house. I personally had been dying to play a college house party. I’d gotten a taste of what it’s like to play with that kind of crowd in high school and it was just so much fun when you’re playing high energy stuff like us.
I met Tim, our drummer, at our friend’s place on a snow day and he was drinking Knob Creek and wanted to go sledding or some s--- and I thought he was just the coolest and then it slipped out that he was a drummer. We got to talking and I told him to check out my solo stuff and then we met to jam the next week. Tim called his friend Matt, who joined us on guitar (I play guitar as well) and then we all brought on Andrew Hartnett, who’s a bassist in a band called Dogs That Know They’re Dogs.
We learned a few covers and wrote some primitive garage rock type stuff for the party, and it actually turned out pretty sweet! I was seconds away from puking everywhere, but it was super fun. The basement was like jam-packed with heads and everyone was smoking and sweating, and it was just the most brutally rank place I’ve ever been. Breathing was heavy and it was hard to a light a lighter down there due to the sheer lack of oxygen.
Once we came down from the high of that show, we just decided to keep going. Matt left after a while and so did Andrew, so Casey Coupe joined us on bass and Sander Casale joined us on guitar, and it just clicked from there. Practices became super rewarding and we realized we wanted to do more than just play house parties.
I ask myself a lot the big “why” of the band just because I’m a curious bastard, and I think it just comes down to the cliché answer of us just loving it so much. We all have a s--- ton on our plate and it just feels so good to play a super rewarding show every now and then, and have all our other responsibilities and headspaces like that go away. I can only speak to that feeling so much without becoming a walking ad for Guitar Center. It makes us feel like it’s all we want to do, forever and ever.
EDGE: What’s the songwriting process like in the band? Is it collaborative? Or are blueprints drawn, distributed, and acted upon?
Bright: It’s pretty vague, honestly. We have a lot of diversity in the songwriting process. We all come up with riffs and ideas that we’ll bring to it. We try to work on each other’s music as much as possible because we all have different flavors and influences. It would feel wrong I think if we decided on one songwriter in the group... we all have our strengths in the process I think and it just works best together.
EDGE: What’s the importance of rock and roll in these contemporary times?
Bright: I think rock music these days, especially within the DIY scene, lets people find their outlets and lets them express s--- that is killing them. There’s a rise in groups led by women, members of the LGBTQIAP+ community, and people of color, and aside from the beauty of representation, these people have opportunities to speak out against oppression and to have their experiences be understood and vicariously experienced. It’s a powerful thing to be a witness of.
Aside from that, I think rock music is doing what it has always done and has provided people with a sense of comfort in a big existentially terrifying world.
EDGE: I hear a lot of possible influences present in the music of Plains. Rather than projecting, let’s get it right from the source; who or what inspires the band?
Bright: We have a lot that inspires us all in different ways. For specifics, Casey loves the obscure snotty punk type stuff, and is a diehard for the Silver Jews. He’s introduced me to some of my favorite bands nowadays. Sander definitely digs the more Americana type stuff - bluesy, folk rock type stuff (he’s got a hell of a mustache if that paints a clear picture), but also is into the more modern indie stuff comin’ out these days. Tim is a musical sponge and loves just about everything except like country pop (laughs), he’s influenced by just about everything under the sun.
I’m really into bands like Alex G, King Gizzard (Tim too), Thee Oh Sees (Casey too), Horse Jumper of Love, Spirit of the Beehive, etc. We all try and channel as much as we can from our inspirations, I think.
EDGE: What’s the title of the record all about?
Bright: Casey and I were in Vermont on a trip and we just stumbled upon this cemetery that had “Restland” above it. At first, we just liked how “Peace in Restland” sounded, but I think we all derived some meaning from it once we had the phrase solidified in our minds. That’s kind of how a lot of this works, project an idea first then make sense of it (laughs).
To me, “Peace in Restland” refers to just an idea of peace and how that fits into place, and how our bodies and trajectories fit into it, too. I’m a young person who’s about to leave college so I think a lot about where I’m going, where I’ve been, etc. I always return to the ideal of being at peace in a place that is peaceful. It’s a lot to ask, but it’s a picture to hang above your bed still. In short, I think “Peace in Restland” is optimism and hoping that life is more than just a grind.
EDGE: You’re doing a release gig at the Stone Church on March 1. Sweet. What excites you about the show? What can folks expect? What do you expect?
Bright: Hell yeah! March 1st, baby. I’m stoked a lot about this show. We’re playing with this band Carinae, who when I first saw them I just got goosebumps. They’re so f---ing good. They’re an ace psych rock band who is so talented in their dynamics and songwriting, and truly inspiring. I’m stoked to have them on the bill supporting us. If you hate our music, you should just come to the show for them.
We’re excited to play the Church again, that’s definitely our homebase venue. Always get a good crowd there and see a lot of our friends, plus we can literally roll down the hill to our apartments. It’ll be amazing to celebrate the album there.
Folks should expect a killer show with some new tunes from us. We’ll be selling records and shirts and what not. They should expect to have their jaws drop from seeing Carinae and should bring some extra cash for their stuff.
I expect a banger!
EDGE: What follows March 1st? Where are you looking to take this thing?
Bright: We’ll be touring the week afterward around the East Coast. Just bought a van so we’re stoked about that! After that, it’s kind of up in the air. We’re all committed as can be so I think that’s what is important. We may be in different towns, maybe in neighboring states over the summer. We may move somewhere as a band, we may breakup in a hellish nightmare scenario! It’s all up in the air and we’re trying not to stress about it too much. Just gonna keep the grind going for as long as we can and make it work no matter what.
EDGE: Music. What is it good for?
Bright: For keeping your head screwed on straight.
EDGE: What’s the state of the Seacoast music scene as you see/hear it? Why do you create here?
Bright: I have a lot to say about this. ... The state of the music scene here is stressful and disheartening for me at times. I don’t feel like there is much here for a band like us, aside from our amazing local support and our friends who come to all of our shows. True, you can’t get much better than that, but I fear soon enough we’ll be playing in the same circuit and feel trapped and like we’re in a bubble, which is fun, but I think we have higher hopes than that. Obviously, we want to make it a career if at all possible, but we have a lot of work to do and a lot of luck to find if we want that to happen. That said, the music scene here is young and passionate, and thriving in its own sense, but I think it’s like a small town - if you know what’s good for you, you’ll go see what else is out there.
I create here because creating is what helps me stay level-headed. If I weren’t creating, I’d be in a lot worse shape. I’ll take that anywhere with me, but here especially it gives me a sense of optimism and a sense of doing something worthwhile, and really good for me.
Go & Do
What: Plains Debut Album Release Party featuring special guest Carinae
When: 10 p.m., Friday, March 1; doors open 9 p.m.
Where: The Stone Church, 5 Granite St., Newmarket
Tickets: $10 in advance or at the door, 21-plus show
More info: Visit www.stonechurchrocks.com "
- By Christopher Hislop
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