Posted On 28 Aug 2019
Meet the Brooklyn-based indie quartet Plastic Picnic!
Last month on July 19th, they released their sophomore EP “Vistalite.” At the crossroads of dreamy synth-pop, warm guitar-driven rock, and thoughtful songwriting, the seven-track Vistalite pays homage to their Pacific Northwest origins and demonstrates a leap in sonic direction and lyrical exploration. It was crafted with the help of Sub Pop producer Trevor Spencer (Father John Misty, Fleet Foxes).
The band shares this about their new EP, “‘Vistalite’ is about clarity. It’s understanding the necessity of escapism without indulging in it; about finding balance and trying to be transparent and honest with yourself when confronting life’s turmoil.”
Originally having roots in the Pacific Northwest, vocalist/guitarist Emile Panerio, guitarist Lincoln Lute, drummer Gordon Taylor, and bassist Marshall Hunt craft music that seamlessly blends spirited 80’s pop, celestial synths, and invigorating indie rock guitars.
Since forming in 2016, Plastic Picnic has garnered official showcases at South by Southwest, song placements on hit TV shows “Homeland” and “Shameless,” and over 150,000 average monthly listeners on Spotify. Their debut EP has over 5 million streams since its release in October 2017.
Their brand new EP vinyl is available to order here and includes the vinyl exclusive single “Golden Days.”
Connect With Plastic Picnic Online Here:
Learn more about Plastic Picnic in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! What is on tap for the rest of your day?
Hey, we’re actually working on some new songs today. The songwriting never stops! I think some of us are working as well.
Now that we are into the 8th month of the year, how would you say that 2019 is treating the band so far? What have been some goals this group has had this year? How close are you to reaching them?
Since January we’ve been working really hard to write, record and release Vistalite. That was our goal for the first half of 2019 and now we’re focused on finding some touring slots and looking ahead at the next release. This has been a great year for us and I think that’s a reflection of the time and energy we’ve all put in.
Can you recall the moment when you thought you could be in this group together? Was it hard to think of a name that you could agree on? Has anything surprised you about this musical journey so far?
Our formation happened really quickly. Gordon came to play with Emile and I and we felt the chemistry immediately. I’d been playing with Emile for four years before that and Gordon and Marshall had been playing together since high school. In some ways it felt too easy, like connecting two halves of a puzzle where all the pieces had already been fit together. Emile and I had actually been sorting through names for about 4 months before we settled on Plastic Picnic. We probably went through 60 different names.
It’s pretty much all surprises. Even when we’re writing music we never know what’s going to be created. In Seattle we saw people singing along with songs that had been released two days before. Of course we want people to connect with our music in that way but it’s still surprising to see that happen.
How do you think your hometowns have influenced the sound and how you all carry yourselves in this group? If not, what do you think does influence this group?
There may be some iconic northwest bands (death cab, nirvana, ect) that we were constantly exposed to that helped shape our current music taste, but it’s hard to say for sure. I think all of us spent lots of time obsessing over New York bands so I dunno. The smaller towns, slower pace, big mountains, all of it probably has some effect it’s just hard to put a finger on one. As a group I think we all draw from whatever music we collectively like and try to use sounds that make us feel something.
Let’s talk about your brand new sophomore EP, “Vistalite” that was just released. What was it like putting this collection together? Did anything about the overall process surprise you guys or challenge you in any unexpected ways?
The process was new and different from the first ep, full of surprises and challenges along the way. We wrote most of the songs from scratch through demos recorded one track at a time in our bedroom “studios”. One challenge was learning how to work with each other in that new workflow as it differed from playing as a full band in a room. Another thing was learning to improve all facets of our engineering game. People hire engineers and producers for a reason! It’s hard work and an entirely difficult field on its own, one that I think we’re all excited to get better at. We all experienced a lot of trial and error just trying to learn a better flow with the software (Pro Tools and Abelton) and improve basic stuff like tracking different instruments. It was a blessing after all that to work with pros like Ariel Loh and Trevor Spencer on the final versions.
Can you elaborate on how this is a full-on concept album? What that always your intention from the very beginning of making it?
I think when we start writing, we just write without too much attention to an overall collection. I suppose the overall concept becomes organically consistent just based on time, what were listening to, and lyrically from where I’m at personally. So as far as planning from the beginning I don’t think we made that conscious effort, but once we had the 14-15 songs written, we did have a discussion on what songs felt like they fit the story we wanted to tell, both sonically and lyrically. It’s funny making “EPs” because I think typically they aren’t thought of as cohesive as an album, but we’ve worked hard to make both of them feel like albums, so I’m excited to apply that same concept to our first full length soon.
While it’s difficult to pick, can you choose a few of your favorite songs on this album and talk about their inspiration and how they got to be on “Vistalite”?
The last song to be written for this album and certainly the underdog when choosing which songs to put on it was actually the title track, Vistalite. The building blocks of the song were written in a very quick, experimental way that was very intuitive. Anytime you turn your brain off something great happens. Learning to play Vistalite live was a challenge because it incorporated new sounds and a very different feel than we’re used to. Partially because of that struggle the song is a favorite of ours to play and always gets a great response from the audience.
Generally, how do you guys go about writing your music? Do you write together or separately?
We really don’t have a set strategy on how we write, which keeps every song we make feel fresh to me. Some songs are written 90% my one person, then given the plastic treatment where we all pick it apart and add each members personal taste etc. Other songs are written 100% collaboratively in a live rehearsal space or bedroom. I will say that for the Vistalite cycle and the new batch were working on now, the bedroom demo model seems to be getting more interesting results for us, which typically starts with one or two people making a short demo and the rest of us building on that idea.
I always like to ask bands if you all hang out socially apart from the music? In other words, when you aren’t working on music, do you guys enjoy hanging out for fun?
We do! We’re friends, which I really value in a band-relationship. It’d be hard for to spend so much time with humans I’m not close with outside the project. Honestly, we’re all so busy with day jobs etc between music stuff, that I wish we hung out more than we do, but we still try our best to make time to just be friends and not have 100% of our relationship be music, which I think is important. It’s like having four girlfriends and we get grumpy if all we do is music. Lincoln and Ilive together, Marsh and Gordon live together, so naturally those duos see each other more often, but you can find us all together pretty often. Especially if tacos are involved.
How do you feel that this band has grown through the years? What has remained the same?
I think the main growth has simply been in writing. I think it’s interesting to see the difference in how each of us has evolved personally in their writing style and comparing that with our collaborative results. In that you see what tendencies each person has held on to and we’ve all learned to sort of anticipate those tendencies and absorb them in the process.
Where do you think you are all happiest- in the studio recording new music, on stage performing or elsewhere?
Hard Question–I think that all the above provide different forms of satisfaction. Show’s are obviously really visceral, but that high sort of ends for me pretty quickly, so perhaps the studio feels more fulfilling sometimes. Records feel strangely immortal, so when you’re creating something that may represent you as an artist forever, it feels kind of heavy and I enjoy that weight. At the risk of sounding cheesy, I will say there’s something about being on the road, particularly in a van that makes me very happy. Not necessarily the touring part, or the shows part, but just the in between moments of moving in a car with your friends, doing what you love. I feel like during long drives on tours I feel so happy to just not be home and to be going somewhere. So maybe it’s a tie between the studio and 14 hour drives.
New music in the studio!
Where can fans see you perform next? What do you think makes for an ideal show? What has been a favorite show of yours in the past? How was your recent tour? Any favorite venues?
We’re going on a west coast tour starting September 25th in Spokane WA with our pals in a Seattle band called Cataldo. Seattle, Ashland, Davis, LA, SF, then Portland all in about a week. After that Cataldo is flying east and we’ll do a short east coast run starting in Cambridge, then BK, DC, and Philly. I think our music works really well in slightly bigger rooms with good subs. We played Neumos at Capitol Hill Block Party in Seattle and everyone was pretty stoked on it, definitely a high point. Hard to beat going home and playing a few shows in that area. Besides that everyone really likes Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn.
How has social media impacted this band? How often are you all on your different sites interacting with fans? How have you been able to utilize it through the years?
I feel like we use Instagram a lot, I think one thing that was unexpected is how connected new and old fans got to humor in our feeds. In a serious world I think it’s important for bands to not take themselves too seriously so we try and convey that on socials. That being said I think we’re all a little lazy on socials compared to your typical millennial so I’ve been trying to step it up. Someone said I was funny on twitter so I guess that’s a good step forward. All in all I think the internet is a great tool to connect with our audience and I try to do so sincerely and in healthy amounts so everyone’s happy. Oh also follow Lincoln’s alter ego for more humor on tour @simonsonofbalthazar
What musicians have really been inspiring you since you first started making music?
Being a collaborative four piece means a ton of influences, but bringing it way back to our personal starts makes it easier. Being from the northwest, I grew up a huge Death Cab / Modest Mouse fan. Lyrically I think I still pull a lot of influence from those types of projects. The National, Built To Spill, Phoebe Bridgers, Japanese Breakfast are a few other projects that collectively have the whole bands interest. Although I’ve been trying to find more positive musical outlets, lyrically I’m always drawn to artists in pain, or at least singing from a place that seems wounded, writing cathartically — so we all seem to gravitate towards those types of project’s more. Very happy listeners lol.
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
I think every song is different and how people interpret them is also different. So I suppose it’s hard to know what each song means to people, but my hope is that it means something. While I think some of our music is escapism, I also try hard to make sure we’re saying something and that people get something out of it more than just distracting them from reality. I want our music to help people with their reality, even if it’s as small as the songs sympathizing with issues listeners are going through.