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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Plastic Mermaids: Inhale the Universe Interview

The psychedelic Isle of Wight five piece introduce us to their inspiration and work practice.

Written by Amelia Gregory

Plastic Mermaids by Kat Hassan_3
Plastic Mermaids by Kat Hassan.

Plastic Mermaids are a five piece band from the Isle of Wight. Since their 2014 release of debut EP ‘Drømtorp’ they have rightfully been earning comparisons to the likes of Animal Collective, British Sea Power, The Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev. After sold-out headline shows last year Plastic Mermaids have become notable for their eye catching stage production, which involves handmade sets, lasers, projections and samples from films. I caught up with multi-instrumentalist Jamie Richards to find out more…


How did Plastic Mermaids come together and how has your home in Isle of Wight shaped your sound?
Doug, Chris N. and I (Jamie) used to be in a sort of thrash-electro-punk band called Magic Octagon. Really loud fast trashy music, it baffles me that we ever did it to be honest. Anyway we stopped that and decided to form Plastic Mermaids. We did one gig without a drummer with the most outrageous electronic setup ever and it was a complete disaster. We knew Chris J through surfing so got him to play some drums, and eventually decided that it also made more sense to have a bassist who could actually play the bass (I was pretty crap) so Tom joined us. I reckon being on the Island has definitely had an effect on our sound as we’re less subjected to the latest musical trends than we would be in a city, so we just kind of do our own thing. Being by the sea is pretty great for inspiration too.

Plastic Mermaids_portait
What is the process of creating new music as a band? Is there one person more in control and if so how does that work?
There’s no one person in control, we all write music and bring ideas to the table. It’s not a simple process though. I guess it usually goes something like this -
Someone has an idea that we all get excited about and start recording it before we really know where we’re going, we drink a lot of tea, everyone decides they want to take the song different places, we argue about it, record multiple versions, change it around until it bears no resemblance to the initial idea, decide we hate it, abandon it for months, throw away everything, start again, change the tempo by 20bpm in one direction then the other, drink some more tea, argue some more, change the key, throw it all away again, decide the original idea was actually quite good, drink some more tea, call it finished. Every now and then we get lucky and a song actually comes together pretty quickly. We wrote and recorded most of ‘Polaroids’ in one evening – Doug had a piano piece, which he had a completely different vision for and the rest of us totally butchered it while he was out of the room having dinner.

Plastic-Mermaids-by-Kat-Hassan
Plastic Mermaids by Kat Hassan.

Playing In Your Mind -Plastic Mermaids
Playing In Your Mind - Plastic Mermaids 2 copy
What is happening in the Playing in Your Mind video? What inspired all the ideas and how did you achieve them?
Ha! Well we followed Doug with a camera which was lucky because when he got attacked by that mannequin it made a pretty good intro..

Plastic Mermaids_EP COVER
If you could describe the inspiration behind the new Inhale the Universe EP in one sentence what would it be?
Tom had a dream he could inhale the universe so we tried to replicate it in music.

Playing In Your Mind - Plastic Mermaids 1
How often do you get to surf and do you ever surf together as a group or is it always a very individual pursuit?
Doug, Chris and I (Jamie) surf as often as the waves permit. Unfortunately being on an island half way up the English channel that’s not very often in summer. We do get some good waves in winter though, and it’s hardly ever crowded which is a bonus. There’s something really nice about sitting in the sea with a few friends in the middle of winter with snow on the ground watching the sunrise and getting some great waves, knowing that everyone else is still in bed.

PlasticMermaidsByKat Hassan_1
Plastic Mermaids by Kat Hassan.

The visual aspect of performance is very important to you – what do you hope to do with your live sets in the coming years? Any ideas you can share with us?
Obviously lights/projections/stage props etc do add a lot to the live experience, but I think a lot of what’s exciting about watching us play is just the fact that we’re doing it completely live. It’s become almost a rarity nowadays to see a band playing without a backing track. I swear I’ve seen bands recently that could stop playing their instruments and you wouldn’t notice. What we’re trying to do at the moment is to push things as far as we can technologically with samplers and sequencers etc whilst still remaining completely live and not being locked into a click track. There’s been so much of it around recently and I think audiences are starting to realise that gigs with backing tracks become stale pretty quickly. In our sets things can (and sometimes do) go wrong, and I think that adds an element of excitement. In future we just want to see how far we can keep pushing it and not play it too safe. And we’d like some big lasers of course.

Plastic Mermaids
Where can we see you live this year?
We’ve got a couple of headline gigs coming up, The Louisiana (Bristol) 23rd Feb and The Lexington (London) 24th Feb. We’ve just had a couple of festival bookings too, Wychwood Festival (31st May), Isle of Wight Festival (12th June) and Bestival (September). We’ve also got a nice slot on the main stage at Rob da Bank’s new Common People festival in Southampton 23rd May which is pretty exciting. Hopefully we’ll get a few more booked in soon as well.

Playing In Your Mind and Inhale The Universe are released on 9 March via Cross Keys Records.

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