If you live in Northern Ireland and you’re a Nirvana fan you’ll probably have heard about the ‘Nevermind’ tribute gig in the Oh Yeah centre in Belfast. Local band A Plastic Rose err more towards the heavier side of things, but one has to wonder if Nirvana were ever a big influence on their music? “I don't think we've ever consciously looked to Nirvana as an influence but having grown up as 'grungers' the whole ethic and attitude of grunge are definitely a big part of who we are musically and otherwise.”
Emerging in 2001, A Plastic Rose have put their stamp upon the local music scene over the course of a number of well received shows and demos. And what a heavy stamp it is as well, with their guitar crunch and pounding drums bursting more than a few heads at local gigs. Ahead of their new EP release, I had a chat with Ian McHugh, guitarist in the band, about what they’re currently up to. “We're just finishing up the mixing and mastering at the moment on what will be our third EP. It's provisionally titled 'Photographs in Black and White', taken from a line in new song 'Fade and Disappear',” he tells me. “It was recorded at Start Together Studios in the Oh Yeah Centre with Ben McAuley from Three Tales in June, between some hectic gigging on our first Irish mini-tour, and we're delighted with how he really helped us to get our own ideas across, to do the tracks exactly how we wanted. It’s quite a departure sonically from the previous two CDs. It's much sparser, live sounding and energetic.”
This is something that definitely comes through in their music – it’s different and unique and doesn’t care if it doesn’t fit in with what’s “cool” right now. “It's interesting covering someone else's song, especially one you have so much respect for, and it's really got us thinking about structure, arrangement and texture. I've always been fascinated by their chord progressions and sludgy guitar tone; how they crafted that dry nihilism into their sound.”
Wearing their grunge roots on their sleeve, A Plastic Rose clearly can’t be confused with a generic, laptop wielding indie band, their heavy sound and grunge aesthetic marking them out from their contemporaries. However, despite their outsider status, they have been well accepted among bands like Kowalski and Panama Kings. “In a way with so much talent around any difference you have will play into your hands. Coming from the south and moving the band up here has been a unique way of doing things, and I think that comes across in the music. Timing helped us too: I think ourselves and the likes of Kowalski would cite a couple of Saddle Creek bands in our influences, and there’s a healthy scene for that kind of thing in these parts at the moment.” It seems strange to put two such bands with such a disparate sound together, but somehow it works.
When asked on what he thinks about the Northern Irish music scene compared to the scene down south Ian tells me, “We've found that the presence of a tight scene in Belfast means that other bands have been really supportive rather than competitive, and people are always looking out for new bands to see.” So despite the current musical climate being absorbed by jagged guitars and dance beats, today’s indie fan seems to be more accommodating than first appearances would suggest,
“But what will A Plastic Rose be doing over the next year?” I hear you cry! Calm it. I’m about to tell you: “We're off on another mini tour starting in Whelan's in Dublin on August 11th, taking in Cork, Limerick and Galway with the Panama Kings and finishing up at 'VibeFest' in Enniskillen on the 16th. The EP launch will be in the Stiff Kitten in September and we're putting together some seriously exciting bands for the night. I can say no more, as they say, but we'll be confirming the line up in the next week or two on the website at www. aplasticrose. com .”
And don’t fret of you live further afield…they could be coming your way soon: “Over the rest of the year we'll be doing some dates in England and Scotland and hopefully a showcase or two in London.”
So, in a world where the right haircut, the right clothes, and the right stance seem to count for so much, it’s refreshing to see a band that are simply ‘all about the music’. Taking to the stage at the Nevermind Revisited event in the Oh Yeah building, we can only imagine that Kurt Cobain would approve.