LA-based duo Polyplastic has been busy preparing for their debut record release later this year. With eager anticipation to see what they’ve been cooking up, the west coast is getting treated over the month to never-before-heard tracks and an exciting look at what’s to come for the crew. At the head of the tour is their stop at the Hi Hat on Wednesday, March 11th with Bamenda and Deserta for a night of riotous good dancing and fun musically as well as visually. Amidst all the prepping for their tour, Charlie Ellis and Emily Ibarra shed some light on what Polyplastic has been up to ahead of their tour and release.
LA CANVAS: Hey y’all! So excited to chat more about everything you have on the radar. It feels like there’s been a great nostalgic resurgence of east coast post-punk with the likes of (Sandy) Alex G and other cats with a similar grit, how are those influences coming into play on the upcoming record?
POLYPLASTIC: [EMILY] To be honest with you, I don’t know if our music is really influenced by/ informed by anything that is currently trending! Our band is so all over the place in terms of sonic references and influences, the lion’s share of them not being current. It’s awesome that what we are making is being compared to some of that stuff though, definitely a huge compliment!
[CHARLIE] I think the type of contemporary music that is influencing us for these new songs are a mix of gothier bands like Boy Harsher, ADULT, Lust for Youth and straight up pop like Robyn and Kylie Minogue. It’s all through the lens of being a guitar band so it ends up being pretty different, but I think that’s more of the mode we are in these days.
LAC: Is there a method to how you approach crafting each song?
PP: [C] The method has changed a lot over the past couple of years, but the one common element is that I keep a journal. I use it both for writing lyrics and for drawing and designing a lot of our artwork/clothing, and it’s nice to have those two aspects of the band play out in their nascent form together. I also recently started writing on piano and focusing on melody before the rest of the music which is a totally different way for me to write (although I think this is a common way to do it for most songwriters, took me long enough to figure that out…).
LAC: I love the additional creative elements you have incorporated in the past from your outfits, to corresponding prints and merch with previous releases. How did this side of things come out?
PP: [C] It was a pretty natural process incorporating the art and clothes into Polyplastic. I have a background in art so designing the album art/merch seemed like a no-brainer for me to do instead of hiring other people to do it. I separately became interested in making clothing and realized that it was a lot easier to design stage attire than to build clothes as its own practice. I have been able to learn a lot by making stuff for Emily and I without feeling the pressure of trying to design a full line or something like that.
LAC: Any curious details or additions to your Hi Hat stop?
PP: [E] We will have a whole new crop of merch that we are selling for this show, and an order sheet to get yourself some sweet customized Polyplastic pants that Charlie hand makes! Our best friend Matt, who has his own project Wet Leather, is our part-time guitarist, and he is joining us for this West Coast run after LA + DJing the LA show. We haven’t toured with him in a little over a year, so that’s our mega special guest!
And then, of course, the support acts – Bamenda is a long time close pal of ours and makes the coolest music, with epic visuals. He’s 100% worth coming out early for, we love him. And between him and us are our new pals Deserta, who make dreamy/psychedelic post-punk and are super rad, we’re excited they are joining us.
LAC: Your sound is such a mystifying blend of grunge and dance, what are the journeys you look to take the audience on when sharing your songs, in recording but especially live with your upcoming shows?
PP: [E] This is something we think about in both realms – we have been leaning into the dancier side of things for sure; our record is going to feature some experimentation with that, which is a newer territory we have been building towards. We also have a more rock/punk side, and a sentimental side. I think all three really balance each other well live and keep things interesting for us. We play with song order and set flow a lot which is fun. It’s like taking the audience along an emotional rollercoaster, but a well thought out one. I think we spent a lot of time early on being more methodical about what our “sound” was, and now that we have found it – and it’s not just one thing – we really lean into the fact that our music can be one or all of those worlds, and that they’re all authentic to us.
LAC: What originally brought y’all together to form Polyplastic? Any fun history on the inception of the band’s name?
PP: [E] Well, Charlie, Dylan (our guitarist and de facto music director) and I all went to college together. We were all in different bands and had the same broader friend group but weren’t nearly as close as we are now. When Charlie moved back to LA from Philly a mutual friend reconnected us, we went to a show together and were talking about writing and playing music, and Charlie told me he had been working on some new material he was really stoked about that placed him in the role of the lead singer, which wasn’t a role he was used to occupying.
I on the other hand had always been lead singer and rhythm guitarist, but I had just been gifted this sweet new bass (that I didn’t really know how to play yet to be honest), and I thought it would be fun to try being that role in a project. We jammed a couple times and it was just so organic and fun, it worked really well between the two of us and I loved the songs he had written. We have always had a great dynamic, so it was easy from the beginning. A year-ish into it Dylan moved back to LA and helped us record our earliest songs, and eventually he became lead guitarist as we played together and ran through ideas more.
And GAH, the band’s name. Well, we wanted our band name to be something material/industrial so originally were called HVAC, which we didn’t think to google search to see how many other bands had this name, etc. And then got a fun little cease and desist after two live shows under the name. Then it was back to the drawing board, which was honestly a nightmare because finding a band name that isn’t stupid is fucking shitty and so hard. But we stuck with the building material/industrial theme and landed on Polyplastic, it had a nice ring to it and lent itself well to the visual art side of things that we were going for. Totally forgot about HVAC for a while before typing this out; super happy we changed it.
LAC: Who are some key influences for y’all? What did you listen to growing up and has that shown up in your music?
PP: [E] I am a big fan of the Deal sisters, cliché whatever but I love them. I was originally a guitarist but picked up the bass a few years back in large part because of The Breeders. Other influences for me, I grew up obsessed with The Velvet Underground, Patti Smith, Talking Heads. I was always drawn to the weirdness of the music that came out of that era – songwriting was bizarre but also so loveable, dark and also shimmery at times. I relate to that aspect a lot in what we do. Duo comparisons are topical, and our music is very different but I have always been the biggest fan of The Kills, so I’m sure that seeps in at times in terms of my playing. They have a knack for less-is-more grit, especially their early records, while still making such interesting and catchy music. Stuff like that really inspires me, the fact that you can be textural and surprising with simplicity. This question always overwhelms me, but I think that’s a good place to start.
[C] I grew up listening to a lot of punk from LA and the UK. I love X, The Germs, Suburban Lawns and feel a special connection to the LA Chinatown punk scene that was happening in the late 70s and early 80s. The video rental store I grew up near had one VHS copy of Decline of Western Civilization and that really influenced me and my music tastes which is big part of Polyplastic. I also really love Latin music. Buena Vista Social Club made me want to learn piano when I was young and now I listen to a lot of Reggaeton artists like Ms. Nina, Ozuna, Mi$$il, etc.
LAC: How are y’all feeling leading up to your record release? I noticed you’re on the radar with the political climate we’re currently in with the United States, has that come into play with inspirations of this record?
PP: [E] We have it written, and are recording when we get back from this tour. Part of the reasoning for doing a little tour run before recording was to play through some of these new songs and really get a feel for them live, which has been awesome to rehearse. We are playing four songs that will be on the record on this tour, three of which we have never played live before. We are so stoked for people to hear them.
RE: politics, no I wouldn’t say any of the current political climate has informed our music; our songs are pretty abstract and have been a really important and productive way to disconnect from everything and feel good about something. But as far as being vocal about politics and trying to encourage others to do the same, its’ something that is very important to Charlie and me. It feels like a crime to be silent right now, and I hope voicing our opinions and sharing ways to be active and engaged will have some impact, no matter how small.
LAC: What are some aspirations you have beyond this tour and record for 2020?
PP: [E] We want to be on the road as much as possible. We have a few support tours in the works for this year that are exciting, we’re so ready to do that for a while. Releasing our first physical record is a marker for us as a band, we feel like it’s launching us into the next phase of things and it’s pushing us creatively. So I think the goal in general is to just continue the momentum we are building with this record into whatever we do next.
[C] I want to at some point partner with a clothing brand and make an actual Polyplastic clothing line!
Catch Polyplastic along with Bamenda and Deserta at the Hi Hat on Wednesday, March 11th. Tickets can be found at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/polyplastic-deserta-bamenda-tickets-91071889473