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QRD #35 - January 2008
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Interview with Plumerai
January 2008

Plumerai is a female fronted indie-pop band from Boston.  They’re hard to pigeon hole any more than that.  They’re good & I’ve actually been friends with Martin Newman (guitars) & James Newman (bass) since 1995.  Todd Richards has played drums with them for a couple years now & they’re vocalist is Elizabeth Ezell.  Their recent album Without Number came out on Silber.
Plumerai: Without Number Plumerai: Without Number
CD 2007 | Silber 059
9 tracks, 45 minutes
$12 ($14 international, $5 download (256 kbps, ~83 megs))
The full length from post-pop stars Plumerai.  Includes the cover of Remora's "Kill My Way Out of Here."

: Listen to the track Home Again  : Press release  : Reviews

QRD – I know you all listen to a lot of different types of music.  Are there any bands you all actually like?

James – I don’t think there’s a single band all four of us really like.  Some I can endure.

Todd – Umm... Slayer?

QRD – Do all your songs start with guitar parts or do you sometimes start with something else?

Martin – Seems that way sometimes, but no.  Sometimes they start with drums or bass & sometimes both.

 QRD – What percentage of the songs you write make it on to an album?  It seems like most of the shows I’ve seen is material from your recordings?

 James – 80%?  During the writing/recording of the last album there were maybe four songs that weren’t completed in time.  Hopefully they’ll make there way on to the next one.  We don’t get to rehearse as often as we used to, so for live shows we stick with what we know.  We tried experimenting at a show & it turned out pretty bad.  I have a copy of it.

QRD – What’s up with the guitorgan & your koto or whatever it is?  I thought they were going to be all over the last record, but I don’t think they were there at all?

James – The koto like instrument (guzheng) was used throughout “Avernal” & the guitorgan was used on “Blues & Greens” right before the chorus.  We also made use of these bells I had since high school on “Kill My Way” & a taiko drum at the end of “Blues & Greens.”

QRD – So Martin, I understand that James actually owns most of the effect pedals you use for the guitar.  Do the two of you collaborate at all on getting your guitar tone?

Martin – As well as the guitars.  Not really, he hands me a pedal that he thinks sounds good & tries to give advice on using it, but usually I don’t pay attention.

QRD – Is there any piece of equipment actually integral to your guitar tone?

Martin – The amp & guitar mostly.  I like the Boss Delay on, but it jumbles up some parts, so it really depends what I’m playing.  The Fender VI for certain songs is integral to those particular songs.

QRD – Are the lyrics always at the end or is there some kind of discussion of vague concept that comes to fruition?

Martin – It’s always up to Elizabeth.  Sometimes they’re pre-written lyrics she fits over songs & sometimes, & I think most of the time actually, they’re written specifically for a piece of music.  But she has free reign with that, so there’s never a discussion of lyrical content amongst the band.

QRD – Do you think the live shows or recorded material is more important?

James – The recording because it’s permanent.

Todd – It all depends on the type of band, we’re the record type.

QRD – You talk on & off about doing a west coast tour or going to Europe.  What has to happen for either of these to come to fruition?

James – Book us & we’ll come.  It’s mainly money & help booking/promoting.  Both are fairly expensive trips.  Touring is expensive unless you’re getting guarantees, which doesn’t happen often.

QRD – What’s the last thing you learned from a live show?

Martin – We need some new songs.

James – Book hotels in advance.  Driving around aimlessly after a show doesn’t leave you much time to sleep since checkout is usually 11am.  Lesson courtesy of Martin.

QRD – If you could take one extra person on tour, would it be a merchandiser, soundman, or extra musician?

James – Extra musician.  We’ve been needing one for a while, although it’ll make driving/sleeping arrangements more difficult.  Some clubs have sound guys who hate the idea of someone messing with their gear & anyone in the band can be the merchandiser.

QRD – The vocals are not in the airy-ethereal style that so many shoegazer type bands use.  Are they intentionally different or just how things ended up?

Martin – it was intentional to not work with another one of those type of singers.  It was luck that someone auditioned that wasn’t one of those type of singers.  It probably works out best that the only band we all agree on is Slayer.

James – It just worked out like that.  We auditioned several singers & Elizabeth proved to be the best choice.  Our style benefited from her voice.  Since it wasn’t typical of our style at the time it allowed us to expand.

QRD – With how the music industry has changed over the past ten years, what do you see as the benefit of working with a label instead of just handling a release yourself?

James – Help with funding an album’s release/promotion.

Martin – Time restraints on our part & any monetary support or contacts the label already have.  Plus labels make for an easy scapegoat when things aren’t going right. 

QRD – To you what is music about in general & your music in particular?

James – Music is like a mood enhancer.  The lyrics, melody, &/or the overall feel of the song can affect/set your mood or the song is associated with an event/person/time from your past which generates a particular mood.  Some songs of ours do that for me.

Todd – I think when it comes to recording & playing music for others, its about evoking emotions in the listener.  Our music is about making money.  Kidding, we don’t make any money

QRD – I know Martin is still working on his Goddakk project, are there any other music projects being worked on?

James – I have the breakup tape, but I haven’t really put any work into it since the fall.  Currently it’s a MySpace page for song ideas.

Todd – coat check.  Nuff said.

QRD – What do you think is the biggest asset to working in a band context rather than on your own?

James – You don’t have to write all the parts yourself.

Todd – When you’re on your own, all you have is your own ideas & opinions.  Band members can tell you when your ideas suck.

QRD – I guess it seems like a long time ago now, but I actually haven’t interviewed you guys since Todd joined on drums.  What’s Todd’s musical background, he seems to play in a jazz type style?

Todd – I’m actually a pretty big ska freak.  (Shh!  Don’t tell anybody.)  But yeah, I studied jazz for a little bit.

QRD – Did James have any problems letting go of playing drums & switching back to bass?

James – Not really.  It wasn’t until the summer before Todd joined that I really felt confident with my drumming.  I feel more confident playing bass & I’m happy not having to set up as much gear.

QRD – I know Todd recently moved to a different city to go back to school.  How’s it effecting the band?

Todd – We definitely don’t practice as much as we should, but the writing process hasn’t changed much.

James – It’s harder to work out/rehearse new material.

QRD – I hear you are working on a release that is going to be acoustic?  What do you see as the instrumentation on that?

James – We’re doing a split 7” with The Brother Kite.  It’s pretty much done unless we decide to add strings.  As of now the instrumentation is: acoustic guitar, vocals, bells, air organ, cymbals.  Clara Kebabian (on fire, ex-jumblies) added violin parts to the song.

Martin – The split 7” uses acoustic guitar as the main instrument, then we added air organ, a string section, bells, & of course vocals & cymbals. Basically I wanted to release a record that would highlight Elizabeth’s voice & also sound good relaxing while listening to vinyl.  Style wise even the guitar part is much different than what we usually do, but I think it’ll be a great sounding song.  The Brother Kite song is also stripped down from their usual style.  It’ll be self-released, but will be distributed by Clairecords & we’re hoping to have it available by the time we go to Texas in March.

QRD – Any particular plans for your next full length?

Martin – We have the bare bones for about six songs.  Trying to get together to work it out is taking a bit longer though.

James – I don’t plan on mixing it. 

QRD – Anything else?

James – So long & thanks for all the fish.

Official Plumerai Website
Plumerai on MySpace

Other QRD interviews with Plumerai:
Plumerai interview (December 2005)
burMonter interview (April 1995)

Plumerai tour diary:
Plumerai Tour Diary (June-November 2005)

I Heart FX
Martin Newman (burMonter)
Martin Newman (Plumerai 2007)