“Mom? Mom? It’s us, Slipknot, calling for press.”
I (unfortunately) did not talk to Slipknot for this interview.
I first met Brooklyn based indie-pop band, Plastic Picnic at a dive bar on the Tuesday of SXSW this past March. I didn’t even mean to go to that showcase, but I was hooked the second they played a Police cover, and lead singer, Emile Panerio, left the stage to give the audience fist bumps. They had a contagious sort of joy that was hard not to give into, and my friends and I found ourselves dancing along to songs we had never heard before, but somehow felt we already knew. By the end of the week, I had seen Plastic Picnic four times and still wasn’t sick of them.
The quartet is comprised of two sets of best friends: Emile Panerio (vocals, guitar, synth), and Lincoln Lute (guitar, synth), and Marshall Hunt (bass and synth) and Gordon Taylor (drums), who all moved from Washington to New York around the same time. Though they all played in bands in Washington, they didn’t meet until they moved to the East coast, “Shortly after Lincoln and I moved to New York a mutual friend put us in touch with Gordon and Marshall and thus the band was formed” said Panerio.
The word juxtaposition gets thrown around a lot when talking about their music, and even their name. Taylor explains, “Plastic Picnic kind of mirrors our sound in the sense of the juxtaposition of synthetic and organic material, Also with our background of us all being pacific northwest boys who grew up in the woods and then moving to a more urban environment. Plus we like how it sounds.”
Though they draw inspiration from outside sources, Panerio claims that they draw the most creative energy from each other. “I think that in kind of a cheesy way we definitely draw the most inspiration from each other ‘cause we write so collaboratively,” said Panerio as Lute “awed” lovingly in the background. “We definitely do share a lot of common influences musically, even if it is just on a subconscious level at this point, but I would say that when we are writing or recording, we do draw the most off each others’ creative visions and interpretations of the songs.”
Panerio continued, “But if I had to name off a few acts that we all come to an even playing field on, I’d say: The War on Drugs, The National, Japanese Breakfast, and Alvvays. A good mix between like really dark depressing intellectual rock, and a more cool pop-synth sound, which kind of brings us back to the juxtaposition, like the name, of a darker maturity and a hopeful fairly forward pop nostalgia sound” which is what makes them special. It’s hard to make direct comparisons to any single band because they are a combination of many.
Since they were only formed in 2015, they have yet to become married to a single process. “We are a young enough band where we don’t have a solid writing process figured out, which is actually nice. There are songs from the last EP and the next collection of songs that started from all of us just collaboratively playing through during practice and that turned into a song, and also there are songs that one person brought to the group 50% or more complete as far as an idea goes that was then transformed into a song” said Panerio.
“I think one of the things that is really fun is that each person has been able to be the starting point for a song. There’s at least one song that’s started with a drum beat, or a guitar line, or a bass idea. Then we will come together and just play until we find that common ground to create one solid idea” added Taylor.
For their first EP, the band decided to take the traditional recording route, but they have switched to a more “bedroom style recording environment where we will record demos and play around with them while trying to also figure out how we can play these songs live as a four piece rock band” explained Panerio.
Their newest single, “Doubt” was a product of the newer bedroom style recording. “That one started as a text from Emile, like a voice memo, and we all freaked out about it and said ‘yeah let's all go work on this’ and it was just a 30 second idea” said Taylor. “Then we all began the Plastic Picnic dissection process where we pulled it down to the bare bones and then rebuilt it with everybody’s influence” added Panerio.
“Doubt” starts off feeling like the guitar is floating in and around the synth as it builds to include the rhythm section and finally Panerio’s soft and almost crooning vocals. Ultimately they create an end product that lives up to the bands’ favorite way to describe their music, “Sad music you can dance to.”
The song has the most literal lyrical content that I have heard from the band so far with lines like “I was only trying to show what you mean to me, after all this you had cold feet, and you’re looking back, questioning all you had, all you had.” They write songs you could hear in a movie soundtrack, bridging the gap between listenability and meaning seamlessly.
They’re more than just good musicians. They’re also just entertaining as people. Plastic Picnic had a surprising bout of internet notoriety during SXSW 2018 when a video of Simon of Balthazar, Lute’s alter-ego, doing tricks with a plastic sword Barton Springs went viral. It even made it to the front page of Reddit. “He’s been in Siberia training since Southby, but we are going to be flying him out to join us in the Northwest. He’s gonna continue his training during the tour, but he will be performing as well” stated Lute.
They have a single release party planned for September 17 at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn, as well as a brief West Coast tour coming up this fall. They will kick it off with a hometown show at Seattle’s Chop Suey on October 3 before heading down the coast ultimately ending at Los Angeles’s Hi Hat on October 10.