Northern Ireland based post grunge rockers, Plague Artists consist of four “Lads” based in Belfast, Ireland brought together through a love of Alternative and Grunge music. Together a sound is created best described as “Finely Crafted NOISE”, a Post-Grunge approach to song writing has given birth to some beautifully heavy, cleanly cut gritty riffs and hard hitting drums back up a riff-tastic bass guitar sound. Soulful vocals pick up and break down with emotion on both sides of the spectrum. After completing their line up late in 2011, they set about constructing songs that complement their own personal influences. They are heavily influenced by the grunge movement of the early 90’s and have received compliments on their live performances and for their ‘Seattle sound’. The band recorded their debut EP ‘What Floats like flies’ which was produced, engineered, mixed and master by Neal Calderwood at Manor Park Studio. They signed with Sound 2 Records in late 2013 and their first release on the label ‘what Floats Like Flies EP’ was released on the 28/10/14. More recently, Plague Artists released their debut EP ‘What Floats Like Flies’ on the 28th of October on Sound 2 Records. We got to know a bit more about the group, and their new EP in the interview below.
Entertwine: Could you tell us a bit about the band’s formation? & How did you all meet and begin writing and performing together?
Leighton (Plaugue Artists): I (Leighton) set up a Myspace with some bass lines I had been working on and posted an add on the Fastfude online forum looking for someone to jam with. John replied and we set about working on material we each had written. Eventually we came across Chris on Fastfude and found we shared some similar influences and some different influences and we had our drummer! After a few months we decided to try to find a vocalist who might fit the bill. We recorded a short video off some of the material we had, posted an ad online with a link to the video. We had a few people answer the call and try out but when Jamie showed up to try out, it was clear we’d found the right voice! We immediately began working on our existing material to finalise songs and Jamie also brought his own material right from the start. I find our writing process very relaxed, there is no one person who is the sole writer. Each member of the band puts his own stamp on each song! Someone will bring a riff to a practise session and we’ll just jam on it… sometimes the songs write themselves and sometimes they get shelved for a bit until someone works out another part that fits and we’ll work on it again.
We’ve found that our songs are never truly finalised until we’ve taken them to the studio and its here as a full band we decide
what more we can put into it!
What is it like living in Northern Ireland? & What is the music scene of your hometown (Belfast) like?
L: Northern Ireland is a great ‘wee’ place with a lot to offer… It has a wealth of creativity and for such a small place, it has a tremendous range of musical genres from Hardcore punk and metal, dance and DJ outfits, singer songwriters to old school rock. Within in this however I do find it quite frustrating at times when I see places that were once hubs for this musical diversity become corrupted through what can only be interpreted as greed. Instead of running Nights to showcase local talent, they will run ‘evenings’ to allow them to reopen again and effectively charge a second ‘door-tax’ and the result is the local scene is given a curfew!! Luckily there are still places and local promoters who support emerging bands, putting on nights to showcase local talent.
Could you tell us about a few of your most exciting or interesting live performances to date?
L: Our first gig was very special for us. After 6 months practicing as a full band, we played the Pavilion Bar! It was a great feeling
and the first time we had to play our own material to both friends and strangers. We actually have a bootleg of that gig on our
Soundcloud. One of the most exciting performances was the first time we had the privilege to play The Empire in Belfast!! I can remember seeing some of my favourite acts play The Empire like Mark Lanegan and local heroes of ours, Therapy?, and it has always
remained a hallowed place in my heart! The Empire is a converted church and the acoustics in the place is just unreal! When I first started playing in bands The Empire was a venue we dreamed of playing, we didn’t care about fame or big record deals… if we got to play The Empire, we would have felt like we had made it!! So when Phil McCarroll of Sounds Of Northern Ireland (SONI) approached us offering us a slot on the bill at The Empire, we jumped at the chance!!! Live tracks recorded at this gig are also on our Soundcloud.
What life experiences and events led to the writing and recording of your latest release (“What Floats Like Flies”)? Could you give us a breakdown of each featured track?
L: I’m not so sure that life experiences or events have led to each song? Jamie’s lyrics are kind of cryptic which is something that the rest of us in the band really dig! Its not my place to comment on his lyrics meanings but from my own perspective of writing music, my bass lines do tend to project my feelings or where my head was at that time. We try to approach each song from a different prospective with the aspiration that no song we write is the same, but each will share the same vibe that is recognizable as Plague Artists.
Go– We thought this song is one of our most instantly accessible tracks with its memorable chorus. I also think it shows both Jamie and John’s ability as lead guitarists, each complementing the tune perfectly
Into You– This is a prime example of a song that has basically written itself form one of us bringing a single riff to a jam and the
song just rights itself.
That’s How It Goes– This was a pretty straight forward song that we felt was missing something so we shelved it for a short time until Jamie was showing us a new riff he’d written and Chris suggested playing it at the end of That’s How It Goes, using it as a
kind of bridge and outro. It totally changes the dynamic of the song and it’s a lot of fun to play live!!!
Suffocate– We also have a heavier side to the band and we thought that it should be represented on our first release to
demonstrate a spectrum of the sounds we are capable of creating.
Offbeat– This is the first song we worked on as a band and the first song we took to the studio. Its one of our favourites to play
live and I think it is a good example our ability to change the feeling and flow within a song.
Who are your biggest musical influences as a band? & How do the styles, sounds, and/or textures of these artists or
producers find their way into your original compositions?
L: I think collectively we are strongly influenced by bands of the so-called grunge movement of the early 90’s such as Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana. But also homegrown bands like “Therapy.” We enjoy trying to come up with riffs that have odd time signatures or discordant tones. One of my favourite compliments was when a member of our audience approached me after one of our sets and said, “I love what you’s are doing… its like mixing Tool with Nirvana!!” I was kinda blown away by that!!! I have to be honest that I personally strive to match the clarity but also the gritty sound that Michael McKeegan from “Therapy” has on his bass.
What do the early months of 2015 hold in store for Plague Artists?
L: We’re hoping to be very busy in early 2015!!! We’ve already begun work on our follow up EP and are booked to record two
songs in January. As well as this we’re planning to promote our debut EP with a small UK & Ireland tour beginning with some
‘warm-up’ shows in and around Belfast in late January/ early February!!
And if all goes to plan the second EP will hopefully be fininshed and released later in 2015!!!