While many artists are captivated by scientific details of what distant star systems might work like, Brooklyn based new wave / synth punk / electro pop duo THE FANTASTIC PLASTICS believe there’s plenty of curiosities in George Orwell influenced concepts and simpler sci-fi stylistics to inspire their work. We sat down with them to discuss their inspirations, futurism in their freaky art and a lot more. See the full interview with Tyson and Mandy below.
THE FANTASTIC PLASTICS released their debut EP ‘Outsiders’ in 2014. Their newest effort called “Invasion” (October 2016) continues where they left off with their debut full-length “Devolver” (2012). Their records managed to convey a really good mixture of various inspirations, blending both futuristic and retro elements, giving us a hint that maybe more bands should try having this much fun.
“FutureWave / NeoNewWave fast paced pop with whip smart retro futuristic lyrics… and a side of television obession” – THE FANTASTIC PLASTICS
Hey there Tyson! Thanks so much for joining us here on IDIOTEQ. How are you? How’s this fine Summer been treating you this year?
This Summer has been fantastically busy and productive. We’ve spent a good portion of the Summer writing and recording our new EP “Invasion” on top of playing road shows. Most recently we played the annual DEVO gathering known as “DEVOtional” in Cleveland OH. It’s always a fantastic event. This year Gerald Casale and Bob Mothersbaugh attended and so many great bands played. The “DEVOtees” have been really good to us.
Great! Speaking of your recent and current touring plans, tell us a bit about this year’s Upstart Fest and your relationship with Altercation Records. How has your relationship evolved since you first met?
This year’s Upstart Fest line up is ridiculous; THE QUEERS, SVETLANAS! We’ve been fans of THE QUEERS since we were kids and we’re still losing our minds about getting to tour with them this fall. And what can we say about the SVETLANAS?!? We played a few shows with them at SXSW this Summer and they blew everyone off the stage every night. We pride ourselves on our high energy dance riot enticing shows but SVETLANAS are on another level, for real. And if all of that wasn’t enough, one of the tour stops is the Middle East in Cambridge (Boston). We’ve always wanted to play that fantastic room.
Altercation Records has been so good to us and so good for us. Everywhere we go people have a deep love for the label and their bands. Travis and JT (Altercation Records heavyweights) are the real deal, genuine dudes who put the music and the relationships with their bands first. They treat us like family.
They’ve helped shape our sound over the last year without even knowing it. They give us total creative control over our sound but they’ve been influencing our new material without even knowing it. They’ve inspired us to let our freak flags fly.
Awesome! Speaking of your artistic realm, what made you want to become futuristic musicians and find fulfilment in this specific niche of digital sonic arts? Please tell us a bit about your musical backgrounds, inspirations and what led you to forming this project.
So many things have changed so quickly in our lifetime. For instance the miniaturization of everything…recently watching “Stranger Things” on Netflix is a great reminder of how far we’ve come in a few decades. Yet, if you go back to the 1960s and look at where the futurists back then thought we’d be by now it’s pretty sad. They had such optimism for the future and hope for mankind. Somewhere along the way all of that got lost. Maybe it started post Nixon when we lost faith in the government and everything went private and then no one wanted to pay for NASA. But… that’s where we draw our inspiration. We try to reflect that future that never came to be. We want to represent the 2016 that people in 1966 dreamed up.
Musically we both grew up listening to a lot of New Wave. DEVO, TALKING HEADS, B-52S, THE CARS, BLONDIE, KRAFTWERK, and on and on. Where we grew up, in Illinois, the radio stations were all country or classic rock and by the time we were teenagers New Wave was classic rock and yet was still alternative. The lyrics and the music spoke to us in a way the rest of the music did not. We were outsiders for sure.
THE FANTASTIC PLASTICS was an idea we had for a long time. We’d tried a few versions of it earlier, one was called “Mandroid (Destroyers of the Human Race)” and another was called Analog Saves the Planet. We just wanted to do something that blended high energy music that would either make you dance or melt your face. And we wanted to include visual elements that complimented the music. In our live shows we have uniforms and intense video installations, along with other surprises. We just want to do something that keeps people from looking at their devices while we perform.
Yeah, your work seems to keep a good balance between a form, design, sonic experience, movie inspirations and various other forms of art. How important is balancing between all of these for you? What would you name the most important part of FANTASTIC PLASTICS?
The balance is very important to us, we are definitely trying to create an experience, set a tone, transport the imagination and so on. At the end of the day the albums are the physical product you can take home, but for us it’s really about the live show and we hope that the experience sticks with our fans when they go home and put the album on their stereo. We just want it to be visceral. We are experimenting with an olfactory element to the live show as well. But what does dystopia smell like anyway?
By the way, why do you think dystopian literature and lyrics within various musical offerings have been so common throughout history?
Music is usually a reflection or commentary of what’s happening in society and it would seem that we are now living, to some degree, in the dystopian worlds portrayed in Nineteen Eighty Four and Brave New World. We have willingly allowed ourselves to be put under constant surveillance under the guise of safety not that far off from what Orwell described, our cities are crumbling, we’re over medicated and we distrust the government. That all seems pretty dystopian and perfect material for songwriting to me.
7 years after forming this band, how do you feel about this project? What were you guys aiming at when you started it and how have you evolved?
Although we began in late 2009 we really mark the beginning of our band in 2013. That’s when we re-launched in NYC, added Miranda on synth and solidified our sound and look. Prior to 2013 we were living and playing in central Illinois. We had an idea of what we wanted to be but it wasn’t fully realized back then. The sound was the same but once we moved to NYC we added more visuals and more oomph. And I guess looking back we began to hone in on a lyrical philosophy and that’s when the package was completed.
Running a punk webzine, focused mainly on guitars based music, I’m really curious about your creative process. How do you go about composing and recording?
We usually write songs one of two of ways, like most bands I suppose, they usually begin with an acoustic guitar and a melody and then we add layer after layer of other textures. But of our songs, my favorite songs are the ones where Dylan comes up with a drum and bass idea first and then we add guitars. Those bass and drum driven songs are always more funky make you want to dance where as the ones that begin with guitar always end up being more in your face and make you want to come unglued. We get pegged as a synth band, but we put as much emphasis, if not more, on guitars. Guitars are what separate us from most of the other synth driven acts out there. Plus they look bad ass on stage.
Where do you think digital technology is heading, and how do you think it will affect alternative and independent scenes of all kinds?
I think the experience is going to get more immersive and more interactive. Music has mostly been a passive experience, you put your music on, and you listen. But I see something new coming along the way, some sort of active participation through AR and VR. Maybe something that allows the listener to virtually be in the band, on stage playing with the band. More holograms I hope. I’m ready for a Mozart hologram, or maybe Tiny Tim. I could see a hologram super group with Cobain, Hendrix, Lennon, Keith Moon and Phil Lynott taking the world by storm.
Sounds amazing! One of my favorite sci-fi writers, Arthur C. Clarke, has been predicting the future with great accuracy many years. Apart from music business, what futuristic concepts and ideas would you like to see become real?
2001 is the movie that has inspired our band the most. But to answer your question, the first thing I can think of is in William Gibson’s book Neuromancer (written in 1984), people can essentially plug a little USB chip into their neck and instantly know how to speak French, fly a plane, code software, etc. I think that could be a possibility sometime in our lifetimes. But I think the thing that excites us most is the possibility of intergalactic exploration and colonization of other worlds.
Do you follow space missions in the news? Do you believe in manned Mars mission in less than 50 years from now?
We do indeed follow the space missions. It’s been a major bummer to see NASA take a back seat to private companies. I think they both could exist. You know 2001 A Space Odyssey predicted this. If you look closely you’ll notice that they fly to the moon on a commercial space craft, PAN AM I think. You’ll also notice TV screens on the back of the seats. That must have looked pretty futuristic in the 60s.
As far as manned missions to Mars or any planet is concerned 50 years is way too long to wait, but it’s probably realistic. It’s just a bummer to see how far the space program went from the late 60s to the 80s and then see it just die and essentially turn into a satellite delivery service.
I wish they finally find a way to do something with the concept of space elevator, haha. Unfortunately, lots of theoretically doable stuff still remains fantasy.
You mentioned some authors that have influenced you the most. What are you reading now?
I think at one point Google wanted to take up the space elevator idea but it on pause with Google glass.
Currently reading “Snow Crash” by Neal Stephenson. It’s a cyber punk novel written in the early 90s. It’s fantastic so far!
Ok, so lastly, who are the musical artists you are currently following?
Right now we are really excited about bands we’ve been gigging with. There’s two far out bands in Philly doing their own thing and blowing minds, one is MAGE HAND and the other is CHEAP DINOSAURS, they are both doing something new, loud and fast. And of course our label mates SVETLANAS. They are on another level altogether . So much energy and life in that band.
Great, thanks a lot for your time. Feel free to wrap it up with your final words and be sure to keep in touch! Cheers!
First off we’d just like to say thanks. This has been fun. You’re questions were great; very well thought out and different. They made for an interesting conversation. We really appreciate it.
Final words….? Keep it loud, keep it weird and keep it moving forward.