Reliving PLAGUES, one year later

When I first interviewed them in May 2012, I knew we will soon catch up again to discuss their next moves. Now, here they are, Southern California’s hardcore punk / powerviolence machine known as PLAGUES, with their brand new “Perfect State” 7” (available via  Glory Kid Limited) full of dark, crushing riffs that surely define their own identity.

Check out their new tracks “Dull Fangs Against the Concrete” (GlueHC exclusive) + “Old Holds For New Constructions” (originally premiered over at Toxicbreed’s Funhouse) and dive into my fresh interview with PLAGUES below. Oh, and don’t miss out on their contribution to the newest Tight To The Nail Summer 2013 Sampler!

Hello again, fellas! Tomorrow will mark exactly one year since our last brief interview for IDIOTEQ! :) Time flies, man. It’s been a good year for PLAGUES, hasn’t it?

Yeah, it’s definitely been a good year for us! We have gotten a lot done in a year and we’re still keeping busy.

Cool. One of the biggest news was, of course, your signing with Glory Kid. Shoot me some details on how you guys hooked up and how’s this collaboration working for you.

Andrew and I have known each other for a while. Buddy played guitar for BURN YOUR LIFE DOWN, fronted by Andrew, and that’s where he and I connected first. When we recorded the Perfect State EP, I showed him some of the rough-mixes the second I got them and he really took to them, which was when he asked us to sign up with Glory Kid. Obviously, there’s no way we would turn that down. As far as working with him, it’s been nothing short of rewarding. He and I have been working on a lot of things for this band and I feel that everything that we are doing together is helping PLAGUES’ development as a hardcore group in the underground music scene.

Oh yeah, the “Perfect State”! It’s a straight up statement. Was there something in particular that you wanted us to think about when we read that title? Also, how are you proud of it?

The name, Perfect State, is our satire of how life was portrayed in American media from around the 1950s to present: A husband and wife with the 2.5 kids who mortgage a tiny plot of land and keep up with the latest trends and celebrities, as well as having the fear of God stricken into them, resulting in avalanches of prayer and bigotry. Of course, this way of thinking in America has shifted dramatically towards more open-minded agendas, but we still find these pockets all around the country that still think that, by putting on airs and clinging to these “old” traditions, that they can do miraculous things like “pray the gay away” and preserve their idea of a Nuclear family, however warped their views may be. I’ve always tried to find merit in how someone can think that way, but always turn up empty handed with the answers and it proved to be a good topic to reflect on while writing these songs.

Yup, but still there’s a lot of people that are behind the times. Do you observe such unmindful and naive behavior amongst the people that surround you?

I’ve met a handful of people who have that old-fashioned way of thinking as well as people who sit on the far left with just as much naïveté. It’s all a very subjective way of thinking and there’s no real evidence being presented to me in their arguments. Just “Bill O’Reilly says this” or “Info Wars says this”. I’d rather hear from someone’s personal opinion rather than the media’s. It’s just a little unnerving to see someone parroting a far left or far right podcast.

Alright, so what else is new in your approach to writing this time? Both lyrically and musically?

A lot of what we’ve been doing has come pretty naturally to us in our songwriting. I feel like, since we’ve never really anchored ourselves down to one particular genre, we’re free to write whatever we want and play with whoever we want, which is a big plus since none of us listen strictly to hardcore or powerviolence and that gives us the opportunity for us to share the stage with a lot of artists that we really enjoy. Lyrically, I never really have a particular motif. A lot of what I write is mainly just a reflection of who I am or what has happened to me in my life. With Perfect State, I felt like I approached that subject matter a little more straight forward and with a little more criticism than usual, allowing me to reveal more and get my messages across more clearly, rather than writing in a cryptic fashion.

And how was the recording with with Erol “Rollie” Ulug at Bright Lights Studios (DANGERS, GRAF ORLOCK, CHILDREN OF GOD, SEAHAVEN)?

Rollie’s a really good friend of ours and has been a great guy to work with every time we’ve hit him up to record. I feel like, since we had a lot more time in the studio with him this this time around, we were able to really focus on the overall tone of the record and track through a variety of different amps and cabinets, which really brought out a sound that we wanted.

The last time we talked you asked yourself “Why would anyone want to pay for music from a band they’ve never seen or even heard of before?” Has this approach to distribution of your music evolved somehow?

My way of thinking hasn’t changed since we last spoke. My method of getting my music across is still based on the idea of having it free for everyone to hear, at least within the digital realm. It has become the norm for our scene to want to listen to an album before buying it, which I completely understand, although I’m sure it takes away from the thrill of listening to a song for the first time ever on vinyl. Still, I would trade that for having the guarantee of buying a good record.

One more follow up then. Back then, right after the premiere of your crazy “Nineteen” video, there were a couple people that have hit you up asking us to produce your next video. Is there a part II to this video?

Nineteen was never intended to be a two part video, but we are definitely interested in making plenty more music videos. We’re also looking to document a lot of what goes on in PLAGUES and I’ll probably have a tour diary up within the next few weeks, just to give a little more insight into our daily routine, but knowing how fucking goofy everyone is in this band, it will probably come out looking like we’re the next SPINAL TAP hahaha.

Haha, true true.

You have recently revealed your new track “Old Holds For New Constructions” via Toxicbreed’s Funhouse. Are you somehow involved in this collective? Having friends there?

Wayne’s a very good friend of ours, but that doesn’t give us any special treatment over at Toxicbreed. We do whatever we can to get involved in the underground music scene and I feel that in order to make a community like this thrive you’ve got to put in effort. Not just as a band, but as a fan of the music you listen to and a patron as well. Our involvement is no more significant as any other contributor and trust me there are plenty of them, from writers to warehouse owners and screen printers. Everyone I’ve met in this scene has their fingers in something beneficial towards the scene and I’m proud to be a part of it.

Nice, you should be! What other local magazines, zines and collectives do you have over there?

There are a lot of other collectives out here. More than I can think of right now. They come and go, but the ones who stay really fight for their place. Spaces like The Dial are struggling to stay open and I just recently learned of Unit B‘s lease being terminated. I know they’ll bounce back in a new location, but it’s really sad seeing spots disappear in a day like that. There are tons of zines and record stores around here that are amazing and always help out wherever they can. I’d love to sit here and take the time to name them all, but we’d be here for days hahaha.

Oh yeah.. The Dial asks for some contributions, but is it because they’re lack of money to provide certain conditions, or are they being kicked out due to some rental or legal issues?

The Dial are a bunch of friends who rented out this giant warehouse in Murrieta and set up a DIY community space. Pretty much The Dial is their job and it costs a lot to keep anything like that going here. You’ve got to sign on to a 6 month to a year lease and then pay for insurance every month and that’s the least of your worries. If a cop shows up and for some reason doesn’t like what’s going on, he can pretty much shut the whole thing down.

Can you call The Dial a squat? We’re struggling to keep venues like that in power, too. Occupying an abandoned or unoccupied buildings make owners and authorities act. They recently shut down one of the biggest squats in Poland called Elba.

There really is no such thing as a squat down here. Not one that you’d want to be having shows in, anyways. I’ve heard about how most of the shows over in Europe are in squats and go off without much trouble from the police and I really wish that North America had that kind of mentality, but it’s way too much of a police state right now to even consider having a show in an abandoned warehouse without risking arrest of a hefty fine.

I’ve heard and read loads of crazy stories about cops breaking up DIY punk shows by posing as fans, closing down venues and dreaming of catching kids breaking the law :) Is it really an issue in the US? Do you feel threatened by the police?

I actually read about that somewhere: some cops in Boston were emailing bands posing as punx to try and get details on the next diy show. I personally have never seen anything like that, but I don’t doubt something like that has actually happened. When a cop hears the letters D, I and Y in that order, they immediately think about underage drinking, noise curfew and juvenile delinquency. The problem is, all of those elements are present at any show you go to, DIY or otherwise. Dumb people like to get drunk and ruin front lawns and smash in windows. But because of one or two idiots, the rest of us have to pay for it. So yeah, we take precautions and learn how to find the right loopholes so that, when a cop calls and starts to threaten us, we can talk our way out of it. We also try to keep organized violence to a minimum.

Ok, so what’s hot in the Cali punk scene at the moment? What’s pumpin’? ;)

SoCal has a lot going on right now. You’ve got a grip of fests, a plethora of venues, record stores, skate spots, the surf, and touring bands coming in and out of here what seems like every week.

Have you attended So Cal fest? Any other cool fests comin’ up this summer?

I’ve never heard of So Cal Fest, but the big things I know of that look like they’re going to go off this year are Gnarmageddon, Punk is Dead Fest, Destroy LA fest, Power of the Riff, FYF and one or two more that will guarantee a rad time to anyone who attends it.

Ha! I meant So Cal Slam, sorry, dude! :)

Alright… back to the PLAGUES legacy, I remember your teasing the 2nd installation of your digital Ages series “II: Age of Bacteria”. What happened to that EP?

Age II was supposed to the next release, but when we stepped into the studio, we had all these songs that we felt were too good to just crank out, so we sat down and changed our plans, which resulted in the Perfect State EP. We still want to get Age II out and have plans on doing several other Ages, but we felt that putting them on hold for a while was the right move.

Any chance for another split?

We’re always down to do splits. We’ve been in talks with a couple friends in bands that we’d love to release something with, but right now our priorities are focused on other things. If all goes as planned, we’ll probably get that ball rolling and crank out another split.

Ok.. so you’ve just got back the road. How was it? Where’d you go? Was it fun?

We went up the west coast. Hit all the major spots: San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and even trekked in to Vancouver. Then we cut south-east and hit Idaho and Arizona to finish it off. The whole thing was a blast. I came home with a lot of stories and a lot to reflect on.

Comparing to your neighborhood, what’s different there? What do you find the most exotic? :)

Vancouver? Only a few subtle things like the pizza, the stoplights that always blink and the massive amounts of human waste stuck in a life of heroin over on East Hastings. That really hit hard for us, especially when we walked straight through it. Seattle had some bad drugs running around, too. There’s this veil here in the suburbs of southern California that keeps us from seeing how bad it is, but they just leave that shit out in the open up there. It was hard for us to watch, but we needed to see it first hand to really appreciate the gravity of the situation.

It was another Western run of your, huh? Don’t you like the other side of the country? ;)

Actually, it was our first time going past San Francisco and also our first time being out for more than a week. As much as I’d love for us to hit the east coast, we just weren’t able to do it this time around. We do, however, have plans for setting up a tour out there in the near future, so fingers crossed on that one.

Fair enough. And what’s up with the Canadian date? How did you pick up this particular place for the exclusive show?

Vancouver, BC was just another stop on the tour. GRIEVER had set that day up and it just so happened that BURNING LOVE was in town the same day. I guess you could call it luck, if that’s your thing. Regardless, we were all more than thrilled to be sharing the stage with all the bands that played that show and are even happier with the impact that we made on people in a country we had never been in before.

Any plans to go back there sometime soon?

Definitely. We want to go back, I’m just not sure how soon exactly. But we met a lot of awesome people up there who could help us get back up there and would totally be down to set up a Canada tour in the future.

Alright. Thanks so much for your time. Good luck for the trip! :) Feel free to add anything you like. I bet I’ve cruelly missed out on something :)

Nah, dude, you hit everything spot on. Thanks for having us again!

The black shirt design called Empty-Birds by Jonathan Davis.

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