by: Thomas D. Mooney
We caught up with Matt Plummer, guitarist and one half of Slow Static, to discuss the formation of the duo, their zombie-influenced sound, and the importance of the audience creating their own visual imagery and story to accompany their music. Plummer, along with his cousin and bandmate, drummer Ryan Plummer, have been creating quite the buzz with their brand of desolate post-rock. Slow Static’s next show will be opening up for The Dendrites at their EP release show this May 5 at The GlassyAlley Art Studio and Gallery. Like Slow Static on Facebook here and for more information on their upcoming show with The Dendrites, click here.
New Slang: You guys just started Slow Static in January. Were you guys talking about forming the band, deciding on the “sound,” and working on the songs prior to that or has everything relatively been made since then?
Matt Plummer: We’ve been playing music together for a few years now, off and on. We grew up playing in my parents’ living room and rattling my moms’ decorations off the walls. Back then, we were still searching for what we liked to play and we were still learning how to play our instruments. Ryan was still in high school and I went off to college in East Texas at Texas A&M University-Commerce. There was a period of a couple of years where we never played together. Then, when Ryan started college at TAMU-C we started playing more frequently and started a couple small projects. We were doing mostly folky acoustic stuff with The Moving Stills, but would occasionally set up in the theatre I worked at and really turned up the volume. This was last year, and through that we developed some of the music we play now–maybe one or two songs. Once we moved out to Lubbock in August of 2011, we had more time to play and decided we wanted to get something off the ground. We originally had a few more people playing with us, but schedules and rehearsal times never lined up right so we decided to just stick to the two of us and see what happened. Slow Static is what happened and we’re really happy with what we’ve accomplished so far.
NS: You guys were formally in other various musical projects ranging from bluesy rock to folk. How’s that helped you guys decide to go with a post-rock sound?
MP: Our musical tastes are all over the place. I definitely went through a few phases early on where acoustic was all I wanted to play and then all of a sudden I’d want to be Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. The variety of styles, sounds, and instruments we went through helped us become pretty well versed in a wide range of music. I became a better guitar player because when we were playing the folk stuff I started experimenting with alternate tunings to make playing guitar easier and give it a more full sound. I have a form of muscular dystrophy which degenerates muscle strength over time. Playing in open tunings really helped me develop my own style and gave me more of an ability to play more easily. We were always into experimenting with different sounds and that is really what led us to more of the post-rock genre. Ryan is one of those people who can basically pick up any instrument and become an expert on it in a matter of weeks so he was ready to play just about anything. You can hear a lot of jazz style drumming and even some heavier stuff from him in our songs. The diversity of the projects we played in before really opened us both up to a variety of sounds and techniques we can include in our music with Slow Static.
NS: Currently, it’s just the two of you. Any plans on expanding the band?
MP: We’ve thought about it, just to help fill out the sound. But again, schedules are always tough to work around. We live together so it’s easy to just go in our practice room and jam to come up with new material. A friend of ours that we used to play with is moving in with us this summer and we’d love to get her involved some how. We have quite a collection of equipment around the house that needs to see some use. We’d really only like to add some ambient synth stuff to fill the sound out a little bit. So we’ll experiment with that and see how it goes. I think it’ll work out really well. As it goes with adding a bassist or another guitar player, we really like the way it’s sounding so far. I play my guitar in stereo with one input going to my guitar amp and another going to a bass amp. This really fills out the guitar and gives us a really nice low-end. One of the coolest things we hear at our shows is that people can’t believe it’s just the two of us playing. They don’t expect a lot of what we do to come from just a two-piece band.
NS: You guys have definitely had some influence from zombie film scores, even having a song titled “In Case of Zombies, Press Play.” I’m a big zombie fan myself. First off, what’s your favorite zombie film? And second, what do you think it is that makes the film genre so interesting and something that can influence and translate to music so well?
MP: The zombie thing kind of just happened. We’ve heard the comparison at a lot of our shows and I personally love the fact that people can make that connection [laughs]. The zombie film genre is undoubtedly my favorite, so of course, after watching so many films, I’m definitely inspired by their soundtracks and visuals. If I had to pick one, I’d have to say the “28 Days Later” films. People can debate all that want that it is or is not a zombie film (I’ve heard it plenty of times [laughs].), but to me, it’s a wonderful take on the genre. The soundtrack is without a doubt one of my favorites. We’ve talked a few times about using the main theme, “In the House in a Heartbeat” as one of our encore songs at shows. All of the Romero films are undoubtedly classics. I’m also addicted, like most everyone else, to “The Walking Dead” series. The zombie film genre utilizes so many human emotions that it’s hard not to get caught up in it. The music we play hopes to evoke that same range of emotion and even intensity in some cases. I think this is why people make that connection. Maybe one day people will start coming to our shows dressed as zombies. That’d be something [laughs].
NS: Something interesting that you guys put in your biography is “[listeners] seek to create visual imagery with the sounds they create giving the audience freedom to interpret and imagine their own story to the soundtrack that Slow Static provides.” Obviously, post-rock, cinematic, etc bands are typically, if not always, lyric-less. In a way, that can sometimes make it easier for people to turn off their full attention and make bands just “background music.” On the flip side though, like you said, it gives the listener more freedom and input on what the song is saying. What do you guys think you’re doing to make sure you don’t turn into “background music?”
MP: I think the post-rock genre of music is on the rise now because people are looking to connect with music even more. It gives you an ability to make it personal for you and allows you to visualize your own story that isn’t dictated by lyrics. When we first start to work a new song we sit down and discuss what we visually take from the sound. It gives us a direction for ourselves to travel with the rest of the music. We try to incorporate a wide variety of dynamics just to keep it interesting. With a lot of lyrics these days, you can just about guess what they’re going to say next mostly because it’s all been done before. I’m not saying we are the most original sounding band out there, but we make it a point to keep our music going in a direction that might not be expected by the listener. So even if they zone out for a second, the next part of the song may grab their attention again. We have a pretty diverse live set ranging from heavy hitting rhythms to soft and ambient guitar. We want people to listen, close their eyes, and make up their own story. Even if we just serve as the soundtrack we hope that the music inspires and evokes imagery personal to each person. That’s what makes music memorable.
NS: You guys have recorded a few live tracks at The Prairie Fire as well as a few other things. And you’ve played a handful of shows. What’s are your plans for 2012 as far as big picture stuff goes?
MP: We hit the ground running in January playing our first show at Chapafest. It was definitely an honor to be included on that bill especially since we hadn’t played live in the area before and no one knew us. Rocky Ramirez and everyone else at The Prairie Fire Theatre as well as Aaron Johnson and Tyler Hardy really helped us out right from the start. We’re really thankful for that. So far we’ve played at a variety of places all over Lubbock and even played a set for a charity function at the Dallas Cowboys Stadium in front of a few thousand people. That was insane. But even that doesn’t compare to the thrill of playing at The Prairie Fire Theatre in front of a local crowd of people out supporting their music scene. Lubbock is amazing. People have really reached out to us and made us feel at home from the very start. We recently started recording a five-song EP and are now putting the finishing touches on it. It’s coming together great and we’re looking to have it released this summer. This is our first time recording in a real studio, so we’re taking our time and getting it right. It’s been a blast so far and I really can’t wait to get it finished and out to people. We’ll be playing May 5 at GlassyAlley for The Dendrites EP Release Show. This is going to be an awesome show, so I really encourage everyone to come out. Every show we play comes with more offers to play more shows. So we’re looking to play any and every show we can because we have an absolute blast playing live. Having fun is what it’s all about.