by E.A. Poorman
In the quaint little seaside town known as Warsaw, IN there lives a band called Plaxton and the Void. You know of them? Well, you should if you don’t. They’re making some pretty epic music amongst the treasure trove of orthopedic takeovers, karaoke on Thursdays, and a church for every non-affiliated, non-denominational moderately conservative weekend warrior this side of Kosciusko county, USA. If you’re not privy, let me fill you in: Plaxton and the Void make big, cavernous indie rock that takes equal parts The Decemberists, My Morning Jacket, and a touch of A.M.-era Wilco, and serve it up with a hefty portion of Midwestern matter-of-fact grit. They released their debut full-length Ides late in 2012 as the snow fell over Pike, Center, and Winona Lake. It was a great beginning for a band hungry to write and play. After a couple years of gigs and writing they have just released the excellent follow-up to Ides, the aptly titled e.p. Still Alive. I spoke to the band about the new e.p. and how the last two years have gone.
“We began writing and arranging the new songs right as Ides was being released” says the guys in Plaxton and the Void when I ask about the process of writing and recording Still Alive. “Spring 2013 was mostly writing and learning new songs. Then we were working on the Kosciusko’s Got Talent competition. After we won that, a Stacey Page Online(a Kosciusko County online-based news source)reporter interviewed us. That guy was John Faulkner. We had been looking for a keys player and we kind of interviewed him back during that interview and found out that he had just moved here from Nashville and was a keys player and went to recording school down there. We tried him out and he was a good fit, so most of the rest of the summer and fall was teaching him the songs and getting him up to speed. We were able to integrate and write some new keys parts to all the new songs before we started recording. Back in October, Joel started a business with his old boss (the Light Rail Cafe in Winona Lake) so that has been owning him and putting a crimp on his availability for recording and playing shows. We began recording Still Alive in December. We’ve been busy with that process for the first half of the year.”
There is a definite sonic change from Ides to Still Alive. I asked the guys if they went in going for a particular sound, or if they just let things happen naturally. “We have been focusing more on quality and on perfecting arrangements. it is becoming more important with a fifth member in the band to really nail the arrangements. Joel is also maturing as a writer, even as his time is more limited… so we are getting that distilled flavor of a more powerfully concentrated spirit. We wouldn’t say the individual songs on Still Alive are leaner. There’s a lot of instrumentation, like organs and strings, that you don’t hear on Ides. We were trying to do what best served the songs. So if that meant paring down some parts to make other things more powerful, that was what we did.”
The album was recorded at Squidtown Music, which is bassist Dave McCall’s basement studio, as well as recording some drum tracks in an old chapel which gave the drums some great, massive sound. Song-wise, there seems to be some heavier themes of loss and healing. Singer, guitarist, and lyricist Joel Squiers explained further. “I think this album is a bit darker because at the time when I was writing some of the songs I was going through some major life changes and battling with whether or not I’d made the right decisions. Also I was trying to write less from personal experiences and draw from things outside of myself in the writing. Also, this winter sucked and I think a lot of people were thinking darker than they might normally.”
Now Plaxton and the Void have a great new set of songs to share, are there going to be some shows to see them at? “Now that the EP is finally wrapped up, we’re actively booking new shows. Nothing is confirmed yet, but we’ve got a few in the works. We’ll also be hosting a show of our own to launch the EP. We’re hoping to get some Fort Wayne, South Bend, and Goshen shows lined up soon (in addition to hometown Warsaw shows). All our booking info is on our Facebook page if anyone is interested in us playing at a specific event or venue.”
Speaking of playing shows, Plaxton and the Void had actually won a Battle of the Bands in their hometown of Warsaw, IN. I asked them for some details about this. “We’ve won two big contests. The first was in 2013 when we won the Kosciusko’s Got Talent contest put on by the largest online news source in our county(Kosciusko), staceypageonline.com. That one was a youtube video contest for videos under 3 minutes, so we had to rearrange (to fit within the time limit) and record a song and video for that. More recently we won the Judge’s Choice award in the Cancer Care Fund fundraiser (put on by the K21 organization). We raised a lot of money for the fund and had a lot of fun performing for the crowd and judges. That one was a live performance competition.”
Okay, so a great new 6-song EP done and ready for ears, hometown accolades and county-wide recognition for the band and their skills; both in songwriting and live performance. What’s next? ” We’re just five guys with day jobs that love writing and playing original music. We have fun doing our best and sharing that with our friends and community. We’re hoping to share that with a few more communities in 2014. But ultimately, it is up to the fans to spread the word and share our music with their friends. We live in a viral world.”
Indeed we do live in a viral world, so I’m about to cough and not cover my mouth. Check out Plaxton and the Void’s Still Alive at http://plaxtonandthevoid.bandcamp.com/. And keep up with everything Plaxton and the Void at https://www.facebook.com/plaxtonandthevoid.