Having already earned themselves a strong fan-base thanks to their impressive performances at festivals including SXSW, Ohio indie-rockers Plaid Brixx are having the time of their lives. With their new untitled EP due out in the next few weeks and lots of performances lined up for the summer, to-coincide with the release of the video for their latest track “The Greener Side” which you can check out below, front-man Chris Duggan kindly agreed to this interview to chat Blink 182, influences and dream show line-ups.
PW: Please introduce yourselves.
Chris Duggan: Hi, I’m Chris Duggan. I sing, write, produce and play guitar! My bandmates are Jared Sawaya -bass aficionado - and Mark LeRose - methodical object basher.
PW: How do the three of you know each other/how did you meet?
CD: Mark and I went to high school together. He was two grades behind me but he was cool and played drums so we bonded over a mutual love of Blink 182 and formed a now-defunct punk band. We were bad but we had fun. Jared was actually a fan who we convinced to join the band because of his amazing attitude and how much we liked him!
PW: How would you sum the band and your music up in a couple of sentences?
CD: We are committed to creating and releasing top-quality music, regardless of what genre it is. All three of us love so many diverse types of music that we don’t necessarily want to be stuck doing one genre. This is why you hear a difference in the instrumentation and production between our two albums and you’ll continue to see us evolve and keep things interesting and new.
PW: Which bands and artists did you grow up listening to and how did they influence you? Have such influences changed over the years?
CD: I’ve had many different phases of musical obsession. Early on I listened to Blink 182, Green Day, Sum 41 and Fall Out Boy which gave way to The Hives, The Vines, The Strokes, The Killers which gave way to a metal obsession when I discovered the gateway drug Metallica which brought me to System Of A Down, Rage Against The Machine and Linkin Park My nümetal phase gave way to prog metal – Tool, The Mars Volta, King Crimson. In college I discovered contemporary pop for the first time and began a love affair that has lasted almost a decade. Right now I am super obsessed with classical music but two months ago I was all about listening to Art Angels on repeat. It’s safe to say that my influences change as often as Katy Perry changes costumes - if you Google this it will tell you ~8 times per show and while this figure is not necessarily accurate for my metaphor, it works well topically so I’m keeping it.
PW: When did you first realize you wanted to be part of the music industry? Was there an album you listened to or concert you attended that made you think 'yeah, I want to do that'?
CD: I was watching MTV in 1999, so I was 9 years old, the VMAs were on and I saw Blink 182 playing “What’s My Age Again?” and I decided at that moment that a desk job wasn’t for me. I have a very vivid recollection of the evening…I was sitting in my red-and-white striped beanbag chair – how fantastically 90s. I already had a guitar that I had been fiddling around with for a few years and so I retrieved it and started writing songs soon thereafter. They were not very good songs about the girls in my neighborhood and my idealized visions of what adulthood must be like. It would also be appropriate to note here that the first album I ever purchased of my own accord was Big Willie Style. I bet you didn’t see that coming.
PW: Is there a band or artist out there you might say you're similar to or do you make a determined effort to be something completely fresh?
CD: I’d like to think that we make an effort to be completely fresh, but I bet everyone says that. I will say that I am constantly looking at and listening to what others are doing to make sure we don’t put something out that’s completely off the deep end and it’s always good to get inspired by other people making awesome work. I am a student of song-writing so I am constantly analyzing and looking for trends in the industry and trying to improve my own work.
PW: Tell me about your EP Chemistry. Is there a story behind the title?
CD: Well the inspiration for the EP was a super rough breakup after college and looking back I suppose I was in a… “sub-optimal” place in my life when I wrote those songs. I am a pretty optimistic person so I was trying to filter all these dark emotions through a more pleasant lens and see all the positives and growth opportunities even though it was a pretty difficult time. And even though the songs are breakup songs, I used upbeat tempos and melodies.
PW: Could you pick a favorite track from the collection and if so, which is it and why?
CD: My favorite of them to play right now is “Heartbreaker” because we recently fiddled with the instrumentation so I don’t have to play guitar on that song any longer. I do seriously love not being bound to the mic stand when performing so that I can focus on the crowd and it makes performing at least five times more fun. My favorite of the songs musically speaking is probably “Chemistry” though because it so encapsulates my overall attitude from that period of my life – bitter-sweet.
PW: Why did you decide to release "The Greener Side" as a single?
CD: Because it grabs you outright and is an upbeat, buoyant way for us to begin introducing fans to our new sound!
PW: How easy/hard do you find the song-writing process and who/what most inspires you?
CD: For me, song-writing can be difficult or easy depending on the day. Some days are just harder than others to spark a great idea, but the key to writing great music is doing it every single day - even if it’s just for an hour or so. Jerry Seinfeld said the most important thing you can do as an artist is write every day. Or paint. Or do whatever it is you do. I write songs because I have to, sometimes I don’t feel like doing it every day but then I remind myself of this great opportunity that I have been given and in reverence to that I get to work. I will also say that writing a love song comes more easily when you are infatuated with someone. Especially if she isn’t as into you as you are into her. Oh man, that’s the stuff that fuels master works.
PW: Which song, in your opinion, is the greatest ever written and why?
CD: This is a near-impossible question, but I can narrow it down to a few starting with “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes. Phil Spector is such a genius and Ronnie Spector is one of the biggest vocal beasts of all time. The production is amazing, Spector’s Wall Of Sound is just brilliant and the songwriting is so simple and incredible. Cannot say enough good things about this song. “Lux Aeterna” by Clint Mansell for the film Requiem For A Dream is also another favorite, as is “Bittersweet Symphony” - gotta love the ending of Cruel Intentions.
PW: If you could play one venue anywhere in the world, which would it be and why?
CD: I would love to play in space – but that’s not “in the world” so I will go with a show at the White House. Being acknowledged by the people that run my country that are some of the most powerful people on Earth would be one the greatest of honors of all time – regardless of any political affiliations.
PW: Which has been your favourite performance to date?
CD: So far it would be our most recent one at The Columbus Crew MLS game. This was the first show where we included the songs from our upcoming EP and we’ve been working super hard on creating a kick ass performance so it felt nice to finally unveil it!
PW: If you could share a stage with three other bands or artists, who can be living or dead, who would they be and why?
CD: Blink 182 before the lineup change- they were the reason I started playing music so it would be a great honor.
Taylor Swift - it would be amazing to do a duet with Swifty because she is an extraordinary talent and I have a crush on her.
Freddie Mercury – my favorite vocalist of all time and quite the showman – I can only speculate but I think he would still be coming up with even more brilliant material today.
PW: What are your touring/performance plans for the rest of the year? Will fans see you at any festivals this summer or are you focusing more on your own headline shows etc?
CD: We are playing festivals all over the place this summer! We are very excited to be playing some very large gigs!
PW: What are your thoughts on social media and do you agree that it's necessary for bands and artists today? How has it helped grow your fan-base?
CD: I think social media has become a bit too invasive. I don’t like being exposed to every single opinion / thought / idea that people have and I don’t like being expected to constantly post my opinions of current events and goings-on. I am a fairly private person but I am willing to share some things – I really like Instagram because of the artistic aspect of it. I don’t really use my personal Facebook account at all. I keep up with my friends via text – I generally know what they are up to. The band Facebook is kind of an information space for fans to find out about us (including our upcoming shows!) and we update it way more often than my personal page. The platforms we have found the most success with are YouTube and Spotify, which I don’t think are primarily social media platforms. All of this being said, whenever a fan hits us up on any platform, we are listening and we will respond – we closely monitor all of our social media pages.
PW: What does the rest of the year have in store for you?
CD: We plan to release the new EP in about a month and have some more music videos in the can for a couple of those songs! I have been writing new material like a fiend so I think we will probably do this summer tour and then begin working on final versions of these new songs. I have a ton of new music video ideas for songs that aren’t even done yet so some of those will inevitably get filmed and I’m particularly excited about a song and video I have in mind for Halloween which is my favorite holiday!
PW: Finally then, what's your ultimate ambition as a band and with that in mind, at what point would you be happy to call it a day?
CD: I can’t speak for my band-mates, but I know that I will never be able to just call it a day. I am extremely ambitious and always looking to kick things up a notch and improve, expand, evolve and take things to the next level. I am obsessed with continuing to write better music every single day that I breathe. My ultimate ambition would be to reach the top of my profession – how that happens is up to the universe and all I can do is hone my craft, do my best each day and enjoy the ride.