Interview: A Plastic Rose

It is common knowledge that the music industry has been evolving in recent years. CD sales continue to decline whilst services like Spotify have become the norm. For up and coming independent bands it’s been a testing time. The expectation of playing music as a full-time job is no longer capable. Being in a band can be costly yet bands like A Plastic Rose continue to exist because they want to play music and get it heard anyway possible, even if it results in a low, if any, financial gain.

The quartet, originally from Belfast but now based in Nottingham, have used modern services to not only get their music heard to the masses in the easiest way but used them to connect with fans directly. For the release of their new album, ‘Flickering Light Of An Inner War’ APR decided to stream the album three ahead of it’s early March through Spotify in late December. Whilst major artists like Taylor Swift are against the service, APR have embraced it as a promotional tool and it’s had a positive effect. New fans, and critics, have been won over by the quartet’s brand of anthemic, powerful alt-rock, with many contributing to the band’s PledgeMusic campaign; the service the band are using to connect with fans one-to-one.

As for the album itself, ‘Flickering Light Of An Inner War’ is an engaging record with tracks like ‘Move Islands’, ‘Avarice’ and ‘The Last Revolution’ sounding larger-than-life whilst recent fan favourite ‘Garavogue’ nearly takes your breath away with it’s mournful ballad-like tone. ‘Flickering Light Of An Inner War’ shows the bands growth and has plenty to offer.

Already Heard recently caught up with Gerry Norman from the band to talk in detail about a number of topics; Spotify, PledgeMusic, ‘Flickering Light Of An Inner War’ and more.

Already Heard: The album has been in the making for quite some time. How does it feel to finally share it with people?
Gerry: It’s a mixed bag of nerves, excitement and relief I think. I’m not sure if people realise how much work, time and money goes into releasing an album but let me tell ya it’s serious. The reaction has been great so far so the pressure is off a little. The fans love it and I’ve seen a 9/10 review too which is nice.

AH: Although the album is set for a March 1st release. The album has been streaming on Spotify since last December. How did the idea of releasing the album through Spotify first come about?
Gerry: We just wanted to try something different and it just felt right. It’s very simple really, we’re just letting people hear it for free before the officially released. We think that by the time it’s out people will know whether or not they want to spend money on it and hopefully they will. We’re not a big band who sell out tours so we’re desperate for people to hear our tunes and come to shows.

AH: I have to admit it is a brave decision, especially when you hear how very little bands earn from services like Spotify. Was that ever a concern?
Gerry: No not really we just want people to hear it. Bands make so little through selling music these days that we wanted to just go old school and try to get people out to gigs instead. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

AH: What do you make of the negative press Spotify has been given through the likes of Taylor Swift?
Gerry: I just don’t think people fully understand what Spotify is about to be honest. It’s not supposed to be the sole avenue for musicians to create revenue, it’s a vehicle like YouTube that should be used to promote yourself. Nobody puts a gun to peoples heads and forces them to upload their music to Spotify, so why do it and then complain you’re not getting any money? There are a hell of a lot of ways to make money in music and Spotify is only one of them. I genuinely think a lot more bands will choose this route in future. If you don’t like Spotify, don’t use it.

AH: Although there is hardly a financial gain from it, I can imagine it’s a good way to gain new fans?
Gerry: That’s the plan. From the very beginning we’ve given our music away for free just so people can hear it. I don’t see the point in being a musician if you’re not going to try anything in order for people to hear the songs you’ve put so much effort into creating. You’re not a lawyer or a mechanic, you don’t go work every day and make a nice, steady wage. You’re a musician, it’s very different. Everyone know artists struggle for years before they make any money. If ya wana make a quick buck there’s always other options.

AH: How has the response been to streaming the album on Spotify and the album itself?
Gerry: Most people like the idea, some people are confused by it which amazes me and they must not be the sharpest tool in the box to begin with. It’s really helping with our Pledge campaign as people are listening on Spotify and then pre-ordering the vinyl. The fans love the album which is most important and so far critics are loving it so hopefully that continues.

AH: As part of the album campaign you’ve also been working with PledgeMusic where you’ve been offering bonus content, video clips and more. How vital are services like these for an unsigned band like A Plastic Rose?
Gerry: In a world where people simply don’t buy music, it’s time bands have to think outside the box and websites like Pledge have done that for us. I’m a huge fan of Pledge so was delighted when they got in touch about a project. People need that personal touch these days and it’s an amazing way to get to know your fans better and make them part of the process.

AH: Do they breakdown the divide between the band and it’s fans and allow the band to communicate more directly?
Gerry: Yeah and that’s the best part of it. Again, the times are changing and it’s vital for any band to contact with their fans. They can get stuff like guitar lessons, hand written lyrics, signed posters, tickets to an intimate show and much more. I think the best feature is the ‘Access Pass’ where you see exclusive videos that you can’t see anywhere else. I’m having a lot of fun with that. I can only imagine we’ll do more campaigns.

AH: By streaming the album on Spotify, have you noticed a rise in interest in the band through PledgeMusic and social media?
Gerry: Yeah definitely. We purposely announced that the album was on Spotify with no warning at a time when people were expecting the album months later, so that got us a lot of attention and some more fans. The hits on Spotify go up way faster than YouTube or other sites so there’s a lot people using it. When you end up on official Spotify playlists with One Direction, Beyonce and other huge acts then people are gonna click on your name. Spotify is all about playlists, I think people are getting that now and it really helps us when they add us to one.

AH: Did you ever consider other services such as Bandcamp or Soundcloud?
Gerry: Yeah we have both and they’re brilliant. Bandcamp is great because it allows a new band to generate revenue themselves and apparently a lot of radio DJ’s use Soundcloud to listen to new music so they all serve a purpose. Someday there’ll probably be just one website that does everything but for now we need to sign up to them all.

AH: Moving on to the album itself, what can new listeners expect from ‘Flickering Light Of An Inner War’?
Gerry: We still maintain our classic sound that we’ve always had and that’s what people like about us I think. In order for a song to make and album it needs to tick off all the boxes, strong melody, great lyrics, hooks and needs to stand out and have that something special about it. All 14 tracks are there for a reason as they were picked from a bunch of 60. I really think we’ve stepped up massively since the last record in terms of musical ability, lyrics and the craft of song-writing. They’re all stadium sized anthems as usual too.

AH: How does it compare to previous material?
Gerry: The progression to an even bigger more driven sound has all been very organic. I think we learn a lot from touring and playing festivals so design our songs to fill big rooms and to really entertain a big audience. As a song writer I’ve never sat down and thought ‘Weezer, I like them, let’s be like Weezer’ or any band for that matter that we somehow sound like. We draw influences from big bands we love, bands we’ve played with and life but have never had a strict rule that we had to stick too a certain sound. It opens us up to new possibilities and hopefully keeps our fans interested. There are a couple of the slowest, darkest songs we’ve ever written on this album but also some of our heaviest. It’s a rock n roll roller coaster. We’re particularly proud of the lyrics.

AH: Are there any particular songs that fans have reacted to?
Gerry: Well we’ve already released 5 as singles and they’re going down well. We just put a video up for a slow song called ‘Garavogue’ which got a much better response than I thought it would. I guess it takes more balls to release a slow song but once we did it was a nice feeling. We don’t really do love songs so when we record a slow song you should listen closely to the lyrics as I think everyone can relate to them. ‘The Last Of All My Friends’ seems to be a fan favourite too, can’t wait to get playing that on tour.

AH: I understand you had a wealth of material written for the album. How did you go about selecting which songs made the album?
Gerry: We had a meeting in Belfast, sat around a computer, listened to every one and put them into categories. It was so hard chopping away at these songs you love but that’s part of the business. Some advice I can give young artists is don’t be afraid to throw out a song that you love. Your next one will be better. We originally planned a 11 track album but couldn’t break it down past 14. The idea was that after the studio we’d take the 11 songs that came out of the studio best and use them, but even after that we couldn’t not use them all and the record label then suggested we keep them all cause they’re all strong. Sweet.

AH: Does the album title ‘Flickering Light Of An Inner War’ sum up the tone of the album?
Gerry: I think so yeah, it also sums up what the album means to us. It’s been a hard slog but we got there.

AH: You played a number of festivals last year, where can we expect to see APR in the coming months?
Gerry: We’ll hopefully be announcing some shows as soon as the album is released.

AH: Do you have any final words to finish off this interview?
Gerry: I signed up for a gym today. My dog sneezes a lot and I really liked 12 Years A Slave. Isn’t Kanye West a tool? Thanks.

‘Flickering Light Of An Inner War’ by A Plastic Rose is released in early March through Di Di Mau Records.

You can stream ‘Flickering Light Of An Inner War’ on Spotify now.

A Plastic Rose links: Website|Facebook|PledgeMusic|Twitter

Words by Sean Reid (@SeanReid86)

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