The Plush Monsters have been around since 2010, after guitarist Bryan Sherbrook and singer Thommy Laverack left their hometown of Sebastian for Orlando. They gravitated toward the open mic scene at Natura Cafe, which was where a lot of musicians ended up meeting and forming enduring bands. Sherbrook says, "That’s where I met so many friends in Orlando. Back then (really only 4 or 5 years ago?) it was a very different place and so many great bands got started at that little place." It was at that open mic where drummer Dave Hanson caught Laverack and Sherbrook performing as a three-piece with David Zimlinghaus (Zap Dragon and the Attack) - a real meet-cute story as Hanson recalls, the guys covered the Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There" and he was drawn in by Laverack's vocal. It's a distinct thing of range that makes their recordings captivating and adventurous. Initially, the Plush Monsters were Zimlinghaus, Hanson, Sherbrook and Laverack, but Zimlinghaus left the band to start Zap Dragon and the Attack, and Adam Goodrich filled in on bass (Goodrich and the Die Tryin's) and remains with the band. Soon, guitarist Dom Sema will leave the band to focus on his excellent new project Adam and the Plastic. And, oh yeah, they've added percussionist/vocalist Andrew Schmitt-Grijalva. With so much shifting, you might expect their 2014 release, Warm Blooded
, to be a little skittishly arranged, but the energetic romp comes together with sweet indie folk finesse.
For the Plush Monsters' Off the Avenue session at North Avenue Studios, we requested a little holiday cheer, expecting them to cover Darlene Love or something and be done with it. Instead, they wrote an original Christmas song that captures the barest sentiment of the season, "It's XMas (I Love You)" (see video above). They also performed their song "Valley Bird" live (see video below), which larks on that tropical vibe the Monsters often employ. The day after Christmas, the Plush Monsters head back to the studio to record and release a new 7-inch featuring "Valley Bird" and another new song.
Orlando Weekly: What have you been listening to lately?
Goodrich: The new Spoon album: They Want My Soul
, has been on a constant repeat for me lately. They’re on Merge records – one of my favorite labels.
Hanson: Currently I’ve been loving the new Spoon album and also all the new Father John Misty singles. I love music with clever lyrics and a good feel. Vampire Weekend, same thing. Melody, lyrics, tone. New Panda Bear was really fun, I’m looking forward to the full length. I’ve been on a huge Belle & Sebastian kick, too, for months.
Do you have any gear that helps you achieve your sound?
Goodrich: I just got a new bass pedal, Big Muff, that I’m experimenting with in a lot of our songs. I think it adds a rougher edge and helps give heavier sections texture.
Hanson: As drummer I don’t have much to add to this ... I will say that Bryan needs to invest in some pedals, that dude always loves using them when they’re available, but he has yet to actually get one himself. Get on it, Bryan.
Who is the best band you've ever seen live?
Hanson: Animal Collective, 2-4 a.m. at Bonnaroo last summer. Holy smokes.
Goodrich: It’s a tough one, but I’m between the Pixies and the Raconteurs. Strangely enough, I’m not actually a huge fan of the Raconteurs but was mesmerized by Jack White’s guitar playing when I saw them perform.
Sherbrook: I don’t know if it’s the best band I’ve ever seen live, but one concert that is still very special to me was when I flew out to California in 2007 or '08 and saw Rage Against the Machine reunite at
Coachella fest with my friends. It was the most dangerous show I’ve ever witnessed, and you were lifting people over you every minute so they could escape the mob and get to fresh cooler air and away from the claustrophobia. It was so hot. But there was a real sense of passion that united all of us in the audience. I was a really big fan of theirs at that time, and so it was important to me to stay and endure the whole set.
What do you thing is important in a live performance?
Photo courtesy of North Avenue Studios
Hanson: Audience connection is the thing. You can be any kind of artist and you will still always need that element. There’s a lot of ways to do it, too. Some bands can do it without even talking to the audience
that much. It’s a type of energy that is manifested through body language and overall presence. And of course, to play without mistakes. To play with each other, not just at the same time as each other.
Goodrich and Sherbrook: Wow, there are so many right? Energy is the easy one to say. That goes without saying. Cohesion of the individuals playing together in harmony. That’s not just you but also the sound guy. How about a good sound guy? That’s pretty important. And nobody ever thinks to give him or her a shout out haha.
Explain the meaning behind one of your songs.
Hanson: Thommy is a fantastic writer. I love the stories and lyrical rhythms of his songs. A lot of them are very uplifting and positive. “DOA” starts with “Stand up straight and represent your brothers in
the human race / Don’t you worry what the hard talk boys and all the beach bod girls are gonna have to say.” I love that lyric. He just seems like he has fun while he writes. "Mary Ann Bailey" is this cool little story of a bunch of different characters each with their own life situations, and the chorus is a connection type of piece, “It’s just a rodeo, my dear / Brother’s in the pain / We’re all made together here / We’re bucked and we fall / Then the soul gets the call / And we pass from the fear.” It’s pretty heavy but very beautiful.
What band would you most want to tour with, past or present?
Laverack: Metallica. Ride the Lightning Tour. Made famous in VH1 Behind the Music: Metallica – Ride the Lightning Tour Some More
Goodrich: Dylan. 1966. England. Made famous in the Don’t Look Back
Hanson: I have no idea. Probably The Who just so we could be a part of the Keith Moon show.
What label do you think your music fits best on?
Goodrich: Merge, dude.
What's your favorite Orlando venue to perform in?
Laverack: House party.
Hanson: Will’s Pub. Great sound, good people, naked girl wallpaper, etc.
What's your favorite city to perform in?
Hanson: Definitely Orlando. But we always have fun in
Sarasota, too. Orlando is the hometown, though, you can’t beat that!
What's the first album you remember really treasuring?
Sherbrook: Queen's Greatest Hits
Goodrich: Nirvana Unplugged
Laverack: Metallica Ride the Lightning
by Dr. Dog
Hanson: This is a great question. Once I got into it, Bright Eyes’ Lifted
album was huge. Postal Service album, same thing. But Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde
is what really blew my mind.
What the fuck is wrong with the music industry?
Photo courtesy of North Avenue Studios
Hanson: I think a broader pop focus on originality would be healthy. But like any business, you gotta sell what people are buying. And, unfortunately, formulas work really well. Luckily, the internet and indie age has created vast new mediums and opportunities for people to make and distribute their music, and that’s really cool and empowering, so interesting bands stillalways find an avenue to be heard.
What local Orlando band deserves more attention?
Goodrich: Jordan Stokey, now of the group Nostradogmus (playing Jan. 3
at the Space), formerly of the Dead Yetis - I think he is one of the most talented lyric writers I’ve ever seen. One of local music’s strongest supporters. He started his own record label Analog for Dogs and, well, rarely have I ever seen his name mentioned much.
Hanson: Witch Kings.
What album have you listened to more than any other album? What keeps you coming back?
Sherbrook: According to my I-Tunes, it is Astral Weeks
by Van Morrison. While I do love that album, I also suspect it was because I went to bed listening to it for months after I discovered it. Madame George
keeps me coming back. If you haven’t read Lester Bangs' review of that album as well, do yourself a favor and check it out – it’s really cool!
Hanson: Geez, that would be interesting to actually know for sure! I do typically listen to music in albums, but I don’t know which one I’ve listened to most. Maybe Dirty Projectors Swing Lo Magellan
DeMarco’s new Salad Days
. Those are both great, all the way through. Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires of the City is fantastic all the way through. Dr. Dog’s Fate
is really well done. I guess I like an album that can cover lots of musical ground while still maintaining its signature feel and sound. That’s what makes a great album, and a great band.
Goodrich: Neutral Milk Hotel – In an Aeroplane Over the Sea
. Not one bad song on it.
Laverack: Ride the Lightning
– Metallica. Metallica never was quite able to capture the boldness of this record after the departure of the great Dave Mustaine. Knowing that gives songs like "Ride the Lightning" a deeper meaning. Throw in a Hemingway reference – you got a stew going.
What upcoming Orlando shows are you looking forward to?
9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 26: Zap Dragon and the Attack, Fast Preacher, Adam and the Plastic at Will's Pub.
10 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 3: Nostradogmus, Secret Tree House at the Space.
What's the best live music video you've ever seen?
Hanson: Mac DeMarco's videos are hilarious.
Goodrich: Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers – Moanin'
Sherbrook: Not a video, but my favorite live recording. Lots of memories to this song for me: James Brown – Lost Someone
Laverack: Lars really kills it on this one. 5:44 – just wait for it.