Bristol's music scene has been one of the most vibrant in the UK for some time, spawning the likes of Spectres, Giant Swan, The St Pierre Snake Invasion, and Idles in recent years. So without further ado let me introduce you to The Plainviews, a visceral noise-rock three-piece supergroup of sorts featuring members of the aforementioned latter two.
The trio - Damien Sayell, also of The St Pierre Snake Invasion along with Idles' rhythm section Adam "Dev" Devonshire and Jon Beavis - have spent the past couple of views constructing a bunch of songs and this month finally sees the release of their first EP. Entitled A Million Different Ways Of Saying Nothing At All, the EP comprises five songs and is out now via Bristol DIY imprint Invisible Llama Music. The band have just made their live debut with a hometown show at the Exchange and are heading to London's Shacklewell Arms next month (20 June).
With both Idles and The St Pierre Snake Invasion already being firm favourites here, DiS caught up with Damien and Dev to discuss all things Plainviews and discovered a shared love for Shellac and Mclusky was the catalyst for this exciting new venture.
DiS: When and how did the band start?
Damien: We started when Dev quite literally forced me to stay for a lock in where he was working. He later forced me to start work there, and refused to accept my several attempts to resign soon after. (True story). I loved Idles, he loved St Pierre, we both loved Mclusky, we’d talked about making music together and eventually found the time to make it happen.
Dev: The band started with myself and Damien at a lock-in at 4am at a pub in Bristol we both worked at called The Golden Lion. We thought it would be fun to make some noise together after discovering a mutual love for Shellac, Mclusky, and the more angular side of noisy music. We had one rehearsal and wrote about 5 songs in two hours. One of which was 'Bladerunner'. We try and not second guess writing songs in this band.
How many shows have you played so far?
Damien: About 30, almost exclusively in Bristol due to none of us having the ability to drive.
Dev: We do it very sporadically indeed.
With you all being in other bands has it been difficult finding the time to write and play together?
Dev: Well both Idles and The St Pierre Snake Invasion are our respective first loves so we don't let The Plainviews get in the way of that. We also enjoy it being less focused than either Idles or TSPSI. We'll dip in/out of it when we feel like rather than rehearsing week in/week out which is good for us to keep it fresh... at least that's the idea. Under-rehearsed is another way of looking at it.
Damien: In short, yes but, we knew it was going to be that way in the beginning. Idles and TSPSI always come first but, The Plainviews is a passion project so to speak so we make it work when we can.
Was there ever a point where the Plainviews could have been your main project? Particularly if Idles hadn't taken off in the way they did?
Dev: I don't think so. It was nice to do both while I could because Idles weren't playing many shows at the time and I missed playing gigs... That's part of the reason for starting it. It was at the interim period where Andy had left Idles before Lee joined but Andy was still in The Plainviews. That's when it first came together. Damien played drums and Andy on guitar. It was a shame that Andy wasn't on the same page as us about what he wanted to do with the project but Damien and I really wanted to keep playing shows and record something, even if it was for ourselves whereas Andy just wanted it to be this completely loose thing that barely existed. I think Damien and I thought more of it than him so that's when we got Jon in on drums. It is a shame that it didn't work out with him in The Plainviews, but when 2/3s of the band want to do something else, you kind of have to go with the majority because we really fucking loved the songs.
Your first EP is out next week. When was it recorded and how did the songs come about?
Dev: We recorded it at The Coach House in Bristol with the amazingly talented Tom Hackwell of fellow Bristolian band Armchair Committee at the desk. We got through 6 songs in about 10 hours in total and thought 5 of them were good enough for an EP. He also makes his own microphones which is very cool.
Damien: It was completely relaxed, Talbot (Idles) and Ollie (Heavy lungs) turned up for a few beers and threw some ideas about too, it was the most pain free recording session I’m likely to ever have.
Two of the song titles reference Shirley Bassey and James Brown. What influenced you to write about them specifically?
Damien: In truth, nothing. ’Shirley Bassey’ is loosely based on the rumour that Richard Gere puts gerbils up his arse (which was started by Sylvester Stallone incidentally). "Shirley Bassey touched my special place / Jon Bon Jovi’s in the IRA" is just us creating our own malicious and totally unfounded rumours about celebrities. The intro to ‘James Brown’ is taken from ‘I Feel Good’; we tried coming up with other titles for it but, in the e,nd we thought "Fuck it, 'James Brown' will do!"
Dev: Well the EP is called A Million Different Ways Of Saying Nothing At All. The songs mean nothing whatsoever. We had a remit when we started the band to use only 4 notes and only a maximum of 5 lines per song. That inevitably expanded slightly over time, but the ethos of that minimalism is still there. We try and keep it as simple as possible and work within those kind of constraints and more often than not the first thing we play together often stays in the song.
What more can we expect from The Plainviews? Will there be any more releases this year?
Dev: I think we'll do a bit more writing together and do some more recording if we get time and then release an album at some point. We don't have a timeline on it though and we don't want to force it so fuck knows when that will happen.
Damien: Hopefully, respective schedules permitting we’ll record the second EP by the end of the year. Idles and TSPSI both have releases though so it’ll be a push but, we’ve got some crowd favourites to get out there still which means sooner or later it will happen.
What about shows? You have 2 lined up in May and June. Will there be any more in the foreseeable future?
Damien: Unlikely me thinks. If we’re all in Bristol and able then I’m sure we will but, no plans as yet.
Dev: These two shows could well be the only shows we do this year to be honest as our first loves are both poised and ready to do some releases soon, so we'll probably be putting The Plainviews to bed for a bit. The line up on both shows is fucking killer though so you should probably make the effort to come down.
Bristol has been a hotbed of exciting new talent for a while now. Do you think a band like The Plainviews could exist anywhere else?
Dev: I think that Bristol has been an amazing incubator for the plethora of artists it has within its warm embrace and because of that perhaps The Plainviews wouldn't exist if we lived in London. Rehearsing with one band seems to be hard enough there, let alone two. A lot of musicians i know in Bristol have more than one project on the go at once. It seems to be the done thing here which is great
Damien: Yeah, it seems ears further afield are starting to take note of what is and has been happening in Bristol for a good forever. I imagine we could exist elsewhere, Leeds perhaps, Glasgow? But the truth remains, we wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for Bristol. 100% of TSPSI migrated here, 60% of Idles did the same. That goes for almost every band in I know Bristol, and there’s a lot to be said for, and taken from that.
Are there any other bands from Bristol you'd recommend that we may not be aware of?
Dev: Bristol bands/acts that are killing it now are Heavy Lungs, Milo's Planes, Sugar Horse, Scalping, Dogeyed, Lice, Giant Swan, Downward, Little Baby Sharks... Falling Stacks have been beavering away in the studio from what i can gather as well, which is very exciting. Some of these you may have heard of but definitely worth mentioning again. I know I've missed some out and for that I apologise. I guess that's the problem of living in a city with so many amazing artists from across the board.
The video to 'Bladerunner' is visually eyecatching thanks to Tommy Norm's animation. How did you end up working with him? Will there be any more collaborations in the future?
Damien: It was all Dev’s doing. He roped a guy who worked for him in a bar to do it. T'was written in the stars.
Dev: Tom and I work together at the music venue Exchange and he offered his services to make us a video for his portfolio which is absolutely astounding of him. The amount of effort and hard work he put into making it was truly humbling and we will be eternally grateful. It was definitely worth waiting the 15 months it took him to make it and we delayed releasing this EP because of it. He has recently (deservedly) bagged himself a full time animation job off the back of this video and a short clip he did for an Adam Buxton podcast which is great. We just let him go wild with his imagination and that's what he came up with. I kind of like the idea of the least likely song from the EP having a video of that calibre.