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Plastic Act: "I Didn't Want to Go Through The Process of Finding People to Play With, so I Did It All Myself"

Last year, Private Lives bassist Josh Herlihey launched his solo venture Plastic Act and released its self-titled debut EP which was incredibly overlooked in the so-called underground rock circuit. One well-executed track after another, the debut EP is a raucous twist of fuzzed-out nervy pop hooks and no-frills Velvets-worshiped rock 'n' roll that rides with easy confidence. To dig further, I caught up with Herlihey who shares the story behind the project, what to expect from it later in the year, and the highlights of Private Lives' US tour last fall.

Hey Josh! First tell me what you've been up to lately? What have you been listening to, reading, or spending a lot of time doing?

Josh Herlihey: I just finished reading Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which was a perfect read. I think I'll dive into the new Lou Reed book, The King of New York. I don't really read music books anymore, but I make exceptions for any Velvets propaganda. As for music, lately, I've been on a huge Only Ones kick. I recently discovered England's Glory, which is Peter Perrett's earlier project. I feel like some of the songs could sit on Taking Tiger Mountain without skipping a beat, I love it. Other than that, lots of Roxy Music, The Outcasts' 1978-85 comp, and Crass.

Tell readers where you grew up and how exactly you got into playing music? 

I grew up in Ottawa but lived in Vancouver for most of my adult life. I guess I got into playing music more seriously when I moved out west, but it was always something that was present.

What was it like moving from Vancouver to Montreal?

It was a bit of a whirlwind, but I'm glad I made the move! Vancouver and Montreal couldn't be more different. I was out west for a long time, so it's been a nice change. 

What records have inspired your musical path the most? 

Such a loaded question! Well, to keep things simple, around the conception of Plastic Act I was listening to Berlin Brats' Believe it or Rot, Marie et les Garçons' 1977/1979, and that Perfect Unpop: Peel Show Hits and Long Lost Favourites Vol. 1 comp. The Clash's Combat Rock and Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back were also big influences at the time.

Take us through the origins of Plastic Act. What exactly was the vision behind this solo venture?

It was a bit of a fuck it project. I was living in a new city and didn't know anyone. I didn't want to go through the process of finding people to play with, so I did it all myself. My rule of thumb for this project is that the songs need to come naturally to me. Whereas, in the past, I was maybe trying too hard to have things a certain way. Music is all an aesthetic to me. So the project's "vision" was as much visual as it was musical, that'll become more apparent with future releases.

What can you say about the debut 7" you put out on Brain Gum Records last year? How exactly did that all come together with Patrick McEachnie (Pack Rat, Chain Whip) behind the soundboard?

I initially demoed eight tracks and sent them around to friends. At that point, I had just met Chance Hutchison (Brain Gum Records), and he was down to put them out. Pat and I are old friends. He was looking to get more into recording and was into the songs as well. We picked a few tracks and I went back to Van for a weekend of recording.

The three songs here consist of lo-fi power pop that would sound right at home on either Bomp! or Ork Records. What can you tell me about each one? Let's start with the opening cut "See It In Time." 

This was the first song I demoed for the project, so it informed all of the other tracks. I wrote it as a country song a long time ago and was playing it in a sort of Lee Hazelwood style, but I always thought it'd make a good punk song. I had the music done, but couldn't get the vocals right. Then I heard that first Why Bother? record and it sorta sparked a different idea for the vocal treatment.

How did the second song "What's In The Water" come about? 

I was reading Don Delillo's White Noise at the time, and somewhere wrapped up in all of the death and satirical academia, this song was born.

What were inspirations behind the closing garage nugget "Turning Blue"? 

Garage nugget, how kind! I was listening to a lot of The Feelies at the time, and I think this song was derived from that. I almost didn't record it, I didn't think it would fit with the rest of the demos, but after sending it around to friends it ended up being a favorite. 

What else is on the horizon for Plastic Act? I hear you've been working on some demos? 

I just recorded a small batch of songs. This time I got Drew Demers (Private Lives, Priors) to handle the drums in the studio which was great. I'm still figuring out what to do with them, but I'll likely do another 7". Then hopefully a full-length later in the year.

Are there plans to do live shows in the future? I could totally see you on a bill with Theee Retail Simps or Marty Brass!

Yeah definitely. I'm starting to get a band together, now that I've got a new batch of songs.

What's been happening with Private Lives as of late? I saw on social media last month you guys enjoying a nice charcuterie board while recording a new album. When's that expected to come out?

The only way to record a Hit Record is with charcuterie. We act tough, but at the end of the day, we are just a bunch of snobs. We just recorded out at Chance and Jackie's place. Chance is handling all of the recording and it's sounding great, we're all pretty excited to get it out. Not sure when it'll come out, but things are a movin'.

What were the highlights from Private Lives' US tour last year? What were your favorite memories from that along with bands you got to play alongside/see live?

The highlight was Marty Brass filling in on the drums. We flew him into Montreal like the day before so we could run the set and he had it all down perfectly. He was the perfect fit. Indianapolis was a great spot, it seems like they've got a cool scene. But honestly all of the shows were great. Rochester's got a lot going on. It was nice to have a few shows with the Vintage Crop boys, and also finally meet Sam from Feel It who put out our record. We played with so many great bands, standouts for me were Frizbee and Spllit. It was cool to finally see The Gories and Lewsberg too, they were great.

Plastic Act is out now on Brain Gum Records.


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