The Fantastic Plastics
Synthesized Outsiders Invade U.S. Scene
by Christopher Long
“Are you ready to get hot and shwetty?” Resembling a cross between Albert Einstein, Jimi Hendrix and Hikaru Sulu, The Fantastic Plastics’ animated frontman / guitarist, Tyson Plastic, stepped up to the mic and posed the question casually, as if Georgia fans melting in the 90-plus-degree swelter had any choice in the matter. And although the trip from yesterday’s show in Nashville to today’s show in Atlanta had made for a long, late-night excursion, the synth-driven power-pop duo was more than ready to live up to their end of this shwetty bargain. Welcome to the 2017 Vans Warped Tour, show #9.
Considered by many to have been one of THE “must-see” acts on this past summer’s iconic, cross-country, multi-band outing, The Fantastic Plastics are seemingly taking their current skyrocketing situation in stride. “It’s all snowballing so fast,” Tyson commented to me humbly, during the Plastics’ meet-and-greet following Warped Tour show #12 in West Palm Beach.
Having relocated back to their original Illinois home base just prior to embarking on the Warped Tour, Tyson reflected on the time he and synth siren / fashion designer, Miranda Plastic, spent residing recently in the Big Apple. “We loved living in New York, but it was like being on another planet,” he confessed. “It was sorta like the experience of being outsiders. Culturally, we were definitely outsiders. We’re actually from an alternate reality where the optimistic future dreamt up by futurists in the 1960s actually came true. Cars still have fins where we are from. But they fly and run on good vibrations!”
For the quirky combo, being perceived as “cultural outsiders from another planet” ain’t a bad thing, and it’s certainly nothing new. In fact, it defines the very essence of the Plastics’ unique appeal. However, “quirky” is not an adjective often associated with bands on the hard core Warped Tour. But that’s exactly where Tyson and Miranda found themselves in 2017.
“We weren’t getting much sleep and it was really, really, hot and sweaty,” Miranda recalled of the summer adventure. “But it didn’t really get to us, because everything else was so great.” As Warped Tour newbies, she admits, “Being like kind of a ‘weird’ band, compared to the typical Warped Tour band, we really didn’t know what to expect and if people were going to accept us. But everyone was unbelievably friendly and got along and became actual friends. It was almost like an addiction, and we really miss it.”
Of the many band friendships established on the tour, Tyson pointed quickly to one particular Canadian connection. “Courage My Love are genuinely the nicest people you’ll ever meet,” he revealed during our post-Warped Tour tour Skype conversation. “Those two girls, Mercedes and Phoenix, are so sweet and so talented,” he continued. “They’re every bit as weird as we are – weird in a good way. And their songs are great.”
As for the Plastics’ musical influences, there are many, but not necessarily the ones fans might expect. “We get pegged with the Devo thing and the new wave thing a lot,” Tyson admitted. “But when I go back and I think about when it (our music) started, I thought it was sorta power-pop with some surf and synth on it,” he added. “We both just want to do something different and be something different,” Miranda confessed. “We have a lot of influences, but we try to make it like our own creative thing.”
While acknowledging shared stylistic DNA with such obvious retro artists as Gary Numan, The B-52’s and Devo, Tyson also points to a few other, rather unlikely suspects. “We have two really big Led Zeppelin influences in our music,” he offered proudly. “In ‘Troublemaker’ there is a bridge part that is a riff I sorta deconstructed from their ‘Heartbreaker’ riff, and I flipped it all around and kinda put it in a funnier key.” He added, “To some degree, Miranda’s Theremin playing is inspired by Jimmy Page.” Tyson also owns up to having borrowed a David Lee Roth sample in the aforementioned, “Troublemaker.” Commenting on his past disdain for Van Halen-style / arena rock, he revealed, “I hated that stuff when I was younger. But now as an adult, I have a total appreciation for 1984.
Straying from any standard-type creative blueprint, the Plastics’ high-energy ear worms are never first demoed and then tested live. According to Tyson, “Our records are created entirely in the studio.” Yet despite laboring endlessly in the control room with the group’s mysterious third member, Dylan Plastic, Tyson and Miranda agree that they’re never satisfied completely with the final product. “There’s always something we want to change,” says Miranda. Tyson concurs. “‘TV Head’ and ‘Thought Patrol’ are the only two songs that we’ve been entirely happy with.”
The early “proto-Plastics” version of the group first developed as a side project between Tyson and Dylan back in 2008, while Miranda served as costume designer. “The live ‘thing’ was never his ‘thing,’ Tyson says of Dylan, adding that his ever-elusive creative partner will always be “an equal member” of the project.
As for the Fantastic Plastics’ impressive current music catalog, it consists of two irresistible EPs, Outsiders (2014) and Invasion (2016). Sandwiched between the two tasty slices of futuristic-flavored fun is their acclaimed 2015 full-length record, Devolver, as well as a fistful of catchy singles, including their remake of The Flaming Lips’ 1993 radio hit, “She Don’t Use Jelly.”
Having just wrapped up a Midwest fall club tour, Tyson announced recently that additional concert dates will be posting soon on the Plastics’ various social media sites. Tyson added that he also expects to be back in the studio with Miranda and Dylan, very soon, with a new record dropping sometime in 2018.
But during a hectic year of near-constant touring, was there anything new that The Fantastic Plastics learned while invading the U.S. scene? Apparently so, Tyson recalled. “A nice fella named the Trash Wizard once told me while on Warped Tour, ‘You can’t undo drugs.'” Lessons learned, indeed!