Interview: Volcano Playground

[Note: Click the photo for a better quality image. And we owe Volcano Playground shots!]


I had a chance to chat with Volcano Playground after their set at The Baitshop, which is a really interesting space featuring bands at the top of a halfpipe. Our chat was a little distracting due to being jammed in a hallway with the door opening frequently, as well as some people going to the wrong way interrupting our chat. But hey, you make due with what you can and it ended up being a great chat.

They’ve frequently been pegged as a shoegaze band and this is something that everyone in the band seems to have an opinion about.

Jakub Hladik says, “We kinda got coined as a shoegaze band early on and I think we just really like reverb, but we don’t wanna get pigeon-holed as a shoegaze band. Maybe some of the newer songs we’re working on won’t be as much, but we have a lot of electronic stuff, which is possibly nu-gaze…”

Jackie Game interrupts, “We don’t even know. We mix a lot of genres. I don’t really hear the shoegaze-ness, but it’s a nice compliment. It’s weird how I perceive the music and how someone else sees us.”

She then offers up “dream pop” as a possible genre. Mark Plischewsky says, “I feel good about dream pop.”

With possibly the best quote of the chat, Pete Plischewsky then says, “I like porn groove.”

Of course, no one has a follow up to that one.

Moving on, Volcano Playground discusses their songwriting process.

Mark says, “We’re all pretty heavily involved in sort of working alone a lot as well as collaboratively in a band, so things sort of kernel in one place or another with one person or another person and they sort of bubble out that way. But at the same time when we do get together there is improvisation and things come out sorta roughly as well.”

Jackie then says, “We all record, so we’ll do skeletons and then bring them to practice and a lot is added on.”

Pete builds on his bandmates thoughts, saying, “Someone will usually bring some sort of song foundation and we work on it.”

Mark then says, “Even individually we don’t really have a consistent songwriting process because I think we’re all somewhat multi-instrumentalists, so the starting instrument or the starting idea or the starting melody could come from anywhere, which is what keeps everything super exciting for us and fresh all the time. As useful as a formula would be, I don’t think we really would want one.”

Jakub continues, “And to make it even more difficult, Mark and Pete were in a band together, so he was the singer and they were the lead songwriters. And then I was the sorta lead songwriter in my last band and Jackie was the lead singer/songwriter in her band, so we all kinda joined forces to see how that works.”

Essentially, they joined forces in the Durham region, which Mark indicates has a “small but thriving music scene.” Pete and Mark are cousins and had their own band. They eventually discovered Jackie’s band and their bands started playing together. Jakub and Jackie used to work together and used to play together.

Jakub, referring to Jackie, says, “I just always loved her voice and I just really wanted to do something with her for a long time and I didn’t really know how to make it happen. It didn’t really fit. And then their band [points to Mark and Pete], I saw them and I just thought they were really great, but they were a full band and I was like, how can I get some of these guys to start another band? and they just happened to fall apart right at the perfect time. I didn’t wish for it; it just happened.”

This generated a bit of laughter, but then Mark continues, “It’s just a small community and it’s just a small region as far as music goes and I feel like I got to handpick the best of what I loved that was going around me locally and to form a band out of it was a pretty great thing. I’d wake up and think, I can’t believe I’m in a band with these guys.

Jakub then says, “And then Steve!” [points to their manager, Steve Reble]

Mark continues with this and says, “Steve approached us at a show we played and just offered some help and just became more and more involved in the band.

Jakub says, “As a manager. And then recently jumped on drums. We were using backing tracks before and they were okay. We still use in “Anywhere” backing tracks. I was resilient to take away the backing track from “Waiting” and use live drums, but these guys twisted my arm and it turned out really good. I think it’s more dynamic, human. The backing track thing is scary. If something happens with the laptop or the computer… it’s just better to have a real guy on the drums and he’s been playing drums for a long time.”

Steve then decides to discuss his involvement, which basically started after quitting his band on a total whim. He listened to the first 10 seconds of a Volcano Playground song via MySpace and instantly thought, Holy shit, these guys are amazing and they’re going to be going somewhere. He caught a show that night, and, well, they joined forces as well.

The band released their EP in 2009, which was actually given up as a free download.

Jakub says, “It was supposed to be for one week only and then we just decided to make it free.”

The release was completely DIY, with Jakub doing the artwork and them packaging their own CDs that were self-recorded.

Steve then gushes, “And now the exciting part is working on a new EP, singles [Pete interrupts, “Which are already done and just waiting to be released.”] and getting other cool people involved.”

Jakub then says, “Yeah, Steve was responsible for connecting us with Dave Newfeld, the Broken Social Scene producer. Yeah, that was a big jump. I don’t even know if we were ready for that at the time.”

Pete jokes, “Is there where we get him? He’s here.” [The joke was offering to get him… he really was there.]

Jakub says, “Yeah, he’s coming to a couple shows of ours. It’s really awesome that he came.”

Steve, on the topic of recording, expresses their desire to release a full-length in the fall, with perhaps a 7” or an EP to tide fans over. He goes on to say, “We’re really trying to develop community within the city, so that’s why we’re playing venues like this, alternative venues, not playing bars, playing fun events, having DJs involved, having bands that we really believe in and building and developing community. That’s modus operandi, I’d say, from my perspective.”

Mark continues, “I think we’re slowly trying to trend toward bands, producers and sounds that share an aesthetic with what we’re trying to do, for the most part. I think nowadays when everything is so cut-and-dry and there’s just over-consumption of music I think ideally we want to be part of a label, or community, at least, where is there is an overall aesthetic, which can all sort of be sold as a big idea.”

Wrapping up our chat, I, of course, asked about a drunken story.

Pete says, “Once in a while, one of us gets too drunk.”

Mark says, “We’re not that exciting,” but then Pete continues, “Jakub gets wasted.”

Jakub agrees and refers to a time they played at Rancho Relaxo. “I got way, way too drunk. I don’t really remember the night, but it was bad. I was singing off-key and it was really bad. I learned my lesson, so I have a 3 beer on stage limit, and that’s the perfect amount to get into it and be comfortable, but I can’t do more than that.”

Mark, remembering the story, says, “I think he met with a producer, too, that night. And a band was playing and they were screaming details about recording sessions and stuff like that to each other, so he completely lost his voice.”

Jakub then says, “I remember in Kingston when you guys found me in an alleyway and I was squatting over a sewer. Apparently they called me on the phone and I said, ‘I’m on top of the truck’ and ‘Woo!’ But that doesn’t make sense because I wasn’t on top of a truck.”

Mark continues, “That was actually my first time in Kingston and I remember it was right downtown and I remember just walking around and being amazed at how nice looking the city was. And it was such a nice looking city and clean and I remember walking out at the end of the night to go pack up and I just see him and… [looking at Jakub, shaking his head] you’re a disgrace.”

The band went from saying they don’t really drink a whole lot, because they live outside of the city and someone has to drive, to basically selling out Jakub as the band drunk. Ha!

Shot of choice:
Jackie Game – jager
Mark Plischewsky – jager
Jakub Hladik – tequila rose
Pete Plischewsky – tequila (but says he’ll do anything)

After having seen Volcano Playground on a few occasions before our chat, including the first ever show presented by buying shots for bands, it was really nice to get to know the band a little better. We still owe them shots, but I expect to see them play again soon. I know they’ll be worth it.

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