Nicole Parnis April 6, 2017
Tears Of Joy
Photo by Chris Vella aka Storbju. L-R: Daniel, Mark, Robert, Samwel & Francesco
Plato’s Dream Machine isn’t your ordinary band name, and turns out they’re not your ordinary boys. You don’t have to be into existentialism to appreciate the sophisticated sounds this five-piece are creating, but it helps.
You’re probably familiar with the band’s alternative-circuit smash hit Temenza, off their last album – a weird and wonderful riffed-up psychadelic trip of a song. This time round, with Paraliżi, their first track off the brand new album ĠUF, they’ve ditched the bongos and maracas for synthesisers, to create something that sounds like what would happen if The Killers and Tame Impala were stranded on a desert island together, (let’s just say Comino), with an infinite supply of indigenous shrubbery and solar-powered keyboards.
Whilst Paraliżi has that 80s infused darkness, an M83/Kavinsky-esque “night time driving” vibe, juxtaposed by an almost spiritual chorus, their second release off the album, Fidi, is simply crying out to be played en route on a glorious day, elbows out with the wind in your hair. It’s got all the elements to take over where sun-soaked indietronica bands like Friendly Fires and Metronomy left off, with the added bonus of soothing, localised lyrics and breezy instrumental waves that lift it into a realm of jazzy fusion…
In other words, Plato’s Dream Machine are your new favourite band; kind of like your old favourite bands, only better — they’re Maltese.
Their new stuff sounds experimental yet polished, and if the undeniably uplifting Fidi is anything to go by, it looks like 2017 will be the year the boys break on through to the other side. The radio-friendly new album’s set to be the background music to what summer memories are made of, and a real toast to the fivesome’s musical capabilities and their ability to zone in on the zeitgeist.
I caught up with trilby-toting singer Rob Farrugia Flores who filled me in on the latest, ahead of the official album release, and tried my best to psychoanalyse the rest of the band by asking them about their dreams. Deep maaan.
Hey! A huge well done on the new releases off ĠUF, I can’t wait to hear the rest of the album! First things first, how would you describe your music?
I think our music description can be captured within the horizons of our different phases. We tend to push ourselves further, always wanting to find new spaces of expression still left a bit unexplored locally. So the short answer would be that, at the moment, I think we’d be somewhere in the synth-pop genre.
From what I understand, you all seem to really love philosophy, nature and the outdoors, it makes me wonder what y’all’s political views are…
This project is hardly political in substance. I would say ethical possibly – more about relations and experiences. The lyrics are tied with the phase we’re going through, but where lyrics are concerned, it’s me all over — unlike our music production which is more democratic.
I think that we had and still have loads of social and political songs from other bands in Malta, which are great, mind you. My training is in philosophy and my interest is theology. My aim is to channel my ideas and passions in what I do, lyrics are one of the outlets. In this new upcoming album, I tried to explore themes such as faith, hope and love — at times it gets more explicit than others.
I’d like to think of art as being a vehicle. This album is both a praise and a trace of the beyond and the divine.
Wow, pretty intense stuff… Can you tell me a bit more about the album name and explain a few of the songs on the CD?
The album name, ĠUF, meaning womb, is a follow up of the previous album Għera in a certain sense — from nakedness to un-nakedness/enclosure. ĠUF captures this whole aura unwinding the strangeness of the previous atmosphere.
The songs, well, they all circle around the themes of faith, hope and love… on this openness for the infinite. It’s very religious in tone, but not at all preachy. Sometimes it feels at peace and serene with the presence of a divine. At times it feels all too human — it’s a juggle i would say.
Once you get your hands on the physical copy it will make a bit more sense I guess.
Would you say you’re religious then?
I am. Not in the strict proper way though, it’s more of an impulse thing — a strong desire for the heavens and God.
In a Christian way?
I see. Interesting stuff! Any other way you think your philosophy background influences the music?
Only lyrically I would say. The music is informed by the whole band’s influences of other bands.
What kind of influences?
Modern bands like Future Islands, Radiohead, The XX… Tame Impala too. We all have our own musical library, so to speak.
Would you say you’re kinda like Malta’s answer to Tame Impala?
Now that’s a huge statement now isn’t it! Our humble selves would never say anything close to that… At the same time, we consciously want, and love to, bring to our local audience something which sounds contemporary and fresh.
I think I’ll go ahead and say it anyway for you then! Why do you think psychedelic music is back ‘in’ in such a big way?
I think all art goes in cycles… it looks back in order to move forward.
Maybe our world today is echoing what was going on at ‘that’ time too in the late sixties? A time of revolution and wanting to lose yourself in the music…
Hmmm could be true… again, cycles i guess. But we’re definitely looking back for inspiration.
I wouldn’t say lose ourselves, I think the psy sounds we get are just because we love it at the moment. In a way this album is somewhat a bit “poppy” it’s not psychedelic as the previous one. It’s more straightforward and accessible.
Sweet! How come the change to more synth-y sound?
I opted to let go of the guitar sound to focus more on singing, and to see what happens without its presence. We wanted to do something different and not stick to previous comfy formulas too, coupled with the interest in synth-y bands like Future Islands and 80s stuff, and our love to experiment with new sounds. Inputting layers of sounds is what we love most.
You experimented with great results then! So when you meet up as a band what’s the dynamic like? You all share your preferences? Who’s into what?
We listen to any songs we get our hands on and share our madness.
Sounds like fun…
It really is. On occasions we forget about rehearsing and just end up talking about new songs we heard and influences, albums… We all have our own chemical property but we definitely make up a good reaction when fused together. I’m super happy with us five being together. We ride the same wave.
Far out. What’s in the pipeline for PDM in 2017, any upcoming gigs or festivals?
No plans as yet… We’re investing all our energy (and dimes) in the album launch concert.
What’s that gonna be like?
Well it’s repeated over two nights, the 8th and 9th of April at Valletta Campus Theatre, previously known as MITP, involving us playing the whole album live, with a light show and stage design by LATE INTERACTIVE — a super one-off event from us.
Sounds amazing! Looking forward to it. I guess we’ll have to wait and see about the summer festivals… I can imagine “losing myself” to the songs off ĠUF in a crowd. What would you do if you got invited to play the Beerfest?
Beerfest…. hmmm…Not sure, depends on the deal I guess haha. The whole atmosphere is definitely not “us”, but our aim is to open up to a wider audience eventually.
It’s probably the largest mixed audience festival slot in Malta for a local band no?
Well I think Earth Garden is bigger and waaayyy better.
How so? I’ve never been… yet…
On all levels. It’s more music focused, attracts more music lovers…It mashes together different artists, local and foreign…It has a much more authentic feel to it.
Sweet! That does sound better. I can’t wait to go finally. It looks a bit hippy, which isn’t a bad thing… Would you say you guys are hippies? At heart maybe?
Definitely not. Used to… not anymore.
Wanting to be more analytical and project oriented possibly. No “preachy beachy” stuff going on.
You all seem to really have your heads screwed on. Who plays what in the band and what do you do for jobs outside of the band?
Mark plays drums, Samwel bass, Francesco clarinet and percussion, Daniel synthesiser and piano and I do vocals.
I’m a teacher, Mark’s a postman, Sam is at Uni studying Anthropology and Dan is doing his A Levels in English and Philosophy. Francesco is a restorer of artefacts.
Cool! Nice mix.
Yeah, you could say that again!
What are all of your musical backgrounds? You sound like very capable multi-instrumentalists…
We’re mostly self-taught, except our pianist Daniel is trained in classical and bassist Samwel in jazz too.
I love all your arty music videos, who takes care of them for you?
Chris Mallia (Beesqueeze) does the whole shooting, editing and production. I just chip in with some ideas. We’re good friends with most alternative bands around at the moment.
You’ve got a really substancial loyal fan base, however, what would you say to new listeners who either haven’t heard you guys yet or might not follow the local music scene?
I’m aware that not everyone has the same level of curiosity and artistic sensitivity… From our side we are trying to be less eccentric and more accessible to wider audiences, it’s very important for us to reach many ears without of course comprising our souls.
I think you’ve achieved what you set out to do then! How can we get our hands on the album?
Thanks! At the moment you can purchase a physical copy by contacting us directly or through Trackage Scheme.
Nice one Robert! You can count me in as a believer. Now where did I put my consciousness….
Trackage Scheme’s Dream Interpretation Machine
What’s your dream way to spend a relaxing evening?
Samwel– Reading I guess… Getting an interesting idea, or getting some musical idea that I’m happy with- anything that makes me feel satisfied with my day going to bed.
Mark– Nobody at home, I put my favourite music on the Hi-Fi, raise the volume and have a couple of beers.
Francesco– A summer night with pleasant temperature and beautiful weather. Having a drink with background music and talking with a person I love while watching the sunset.
Daniel– Good food at a good restaurant and an evening stroll in a quiet town.
And dream weekend?
S– Camping probably, or walking somewhere around rural Malta with my best friend (and girlfriend).
M– A dream weekend would be a weekend where I get to go to a couple of concerts by my favourite bands.
F– Immersed in nature and being outdoors, hiking or biking in the mountains.
D– A music festival.
Dream day out and dream location in Malta?
S– Anywhere in rural Malta, say like Mistra, or Mellieħa, Ċirkewwa, Baħrija etc. Ah easy, Pembroke, where I live. It’s beautiful, close to home, you can go swimming, and I like to think it’s a pretty mystical place.
M– Wake up early, get on the bus and go wherever the bus takes me. Obviously I would have my mp3 player, and maybe a notebook so that I can write something if I’m inspired. I think my favourite place would be “is-Serkin” in Rabat.
F– Amazing summery weather, biking and swimming in Gozo and great food to finish off the day. My fave place might just be Karraba, the clay slopes of Għajn Tuffieħa.
D– A drive around Gozo. And Mġarr, Malta – no doubt. It’s one of the few untouched places around here.
Dream plans for this summer?
S– Getting the fieldwork research for my dissertation done successfully – that’s a dream in itself! I’d also like to record a series of songs I have accumulated over the years and release it informally on Bandcamp or something. It’s a dream because I won’t find the time…
M– To play a lot live with PDM and Brodu.
F– Taking a well-deserved relaxing trip to somewhere sunny and by the sea such as the Mediterranean Islands.
D– Gigging probably haha.
Dream drinking buddy? Alive or dead…
S– At the moment I’d have to say Fela Kuti, a famous Nigerian saxophone player. He made great afrobeat and is also remembered for having been quite the revolutionary
M -Ġanni, aka “il-Bidwi”.
F– Never thought of it and it’s hard… I can’t imagine anyone ‘dreamy’ except the one who takes u places where drinks are on the house!
D– None actually, I’d prefer to go solitary. I don’t drink that much.
S– I guess it would be some sort of pasta. Or anything with pastry in it haha.
M– Hamburger and chips with mustard.
F– Eating at an authentic traditional sushi place in Japan.
D– Lots of pizza, lots of bacon.
Dream hangout for a drink in Malta?
S– A jazz club. There should be a new one opening soon in Valletta in the coming months.
M– Ġugar and Hole In The Wall 🙂
F– Mdina bastions
D– There are many great places actually. Somewhere in the Valletta/Sliema area.
Dream travel destination?
S– At the moment it’s Cameroon, just to see Bamileke masks.
M– Italy to listen to live music.
F– Himalayas. New Zealand. Japan… Hard to pick!
D– I think either Patagonia or Iceland.
Dream time-travel era and place?
S– I’d say Classical-era Athens.
M– Heaven, at a time when it all has finished.
F– Classical Greece probably.
D– Present day is just fine.
S– Deadline management…
M– The power to stop people fighting and restore peace.
Dream festival lineup for 2017?
S– King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Mac Demarco, Holy Wave
M– Mild High Club, Mac Demarco, Ariel Pink, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Brikkuni, Stalko, Yews, Verdena, Bugo, Allah Las etc…
F– Radiohead and Tame Impala is enough.
D– Tame Impala, Vulfpeck, Radiohead, Hiatus Kaiyote, BBNG.
Dream road trip album?
S– Allah Las – Calico Review
M– The Beatles’ White album
F– Currents – Tame Impala
D– Back in Black AC/DC
Biggest dream for Plato’s Dream Machine?
S– Recording more albums, and gaining/maintaining the respect of the local community.
M– To get done with the launch of the new album.
F– Touring abroad.
D– Only the launch concert in mind at present!
Thanks lads, good luck with everything and I hope all your dreams come true!
Tickets for Saturday’s album release party are SOLD OUT but you can purchase tickets for Sunday night’s show here.
Get your copy of PDM’s new album ĠUF for €12 here.