Plini is an Australian progressive musician who made a name for himself on YouTube. Only instead of releasing mind-numbingly depressing “5 Facts About Me!” videos, he was shredding away at his unique guitar and honing his songwriting craft. Since then, Plini has released a series of beautifully crafted and powerful EPs and has finally dropped his debut full-length, ‘Handmade Cities’. We caught up with the guitarist and songwriter to chat about his methodology and the beautiful beast that is his Strandberg Guitar.
So you’ve just come off a six-week tour in Europe supporting Animals As Leaders. It must feel pretty great to come and tour back home in Australia.
Oh definitely. But I did have the luxury in Europe of waking up and the gear just being there for me, whereas here I’m scrambling to make sure everything is ready to fit on an aeroplane and not break. But yeah, it does feel good to be in my own time zone.
Well, I hope you’re not flying Jetstar. So ‘Handmade Cities’ came out a few days ago and it’s already Number Two on the Australian Metal Charts, that’s gotta feel pretty crazy right?
It’s insane! And it was number one in the US Metal Charts and Rock charts and all other kinds of weird shit. It’s a very strange feeling. It’s probably the best thing I could imagine.
Instrumental albums can often be ambiguous in their meanings and themes so when it comes to your songs do they have set meanings and stories to you at all?
They don’t really have a meaning or story when I start them but as they start to come together I think about what it could mean or what story it could be telling. So all the songs now have a story meaning but that’s not necessarily something that I want people to take away from this.
You often release the Guitar Pro files for your songs so people can learn them on their own guitars. Is Guitar Pro something you use to help you write songs or is a just a tool to tab them all out later?
It’s really just a tool to tab them all out later. The way I write is I just sit down with my guitar and record an idea and then flesh it all out later.
Did that process change at all when you came into writing a full-length album as opposed to the EPs?
I guess I gave myself more time to let the songs fit whereas with an EP the idea is to smash your face into something and say, “Hello, this is music”. But at the same time, this is a pretty short album, it’s basically an EP and my EP’s are so short that they’re basically singles. In terms of the writing process on each song I left more space with the drums and bass because I knew my friends were going to record it instead of myself.
When it comes to progressive music, there can often be the case of writing for the sake of technicality and showing off. Though I find your music is very reserved and refined for a progressive band. Do you try and go for that in your writing?
Yeah, definitely. I think that I’m someone who writes music and happens to play guitar as oppose to someone who plays guitar and happens to write music. I guess that’s the difference between music in the 80’s where people were great at playing guitar and that was the focus and now. With like, the new Animals as Leaders album there’s a lot of songwriting and technique and that’s used as a vehicle. But I think that’s my approach for sure.
I’m a huge fan of guitars myself and I have to say that your guitar is an absolute beast to even look at. Can you tell me the story behind how you got it and also how you tune that thing?
Sure. So it’s a Strandberg Boden and I first saw Chris Letchford from Scale the Summit play one. I think he ordered one of the first ones ever made. I thought it was really cool but forgot about it until I met Aaron from Intervals. He was playing a seven string and I picked it up and thought it was the best thing I had ever touched. So I contacted Strandberg about getting one and I just love it. The tuning is actually probably easier than conventional guitar because you slide the string through the bridge and then lock it at where the headstock would be, tune it and that’s it. I don’t know how it exactly works but somehow the tuners go from pulling it and they just become fine tuners by some sort of strange Swedish magic.
What was it about the guitar that you fell in love with, specifically?
I think it was the approach to designing a guitar. You look at most guitars and nothing’s been changed in the past forty years. It’s either a Les Paul looking thing or a Stratocaster looking thing. But Strandberg have gone: “What can we do? We don’t really need a headstock which will make it lighter. We can cut the body in a way that makes it comfortable whether you’re sitting down or standing up.” It’s all these really logical things that have ended up looking really sick. It’s the type of guitar that a human in 2016 would play I think.
Rad! Did you solely use that guitar on the record?
Yeah, I use that same guitar on the whole record. Pretty much before that I had one Ibanez for ten years. I’m not a huge guitar collector, I just get what makes me feel good.
And the pedals? There’s nothing crazy on the record but it’s all very refined in terms of tone.
Just an Axe-Fx 2. That’s it! A guitar into an Axe-Fx 2 straight into an iMac.
That’s interesting because you have genres like Shoegaze, where the pedalboard is like a robot and will one day become sentient-
-So what made you go for such a simple setup?
I’m actually not that big into gear, to be honest. I don’t collect pedals, and an Axe-Fx just has everything I need. Pedals are fun to play around with like Delay pedals can get very trippy. Maybe I’ll do that one day in the future. But at the end of the day, I just want to play guitar and record music and this setup is the simplest and the quickest way to make noise happen.
That’s actually interesting to hear. Well, thanks so much for your time, Plini. Best of luck on the Australian tour and the US support slot!
Thanks, Matty. Have a great day!
‘Handmade Cities’ is out now through all good digital and physical retailers. An Australian tour in support of the record begins this Thursday with Intervals & Polaris Tickets & info here.