An Interview with Plow United: Phase Forward Alessandra Donnelly January 30, 2013 Interviews Originally founded in Wilmington, DE, Plow United sprang to life from the foundation of a mutual love of punk rock between its members. Throughout the ‘90s, the band pounded out records and toured constantly, not entirely aware of the recognition that was swirling around their name. After a 15-year break and a return to normalcy, a performance at 2011’s Riot Fest brought the guys back together and luckily, their heads were all in the right place. Since then, they’ve been forming a new album, Marching Band, long distance style, breathing life back into the ideals of old while folding in the life experiences of the guys that they are today. The band is hoping to exceed their expectations, but they hope to flaunt their freshly polished chops and bring new light into the contemporary world of punk rock. Vocalist/guitarist Brian McGee set aside some time to talk about the band’s sound, Marching Band, and what’s to come in 2013. This is what he had to say: You’ve stepped away from the music scene for a moment. What’s it like to be coming back? Aside from the release of Marching Band, what are the band’s plans for 2013? Outside of the album release shows, we’re booking some more shows for July, for the summertime, and we’re going to try and get to some other towns that we’ve played in the past. Places like Bethlehem, we want to get back down to Baltimore, places like Richmond, VA. The focus of those shows is to play places that we haven’t been able to get to in our other little groupings of shows that have been based around Philly and New York and stuff like that. We want to do those and we are also looking into some more festival dates. We’re going to do some more recording this summer for split 7” ideas that we’ve been kicking around. We’re still writing new material via emails with each other. We’re still figuring out how to be a band with one person on the West Coast and two of us on the East Coast. So it’s going to be a busy year? Yeah, that on top of me maintaining the solo stuff that I do. Joel [Tannenbaum, bassist] has a band in Philly called Ex-Friends and Sean [Rule, drummer] plays with some people out in Oregon. Plow is definitely a major focus and we spent a lot of time preparing things and working on it even though we don’t really get to play all that often. What fueled the need to get together make this record? When we got asked to play Riot Fest, we decided, “Well, let’s play Riot Fest, but if we’re going to get back together and do this, are we all in agreement that we want to make more music? That we want to be a band again, like we want to figure out how to try and do this? And not just be like a throwback band, like do we want to keep going?” We all were like, “Yes, definitely.” We’ve all agreed that with all of the bands we’ve been in, all the projects we’ve had between the ‘90s and now, that there’s something about the way the three of us click together that hasn’t clicked with any other projects. When we were kicking around the prospect of writing more songs and making another record, it was like everyone without hesitation was on board. It made it more fun to get back at it with each other. We all had been writing songs. Sean actually had held onto snippets of songs from the ‘90s when we were together, like, “Oh, I’ve been waiting to finish these.” That’s probably the thread on the record that reaches furthest back, like some of the stuff Sean wrote, stuff he intended to finish back in the day and then didn’t get around to it until now. In what ways has your musicianship evolved over the years? For me personally, I kind of… In the late ‘90s, I got way into folk music and took up playing banjo. I was playing more acoustic. I moved to North Carolina for 12 years and was playing with fiddle players and playing a lot of country. It took me out of playing as fast as I can whether it was sloppy or not. Playing with really skilled acoustic musicians really made me tighten up my chops and improve. As far as singing goes, I feel I really learned how to sing more and use my voice better when I was in North Carolina rather than when I was in Plow, and I would just scream and yell as loud, fast and high as you can to deliver. Since I don’t do that all the time now, it’s a harder thing to pull off. I think the experience of not consistently playing punk rock for 20 years and venturing off into other genres has definitely made me a better player. I work over at Russo Music in Asbury as a guitar tech, so I play guitars all day long. That for the last year and a half, ‘cause I have to play guitar all day, that has made me like, improve my skills greatly. If there was one thing you could change about the music industry today, what would it be? Oh god, I don’t know. I participate, but I wish there was a way that like, bands could get paid more for things like Spotify and Pandora. That would be awesome. I’ve gotten a royalty check and they break it down and it takes like, 10 plays on Spotify to make a penny or something like that. It’s just kind of absurd. That’s not the exact math, but it’s not far off. I don’t know what I’d change. There are things that are less desirable. I really don’t know. I participate at such a distance and I’ve never really gotten to the point where it has had major effects on me. A seasoned pro would probably have a lot to say about it. Any favorite new bands or artists? By new, could it be at least five years old? Sure. I really like a band called Floating Action. I’ve been listening to Nude Beach. I’ve been digging this band Swearin’, Nona, The Scandals, Mount Moriah. What goals would you still like to achieve with Plow United? We want to get past being a reunited band. It’s easy to say, “Oh, another band from the ‘90s that got back together.” We’re excited about it enough to keep writing new songs. Everything we said in the ‘90s is what we said and we’ll still play some of that stuff, but we got other things to say now. I want us to be a band taken seriously now, even though we’re not a full-time band. We will get together sporadically throughout the year and do stuff. I don’t want it to be taken as a weekend warrior band full of old guys. We’re older, but who cares? Take it seriously because we take it seriously. We want to continue to write and make good records. We definitely want to tour the U.S. more and get over into Europe. Europe is a big goal; there was lots of talk about it in the ‘90s, and then it never happened. It was kind of a big letdown. Jump Start Records, who are putting Marching Band out, we’ve got some leads into Europe and the UK and stuff. So, knock on wood, that will actually happen this time. What can listeners expect to hear on the new album? 12 songs that we think hold up with the old stuff. We stuck to writing some shorter songs and then we pushed it a little bit on some others. We’ve breached the three-minute mark. Congratulations. Thank you. (Laughs) We’ve had a reputation for songs that only go from 50 seconds to like, 70 or 80 seconds. There’s some low-hanging fruit on this record, but there’s some stuff that is a hair longer and maybe a little more of a challenge. We’re all older and into different things. We’re going to maintain something that is familiar, but we also want to do this and this. It still sounds like Plow. I think it’s good to challenge ourselves, challenge listeners. It would be boring for me if we stuck to writing all songs that were a minute and 10 seconds long. I think that’s the kiss of death for a band. Especially for a band getting back together. This is the first record in 15 years, so it’s kind of a challenge. What do we do? It’s weird, we kind of started playing together when we were 15 years old. Now, 15 years have passed between the last record and this record. That’s like a whole weird lifetime. How do we go about it? I think we did a good job and we each compromised to get to a final product and keep the overall focus of making a good record in mind and make that be the goal. Plow United will play at Brooklyn’s Knitting Factory on March 28, and The Barbary, in Philadelphia, on March 30. Their new album, Marching Band, is due out April 2. For more information, go to plowunited.net. 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