Mustard had the pleasure of speaking with Plasma Canvas’s Adrienne Ash. Together we discussed the band’s formation, #skatwitter, their upcoming album DUSK, and so much more!
1. Mustard is grateful to have Plasma Canvas join them. How is everyone?
Pleased to meet you! We’re all doing very well. Thank you for having us!
2. Mustard wonders what type of canvas does the plasma cover? How did you come up with your band name?
The band name is a reference to blood on a canvas. I wanted to communicate deeply personal, ugly vulnerability and honesty. It just made sense with the way I write lyrics. I’ve always wanted to be one of those people who writes in a journal every day, but my ADHD prevents that. What ends up happening is that I only write when I feel moved to. For me, the songs that I’ve written in one sitting tend to be my best work. For that reason, I decided to put those raw feelings at the center of the project.
3. Could you share how Craigslist played a role in the band’s formation?
Whoa, Mustard! You really did your research! I’m impressed. Well, in the spring of 2016, I put an ad up on Craigslist asking for help recording drums for what ended up being our self-titled debut release. I had a few people express interest, but there were a couple of people who backed out once they learned that I was trans and that the songs had a certain viewpoint. I obviously thought that was silly, because EVERY song has a point of view. However, I’m glad they saved my time by demonstrating to me that they had no business taking part in my project. Eventually, I met Dave Sites, who offered to track drums on the record and was totally professional and respectful about who I am. If I recall, the third time I came over to his place to jam, I told him I thought of a band name. When I told him what it was, he was like, “Cool.” Dave’s a man of few words, but most of those words are pretty funny.
4. Who (or what) influences Plasma Canvas?
The four of us now – myself (Adrienne Ash – she/her), Evalyn Flowers – she/her, Frankie Harlin – they/them, and Jarod Ford – he/him – have a lot of different influences, with enough overlap to where we understand how to work together, but different enough to keep things interesting. If we had to narrow it down, I could narrow it down like this: I love Jimmy Eat World. Evalyn loves La Dispute. Frankie loves Jawbreaker. Jarod loves The Mars Volta. As a general rule though, we try not to shut out any influences. There is so much cool art and music out there to constantly be inspired by. Why would we ever want to keep that from coloring our sound? I used to get told all the time that my “inability to find a niche” was a problem I needed to fix, but with bands like Bring Me The Horizon and IDLES and My Chemical Romance constantly reinventing their sound, I think it’s a beautiful thing to not fit inside a box. Binaries are other people’s thing.
5. What is Plasma Canva’s songwriting process?
It’s kind of nebulous. The way it’s worked until now is that I’d write pretty much everything except the drums. For about a year, we had our friends Alan Hlavacek and Travis Mason playing bass and guitar with us, respectively. Inviting them to share that creative space was something I was only able to do in a limited capacity, since I was still learning how to let go of creative control after doing it all myself for five years. However, during their time in the band, I slowly learned how to let go. When they joined, I was basically looking for a couple of touring musicians to help Evalyn and I play the songs live. By the time they left, Evalyn and I realized that we wanted something that felt and functioned like a band. When we brough Jarod and Frankie in, we made a conscious effort to make sure everyone felt like they were a part of something. We like to say that we’re all 25% now. Our hope is for the next record after DUSK to be a wholly collaborative process.
6. Plasma Canvas is the “loudest, gayest band in the world.” Does Plasma Canvas have any challengers to this title?
Obviously not, since they haven’t claimed the title! Still got our crown, baby. On a real note though, even though all of us in the band are some form of queer, it’s not about actually about volume, or even queerness. It’s something I like to say when we play shows to crowds of strangers. If you can’t handle us saying that we’re “the loudest, gayest band on earth”, then we don’t really want you in the room anyway. You don’t deserve us.
7. In the summer of 2020 Plasma Canvas got signed to Side One Dummy Records. What were everyone’s initial reactions to this news?
Everyone we knew was stoked for us! So many great records have come out on SideOneDummy, and all of our friends and family were excited to see our name next to those bands. We love The Gaslight Anthem and Jeff Rosenstock and PUP and Iron Chic, so getting to be even a small part in something that all those artists were a part of feels really rad. We’re excited what’s next.
8. “Our music was always supposed to be more than a mosh pit.” Could you elaborate more on this?
I’ve always had the idea that if I made our songs good enough, then people might actually listen to the lyrics. That thinking has proven me right some of the time. For the other times, we have mottos like this. We’re not a band for meat head dudes to beat each other up to. Sure, there’s plenty of slam-dancing at our shows, but as said by Keith Morris when I saw Circle Jerks earlier this year, “I’m not here to be the soundtrack to your fist fight. Go do that out in the parking lot.” We definitely do have a message and that message is that being kind and gentle is way more punk rock than a macho asshole. Being respectful and caring about other people is punk. Making people feel anxious and unsafe with your shitty behavior isn’t. At all.
9. Plasma Canvas recently joined Ska Twitter. What are Plasma Canva’s thoughts on the ska scene? How does the ska twitter scene differ from other areas of Twitter? Does Plasma Canvas have a favorite ska band?
Ha! It started with me observing how wholesome and supportive Ska Twitter is. All of ska, really. There’s something really sweet about a bunch of people who all really love this one particular genre of music that isn’t as popular as other genres and they lift each other up. So recently, I tweeted about how much I loved Ska Twitter and that we’re not ska, but we wish we were because of how rad it is. Next thing I know, we’ve got dozens of ska bands and ska-related accounts blowing up our music video for “Blistered World”! It was so cool. One person told us that “Ska Twitter transcends genres” or something to that effect, and I think I get it now.
10. 2016 saw the release of your self-titled debut album. What was the process like putting this album together?
Our self-titled record was a chaotic experience, to say the least. I made a lot of mistakes, like scheduling the album release show about six months out with zero songs recorded and only like four written. I literally told Dave at our fourth rehearsal in April 2016 that I’d scheduled the album release show in October. What can I say? You live and learn, haha. The album was “finished” less than a couple of weeks before we hit Stout Studios to record it with Darren Radach, but there were plenty of changes I made in the studio because the moment felt right. It was recorded while Dave and I were still getting to know each other, so once his drums were tracked, it was just me and Darren making this weird record that neither one of us fully understood at the time. I took my time and played with as many weird gadgets and funky pedal setups as possible. I didn’t know if I would ever get the chance to make a record again, so I put everything into the record – even some stuff that I wish hadn’t made the album. Looking at you, “Bored To Death”. We ended up running out of time and money to mix it at the studio, so my friend Jace McLain mixed and mastered it in FOUR DAYS. Even though it definitely sounds like a rushed mix, I will forever be impressed by and grateful for Jace’s work. He even amazing found time to add some instrumentation, like piano, tambourine, accordion and… kazoo. Yeah, I’m still salty about that kazoo, Jace!
11. KILLERMAJESTIC released in 2020 reasserted the identity of Plasma Canvas. How did this EP further expand Plasma Canva’s identity?
After our self-titled album had been out for about 9 months, Dave decided to leave the band. I was devastated, but determined to keep the band going, so when Evalyn (then going by another name) was recommended by a mutual friend named Zack Hill, I was stoked. I remember seeing her in the audience at our shows and thinking “Damn, it’s a shame this person probably doesn’t play an instrument because they’d be AWESOME to be in a band with” so it was eerie how right I was. After she joined in June 2017, we hit the ground running. She learned a bunch of older songs, and we wrote a bunch of new ones, which ended up becoming our 2018 EP “NO FACES”. I’ve always felt that “NO FACES” was kind of an outwardly-directed record, since it was the first time we’d written anything together as a band. We didn’t know each other very well yet, so I figured the best way for us to grow closer was for us to join hands and flip off everybody else. By the time we got around to recording KILLERMAJESTIC, we’d gotten to know each other well enough to where I felt more comfortable writing more vulnerable music with Evalyn. That lead to songs like “Saturn”, “Rot” and “Flux”.
We put our best foot forward and solidified what Plasma Canvas is – an in-your-face punk band that wants you to love yourself and try to become a better person. It’s kind of a weird record, but we’re weird and that’s fine. All five of those songs sound different from each other, and I think that’s cool. What’s cooler is that if you take 17 minutes out of your life to listen to it, all the songs flow together very well in sequence. I’ve always viewed sequencing as part of my songwriting process.
12. Last week you released the first single off your upcoming album DUSK “Blistered World.” What was the inspiration behind this single ? How does “Blistered World” prepare fans for DUSK?
As soon as I started writing “Blistered World”, I knew it had to be the first song and the first single. I could feel the energy bursting out of it. It’s a statement of intent for the record, just like every other album opener we’ve put out. DUSK was written over the course of 2020 and 2021, so you can imagine where my head was. We were supposed to hit the road with Lagwagon and Less Than Jake in May 2020, with 3 dates with The Bouncing Souls. Having all of that fall apart after getting so close to attaining everything we’d ever dreamed of was soul-crushing. I wrote “Blistered World” after months of feeling totally defeated. One day I felt something shift. I didn’t want to live in the past anymore. I wrote the song to show to myself and the world that there is still plenty of fight in me, even though life had absoluetely kicked the shit out of me. Musically, I think it’s an explosively emotional song that lets the listener know they’re in for a ride, and that Plasma Canvas is here to stay.
13. What can fans expect from DUSK? How has your sound evolved since your self-titled debut?
Without giving too much away, I can say that our new record captures what I was trying to do on our self-titled record, but wasn’t emotionally equipped to. Sonically, it’s all over the place, but in a way that makes sense. I love a good concept album, so I’ve always tried to make our songs tell a cohesive story. I don’t do hard world-building with characters and backstories, but more of a general feeling that the album is a place that you can visit, to hide in and to feel a part of. I was always an introverted child, so my whole life was “headphones on, world off”. That combined with me being autistic led to me spending a lot of time alone, listening to records and learning how to write good songs. I would listen to albums like Panopticon, 2112, The Black Parade, The Wall, F#A# Infinity, and The Earth Is Not A Cold, Dead Place and melt into them. I felt understood by them. I hope this album can do that for someone else.
14. A human has been invited to a Plasma Canvas show. What type of show will be they seeing?
We’ve been told our shows have an energy level that’s only matched by Andrew WK. So we’re like Andrew WK, but queer as the day is long. Trandrew W Gay, if you will. We party. There is plenty of moshing and crowd-surfing and hugs and gang vocals. Another person said we reminded him of Latterman. Another said My Chemical Romance if they smoked more weed. Come see for yourself!
15. What is next for Plasma Canvas?
Next is our headliner show on November 18th, 2022 at Aggie Theatre in Fort Collins, CO! There will also be very big Plasma Canvas news that day. After that, who knows? Right now, we’re figuring out a booking agent so we can attach a (metaphorical?) rocket to our van. With our album coming out in early 2023, we plan on being pretty busy over the next year.
16. Where can readers listen to Plasma Canvas?
You can find our new video for “Blistered World” on the SideOneDummy Records YouTube channel! And you can check out all of our releases on Bandcamp, Spotify, Apple Music, and anywhere else you listen to music. Thank you for checking us out! Come and see us in your city!