The first time I heard London two-piece Playlounge, I felt a nostalgic pang of emotion, fuelled by the scuzzy, pop-hooked noise reminiscent of Pavement and Dinosaur Jr. But as I dug around for some more music, it fast became apparent that Playlounge offer much more than a 90s throwback fix. Their sound is more like a tightly packed burst of summery scuzz with a shot of boyish, plaid-covered charm. It’s a fresh wave of blissed-out pop driven surf, fitting somewhere between bands like No Age or WAVVES. Sam Watkins (drums/vox) and Laurie Foster (guitar) have recently hit the road to play numerous shows all over the UK and have been as prolific as a musical Octomom at putting out new material. The most recent release is the contribution of a track to the Family Portrait EP out on Art Is Hard records. Playlounge show no signs of slowing down, so we caught up with them to talk about the UK DIY music scene, amplifiers, and some unashamed affection for pop music.
What were you doing right before answering these questions?
Sam: Before answering these questions I was watching e4 and drinking grape juice.
Laurie: I was going to restring my guitar because it’s gotten pretty horrible lately but I had a banana instead.
Tell me about how Playlounge got started.
Sam: Laurie was in a band with a friend of mine but they didn’t have a drummer and they asked me to join so they could start playing shows and stuff. Then through that, me and Laurie became friends and we’d hang out and talk favourite bands and lend each other records that we loved and just kinda fell into writing songs together for Playlounge, like on the side until it slowly became our priority. It was more the sort of thing we wanted to be doing anyway.
There’s a really strong DIY aesthetic to your sound. Is this something you wanted to deliberately achieve or did it happen by accident?
Sam: A large part of our initial bonding over music centred around the whole 80’s DC hardcore scene so when it came to doing stuff with Playlounge it wasn’t like we thought we had to do it all ourselves, it was just done instinctively. It’s our band so why wouldn’t we want to be involved in everything we do, you know?
Your sound reminds me of a lot of West coast US indie that came out in the 90s (that’s a good thing). Is this the sort of music that influences you, or do you get inspiration from somewhere else?
Sam: I’d say one of our biggest band influences is now defunct south London band William, they’re the reason we formed. Personally I take a lot of influence from emo, bands like Rainer Maria, Midwest Pen Pals and American Football as well the indier side to it like Death Cab For Cutie.
Laurie: I listen to A LOT of Pavement if that’s what you mean. Despite that I’d say I’m influenced more by stuff that’s coming out at the moment. There are so many incredible bands in the UK right now. It’s very inspiring.
You’ve just been part of the ‘Family Portrait’ EP on Art Is Hard records. How did the release come together?
Sam: We were lucky enough to befriend a music blogger called Jake May (who now kinda helps manage us) and him posting about us back before we’d actually met led to Art Is Hard getting in contact. We’re so thankful that David and Richard put us out (as well as Jake for blogging about us). I love that record and since that we’ve played with all the other Family Portrait bands and become best buds with Joanna Gruesome.
Laurie: They are a wonderful label and wonderful people.
You describe your sound as ‘noise pop’. What’s the noise/pop ratio?
Sam: I wouldn’t say there’s necessarily a way you could give a percentage to what’s noise and what’s pop, I love pop music and I love noisy music. I just wanna write good songs. You could change the instrumentation to whatever the chart deems fashionable and I think our songs would still work. I just want to write songs people can sing along to. Nirvana wrote pop songs and they’re my favourite band.
Laurie: I don’t think I’d really be comfortable describing our genre or whatever as anything else. It was always a term used to describe the bands I was obsessing over when I was 16/17 like Calories, Johnny Foreigner, Times New Viking etc. so i guess that’s why I like it. Plus it just looks cool written down, ‘noise-pop’.
Have you got any secret pop (guilty) pleasures?
Sam: I’m not really one for guilty pleasures, a good song is a good song regardless of genre. I’m a big fan of the Kelly Clarkson record ‘Break Away’ which I get a lot of slack for but I’m not ashamed of that. Oh and obviously ‘Poison’ by Bell Biv DeVoe is one of the greatest songs of all time.
Laurie: I’d agree with Sam, if you like a song, you like a song, there’s no need to hide it.
You’ve covered a track by KEEL HER, who also appears on the EP. Is there a sense of musical camaraderie between noise pop bands right now?
Sam: Yeah definitely. We’ve made friends with so many bands along the way we love being able to help each other out.
Laurie: Yeh, everyone just seems to be massively into what everyone else is doing. We put on shows for each other in our different cities, buy the records, eat pizza, hi-five, all that stuff. It’s really nice. Reeks of Effort is a good example of this.
I’ve noticed you’ve played some shows around Bournemouth recently. There’s a pretty exciting independent music scene going on in SW coast area at the moment. How does it compare to the independent scene in London?
Sam: Funnily enough we always seem to play better shows outside of London. First time we played in Bournemouth it was put on by MJ from Yoofs and was easily one of my favourite shows. Everyone was really into what we were doing.
Laurie: Yeh loads of great bands have come out of the South West recently. Off the top of my head there’s YRRS, Vlad, Gorgeous Bully, Yoofs, Bos Angeles, The Black Tambourines… Art Is Hard records is based down there, H.A.M put on shows down there, Jake May was born there.
How do you create such a big sound with the two of you?
Laurie: Playing guitar through more than one amp definitely helps and I suppose the way I play guitar has something to do with it. Bass was my first proper instrument so I tend to be quite conscious of bass notes and low end stuff. Sam hits the ride cymbal real hard too, that sounds big.
Sam: I guess we just compensate for not having any other band members. Being only two of us definitely shaped the way I learnt to play.
You’re playing a lot of shows at the moment. How are you finding the touring experience?
Sam: I love getting to play out of London because it’s led to me visiting part of the UK I may have not had an opportunity to see otherwise. Plus we’ve made so many friends going around the UK playing shows, it blows my mind that people are so into what we’re doing.
Laurie: It’s a lot a fun, people have been extremely nice to us, we always have a place to stay and cups of tea and we get to play with all these rad bands.
Do you have any funny touring stories?
Laurie: We once played at this house in Oxford which was full of middle-aged guys who were off their faces from 2pm when we got there. The house had ‘ACID’ written all over the walls and there was a room where they were kneeling down listening to really quiet drum & bass through these huge speakers which were pointed at the floor. It turned out to be a great show and it was where we first met Poledo.
What can we expect from Playlounge in the next year?
Sam: World domination, hah! We’ve recently finished recording a load of new songs that are being released around October but as it’s yet to be announced I’m not sure I can say any more on that and then we’re going on tour with Johnny Foreigner which is a dream come true as they’re one of our favourite bands. So excited for that.