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The music of Plaxton and the Void
By EA Poorman
Fort Wayne Reader
Plaxton and the Void hail from Warsaw, Indiana. They make music that feels more cinematic and melodramatic than that Midwestern stop between Ohio and Illinois would seem to offer. Yet, when listening to their album Ides you can't help but get swept up into the "Big Sky" vastness of “Mistakes,” or the emotional let down of “Don't Go.” It's a sound that My Morning Jacket perfected on It Still Moves and Bright Eyes meticulously sculpted on I'm Wide Awake It's Morning. But Plaxton and the Void make it their own, creating a sound that's big, yet intimate. Open, yet honed in.
The band consists of Joel Squires(aka Plaxton) on vocals and guitars, Joshua Jacoby(aka the Void) on guitars, Dave McCall on bass, and Tom Wagoner on drums and percussion. I got a chance to talk to these guys about their album, music, and all those questions that make private people squirm in their seats.
EAP: So what's behind the band name? What was the inspiration?
Joel Squires: Plaxton was just a made up name that I started using for a stage name, I guess it represents my creative side that wants to tell stories. The void is an inside joke that links to good and bad. So the name is about the boy (Plaxton) and the good and bad that he has to deal with.
EAP: Is Ides your first full-length? Talk about the writing process with Ides.
JS: Ides is our first album as Plaxton and the Void. It started out for me as a way to de-stress and release some creative energy. My previous band Roblock was starting to dissolve and I needed an outlet. I started writing some songs and then Jacoby, whom I've played with in bands before, wanted to jam as he was also feeling an urge to play music again. So we started to play together just for fun at home and realized that maybe we had something cool in an acoustic, electric duo. I continued to write more songs and bring them to Jacoby who would help me polish them and once we had enough songs we did our first show, with Darkroom, Fair Fjola and The Damn Choir from Chicago. Shortly after that Tom and Dave who were in my last band joined us and we started working on recording the album as a full band.
EAP: Where was Ides recorded? Did you guys self-produce the album?
JS: Yes, our record was all done in house at Dave's house. He and Jacoby spent months researching and developing skills and a home studio. So the process was a little long for a first time around, but we are really happy with the way it turned out. It was nice to do it at our own pace. The album was mastered by Tim Bushong.
Dave McCall: We recorded Ides mostly in a studio I put together in my basement. Josh and I put hundreds of hours of research in to recording equipment, studio setup, recording processes, and mixing. We ended up with a mix of modern and vintage microphones, preamps, compressors interfaces. Some of it we modded with improved microphone capsules or swapping out stock tubes for higher-quality tubes. We built one mic from bits and pieces of other gear we had sitting around. We installed acoustic material in the ceiling. I designed some easy-to-build, movable, free-standing acoustic panels that we built and used to shape some of the acoustics of the studio space. We plan on using the studio for future recordings and for helping friends out that need a place to inexpensively record.
Joshua Jacoby: I was mainly behind the production — this is the first full-length album I've produced (and mixed...and...first just about everything). I've spent a lot of time in the past 10 years recording guitar tracks, but sitting behind the console was a much different experience than I'm used to. There's so much more responsibility involved. I crammed an incredible amount of knowledge in my brain in a short time to try to record Ides at a level that was up to our standards. The next album will be far less labor intensive, mostly because I've got most of the time-consuming processes refined. It takes far longer to develop new setups than to maintain them.
EAP: Who are some artists you guys pull inspiration from?
JS: Personally I really like bands that tell stories well. So even though my writing isn't as eloquent as them I really like Death Cab For Cutie, Wilco and The Decemberists.
DM: As a band, I'd say we have some pretty massive influences from Wilco and the Decemberists.
EAP: Where do you guys play? How would you describe your live shows?
JS: We've been playing in a lot of bars mainly, we've also played in a few small clubs even coffee houses. I would say that our live shows are all about connecting the emotions in the lyrics into the music through dynamics.
EAP: Are you guys involved with the Fort Wayne music scene at all?
JS: We've not played too much in Fort Wayne but are looking to branch out into the scene. We've only had a couple shows over there. Last summer we played a show at the Dash In and we were involved in the Whatzup battle of the bands.
JJ: We were pretty well-liked by the judges, but were unable to participate in the wildcard performance due to Joel's wedding occurring the next week. We figured his wife probably would frown upon interrupting their honeymoon for a show (laughs).
EAP: How's the music scene in Warsaw? Is there a Warsaw "sound"?
JJ: The scene here is pretty small, but there is so much talent. Other bands from Warsaw include Fair Fjola. I would say that it doesn't really have too much effect on us as we started writing music as a way to do what we wanted musically.
DM: Warsaw is an undiscovered jewel for original music. There have been multiple great original bands in Warsaw for well over a decade. Looking back to the '90s you had bands like Lovewar and the Channel Surfers. Now we have bands like Darkroom, Megan King, and Fair Fjola. The scene itself was probably strongest in the 00s (led by At Peace While Burning and Corporate Circus), but it is newly resurgent and gaining momentum.
The town of Warsaw doesn't really affect what we create, but there's a camaraderie among the musicians here that I think is unusual. We are all friends and support each other. It doesn't feel competitive. Though we all strive to create the best, original music that we can, it's more like we're trying to cheer each other on. Maybe that is part of the reason why Warsaw feels like such fertile ground for original music.
JJ: Warsaw is all about original music if you look closely enough. The venues are small and the shows are intimate, but they're there, and they're VERY good. Also, Cerulean Restaurant had weekly(?) outdoor shows all summer in their beer garden--mostly local acts, but there were quite a few traveling bands that played. Every performance I caught was just fantastic.
EAP: Plaxton and the Void have released Ides. What's next? Is the band already working on a follow-up?
JS: We are constantly writing new material. I would say though that right now our main focus is trying to find new shows and venues to play to start getting our music out to the region.
DM: Oh, we're still working on new songs! We plan on playing fresh material regularly. We have 2 relatively polished songs written since the album went in to post-production and one or two we're still tinkering with. I like to keep one or two new ideas in the pipeline to keep things from getting stale.
Here's a couple other nuggets of interest for you all: Joel Squires is a gourmet chef, Dave McCall was in a trip hop band many years ago called moriarty with Andrew McComas of Metavari, and football puts Joshua Jacoby to sleep. Oh, Tom Wagoner is a figment of all of their imaginations.
To hear more by Plaxton and the Void check out plaxtonandthevoid.bandcamp.com.