point: their latest, as-yet- unreleased song “Life in a Jar.”
Recorded by Jimmy Goodman at Leopard Studios in New Paltz
for a multiband compilation, “Jar” is a cacophonous assemblage
of guitars, drums and vocal screams. There’s no verse-chorus
structure; it sounds like the broken shards of traditional
rock songs joined together in an oblique but compelling order.
always this way. Until recently, the band even featured a
string player. But, as Williams explains, “the music has totally
changed, though. It’s a lot louder.”
lineup changed, so did the recording process.
to be Tom and I would sit down and write all the songs, now
it’s all five of us at once,” Hamill says.
elaborates: “The writing of it is very spontaneous—it’s like
have affected their live shows, too. As Hamill remembers,
people used to characterize them as a pop band, or an “arty”
our music has gotten a lot darker,” says Hamill, “the stuff
we’re doing now seems more real.”
Williams notes, one thing hasn’t changed: Both she and Wilk
often wear skirts on stage.
done three great things. One is the tour we went on last winter,
the second one is our fan club, and the third one is the bus
we purchased,” Wilk asserts.
about the tour and the bus later; let’s look at the band’s
Kareoke Fan Club. (Like any other unusual spellings you will
encounter in the course of reading this, “kareoke” is the
group’s alphabetical construction of choice.) No matter what
happens, Wilk muses, they will always be able to say they
had a fan club. One, in fact, with members drawn from far-flung
places like Texas, Wisconsin and New Jersey. This is a select
group—one in three applicants is rejected.
elitist in the best sense,” Hamill says.
not elitist,” Wilk disagrees, but adds: “We feel the need
to keep the fan club exclusive.”
a Web-based club—you can apply at www.amazingplaid.com—run
with a discipline worthy of West Point. “Colonel” Julia Hacker,
who is not an official Plaidster but often plays keyboards
with them as honored guest artist, administers the club. There
is a brief application form that must be filled out; failure
to follow instructions precisely will lead to immediate rejection.
If your essay isn’t 50 words exactly, you’re out. If you can’t
think up a sufficiently cool “KFC Secret Animal of Un-understandable
Power,” you’re out. But if you are among the happy few, the
benefits are, as Hacker promises, “insane.”
explains: “Every random month or so, we get everyone together
at the house and we make piles of things, wrap them in colored
construction paper and colored electrical tape.” The “things”
may be anything, from amorphous “stuff” to mini-objects d’art
to a free CD containing the group’s latest snappy hit. Next
it’s off to the post office, where the strictly nonregulation
packages give the counter clerk what Wilk describes as “a
members will receive these mysterious gifts, according to
the rules, for the rest of their lives. They also have to
“house members of Amazing Plaid at any time, for any amount
of time, with/out prior notice.”
next album (“if you want to call it that,” Wilk says), the
band are planning a conceptually ambitious narrative work.
a sort of skeleton story worked out,” Wilk explains.
off at the end of the world, basically, with vampires, and
a guy who swallows a snake. . . . [The protagonists] are on
their way to the future through a tunnel, in utter despair,
seeing old friends along the way collected in jars and cans.
It’s a [journey] to becoming mindless,” Wilk notes, adding,
“I don’t think it will have a happy ending.”
emphasis on the horrific?
to notice that monsters make their way more and more into
the songs,” Wilk says, “not like Lord of the Rings or
Willow or Buffy the Vampire Slayer . . . more
like Evil Dead.” The emotional idea, Wilk indicates,
is “to provoke a hysterical response, make you want to tear
your hair out.”
the success of their winter tour, which took them deep into
the North Country, the band have mapped out an ambitious schedule
that will take them across the state and into the Midwest
starting Aug. 8. They will load up the new bus they are so
proud of—“It was a prison bus,” Wilk says, “once filled with
villains”—and travel from New York City to Milwaukee and numerous
immediately, they have six—count ’em, six—shows lined up in
the Capital Region over the spring and summer, for which they
have been practicing intently. This includes gigs at Valentine’s
on May 20 with Cobra Verde and J Mascis, and May 30 opening
for Ted Leo/Pharmacists.
of—or perhaps because of—all the gloom of their world view
and the angry power in their music (“Everything’s gotten much
more intense,” Wilk says), the Amazing Plaid are a happy bunch.
sums it all up: “Everyone actually loves each other.”