LONDON-based duo Plaitum have known each other since they were young children in Colchester. , Matt Canham and Abigail Dersiley formed the band in their early teens and Plaitum were quickly picked up for their unique industrial sound and given the opportunity to support Bloc Party in 2012 when they were only 16 years old. Now, two eps in and five years later, they’ve released their first debut album Constraint. I spoke to them about the new record, working with international producer Paul Epworth and their musical inspirations.

You’ve had these songs for a few years now, and you’ve revisited them a lot. How have they evolved for the album?
Matt: Loads. They all started out as eight-minute long synth jams, with me and Abi just messing around in my Dad’s front room, and then they’ve been turned into actual songs with the time we’ve worked on them. We never really had any plans for a lot of these songs to be on an album. Every year we’d  think “this is an album” and we’d collect all of our songs together but then we actually made one in the end.

What’s the response been like so far?
Matt: It’s been really nice because people have been really supportive.

It seems a lot of your fans have stayed with you since you supported Bloc Party some time back. Do you ever interact with them?
Abi: We’ve had some light interaction. The other day we did this livestream thing and I was only expecting our two Dads to be watching but a lot of people tuned in to tell us how much they appreciated us. We even had people telling us to come to Singapore.

Matt: I think because a lot of the stuff we used to do is quite witch housey, and in Russia that’s very much still a huge scene. So the songs we wrote then were only discovered last year and got us a little cult following on VK, which is the Russian Facebook, and then we got another quite big following from that which is quite interesting. So, we get a lot of Russian people messaging us.

In general you have a lot of fun on social media, but on stage it all gets very dark and serious. Do you have a stage alter ego?
Abi: Oh yeah, definitely. It’s funny because people who know us know we’re pretty goofy on our social media and in real life but for those who don’t, it can be pretty surprising because they only see our stage persona and our songs are quite dark. The songs are always about something that’s happened to us or a story and they’re quite morbid so it would be weird for us to be goofy about it because the songs portray an actual incident or a feeling that can be quite dreadful.

Album cover for ConstraintAlbum cover for Constraint

You’ve mention that Constraint evokes a sexual energy. Would you say that sex is a theme for the album?|
Abi: It is a running theme. Not everything is linked to sex, I mean, we’re not Freudian analysts who link everything to sex but he’s right in a way. The base-note of a story can be about sex, but then it can expand from there.

Are you thinking about a theme while recording? How do get in the zone when recording?|
Matt: We always make our music quite visceral because we want it to evoke emotion. There’s definitely a quite deep method acting kind of thing where we try and get inside the head of what we want it to be like, and some of the songs are about really bad relationships so it’s kind of like going back and making yourself quite vulnerable and then recording it.

Constraint falls under the genre of electronic-pop. Did you always have this sound? How did you get there?
Matt: I would describe some of our stuff as noise or industrial, like with the first track on the album is an industrial bassline with Abi singing over it.

Abi: I came into music performing heavy metal. We started combining both of our tastes, and you can’t really link thrash metal to most things, but Slipknot had this song called The Virus of Life and it’s the most industrial psycho horror film music where he’s just talking about this horrifying situation, and it’s just like an audio horror film which is so cool. That’s an influence.

Matt: I like Nine Inch Nails so we have some bands that we meet halfway on.

Abi: Matt introduced me to Burial in secondary school, because I listened to completely different stuff at the time, but Burial made me want to move to London so badly.


You recorded in the beautiful Church Studios. How was that?
Matt: It was really cool, especially because we wrote all of the songs in my bedroom which is the opposite to doing it all in this really cool place with massive speakers in an old Church house.

How long were you in the studio for?
Matt: We spent about two weeks doing pre-production and then like a month getting it finished. I’d say about two months overall.

What was the hardest part about recording?
Matt: Probably the vocal parts, and just getting them in. I can play the same synth part three times and it will sound the same, but with some of the stuff with Abi there were times where she was singing about some quite difficult memories and it was hard to capture.

Do you write your songs on a computer or acoustically?
Abi: It’s normally starts off with Matt showing me a beat then me putting in melodic ideas or guitar parts, but sometimes I will have a song ready and Matt will create a beat around that.

How do you translate this produced music into the live show?
Abi: We incorporate more live elements when we perform.

Matt: Most of the tracks on the album started out with Abi having an idea with an instrument and then singing the melody over it and so live we include that. For the second half of our live show is Abi with guitar and singing with me playing beats under that.

What was it like working with Paul Epworth and his label Wolf Tone?
Matt: We were always given complete creative control which was really nice. Paul always wanted us to be weirder which is unique as labels normally try and stop you from doing that. He would always give small suggestions that felt tiny but then they would change the entire atmosphere of the song. For the last song on the album Eagle, Paul told me to play it on the piano with Abi singing with me and it made it so much more vulnerable.

Abi: He didn’t change us. He just told us “just relax, strip it back, show me what you can do and then layer things back in again”.

Matt: He’s a great musical streamliner.

by Katrina Mirpuri

Listen and buy Constraint here.

For more information about Plaitum, visit their website.