Pluto Jonze is the psychedelic brainchild of Lachlan Nicholson, an earnest young guy from inner-city Sydney. After years of experimentation and self-instruction, last year he released the Pluto Jonze EP to critical acclaim, landing him triple j airplay for his first two singles Meet Me Under Neonand the catchy Plastic Bag In A Hurricane. With soaring orchestral reprises and sweetly surreal lyrics, this is an uplifting, genre-bending artist with buckets of potential. We caught up with Lachlan before he tours his latest single, See What The Sun Sees.
You describe yourself as laptop-pop, which certainly has a ring to it...
That kind of describes the beginning of my process – I do all the tracks myself, build up the layers in my bedroom on my laptop. These days it's evolved into something much fuller, much more lush. Most of the songs have live drums on them, which used to be a luxury or addition, but now it's often the backbone of the track.
You’ve been playing some of these songs for ages, how long did it take to put together the EP?
Yeah some of the songs like Stars To Your Feet, that's about five-years-old, but I wouldn't say I've been working on the EP for that long. I've made a lot of different stuff for plays, for films – I've got a whole treasure chest of songs and demos – the EP was just a matter of choosing songs that were of the same stylistic ilk, to give an introduction, an impression. When it comes time for the album, we've got ideas for a double album...
Because you've already got the material.
Yeah we've got heaps of material. It's just that it's so schizophrenic, I'm always trying to do something I've never done before, both in songwriting and production. It makes it a bitch to put it all together because it has to sound like it's from same artist.
It's funny you say schizophrenic... when you’re sitting at your laptop do you ever actually talk to yourself? Like, 'Alright Lachlan, alright Pluto - let's jam!'
Yeah it's a collaborative effort! Nah, ever since I started making music it's always been a bit of a loner situation. I guess I've built up a lot of experience out of necessity, having to do it by myself.
You're composing mostly on keys, did you have any classical training?
I learnt piano, but not much. My dad saw the value in music even if I wasn't doing exams, so he got this guy who basically taught me Beatles songs, cool tunes, and if there was a song that I liked he'd teach me the chords. So I guess that saved my career as a keyboardist. It's still my favourite instrument, the most versatile.
How about your laptop? Did you have any training in the tech side of things?
No, not really. My dad has a background in production, so he's always had a studio metres from my bedroom and I kind of picked it up. It's almost like learning another instrument, learning to process sounds in another way to get textures that I like.
You list The Beatles, Beck and Bowie as influences. Are there any Australian artists, or contemporary artists you've followed?
Well, it's going to seem like jumping on the bandwagon now, but I've really been a Gotye fan for a long time. I remember when I was developing my live show I looked to him, and saw how he could carry a show. Back when he started it was just him and a drum kit, moving around to a lot of sample pads, and that was definitely an inspiration. I thought, I need a drummer, because you need live drums, you need someone bashing the crap out of them...
So where did your live band come from?
Jono Linden [guitar] I knew from high school, and Joel our new drummer is a friend of friends. You know, the usual. During the live show I sort of jump around on a lot of different instruments and vocals, but they're the engine room, they’re the guts of it.
But you guys don't jam to write songs.
Not in the writing stage, no, but the songs often get tweaked when we play live. I kind of like that there's a difference between the EP structures and arrangements and the live stuff, rather than just trotting out the songs as per the record. A big hit with the live show is the TVs that we have sprawled around the stage – we play visuals that are hooked into the music on these big retro '70s televisions. I think the way I write is quite dramatic and I try to take audiences to another world, rather than just rocking out. I want it to be a bit of a mind trip.
BY HARRY WYNTER
PLUTO JONZE plays The Workers Club this Friday July 13 with Palindromes and Fairchild Republic. His single See What The Sun Sees is out digitally through StopStart/EMI.