Spirit Plots
Gig Seeker Pro

Spirit Plots

Washington, DC | Established. Jan 01, 2013 | SELF | AFTRA

Washington, DC | SELF | AFTRA
Established on Jan, 2013
Band Rock Post-punk




"Spirit Plots' Debut Album Is Much More Than a Love Letter to '90s Indie Rock"

Punk tropes are everywhere on the self-titled debut from D.C. trio Spirit Plots. Most tracks are driven by frantic drums, distorted power chords, and talk-sing yelping from lead vocalist David Johnston. No cuts exceed the three-minute mark. Song titles are written in all-caps, but the record diverts hard on the genre’s most classic element: anger. The songs here may be fast and loud, but everything is instead tinged by an irresistible silliness.

It’s not like the lack of vitriol matters, though. Spirit Plots’ best quality is just how overstuffed with indelible pop hooks it is. Take the song “Cars In The Country,” for example, which is committed to a Guided By Voices-level of brevity. In less than 80 seconds, it manages to shift between three different melodic movements—all of which feel beamed out of classic indie-rock tracks. If this sounds like it could be overwhelming for a passive listener, it’s not. “Cars In The Country” may oscillate quickly between its many ideas, but the transitions are seamless and the giddy punk vibe never wavers.

The entirety of Spirit Plots stays mostly true to this—rambunctious, guitar-driven rock songs that come and go at a quick clip—but on repeated listens, it’s the tracks that tweak the band’s formula that become the most memorable. Album highlight “PSSST,” with its slowed down tempo and hits of cowbell, plays as a loving homage to Wowee Zowee-era Pavement, solidified further by Johnston’s stoned, Malkmus-esque observations like “Come on/ You’ve only got the outlines” and “I dreamt about the pistols at dawn.” The same can be said about “Capture and Repeat,” which stands out thanks to the addition of a few simple keyboard phrases.

As a band, Spirit Plots’ most logical relative in the current D.C. music scene is BRNDA, whose album Year of the Manatee approached punk rock with a similarly goofy, fun-loving perspective. But where BRNDA’s record felt poignant and topical even while its songs stayed eccentric and impressionistic—check the words on the album’s biting, doleful cut “Go Bi”—Spirit Plots’ lyrics don’t hit as hard. A main reason for this is the way the album is engineered, with the vocals placed in the middle of the mix rather than at the front of it. As a result, the listener is drawn to the music first: Javier Diaz’s crunchy guitar riffs, Sammy Ponzar’s pulsating drum hits. Johnston’s words, though audible, are relegated to more of a textural, background role.

This also may be a consequence, though, of how busy and hook-laden the songs are. It’s hard to internalize the lyrics if you’re struggling to catch your breath on a track like “Hey Custer”—which moves so quickly, you probably don’t hear Johnston’s hilarious, biting plea to “Bury all your chillwave dreams” until your third or fourth listen.

Therefore, the best way to approach the album is to get swept up in the mad, manic energy of it all. Throw on the anthemic “Carrying Curses” at a party if everyone’s sick of The Strokes. Clean the house to the bass-heavy “Sever The Ties.” Mix “Late '80s-'90s” into your Elephant 6 playlist; it’s happy-go-lucky chorus puts it a few vocal harmonies away from being an Olivia Tremor Control song. Even as the album’s sonics stay the same, Spirit Plots is defined, above else, by its merry, indefinable sense of entropy. - City Paper DC

"Track Work: Spirit Plots, ‘Set Out’"

When Bandwidth swapped emails with D.C. indie rockers Spirit Plots in advance of the band’s show at Galaxy Hut tonight, the trio didn’t exactly get right to the point: its members went on tangents about lost cats and Michael Landon. But you couldn’t call the group’s debut EP roundabout. Released in August, Spectral Pitches boasts all of the slacker melodies of a Pavement album crammed into eight quick minutes.

How does Spirit Plots do it? The band has a simple process, writes guitarist Javier Diaz. “Our formula is Hook –> Chorus –> Bridge (repeat x2) –> End. Keep it under two minutes. Gold.”

spirit-plots-EPThe group has a similarly straightforward story it tells with personality. The group first formed as a nameless duo between singer/bassist “Irish Dave” Johnston and drummer Sammy Ponzar. The pair worked together in a number of acts—including local favorites America Hearts—and began to experiment with making music on their own, following what sounds like an unceremonious ouster from another group.

“Sammy and I started playing our first batch of songs after we got kicked out of the band Teenage Aviation by our friend Julia in a King Herod-style killing of the infants,” Johnston writes.

Johnston continued honing his skills as a songwriter, then played his home recordings for Ponzar and Club Scout member Diaz. They pronounced them indie-rock gems. (“Dave writes very short songs,” Ponzar writes. “Maybe it will keep the post-MTV millennials interested.”) Diaz took up guitar. Then it came time to decide on a moniker. “It’s a pretty bad name,” Johnston says of the final pick. “It was either that, or ‘Hot Dog and the Buttcrackers.'”

EP closer “Set Out” demonstrates Spirit Plots’ simple formula at full strength: On the track—a near-epic at more than two minutes long—the band establishes a loose vamp and spends the rest of the song resisting it, while Johnston spouts a series of nonsensical rhymes from deep in the mix. The tune’s backstory is just as confounding.

“On the DVD commentary of the movie The Princess Bride, Wallace Shawn tells a story of how Andre the Giant told him on the set of the film that Samuel Beckett used to drive him to school in an ambulance because he wouldn’t fit on the school bus,” Johnston writes. “This song is about their adventures together.”

Like the EP’s cover art—a picture of Evel Knievel catching air—the EP comes across as a blink-and-you-missed-it moment, designed to be experienced first and figured out later. No breaks divide the songs. “It keeps momentum going,” Ponzar writes. Listeners can rest when it’s over. - WAMU 88.5 Bandwidth.FM



Spirit Plots creates spastic song structures that clock in at under two minutes.  Taking inspiration from bands such as Gang of Four, Wire, Television, Devo, and Pavement - the band manages to create a truly unique sound that embodies the aggressiveness of early punk, while maintaining the craft of late 70s and early 80s NYC new wave and no wave.  The screechy vocals of Irish Dave spark a call to action to all those art students living in their parent's basement.

Band Members