The Melbourne cult favourites wondrously explore themes of body autonomy, queer identity and climate emergency.
Decades into their career, Melbourne post-punk warriors and cult favourites Plaster of Paris have this week released their highly-anticipated debut album, Lost Familiar.
Working with revered engineers Casey Rice and Paul Maybury, plus post-production by mastering wizard Nao Anzai, through 11 fierce tracks, Lost Familiar paints a vibrant landscape with insight into feminist and queer riot grrrl experiences.
Filled with the band’s frenetic energy and razor-sharp lyricism, Plaster of Paris drops listeners safely home to their cosy fireplace, red wine in hand, prepped for talking topics such as body autonomy, climate emergency, home identity and queer spaces.
We caught up with vocalist and songwriter Zec Zechner to explore the themes on the album, one that’s been more than a decade in the making.
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Zechner: The title, Lost Familiar, was lifted from the album’s closing track, ‘Newcomer’ – a song aiming to draw on a personal search and discovery that isn’t just the trope of the male wanderer. This is a feminised version of landing somewhere unknown and searching for something familiar. It is drawing from the back-and-forth strain of not knowing the right answers, having to face past trauma, and digging through the rubble for renewal.
Zechner: Track five, ‘S.O.E’, addresses Australian climate emergency and its interconnectedness to the body, delving into how body and land are intrinsically linked. The country is on fire and the body is on fire with inflammation in the lungs. These aren’t the summers we remember, they’re nightmarish, sci-fi movies.
“Borders I’m crossing/Ring out the sirens/My body is on fire/A spiritual pyre/This is a State!/This is a State of Emergency!”. And it was.
This is then followed later at the end of the tracks with the lyrics, “democracy is narrowing“, as a comment on the government’s poor political response to the bushfires, the Hong Kong protests, dually at that time the government stormed and raided ABC media offices – tell-tale signs of unprecedented shifts in Australia’s new, ‘narrowing’ democracy.
The fierce women of their generation
Zechner: But it’s not all doom and gloom. We find and celebrate family (long lost familia) by lifting up our idols. Tracks like ‘Mary’ and ‘Allison’ are pure odes to female indie rock royalty and the mystical creatures that don’t seem to exist in the canon. It’s an erasure of the male gaze on rock and art and what it is to create. With ‘Allison’ we want to learn from the lessons of the riot grrrl past from her genius. And with ‘Mary’ we want to join her magical, mythical coven family in the underground.
Zechner: The LP’s themes dance around the lived experience of a ‘new normal’, with communities globally experiencing and being confronted with multiple ‘major life decisions’, around identity, family, and home. It’s a psychedelic, hazy, past memory of how things were before. But before what? Perhaps some people never had to question their existence, their family, or their country, until 2020 happened.
“Who is in my bubble?”, “Here do I belong”, “Who is my found family?”. Searching for chosen family was almost a rite of passage growing up queer. Leaving an old way of life and creating new politics, new culture, new bodies and losing everything once ‘familiar’. In our former lives, that is a quintessential queer experience the world has now been faced with.
Zechner: ‘Danceflaw’ plays on this found queer family and safe spaces. The track was sparked in LA the night of the Pulse Nightclub shootings in Florida. Two of Plaster of Paris were at LA Pride at the time and there was uncertainty if the attack was part of something more targeted and if we were now safe.
We felt the warm embrace of the community that day all around us as it dealt with this horrific news. We had a drink under a huge rainbow flag and talked about the gay bars, nightclubs, and dancefloors. These are our sacred spaces for meeting chosen family, to be authentically queer, because itis where we often shape our politics and activism, and this heinous attack was such as an affront to that. ‘Danceflaw’ shouts “No, I won’t go quietly!”. And we haven’t! We’re not living under no rock anymore.