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Arts and Culture

Fantastic Plastics embrace technology as they critique it

The Peoria-based Fantastic Plastics perform a rare in-person live show Saturday night in Bloomington at Nightshop.
Fantastic Plastics
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The Fantastic Plastics perform a rare in-person live show Saturday night in Bloomington at Nightshop

The Peoria-based neo-new wave group Fantastic Plastics will play a rare in-person live interactive, multimedia show Saturday night when they stop by Nightshop in Bloomington.

Group members Tyson and Miranda Plastic now perform mostly on Twitch, streaming live shows from their basement to a growing fan base every Wednesday and Friday night.

Tyson said that despite the Fantastic Plastics now being primarily digital, their upbeat live show and gorgeous melodies often frame pointed critiques of technology and modern society.

“Yeah, I think that's fair. I think one of the biggest driving factors of the lyrics is just this idea that we're all adopting this technology way too fast and it's changing the world in ways that we can't see because we're living in the moment. So, I think it's sort of a warning in a lot of the songs to take a step back and think about think about what you're doing,” said Tyson.

“At first impression I guess the music sounds really happy and dancey,” added Miranda. “But yeah, sometimes the lyrics are quite serious.”

There's no better example than the Plastics bouncy, fun sounding song “Bad Day.” Miranda even harmonizes a bubblegum “Ooh, la la la" as the duo details someone having a bad day from consuming too much media, TV in this case.

I’m not feeling right. Watching TV all day and night.
I’m OK doing fine. Everything’s just dynamite.
Binged out. Brain Fried.
TV says I’m sick and I don’t know why.
I’m OK doing fine. Everything’s just dynamite.

Ooo la la la ooo la la la - Ooo la la la ooo la la la
Guess we’re having a Bad Day
Ooo la la la ooo la la la - Ooo la la la ooo la la la
Yes we’re having a Bad Day

  • From “Bad Day” by Fantastic Plastics

“Yeah, I think so many of us get sucked into binge watching, even just consuming media,” said Tyson. “And it can really take a toll on your mental health or self-esteem if you're constantly comparing yourself to what you're consuming. (It) just kind of sucks the life out of you to not get outside every now and then yeah.”

“Just staring at a screen for most of the day is not good,” chimed in Miranda.

Many new wave artists playing synthesizer music were very theatrical, including Devo, Gary Numan, and the B-52’s, three artists that are obvious Fantastic Plastics influences and inspirations.

“It's the presentation … we call them uniforms,” said Miranda. “We don't call them costumes. I make all our uniforms that we wear. And so, we're always coordinating. We're attracted to seeing a performance where it's a whole show, where it's not just the music and the performance, it's as much about the visuals as it is about the audio. Streaming on Twitch, which we do a lot of now, we use the technology with green screen. We actually have video projected onto our clothing that's different than the video behind us. That's taken on a whole new level as far as fashion goes, because we can really do anything with it.”

"The thing that's tricky with Twitch is people just assume it's about video games. But Twitch has so many musicians and artists and it's a lot more than video games. We've spent the last two and a half years trying to evangelize people to the platform to show them what's out there. And we've helped other people get involved with streaming and it's awesome. It's really life-changing and I can't say enough nice things about it,” said Tyson.

There is obvious irony in a primarily digital-only band having fun critiquing technology.

“Yeah, the irony is not lost,” laughed Tyson and Miranda. “Don't look at your screen but tune in to watch our stream, yeah.”

Materialism is also a recurring Fantastic Plastics target, with the upbeat “Perfect Strangers” from their recent “Malfunction” album a prime example of the sugary way they critique consumerism.

“Yeah it's a it's a great example the chorus and the song … it's corny but it's it sticks with you,” said Tyson.

We are perfect strangers
Synthesized celluloid danger
Victims of a new regime
Got to keep our fingernails clean
We are perfect strangers
Ignoring signs of danger
Spare parts in the work machine
Got to keep our records real clean

We went to the shopping mall
Just so we could have it all
It’s never enough - It’s never enough - It’s never enough - It’s never enough

  • From “Perfect Strangers” by Fantastic Plastics

"There are some different meanings to the verse, but overall, it's an anti-consumerism song. But it's super bouncy. It's super sing-songy. It definitely has Gary Numan and Devo and B-52 influences in it. Even though that ‘went to the shopping mall, so we can have it all’ is kind of corny, after repeated listening it’s like, ‘OK, I see that there's something growing.' We actually did a music video for that one with a local artist that goes by the name Dystopia Kid. He shot some of that in Northwoods Mall in Peoria, and he uses really cool VHS-like circuit bending technique when he was doing some really cool visuals with a VHS tape on it."

That’s the striking aspect of what Fantastic Plastics are up to. Sure, their music is a harkens back to the classic era of New Wave, their visual presentation is fun with vivid colors, and the music is bright and bouncy. But the two are just as pointed with their critique of society as any punk band.

“Yeah, we call that … what do we call that?” Tyson asked Miranda.

“Candy-coated cyanide,” she responded. “It’s like the music is fun ... and we were talking about fun and bouncy ... but the lyrics are more serious and have an edge to them.”

The duo said that dichotomy between the lyrics and music is very intentional to allow the pointed critiques to be more easily digested.

“We’re not saying we’re trying to brainwash you, but it helps if the music makes you bounce and sing along and then you realize what you’re singing,” laughed Tyson.

“There's a lot of bands out there that have a lot of critical things to say and can bring to light some not-so-pleasant things in the world. And generally the music matches it, and I think that can be off-putting in a way. We've always liked the paradox of putting the two things together. And I think the message gets out easier. But we're also fun people.”

“Yeah,” added Miranda. “I feel like in the past, maybe we've tried to be a little more serious onstage, but we're just really smiley happy people too. So, we can't, that's just part of our personality too I guess.”

The Fantastic Plastics play Nightshop in downtown Bloomington Saturday night. You can also view their Twitch performances every Wednesday and Friday night.

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