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Look Out Below: The Story of Bloomington's Plateau Below
Posted May 29, 2014 by Seth Johnson
WRITTEN BY
Seth Johnson
ON
May 29, 2014

 

Listen to Plateau Below via MFT's embeddable player:

 

A crowded living room floor bends as Plateau Below jumps into yet another set of raw pop ravishment, with excited listeners bouncing freely all about the room. The four-piece rages on before being forced to briefly suspend the fun.

 

“It was like a trampoline,” remembers drummer Jared Jones. “I had to stop playing because I literally thought someone was going to die.”

 

After relocating to the neighboring dining room, the band continues on with their kinetic set, but the aging Bloomington house just won’t take anymore.

 

“The next band went on to play. They got about four songs in and the whole floor just collapsed,” recalls lead singer and songwriter Logan Carithers. “It was really bad.”

 

(photo: Samantha Brickler)

 

Fortunately, no one was hurt; however, this folkloric house show tale undoubtedly speaks to the group’s radiant vigor, both on stage and throughout their debut full-length. Released to cassette by the always-enticing Jurassic Pop Records, Still Paradise serves as an impressive introduction to the group of Bloomington dudes whose ties go way back.

 

Since 2006, bassist Jacob Gumbel, guitarist Joe Creech and Jones have played music together, most notably as members of The Willows. During this time while growing up in Evansville, the three crossed paths with Carithers, whose band (Do Androids Dream?) occasionally played shows with theirs. The four began casually collaborating, which would eventually lead to the formation of Plateau Below at Indiana University in 2012.

 

“Whenever The Willows kind of fell apart, Logan had all these songs that we were really, really into,” Gumbel said. “It made a lot of sense to play music together.”

 

The four quickly gelled, making the most of their Evansville origins. For Carithers, the musical bond the other three shared thanks to The Willows made the band’s quick start possible.

 

“Coming from the outside, they were already a solid group playing together, and they knew exactly what they were doing with each other,” he said. “I feel like that made it a lot quicker of a transition. There wasn’t an awkward phase really. It was just like, ‘Hey we’re already a band basically,’ and then I just jumped in.”

 

 

CREATING PARADISE

When the four began the recording process for Still Paradise, they honestly had no clear plan to write an album in the first place. “We went into the recording process not really sure what the final product would be,” admits Jones. Nevertheless, the band did what came naturally, letting songs breathe organically by recording them live.

 

“We didn’t really have it all mapped out,” Gumbel reflects. “We were pretty much recording it the way that we were playing it live at that point.”

 

Plateau Below used these live recordings as the authentic foundation for their album, constructing Still Paradise around them. After one day, the band had free-flowing live takes of each song—several elements of which can be heard on the album, including the bass, drums and rhythm guitar. Jones: “We kind of wanted to leave it open for us to be able to get in a room together and lay the basis of it down live.”

 

 

After laying down these live tracks, the band then began filling in gaps, patiently building the album piece by piece in the following months.

 

“We didn’t know it was going to be the album that it is—what the order was going to be or how it was going to flow,” Jones said. “But as we worked on it some more and added more stuff to it, we realized how they [the songs] could flow into each other and work with one another.”

 

The album’s final piecing process was something Carithers particularly enjoyed. He recalls, “It was fun piecing together things towards the end, when we were like, ‘Alright. We’re going to make this flow into that. What can we do to do that?’”

 

“We all had these extra little things that we’d all recorded in the past or on our phone, and we just kind of used those to connect things together,” Carithers continued. “It all worked out really well.”

 

In particular, the band looks back fondly on the construction of “Twiggy,” the album’s “massive, overflowing” closer. Nearly nine minutes in length, the band’s grandest track features everything from horns to “doo-woppy harmonies,” taking the ears on an epic venture of impassioned pop magic.

 

It was just a really fun project to go in and find ways to keep it interesting—not only just because it’s long but for the parts that were already there and we enjoyed, to pick it up and see what else could fit into that space,” Gumbel said.

 

 

MATHER KNOWS BEST

One day while browsing the Internet’s vast expanses, Jones came across a post by Jeff Mather and Dylan Schwab’s Jurassic Pop Records encouraging Indiana band’s to submit demos to the West Lafayette label. Although their album wasn’t complete at this point, the band decided to give JP a shot, much to Mather’s approval.

 

“I remember them sending a super short and simple email saying that they liked Jurassic Pop and wanted to share their demos,” Mather recalls. “Those demos were the songs that would eventually be rerecorded and released as Still Paradise, but were in very early form. Dylan and I were both super impressed with the demos, even with unfinished recording and mixing.”

 

Mather continued, “We agreed to release whatever those recordings would become because they had a true personality and charisma to them, definitely something you don't find from the first recording of bands everyday.”

 

 

The two sides quickly began exchanging emails, eventually resulting in the cassette release of what at the time was a partially finished version of Still Paradise. According to Jones, the label’s decision was quite helpful in pushing the band to put finishing touches on their debut, knowing that the album would be released as a cassette.

 

After waiting a couple of long months, Mather and Schwab received the final Still Paradise tracks, a cohesive collection of dynamic pop tunes mixed and mastered entirely by the band itself. An album that Mather and company proudly stand by.

 

“To put it lightly, we were fucking blown away—it built on the demos that we liked, and turned them into these huge, powerful pop epics,” Mather said. “But the thing about the full-length that stands out the most to me is how ambitious it is. The whole river theme, the old-time samples, the nearly nine-minute pop masterpiece ‘Twiggy,’ the coupling of up-tempo and down-tempo songs—so many bands could have seriously messed it up, but Plateau Below pulled it off so well.”

 

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