For nearly a decade, Denver has seen a steady rise of psych-rock groups, but most haven't exactly pushed the genre in new directions. Yet Ploom, one of the newest arrivals on the scene, is doing just that.
The five-piece offered a highly structured yet unpredictable take on the trippy genre on its first EP, Ploom, in 2020, and continues in that direction on its upcoming release, "Ocean," breaking the psych-rock mold even further with a more upbeat sound.
"I think sometimes casual listeners will look at the psych-rock genre as guarded by these rules of seriousness and introspection," says bass player Anthony Cistone, "where I think we bring a lot of the fun elements out of it while staying true to the authentic points of the genre."
Comprising Cistone, guitar player Matt McKenzie, vocalist and keyboard player Ben Bertsch and twins Andrew and Dave O'Donnell on guitar and drums, Ploom prides itself on its commitment to a DIY ethos and the way it handles all production in-house before sending out its product for mastering.
"Ocean," the latest result of that process, pulls from a number of inspirations, from population overcrowding to climate change to COVID's effects on society. After the pandemic hit, Bertsch says, he found himself spending a lot of time driving on highways that "were a little post-apocalyptic" — the roads were empty because of COVID, and ash filled the air because of the ongoing wildfires. The song recaptures the feeling of being in that environment.
"It's primarily about not having control over your surroundings," Bertsch says. The band adds that Ploom's debut EP had its own connection to the pandemic, though it was an unintentional one. That EP was released March 6 last year, just eleven days before the governor ordered most Colorado businesses to shut their doors temporarily because of the pandemic — throwing a wrench into Ploom's plans to use the record to build a bigger fan base and book more shows.
But despite that bad timing, the group's following has been growing.
"The bittersweet surprise of last year is that it forced us to get creative with how we could reach our fans," Andrew O'Donnell says. "We did start shifting to these outdoor sites, and we found that people were really receptive to it. It was a lot easier to get people than we thought — we actually had to start capping it. We were encouraged that there's this appetite in the scene for this DIY movement."
In that spirit, Ploom is joining with five other psych-rock bands to put on Psychs Peak, a camping music festival on national forest land. The festival takes place June 19, with limited space available; for more information, McKenzie encourages people to DM Ploom on Instagram at @ploommusic.
Ploom's also gearing up to release its next single this June along with a music video "featuring a homicidal Yeti on a motorcycle," McKenzie says, and a second EP later this summer — which listeners can expect to build on the band's vision.
"We try to make songs people can connect with emotionally," McKenzie concludes. "To take people on a trip without being aimless."
"Ocean" will be available on major channels on April 30. To keep up with Ploom or learn more about the Psychs Peak festival, follow Ploom on Instagram, @ploommusic.
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