Review & interview: Plastic Mermaids – The Joiners, Southampton

 Review & interview: Plastic Mermaids – The Joiners, Southampton

words and pictures by Peter Nicholson.

Another stormy night was on the cards as I headed to this iconic venue, The Joiners, in Southampton for the Plastic Mermaids gig (November 4). They were back in Southampton to promote their recent album “It’s Not Comfortable To Grow”, and, hailing from the Isle Of Wight, this gig was going to be very close to home. However, with a stormy stretch of water to cross, and ferry crossing that’s far from cheap, I wondered how many of the Island’s fans would make the short, choppy and somewhat pricey trip. The answer was obvious as the venue started to fill. It was going to be a busy night at The Joiners!

I’d arranged to meet with some of the band after their sound check, so, as they tucked into a big plate of pasta and salad, I chatted with front man Douglas, his Brother Jamie and the band’s drummer Chris.

I started by mentioning something that I knew was a passion for the band. My good friend George, who has followed the band for years, and was coming to the gig that night, told me that the band loved to surf.


I hear you’re all fans of surfing. Why is that so important to you? – 

[Immediate smiles from all three] [Douglas] “Absolutely. It’s that real feeling of escape. Even on the Island, the surf’s pretty good. If I don’t get to surf for a couple of months, I really start to feel something missing.”

 [Chris] “On the midnight Ferry tonight, I’ll be looking at the water and knowing that I’ll be in there first thing in the morning.”


How would you describe your music? It seems tricky to place your music in a specific genre –

“It’s a question we often get asked, [pause for thought] even so, I guess it’s still tricky to label us…. Perhaps “Psychedelic dream pop?”. We’ve not had any terrible comparisons, so I guess we don’t worry too much about being pigeon-holed.”


Tell me how the album title arose – 

[Douglas] “It was late in the process. I think it was a reflection on the challenges that we all had during that time we were making it. I felt that although I knew things had to always grow and change, it’s not always a nice process, even if it might be essential. It’s a bit of a heartbreak album.”

Photos: Peter Nicholson –

How does the writing process work with the two of you being brothers? Does it help? – 

[Chris] “I think it’s great. They certainly don’t argue any more than any of us. There’s no bickering at all.” 

[Jamie] “It works well because we’re never afraid to say if we feel a song is heading in the wrong direction, or if one of us doesn’t like something.”

[Douglas] “We used to fight a bit when we were kids, but Jamie was always bigger than me [smiles] so he could just sit on me and win the fight, although I gave him the odd nosebleed to get my own back.”

[Jamie] “We don’t really have a set process when we write, although this album has mostly been Doug doing main parts, but in the past, some songs came from a casual jam in a room, or even a silly little demo I’d made on my phone.”


If someone has the initial kernel of an idea, at what point do you let it go to the rest of the band.

[Doug] “I think that you need to let it out to the rest of the band before you stamp too much of your own ideas on it.” 

[Jamie] “Or completely the other way round and keep it until it’s a fully formed piece. If everyone then likes it, you can roll with it, if not, well, that’s it! I remember at one point I had about 75 demos on my phone, but the ones that made it onto the last record were the ones that were the most fully formed when I let the band loose on it. Collaboration is so important, so you don’t get stuck in the same rut, but it’s equally important not to have too many cooks involved.”


Are collaborations from outside the band important to you?

[Douglas] “Being from the Island helps with that because we know most of the limited number of musicians, and because there’s not many music venues, sharing the process isn’t uncommon for us. We had some live strings playing on some of the tracks and we’ll have them playing with us on the London gigs. We know exactly who to ask on the Island. Guests really make sure we’re at the top of our game when we play live, so we don’t get complacent.”


I really enjoyed the videos you make. Are they all done by you? – 

[Chris] “They’re always good fun. We did one that was with clay animation, which turned out to be so much more work than we thought. So, we put an appeal out to see if any Plastic Mermaids fans wanted to help out. The response was amazing! We had between five and ten different people coming in to help every day for a week, all squashing clay around to bring the video to life.”


What does 2023 hold for the band? – 

[Douglas] “The lockdown pushed our schedules back a bit, but it did give us more time to finish the current album without too many pressures. We’ve now got to finish this tour as well as some abroad, then it’ll be starting work on the next record. We’ll see what the festival season holds, but we really want to play live a little less and concentrate on writing and recording.”



The Joiners was really filling up by this stage and the support act Fox Rawding was about to start. He was also a member of the main act and had seconded the Plastic Mermaid’s bass player into the band and he’d obviously attracted his own fans from the Island. As I was taking a few photographs, I chatted to a woman who was clearly loving the set. I asked if she had made the trip from the Isle of Wight. “Of course,” she said. “That’s my boy up there.” She was clearly beaming with pride, as well she should.

When the Plastic Mermaids took to the stage, the Joiners was packed. It was great to see such a turn out for live music again. It made me realise how quiet life had been at events through the long Covid period. 

The band played an obviously very well rehearsed set, and credit should go to their sound engineer who, working on an unfamiliar sound desk, made the hugely complex sound set up work superbly. The stage set up was complex to say the very least. Jamie’s corner of the stage was awash with effects pedals, guitars and synths. The rest of the stage was no less cramped. A six piece band with a seemingly endless array of mics and instruments, but it all came together like a finely tuned machine. 

As I stood at the left of the stage, I watched in awe Chris’ drums and percussion. So precise and vital to the overall sound.  The vocals from Douglas gave a haunting sound as it was run through various effects. The way the synths and guitars complimented each other added to the very polished performance form a band that is made up of some very talented musicians. 

It was great to be back at The Joiners and great to see a full house for Plastic Mermaids.


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