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 full-length album Lost Familiar.
Working with revered engineers Casey Rice and Paul Maybury, plus post-production by mastering wizard Nao Anzai, Lost Familiar paints a vibrant and very much visual landscape with insight into a feminist and queer riot grrl experience, throughout the album’s 11 fierce tracks.
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 these themes throughout the fierce album, more than a decade in the making.
The beautiful vinyl cover design by Luke Fraser of Fraser Aht+ depicts a newfound Australian psychedelic bush dreamscape with a fierce fiery red backdrop, with stacked boulder surrounds featuring peach, orange, yellow flares and mermaid greens and blue hews of boulder formations. Sirens and light flares, replace signs from a former distant world, a ‘lost familiar’. We talked about it being ‘Miranda’s’ re-emergence from her stone ‘home’, a fierce and feminist grown-ass woman ready to smash shit up! She has emerged into a new world of red skies, with climate vs health emergency and man-made mismanagement and unfamiliar spaces.
The songs then trek across diverse terrains, from the rugged Australian landscape of ‘Newcomer’, to the solidarity lessons of ‘Allison’ and ‘Mary’, across political firestorms of ‘S.O.E.’ and into the safe spaces of queer punk clubs of ‘Danceflaw’.
The title, Lost Familiar was lifted from the final album 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.
“It’s like I’m panning for gold, I’m turning every precious stone. Becoming like a ghost, inside my strongest bones. I’m searching, searching, searching for my lost familiar.”
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.
“Rivers become veins, 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 lyric, “democracy is narrowing,” as a comment on the Government’s poor political response to the fires, 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, unfamiliar ‘narrowing’ democracy.
The Fierce Women of their Generation
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 is 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 grrl past from her genius. And with ‘Mary’ we want to join her magical, mythical coven family in the underground.
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” and “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 that the world has now been faced with.
‘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 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 horror 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 and because it is 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.
Plaster of Paris’ album ‘Lost Familiar’ is out now via Psychic Hysteria. The band will launch the debut album as part of the Leaps and Bounds Music Festival on Saturday 24 July with special guests Delivery and Gut Health. You can purchase tickets for the event here.