A super-turbo-charged thrill ride that rockets from zero to warp speed in less than three seconds can leave even the most extreme enthusiast with a serious case of whiplash. However, the four fresh-faced members of the rock band Plush remain seemingly unfazed by their current neck-breaking ascent from the smallest rehearsal spaces in New York to the largest concert stages in America. And with their two-ton, self-titled debut slab dropping via Pavement Entertainment on October 29th, I had to dive deep and get the inside scoop on what is arguably THE rock success story of 2021. While prepping for their upcoming run of U.S. tour dates, lead guitarist Bella Perron shredded her schedule to offer a generous chunk of time in which we discussed all things Plush. Better buckle up, hang on, and keep your arms and legs safely inside the car at all times — the roller coaster has begun ratcheting up the rails.
The ten-second Plush COVID-era highlight reel borders on unbelievable. In fact, it’s downright wacky. And it stands as a shiny testament to how, even in today’s oft-tragic world, dreams do come true. Following her jaw-dropping appearance on the popular talent competition show, The Voice, New York-based guitar-slinging vocal powerhouse Moriah Formica connects with fellow New Yorker, celebrated drum phenom, Brooke Colucci. Lickety-split, the two like-minded young musicians begin mapping out their rock and roll mission — writing songs and recording demos. In short order, Colucci reaches out to her former School of Rock classmate, Ashley Suppa, the bass-banging teenage badass buys what Formica and Colucci are selling. And then there were three.
Formica’s friend, Halestorm vocalist/guitarist, Lzzy Hale soon assists the trio in completing the combo by placing “Guitarist Wanted” posts on her various personal social media platforms. Perron bags the gig, becoming the fourth and final member of Plush. And in less time than it takes to order a rehearsal pizza (extra pepperoni/hold the anchovies), the band signs with Surface Management and a recording deal with Pavement Entertainment. With the release of the teaser video/single, “Hate” in February 2021, Plush blows up in… 3-2-1. So, where do you go from there? Everywhere!
“It was definitely nerve-racking at first,” Perron confessed, regarding the band’s July 2021 live debut. “Our first show was opening for Daughtry, and we were SO anxious the day of. Before we went on, all of us were nervous, my hands were literally shaking. We had bumped into the guys from Daughtry at catering, and it was kind of like one of those surreal experiences, like, ‘oh shit, we’re about to do this!’ But as soon as we went on stage that first time, we just ‘flipped the switch.’ The nerves were gone, and we went into performance mode. Things just really fit well and we got a good feeling that we were doing what we were supposed to be doing.”
Perron also revealed that life on the road for Plush hasn’t been as crazy as the typical tour stories we hear so often, yet there definitely is a transformation that takes place when the band members hit the stage — “flipping the switch,” indeed.
“We don’t really get into performance mode until we get on stage. I think we really are all geeks. Backstage, we’re either joking around, or we can be pretty quiet an introverted. It’s definitely a total change in mood once we’re out on stage.”
Despite their staggering cyber stats, the true Plush cred is cemented on stage as a live band, a point not missed by Perron.
“We use ZERO tracks (live),” boasts the suddenly seasoned 19-year-old. “Brooke has her click and we have an intro. Aside from that, no tracks. We’re 100 percent live. It’s something that we’re really proud of. What you hear is us, and what we spent all of our lives working on — to be able to work as a live band.”
While on the surface, Plush might appear to be an overnight “Cinderella” story, the band’s success actually is the result of the members’ lifelong passions, dedication, and smart decisions.
“Growing up, my dad owned a music shop and played in a bunch of bands and ran a recording studio out of our basement,” Perron recalls fondly. “I was always around music. I was always meeting all these people as a kid who were so passionate about music. From a super-young age, both of my parents got me into the bands they loved. So I grew up totally into The Beatles, KISS, and Led Zeppelin — those are kind of like my ‘Big Three.’ When I was little — little, like younger than five, I was really drawn to KISS. I just thought Ace Frehley’s smoking guitar, the outfits and makeup and everything was the coolest thing. That’s why I wanted to start playing. I would listen to KISS records. I’d borrow my dad’s CDs and listen to them in my room and in the car and stuff, then watch live videos and all that. I became totally obsessed with it.”
“I told my parents I really wanted a guitar when I was four. They thought it was a phase, so they wanted me to take piano lessons before I got into guitar, just to get some theory under my belt. But I didn’t take to it at all. I didn’t have the passion for piano that my (guitar) heroes had for their instrument, it just looks cool holding a guitar. It was my fifth birthday when they actually got me one.”
Aside from Jimmy Page and Ace Frehley, Perron’s roster of guitar influences also includes Randy Rhoads, Nuno Bettencourt, Slash, Eddie Van Halen, and Joe Perry — plus a couple of other particular players.
“The first time I listened to Surfing with the Alien by Joe Satriani was a total game-changer. I was about 12 and I hadn’t really listened to any instrumental rock at that point. I was blown away by how his melodies are so powerful, especially how he blends his melodic playing with shredding. I’ve been a huge fan of playing legato runs since I first started learning Satriani songs. But I think my biggest takeaway from really getting into his music is how meaningful it is to play melodically. Right now, I’ve been listening to Core by Stone Temple Pilots on repeat. Dean DeLeo is an amazing guitarist and I just love the vibe of that record!”
“Growing up I was always straight-As,” says the “Miss Smarty Pants” who probably sat in the front row. “Guitar playing was always a constant in my life, but I always put education first. As soon as that was done, I’d go back to my guitar. For me, my goal since I was in middle school was to go to college for music. So I knew I had keep my grades up, but also work on guitar every day. I started taking guitar lessons when I was five and continued until I was 18. At that point, I started studying at Berklee and one of my classes was guitar lessons. I still like to take lessons once in a while because there’s always something new to learn! Actually, right now, I’m taking a break from college to focus on Plush. And I’ve been learning so much from the experiences of touring and recording.”
At a time in life when many young musicians usually are still treading through “Smoke on the Water,” Perron and her Plush partners found themselves in a world-class studio recording a world-wide album release with a world-renown producer.
“Our goal with the record was to take a snapshot of who we are as a band, but also going in with the mindset that we wanted this to appeal to a wide range of people, so there’s something for everyone. Moriah writes the core of the songs. She’s a great songwriter and it was a blast going into this project where she’s ‘driving the bus.’ But we all feel that freedom to try different things in the studio and write different parts and experiment with it.”
“It was amazing working with (producer) Johnny K. I just learned SO much from him. It was awesome working with someone who not only produced legendary bands like Disturbed, and Three Doors Down, and Staind, but working with someone who has a very similar vision in mind. We had our songs, but they weren’t fully written. I don’t think any of the songs were like, ‘No this is exactly how the parts need to be recorded.’ It was all very open-minded. He’s just amazing at what he does. It was so cool to watch him work. On top of that, he’s one of THE nicest guys.”
“I feel like the record really captures where we were in a place and time, where we went from having one single, and we weren’t sure if we were going to release another single, or record an EP or something. And it was like, ‘no,’ we’re going all-in on a 13-song album.”
But using the freshest ingredients don’t necessarily always insure the tastiest entrée. So, how does Perron describe the band’s finished record?
“Today, there’s so many different subgenres of rock and hard rock and all that. But working with Johnny, it was just straight-up rock n’ roll. I feel like it changes from song to song. It’s very hard-hitting and in-your-face, but also dynamic. It’s not a full hour of just the heavy stuff. It definitely shows multiple dimensions of who we are as a band. A lot of the lyrics Moriah had written about some of her previous relationships and the personal growth that comes after. All of us in the band immediately related to it. We were really glad to have ‘Walk Away’ as the last song on the record, because it has some closure to it.”
The tuning on the Plush record often sounds dropped so low that the strings might actually fall off the guitars at any given second. And Perron happily discussed the band’s tuning, in great detail, both in the studio and on stage.
“Aside from ‘Better Off Alone’ and ‘Sober,’ all of the songs are in either Drop D (D A D G B E) or Drop C (C G C F A D). I love the heavier feel you get from drop tunings, especially Drop C. We have the same tunings live as we recorded it. Moriah and I both have the Digitech Drop Pedal on our pedal boards so we can go back and forth from Drop D and Drop C without retuning or changing guitars. The lowest tuning on the record is Drop B flat for ‘Sober.’ On that track, Moriah’s guitar is in Drop B flat and I’m in Drop D, playing the chords an octave higher to get a bigger sound. We didn’t use seven-string guitars on the record, but we did use a baritone guitar when we were tracking parts in Drop C or Drop B flat.”
As they say, “Practice makes perfect.” Perron is an acknowledged “shredder” and Plush is a true “musician’s” band. So, I had to ask about their rehearsal regimen.
“At band rehearsals we run through our set a few times and then go back to any parts that need to be tightened up and we’ll focus in on that section. Right now, my personal practice is geared towards being prepared for our shows. So, I run through the songs in our set to make sure everything is feeling tight. I don’t have a strict practice regimen as far as having a very planned out schedule.
Aside from prepping for shows, I mainly work on improvising by playing to different backing tracks, playing scales to a metronome, as well as learning new songs and especially other guitarists’ solos. I feel like learning new songs and solos is the best way to expand my playing vocabulary by learning different licks and taking away ideas for how I can apply a certain concept to my own playing. When I was at Berklee, I focused on learning Bach violin sonatas on guitar and I found that this totally expanded my horizons. In my down time, I like to work on classical pieces to continue pushing myself as a musician by learning a style of music that’s totally different from what I usually listen to.”
Along with a certain level of success often comes certain perks for many premier musicians — including valuable endorsement deals with leading instrument and related gear companies. Plush is no exception. So, what are Perron’s current weapons of choice?
“On tour I’ve been using the Laney Ironheart IRT120H and I just love the sound of this amp. I feel like it really fits well with our sound as a band, heavy, while still firmly founded in our classic rock influences. For strings I use the SIT S942 Extra Light Power Wound Nickel strings. I love the feel of these strings!”
Perron seems to be playing Ibanez guitars exclusively. So, I asked about her current guitar arsenal and which one is her “go-to” fave.
“I’ve always gravitated towards (Ibanez) RG’s. My dad always had a lot of RG and Jems around the house, so I fell in love with Ibanez at a young age. Right now on tour, I have three guitars; the (Ibanez) RG60ALS, RG652AHM, and RG420HPFM. My go-to guitar is the RG60ALS. I love the feel of the nitro wizard neck and the luminescent inlays on the side of the neck are certainly helpful on stage! The finish is really interesting too. I love how the Black Aurora Burst changes from gray to purple in different lighting. I also swapped the bridge pickup on that guitar for a Seymour Duncan JB and I love the warmer tone that comes from that pickup.”
Last January, Plush was a relatively unknown band that never had played out, rehearsing in a tiny loft over the garage at Brooke’s parents’ house. Fast forward just ten months and they’ve now toured cross-country, opening for an array of marquee acts. How’s that been going? Yeah, I was curious too.
“Wolfgang Van Halen and everyone in Mammoth WVH and their crew is so great! Not only is Mammoth WVH an amazing band live, but they were all super-nice and welcoming! Also, Wolfgang was such a trooper. Finishing the tour with a sprained ankle, he still crushed it every night! I’m a huge Stone Temple Pilots fan, so it was such an honour to have played the same stage as them and to be able to watch their show from side stage later that night. It was also inspiring seeing so many new rock bands, such as Joyous Wolf, Dirty Honey, and Mammoth WVH all at the same festival! It was just such a great experience, since every band was so kind and encouraging to one another.”
How does Perron feel knowing that she’s now someone who’s inspiring a new generation of young aspiring guitar players?
“It’s very humbling to think about the possible impact that Plush is having on younger players. If I’m inspiring anybody to pick up a guitar, then I feel greatly honoured to have played a part in someone’s musical journey.”
As if all of this wasn’t exciting (and impressive) enough, Plush will be “flipping the switch” this fall, opening for Evanescence and Halestorm from November 5th through the 21st, followed by a ten-show run on Slash’s 2022 tour from February 25th through March 12th.
Upcoming Tour Dates: (w/ Evanescence and Halestorm)
11/05 – Portland, OR – Rose Quarter
11/07 – Seattle, WA – Climate Pledge Arena
11/09 – San Jose, CA – Sap Center
11/10 – Inglewood, CA – SoFi Center
11/12 – Las Vegas, NV – The Cosmopolitan
11/13 – San Diego, CA – San Diego University
11/15 – Phoenix, AZ – Arizona Federal Theater
11/17 – Salt Lake City, UT – The Union
11/20 – Fort Worth, TX – Dickies Arena
11/21 – Houston, TX – 713 Music Hall