Madison Square Garden — NYC 1973. Glistening, bare-chested, nut-hugged frontman Robert Plant releases the mic. And with arms stretched wide open, he delivers his now-iconic inquiry; “Does anyone remember laughter?” But it’s been a long time since Led Zeppelin ruled the roost, back during the magical Almost Famous era of the ‘70s. As a result, a relevant question today might be, “Does anyone remember rock stars?” You may have heard of them — larger-than-life golden gods who sparkled, shined and inspired.
In the wake of that bygone rock star era, it could be said that the band Plush is something of an anomaly, dolled-up circus freaks, displayed shamelessly right alongside the bearded lady, the 900-pound man and the monkey boy. But don’t be fooled by their fab flair and form-fitting fashions. These candy-sprinkled, fresh-faced youngins are a vicious, savage rock band, capable of emasculating even their most formidable competitors. In 2021, the New York-based combo became THE rock story of the year — dropping an impressive debut slab and performing coast-to-coast with a host of hard-hitting headliners.
Amid all the ensuing Plush hoo-ha, not even Helen Keller could miss spotting fashionista, Ashley Suppa. Truth be told, the bass-banging teenage badass had been on my personal interview bucket list since the band unleashed the Rottweiler-like single, “Hate,” last February. So, I finally called her up. She took my call. And in short order, we were geeking out over vintage gear, touring, recording, songwriting, and just how her incredible rock and roll story got started.
“In my house, there was always music,” recalls the 19-year-old recent high school grad. “My dad was always playing guitar and I was always actively listening to it. I would watch Disney movies when I was little. Then I’d listen to the songs and go back in my room and write my own lyrics to them.”
While Suppa’s earliest memories certainly are warm and fuzzy feel-goods, there’s one particular experience that borders on unbelievable.
“I sang on Ace Frehley’s record (Anomaly) when I was six. My dad is a guitar player who actually used to be in a band with the original bass player for Alice in Chains, Mike Starr, and he’s jammed with Ace. We’re actually very close with Ace. He’s like an uncle to me. I’m six years old, so I have no idea what’s going on — ever. My dad was like, ‘Ash, you need to go and sing on this record.’ I didn’t really understand it. And I was really nervous. But I did it, and the headphones were too big for my head! Everyone in that room; Ace, (producer) Alex Salzman, my dad — made me feel so comfortable. It just really made me feel like, ‘Hey, I gotta do this, I gotta do music.’ And after that, every time I went to school, I was in kindergarten, and they would ask me what I wanted to be when I grow up, and they’d have those little stupid pieces of paper, I’d just draw myself with a microphone or a guitar and it would be like, ‘Musician!’”
Suppa’s crazy early story only would get crazier.
“When I was, I think around 11, I started going to the School of Rock. I met (drummer) Brooke Colucci there. I started on guitar, and I was talking to my instructor at the school one day and we were doing a show that was The Ramones vs. The Clash and they needed a bassist on one song. And he was like, ‘Hey, why don’t you do it?’ And I didn’t know if I even owned a bass at the time. But I was like, I’ll go home and check and see if I have one, because my dad had a lot of instruments. So, I was sure that we had one somewhere. And sure enough, we did. I just picked it up and I learned the song. It was ‘Death or Glory’ by The Clash. Then I came in, I played it, and I just kind of stuck with that at School of Rock, because I liked it. But I also liked guitar, so I actually think I was doing both for a while.”
And what a short, strange trip it’s been given Suppa’s fledgling two-year School of Rock experience, her 13-year-old self might have had a tough time processing where she would arrive at just age 19.
“I often say that if I were to tell my 13-year-old self what I was doing now at 19, I don’t know if my 13-year-old self would believe it. We had our first show with Daughtry, and everything just started picking up from there. I graduated (high school) right before we went on the Halestorm and Evanescence tour. And I can’t even keep track of what‘s going on now.”
“Before that, Brooke, (singer/guitarist) Moriah Formica and I actually had been jamming for a bit. So, I don’t even know how this happened. Then they called me. And I guess they were looking for a bass player, so we just started jamming for a while.”
With a social media assist from Formica’s superstar pal, Halestorm ringleader, Lzzy Hale, lead guitarist Bella Perron soon had been brought on board to complete the Plush lineup.
“Bella is the absolute best,” boasted Suppa. “She’s so good. She blows my mind every time.”
One could say that the Plush story is a real-life rock n’ roll fairytale. Just ten months ago, the band had never played a live gig together. They merely were rehearsing in a tiny loft over the garage at Brooke’s parents’ house. By the end of 2021, Plush was playing the biggest venues in the country.
“Last year was just so indescribably amazing. I mean, there’s no words to even express how I feel about it. I graduated high school and then I just started playing all these shows with my bandmates, who I love. We started our first show with Daughtry and then after that, I think we had a one-off show with Mammoth, Wolf Van Halen’s band. And then we went on a short tour with them. Then after that, we went on tour with Halestorm and Evanescence, which was the craziest experience of my life. It’s just something that I’ve personally always dreamed of doing. And now that it has actually happened, I just don’t even know what to make of anything. I talk about the Halestorm, Evanescence tour every day. And I’m just like, ‘How did this happen?’ This is crazy.”
So, just what made the Halestorm, Evanescence tour such a memorable experience for Suppa?
“Personally, what made that tour so special to me, besides it being, you know, an amazing arena tour with these bands that I love, is the people that I met throughout the tour. Meeting Halestorm and Evanescence and their crew and the people who work at the venues and just being able to travel around with my bandmates, that was a really amazing experience for me.”
Was there a singular memory from touring last year that Suppa will remember forever?
“Honestly, I always think of our first show with Daughtry and how insane that was. You know, you just get out onto this big stage. I was on the right side of the stage and I think everyone else entered from stage left. So, I was just kind of there alone with myself for a second. And I just kind of peeked out into the crowd, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is really going to happen right now.’ And a part of you almost feels like you can’t do it for a second, the first time you do something, naturally. So, I just pushed myself out there, and it just felt natural and it’s kind of just like you know when you find a place, and it feels like a second home, that’s kind of what being onstage for the first time felt like. So, that’s a really memorable moment for me.”
Additionally intriguing about Suppa is that despite her age, some of her biggest musical influences are vintage artists, including Hall & Oates, Paul McCartney and Wings, and Elton John.
“I’m trying to remember how I discovered Hall & Oates. I think it was in one of my last years of high school. We had a Halloween get-together and I just found the song, ‘Rich Girl,’ and I thought, ‘Oh, this is cool, what else do they have?’ And then I scrolled through their discography and Hall & Oates became one of my favourite bands. But Wings I’ve listened to my whole life. I love Elton John so much. I have a poster of him in my room right now. That’s what’s so interesting about all of it to me. It’s so well-crafted and so thought-out. And it’s so catchy.”
Suppa’s “old soul“ sensibility extends beyond her musical influences, down to the gear she uses. Even the curly-style guitar cord she uses, screams, CLASSIC!
“I only play Fenders. Sometimes I play a (Fender) P-Bass, and other times I’m playing a (Fender) jazz bass. As for the basses I bring on tour, I have three, two of them are American Professional Tuned jazz basses and one is a ‘50s reissue (Precision) P-Bass. I have one more (at home), a Fender Squire. It’s what I used when I started. Appearance-wise, I really like my ‘50s re-issue Precision bass — it’s the blond one. You know how they make the Jimmy Page Telecasters? I love the pickguard on those because it’s holographic and I’ve never seen anything like it before. I really wanted to get that on one of my basses. So, I reached out to my representatives at Fender and they hooked me up with one. And my bass could not look any more beautiful. And I’m so grateful for it. I’ve been playing Fender amps as well. I love them (Fender).“
While Suppa clearly embraces music from the past, she certainly doesn’t live in the past. In fact, she claims Tyler, the Creator, The 1975, and Harry Styles among her current musical faves.
“I love Harry Styles so much. He’s just so HIM. There’s no other way to describe it. I love his style. I love his individuality. There’s just something about him that cannot be replicated. I love ‘Adore You.’ ‘Golden’ is really good too. But that whole album (Fine Line), everything about it is just ‘summer’ to me. I feel like a lot of people would get mad at me if I said this, but Harry Styles has this thing about him that reminds me a lot of David Bowie. I don’t know why people are so touchy about comparing newer artists to older artists. I think it’s a great thing to have new artists that remind you of someone as iconic as, let’s say, Bowie.“
And what’s been in Suppa’s earbuds lately?
“I’ve been listening to Deftones lately. Olivia Rodrigo had a great new album I’ve been loving. When I’m on the road, I will only listen to Alice in Chains. I don’t know why. It’s the weirdest thing, but it’s the only thing I listen to. It’s very interesting rock, and complex. The harmonies are so not rock. They’re my favourite band ever. I’m a huge Jerry Cantrell fan.“
With so much to say about so much new music on the streets right now, what does Suppa think about her band’s recent debut record? Is she surprised by the enormous reaction and praise it has received?
“One hundred percent! I feel like, as an artist, you cannot go into a release expecting anything. So, to receive any sort of reaction is just something you should be so beyond grateful for. And it really has been that for all of us. Just to see people are listening and sharing our record with their friends and family has been so humbling and so amazing for us to watch. My personal favourite track, probably either ‘Better Off Alone’ or ‘Champions.’“
And just how are the songs being received live?
“I usually see the most people that know ‘Hate,’ since it was our first single and it’s been out the longest. But as for the songs off the album that are newer that get people going, I feel like ‘Champion,’ or ‘I Don’t Care’ is definitely one of them because it has a clapping part, which is crowd participation, which I absolutely love.“
Coming into 2022, Plush is in a pretty good position actually to outdo 2021, as they bagged an opening slot on the upcoming Slash tour in February and March, a ‘pinch me’ experience for a young, hungry rock band.
“I cannot believe that the Slash tour is happening. I mean, Slash is so iconic. And I can speak for so many people when I say he’s such an influence.“
Following the Slash tour, Plush heads down to the Sunshine State to kick off the first day of the four-day annual Welcome To Rockville music festival in Daytona Beach, the same day as KISS.
“Yes, we’re playing Welcome to Rockville, which actually will be our second festival. We were lucky enough to play Rocklahoma last year. I love the festival vibe… everything about it is just so much fun. Seriously, if you were to tell me six years ago that I would be in a band and would be playing a festival the same day as KISS, I would not even know what to say. I don’t even know what to say now. It’s just so mind-blowing to me.“
Besides KISS, the opening day of Welcome to Rockville places Plush playing with other massive rock acts, including Five Finger Death Punch, Papa Roach, In This Moment, Black Label Society, and their old friends, Mammoth.
“I’m so excited that Mammoth is going to be there. I really enjoyed watching their set when we were on tour with them. So, I can’t wait to catch them again. They are so amazing live. And if you haven’t got the chance to see them, I totally recommend you go and see them, because they sound exactly like the record. It’s insane.“
With an impressive array of marquee artists, such as Korn, Breaking Benjamin, Megadeth, Guns N’ Roses, Shinedown, Foo Fighters, Smashing Pumpkins and Jane’s Addiction all performing at this year’s Rockville festival, is there an act that Suppa is looking forward to seeing most?
“I was looking at the lineup and I would love to be able to stay for Saturday because I’m dying to see Jerry Cantrell live. I’m a huge Alice in Chains fan!“
“When I was 13, my dream was just to play bass in a band, or play guitar in a band — you know, just do music. And now that I’m actually doing it, it’s just like, what would my younger self think? And I think my younger self would be very happy with where I am.“
02/11- Empire Live Albany, NY Plush Album Release Party
02/25 – Arvest Bank Theater Kansas City, MO w/Slash
02/26 – Mystic Hotel Casino Prior Lake, MN w/Slash
02/28 – Riverside Theater Milwaukee, WI w/Slash
03/02 – The Riviera Theater Chicago, IL w/Slash
03/04 – Caesars Windsor Windsor, ON w/Slash
03/05 – The Vine Waterloo, NY w/Slash
03/07 – House of Blues Boston, MA w/Slash
03/09 – The Fillmore Silver Spring Silver Spring, MD w/Slash
03/11 – Tropicana Atlantic City Atlantic City, NJ w/Slash
03/12 – Beacon Theatre New York, NY w/Slash
05/19 – Welcome To Rockville Festival / Daytona International Speedway / Daytona, FL