Australian Heavypedia: Interview with Ploughshare (Black Metal)

Ploughshare are a unique force in the Australian underground by forming abrasive music ideas into music that is surprisingly palatable and addictive. I became familiar with them when I got In Offal, Salvation (2018) on cassette which is still one of my all time favorites now. Since then they’ve released Tellurian Insurgency, an EP that was well circulated in the wider metal community online even entering some end of year lists for 2019.

As for Canberra, Australia’s capital, I don’t know a lot about the place but I do know it’s where Parliament is and a heap of politicians live there. So you could only imagine. Despite being the Capital of a continent, it’s smaller than all the state capitals as the 8th largest city on an island with fuck all cities. Anyway let’s delve into Ploughshare and things like a coroner “attending” a show.

Who are Ploughshare and how’d it form?

Ploughshare came together through overlapping tastes and musical interests. We had played music together in different formats previously, and around 2015 we were all in a position to start this project. Being friends for years, it made sense to finally pull something together.

What’s the premise of the band, are there consistent themes?

We all come to Ploughshare with our own commitments and particular interests, which we’ve found highly productive. That said, we do share a set of sonic and musical referents for what we aspire to create in Ploughshare, and there are themes that motivate each project we set out to do. The themes vary with each iteration and we’re always reading, watching, and listening for encounters that impel us to think or do something. Literature, history, and philosophy are regular points of departure, but they’re only useful to the extent that they lead us elsewhere.

You recently released Tellurian Insurgency in December, which has since been reviewed by almost every metal site there is. How are you feeling about this reception, do you think the majority “got” it?

The scale of reception certainly surprised us, and we were also surprised at the positive nature of most of it. We were uncertain as to how the stylistic expansion on Tellurian Insurgency might be perceived, but we’re pleased people have found something in it – it certainly opened up something for us, which we’re eager to pursue in our next projects. We’re very grateful for the critical reception to the record, and the opportunities that have come with it. While it’s nice detecting an affinity, or catching a glimpse of something that resonates, it doesn’t always seem necessary to appreciate or experience a work. In fact, sometimes it is an impediment.

I see on Facebook you’ve been playing live, what sort of bands have you been playing with in Canberra? How’s the metal scene down there?

Canberra has a small but diverse music scene. There’s obviously a great history of metal bands in Canberra, with Armoured Angel, Sacriphyx, Pod People, and more recently Hellbringer having members here, but this has not translated into a large live scene for metal music. This has its advantages, in that it has meant we’ve spent a lot of time in close proximity with bands playing other styles of music, and often styles that have particularly interesting overlaps with parts of our own music. For example, half our 2019 Canberra shows were played with local noise artist Bead. There is also something to be said for the relative isolation of Canberra in the context of Australian music; bands take root here in a way that, for better or worse, provides a degree of creative independence.

What’s some stand out show memories, whether playing or simply attending? Crazy stories highly encouraged haha

As a band, the main highlights have been the opportunities to play with close friends or bands that we’re big fans of or have looked up to for a long time. To this end, getting to play with Bead, Whitehorse, Faceless Burial, Encircling Sea, Necrot, Diabolic Rites, Spire, Vile Apparition, and Aura Noir over the last two years stand out. 

Regarding the craziest show any of us have been involved in: members of Ploughshare performed at the Bendigo Hotel in 2018 and a man died of a heart attack during the show. It is the only show any of us have played that was attended by a coroner in his formal capacity.

Art direction plays a big role in Ploughshare, as someone who owns your cassettes, I can confidently say you aim for a very specific aesthetic. What inspires the cover art and what visual artists are you working with to achieve it?

All the art for Ploughshare is completed by our close friend JR, and all layouts are done by collaboration between the band and JR. JR’s work is eclectic and spans different mediums and this is very appealing to us. We don’t dictate the form of JR’s work. Usually, we’ll uncover something hiding away in a corner, or find JR in the midst of something new, and go from there. It is exciting for us to discover such things in a contingent, aleatory manner. We find it most interesting to see where these sorts of things can go, and how they can become productive for the project we’re undertaking.

You’ve released your work on Vinyl and CD, but you’ve also had a strong focus on keeping the cassette community happy, do you have a soft spot for cassette? Why?

Simply put, cassettes are the cheapest physical medium. We self-released Literature of Piss in 2017 on cassette, and self-released a second edition in 2018, as that was the cheapest way to release physical copies of our music. We’ve all amassed cassette collections of our own over the years and enjoy listening to them, so we have an affinity with the form, too. We intend to continue this for future releases.

Are you currently in writing for new material? Perhaps more to come in 2020?

We’re always in the process of writing new material. Current plans are still taking shape, so we’re reluctant to provide firm predictions of what when new material will be released. Suffice to say for now we are currently working on two interrelated releases, which explore in different ways trajectories that emerged on Tellurian Insurgency. The first of these will be a short release that we hope to record in the coming months (an increasingly contingent plan, given current circumstances), the second a much longer endeavour.

Thanks for the interview, any advice you’d like to leave or other Aussie bands?

We can only speak from our own experience as a band, which is to say that none of this should strictly be construed as ‘advice’. We have always planned our writing around releases, and found this especially productive in creating cohesive and thematically united records. We also undertake a very substantial editing process on each song; for everything that has come out, numerous iterations of those songs have been practiced and demoed, before we settle on final arrangements.

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