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Joel Plaskett - 10 Songs, 10 Weeks, 1 Emergency

Joel Plaskett

Joel Plaskett reunited with the Emergency to write, record and release 10 songs in 10 weeks

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By Nathan Marsh

The last time we heard from Joel Plaskett, it was on his Polaris Prize-nominated solo album Three. Now he is back with the Emergency band for the first time since Ashtray Rock, and it feels like the band never left. This is a good thing, considering it has been so long since the trio last recorded together. Though the band played with Plaskett on the Three tour, an album that is released a whole five years after a band’s previous effort can be a daunting task, compounded with the pressure to make something as good as or better than its excellent predecessor. Yet, Joel and the boys pull through on their latest release, Scrappy Happiness, all the while touching on the issues that come with getting caught up in things, things like the scariness of recording and pressure to perform for instance.

On the new record, Plaskett sings of how we all must enjoy the little things in life. We must take time to reflect on the lives we now live, rather than rush through them with our heads down; finding ourselves caught in “the clamour of the glamour” as he so wonderfully phrases it.

The entire album, made up of ten songs, was recorded in a short time period set by Plaskett himself. The band gave itself exactly one week to record each track on the album, which once finished, would be immediately released digitally to the public. Thus, Plaskett seems to feel that an album should be ephemeral; it should embody the spirit of the moment when inspiration first struck.

“You have music that you care about,” says Plaskett, “why not get it out there and make more music that you care about, and continue to do that?”

He's listening to the radio and he's like �who the f--k are the Fleet Foxes? Every second band's got an animal name!

In other words, artists nowadays are constantly getting caught in a struggle trying to find the ideal times to write and record, when they could just be going with the flow and taking advantage of inspiration as it comes, like many artists of the past.

“I just have always admired artists that kind of move quickly from one idea to the next, like Neil Young,” Plaskett explains, “you just get the sense that when you’re finally hearing a record that’s come out of his, he’s [already] onto the next thing.”

Scrappy Happiness paints a brilliant picture of simplicity, in terms of songwriting and recording, and in its overall theme. No song better captures the theme than the ending track, North Star. The song is about a man who lives in the present time, but whose mindset is rooted in one prior to our own.

This character, a fictitious version of Plaskett, drives on some unnamed stretch of highway in his old Chevy with half a million kilometers on the odometer. Plaskett explains the character’s story simply:

“It’s a guy, sitting in his truck, who likes classic rock. He likes Cactus and Neil Young and he’s listening to the radio and he’s like ‘who the f--k are the Fleet Foxes? Every second band’s got an animal name!’”

Plaskett laughs and assures that “it’s no slight on that music; [the character]’s just kind of perplexed.”
He continues to say that the song is like the character in that it is “fiction, but it’s about finding happiness in things that make you happy regardless of what’s going on around you.”

Plaskett relates this theme to his own livelihood, and to the rush of living a working life.

“You can see [your livelihood] as a hustle, or you can just see it as a way of life and something that you do. As opposed to just chasing something, you’re just experiencing it and living it and finding happiness in it.”

“It’s about having fun and not getting too hung up on trends, and what you think people will care about, and I think that song is about a guy who’s just in a comfortable truck.”

So there you have it folks, plain and simple. We are all just guys (or girls) in comfortable trucks. The trucks are our lives, so make the most of the comfortable truck you’re sitting in, because it won’t be there forever.

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