Boasting an all-important message about mental health and inclusivity, Wellington alt-pop duo Paper Plates are trying to make a difference. With the recent release of their five-track debut EP Playground Walls, the duo are seeking to start a conversation about mental health in New Zealand. We caught up with Agatha from the duo to have a chat about their beginnings, their recent EP as well as the topic of mental health.
Tell me about the name Paper Plates and how everything got started?
It’s the name that me and Noah kind of want to represent ourselves as. It’s kind of like a fun name, it reminds me of like a picnic sort of thing.
We’re using it to reflect the whole message behind the EP we released, which is about encouraging self-worth and identity. We started off focusing on the music industry in particular, and then it kind of just grew to the wider New Zealand community. I think it’s something that’s relatable for everyone.
But Paper Plates is just me and Noah. There’s me on vocals and keys, and Noah does the percussion, he’s a multi-instrumentalist so records the bass guitar and other bits as well.
Tell me a little bit more about you and your backgrounds, how you met and how it all kind of come about?
We met in the first year of university at the commercial music course at Massey University. Before that, we both kind of came from really different musical backgrounds.
Noah comes from a brass band background. Then for me, it’s more jazz influences especially in Christchurch where I grew up. With Christchurch being a little bit more conservative in terms of musical backgrounds. I think a lot of what I was exposed to was classical jazz or nothing, and so when I came to Wellington, there was this whole new world of stuff I could explore. It was quite eye-opening actually.
And then I met Noah, who’s had different musical influences. He grew up with more contemporary and experimental styles of music. So, we kind of just mashed all these different influences to make what we’re doing at the moment, it’s a lot of fun.
So you’ve obviously recently dropped the new EP, tell me a little bit more about that?
The new EP ‘Playground Walls‘, focuses on the message of identity and self-worth. There’s a point that many people get to, where they’re on a brink of a breakdown and being overwhelmed with just so much emotion, and so many things they have to do. So we’ve kind of tried to capture those ideas, clashes in emotions through sound especially.
We’ve got a track called ‘Breakdown’, and that was the song where I actually just tried to capture the sounds and feelings of a breakdown. It starts off quite calm with my keys and vocals and things like that. And then that builds up into this clash of all these layers, and it’s almost like emotions during a breakdown. We’ve tried to capture that, I guess I would describe it as like a lack of control.
Then there are songs like ‘Black Rose’, ‘Wait’ and ‘Distract You’ that are a little bit more restrained, but there’s still a sense of urgency there. It’s all about coming to terms with the fact that you can’t put everything into someone else. If you’re not investing into what you’re feeling, and if you’re not checking into what you are going through, it’s just hard to genuinely and unconditionally love anything, or anyone else.
Your music has a lot of themes of mental health of self-care. So why do you think it’s important to kind of speak about that, especially in music?
It’s important to talk about these things. There are people on stage performing, and obviously, they’re going through a lot. They’re in the spotlight, and people are openly judging and criticising. But there’s also the whole behind the scenes stuff, where the working conditions aren’t always the best. Sometimes you go for a couple of days without seeing sunlight, or even just like the hours itself, and also just like the lack of credit that goes to them as well.
I think it’s something to do with the lack of self-worth and self-acceptance sort of thing. It’s so easily overlooked, so much work goes into an EP or an album. I guess at the end of the day, the spotlight goes to the artist instead of say the mixing engineer or person who does the EP artwork.
And I assume that it’s the same in any other job. There are so many times where everything’s overlooked, and people don’t get the appreciation they deserve.
So tell me reflecting on all that work that you put in, and all the work leading up to it. How does it feel kind of having the EP out there?
Because we see ourselves as an example of showing your identity, our creative process involved putting everything out onto our social media as well. So it has been a little bit scary along the way, it does put you in a vulnerable situation.
It has been great that our work has had lots of support. The Mental Health Foundation flicked us a message saying ‘hey, this is really cool what you guys have put out and the intention behind your work’. We have also had a lot of support from close friends and family, but also people I haven’t heard from in a while would message saying ‘hey, that was a nice reminder to just chill.’
I think those types of messages have meant the most to me in a way because it means that we have influenced some people. Even if they quickly ask themselves like hey, what’s going on around you? So yes, It’s been quite rewarding in that sense.
What are the future plans now?
Future plans, gosh. We’re kind of focusing on live sessions now. We did some minimal live sessions in Breaker Bay a few weeks ago that we’re planning to release.
We are planning more immersive shows with a full band, light, projections and we’ve got three dancers as well. So it’s going to be fun, we’re also planning a music video to come out within the next two months.
We are just kind of keeping the ball rolling and hoping to reach more people and remind everyone that it’s okay to take a breath.
Check out their debut EP ‘Playground Walls‘ below;