A Plastic Rose: Pastures new beckon for rockers in full bloom
Having exhausted Belfast's gigging scene, A Plastic Rose tells Edwin Gilson why they've upped sticks to England in search of stardom.
The infectious enthusiasm of Gerry Norman, guitarist of Belfast-turned-Nottingham rock band A Plastic Rose, is evident when he looks forward to his summer plans. "We're playing a festival in Cornwall soon, on the same stage as Snoop Dogg! How weird is that? And then there's the Hyde Park gig, on the bill with Black Sabbath. I'm going to do some Ozzy-spotting; I need to give that guy a high-five!"
Norman has a show at Belfast's Spectrum Festival next weekend to get excited about too; not that he seems to need additional reasons to be positive. Bonhomie clearly comes naturally to the guitarist, and it helps that he's happy with a "massive" career decision he and his bandmates made recently. About a year ago, A Plastic Rose relocated from Ulster to Nottingham. Apparently Norman, singer Ian McHugh, bassist Troy Heaton and drummer David Reid had "sucked Belfast dry".
"Why Nottingham? Well, why Not-ingham?" jokes the singer. "To be serious, though, we literally just put our finger on a map of England and moved there. We could feel the Belfast scene was shutting down. We'd done every headline show possible in Belfast, and to be honest I think we all just loved it too much. We were too comfortable, with our families, girlfriends and dogs. I thought to myself: 'This is not how a rock band makes it; we must take a leap of faith.'"
Norman admits moving was a "huge gamble", but he's adamant it's paid off, even if he does "miss Belfast terribly".
"For every one high as a band there are 100 lows," he ponders. "We just didn't want to be one of those groups who release an album and nobody gives a crap. We've done some cool things since coming to England, like playing a session for Radio 1, and all that is linked to the move. Fearne Cotton played us on her radio show the other day, and the first thing she did was announce that we'd relocated from Belfast to Nottingham. People need to hear that to be impressed. It was a massive upheaval, the four of us coming over here. It's been hard for us all personally, but I think it's been a great year for the band."
As Norman outlines his band's success in England, it's hard to not make the assertion he is encouraging other Northern Irish groups to follow suit and cross the Irish Sea. Not so, however. The guitarist insists he has "full respect for those bands who stay in Belfast", and points to the huge rise of Two Door Cinema Club to back up his point.
"That whole Belfast class of 2006 was absolutely insane, man," says Norman. "We were in a collective of bands that included General Fiasco and Japanese Popstars, and we just partied the town to the ground. It was insane, and we were all really good friends. Obviously not all of those bands went on to do what Two Door did, but they've all gained success in some way. Above everything, I think all of us deserve respect for dedicating our lives to something as stupid as being in a band!"
The chemistry between guitarist and singer has led to a gig at the 02 Arena, supporting Snow Patrol, and heavy support from rock magazines like Kerrang. Norman insists that his band have never been cool, and have never intended to write "hipster music", but they continue to garner new fans and appear higher up impressive bills.
The key to A Plastic Rose's upward trajectory, claims Norman, is originality and a disregard for pretension. "We know what we are," he surmises. "We're all different people, but we know what makes a good Plastic Rose song. It's all about turning the amps up to 11 and rocking out."
- A Plastic Rose play the Speakeasy, Queen's University, as part of the Spectrum Festival tomorrow. For details, visit www.qubsu-ents.com