TALKING “PLASTIC WESTERN” WITH SAME

BY ANDREW KIM


When you think of great band names, legendary titles consisting of just one-word are typical to come up. Nirvana, Aerosmith, Queen, and more have solidified their legendary status in music and continue to influence modern culture today, and I think Same has quite the potential.

Same is an indie rock band based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and consisting of four members that are making waves in the rock scene with back-to-back EPs and singles filled with a strong, independent sound and great production. The band has been releasing music for a couple of years now, but are just now releasing their debut studio album Plastic Western this Friday, May 8.

I was able to talk to band members Jake Stern, Jesse Caggiano, and Tom Higgins about their history as a band, the recent singles off of the upcoming album Plastic Western, and how quarantine has affected their debut album release. It was a one-of-a-kind interview with a band that is clearly glued together by genuine friendship and a shared passion for music-making.

[This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity]


Before we start, can I get an introduction from each of you guys and a quick preview of what you all play in the band? 

Jake: Yeah, sure. I’m Jake and I play guitar and do backing vocals. We all do other things but I also play the keys as well.

Tom: I’m Tom, I’m 28, and I play guitar.

Jesse: I’m Jesse, I’m 29, and I play guitar and lead vocals. And we have Jamie the drummer who’s not on the call. We also have an auxiliary member named Brady who plays this little Casio keyboard and tambourines and stuff.

Tom: He didn’t play on the album, but he plays with us live now. He’ll probably play on the next album.

Nice. It’s stated in your Bandcamp page that you guys are located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Are you guys all from there?

Jesse: Tom and I have lived here for the past six years, almost seven. But we’re originally from northern Pennslyvania.

Jake: Same here. I’m from Cleveland originally. I moved to Pittsburgh around the same time as they did actually.

So then, how did you guys all meet?

Jake: It’s interesting because we all played in different bands and different scenes. I played in a band called Meridian, which is based in Cleveland, and oddly enough, one of my first shows out of town was in Pittsburgh. Meridian played with this band called John Jessie Tom DJ, which Jessie and Tom just happened to be in. We met for the first time that night, but then came in and out of each others’ lives in various shows.

Tom: Yeah, the band that Jake was talking about, the one that Jessie and I were in, was a college project of ours. After college, Jesse and I made another project called Naked Spirit with some friends and played with that band for a little while. At the tail end of that band, Jake started jamming with us and playing keys. Really quickly after that though, that band dissolved because Jesse and I wanted to branch off and do something different. Naked Spirit kept going without us and Jake ended up joining Jesse and me to create a new band, which ended up being Same. And then, Jamie the drummer, who went to college with Jesse and me, joined when we looking to find someone who had been around who we were looking to jam with. It was a couple of years of all of us playing in different projects and kind of crossing each other path before we all ended up together. We first played together as a band in 2015 and released our first music in 2016.

Wow, that’s quite an extensive history, you guys.

Jake: Yeah, and it’s crazy that all of this happened from then to now and we’re just now releasing our first album.

Right. So, I want to get behind the band’s name. What inspired you guys to choose the name Same?

Jesse: We definitely floated a lot of names around. It was hard to decide on a name because we wanted a band name with one word and a lot of those words are taken, especially the cool ones. We eventually settled with Same, but had other names before that that we were thinking about. One that I still really like is “Hell is Real,” but I don’t think we’ll ever end up using that for anything.

Tom: Actually, we still might end up using that for something, so if you’re reading this and you think it’s a cool band name, you can’t use it. [Laughs] 

Jake: It actually took us a long time, but then we ended up with a word that that’s nothing extraordinary. It’s just normal. [Laughs]

I don’t know, I think your name is a highlighting point of the band. Like, when I first found you guys on YouTube, it was the name that first intrigued me.

Tom: That’s cool, I like that. I think it’s a cool name. The one thing I don’t like about it is how hard it is to find us online.

Jesse: I like that though, it presents a challenge to us. Like, we have to be really good or else no one will be able to find us. Having some music out will help, too.

Jake: I really wish we could have the username @sameband on Twitter, but there’s some project from 2015 by four girls from high school, I think, called the Same Band and they’re hanging out to that one. I sent out a tweet to them but they didn’t respond, unfortunately.

Tom: We should buy them out, or sue them!

[Everyone laughs]

Okay, let’s now dive into the record. Can you guys describe Plastic Western in a few words, what is this album to you guys?

Jesse: … Everything. [Everyone laughs] It’s all of the years of trying.

Jake: Yeah, it’s like when we first started as a band we were like, we want to make our first relief a full-length project. We then started writing songs and ended up putting enough songs together for Plastic Western. I think with EPs that we put out we were trying to get a lot of stuff out of our system. By making them we learned a lot about the sound we wanted to create because, before this album, our music sounded very dark and gritty. The record doesn’t sound this way.

Jesse: It definitely took us a while to find our sound and I’m really thankful that we released two EPs before the full length, because by that time we had really figured out a style that we all enjoyed playing and felt genuine to us. It was ambitious wanting to do a full length from the start and I’m glad that we didn’t. The LP is almost like a compilation of songs we’ve written over the years, even going back to three years ago.

Tom: Yeah, I’m glad that we got to record the EPs before the full length because we got to record a whole bunch before making the album. Like, when we were going to do the album, we learned a lot about recording beforehand and knew how we wanted to record and how we wanted to do it.

Jake: One thing we did that was really cool was go somewhere to record in an extended period of time. We made a majority of the album in eight consecutive days in the Poconos in our friend Matt’s house. He’s recorded a bunch of albums and when we found out about this bunk, we were super excited to finally live out the idea that we were going somewhere to record an album. We were out there in the middle of the winter, was super cold in the studio but there was always a super cool vibe there.

Jesse: We were super focused during this process, too. It was like we woke up and we started thinking about what we can accomplish that day. It was really cold, it was really hard.

Jake: Yeah! We had a propane heater in our studio, it was a one-room studio. It was so fucking cold that someone had to pull out this insane old heater.

Wow, what an experience. Was the title of the project inspired from these sessions as well?

Jesse: So actually, we were doing a photoshoot for the LP at Tom’s house and we had all these different stages is set up for photographs. We decided to take a break to come up with an album name and what we ended up doing was we each took four songs off the LP and wrote down all the lyrics of each song and went through and circled really cool words or phrases. Jake ended up having “Osho Tapes” and he wrote down the lyric, “plastic yellow western omelet.” We ended up taking “plastic” and “western” to create the album title and we all decided that it sounded really cool.

Jake: Yeah, it was great ‘cause we already had the idea of using the cowboy figurine on the album cover because it’s kind of been a motif in all of our works. Like, on Weird As Hell, there was a plastic horse, and on Forgot to Say ‘Action’, there’s the cowboys and horse tucked under a bookshelf. For the third project, we definitely wanted to use the plastic figurines again and when we saw the name, it was perfect.

Tom: We had a lot of ideas for the album art, but one we heard the name, we knew we had to go this way.

I’m going to have to take another look at the album cover ‘cause I thought it was digital art.

Jake: Yeah no, I took it by myself. [Laughs]

Jesse: Yeah, the border is fake, but the rest of the cover is all original photography.

Wow, that’s super cool. Okay, moving on, what sonical themes can the audience expect with this album?

Jesse: One big theme that I noticed is that because I play bass and sing, there’s no guitar player doing vocals. Jake and Tom, their guitar work in the album is cool and intricate at times, but a lot of the times, the guitar player is the singer and they have to dumb down their playing to be able to singer audibly. Luckily, we don’t have to do that.

Jake: Yeah, I agree with that. I think Jamie pays some very interesting beats on the album too, playing super laid-back stuff to more driving, rock stuff to really experimental, groovy weirdness. I think there’s a lot of really cool sounds on Plastic Western. Also, I think we have some really unique production techniques that we used on it, just because most of the album was recorded on tape, and the album rewards repeat listens. 

Tom: I also like that there’s an electronic element to the album. It’s really small, but that’s something that we had talked about such as adding synth sounds and we never got around doing it. Do you want to tell the story, Jake?

Jake: [Laughs]  Yeah. We were set to record this album in October 2019 and I broke my wrist skateboarding in September. I had to get surgery and it was pretty bad, so we had to push back the recording until January, unfortunately. But, in the end, it worked out because like Tom said, we had always wanted to add keyboards, synths, and all sorts of weird stuff and we got to work in those elements with the extra recording time. We also got to record extra songs during that time as well.

Tom: Yeah, we recorded “It’s Lonely in Doggy Hell”, “Shoot It”, and the last track, “Must’ve Hit Your Head.” We recorded all of those songs and added in those sounds all because Jake broke his wrists. 

[Everyone laughs]

Jesse: Yeah, thanks, Jake.

Really, thank you to Jake. Okay, I have to bring up this quarantine lock-down situation that’s going on right now. The album’s set to release on May 8th, which is probably still going to be in this quarantine period. With you guys being debut artists, how has it been to release and promote your debut album in these circumstances?

 Tom: It’s definitely frustrating in the obvious ways like not being able to host our album release show or play in out-of-town shows. We had this show booked with some of our friends at a venue that we really liked and now we can’t play anymore. It sucks because it’s like all the years of hard work were expressed into this album and then there’s no show to display it.

Jake: Yeah, we had like 10 or 15 shows, we even had a release tour set up that we had to cancel, obviously. It’s definitely a bummer, but something I’ve been thinking about on the flip side is that there’s so many people on the Internet now, like people are spending way more time than they usually do on the computer or phone listening to music. I guess that’s the upside of this situation.

Tom: Even for myself, I’ve been actively seeking out new music during this time, like I’ve discovered so much great music through this. Hopefully, that means that more people will discover our album, too.

Jake: Yeah, and we were able to make music videos for all of our singles only because of this free time. It kind of worked in our favor and we’re trying to use this time wisely.

Jesse: It’s about adapting to the circumstances. You can only do the best with what you’re dealt with, and I think we’re doing that.

That’s great to hear. My final question for you guys is obviously about your end goal. Where do you see yourselves and the band in the future?

Jesse: I guess I want to be still writing music with the band. I just want to keep writing music and putting out albums, whatever that means or however we’re able to to it. As long as we’re able to do that forever, that’s the goal.

Jake: I don’t see the band as a temporary thing, it’s not tied down to a certain city or place that we live in. I feel really confident that wherever we go or whoever we end up, we’re going to keep writing music and keep on making music with each other.

Jesse: Something that Jamie and I talked about before we started the band was that a lot of successful bands have that longevity factor to them, like they’ve been together for a long time. You just have to make it past those first couple years where a lot of bands break up, and so far, we’ve done that and we’re on a good path to being a band for a long time.

Jake: It feels like wow, we’ve been jamming since 2015 and we’re just now putting out our first album, so there’s a long way to go.

Tom: Yeah, these guys already said it, but my only goal is to continue making music that is original and sounds like us. That’s all I really care about, that we’re making original music that people can enjoy. And maybe touring to some extent? That’s always a goal, whether it’s achieved in a big or small way. I guess the only goal is to keep doing what we’re doing.

STREAM PLASTIC WESTERN RELEASING MAY 8!