The rising garage pop trio making moody melodies and silly bops

By Francesca Emms
Photography by Lewis Ferris

Featured in Capital #83
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Sophie Scott-Maunder, Jonathan Shirley, and Laura Robinson formed their band, Soft Plastics, on the cusp of covid. They talk to Francesca Emms.

Soft Plastics released their debut EP on the same day Jacinda Ardern announced the first nation-wide lockdown. But rather than getting down about the pandemic, they saw it as a blessing in disguise. Their first few gigs didn’t go ahead, giving them more time to fine-tune their songs, write more, and even bin some.

Postponed performances are the norm, but Sophie, Laura, and Jono have earned an excellent live reputation and shared the stage with the likes of The Beths, Silicon, King Sweeties, and Wax Chattels. Describing themselves as garage pop with a nostalgic twist, Soft Plastics sound fuller than you’d expect from a three-piece. Jono’s guitar and Laura’s drums rise and fall with Sophie’s nuanced vocal performance: from soft, tender, and vulnerable to large, loud, and powerful.

Each member brings specific skills to the group. With a Masters degree in screenwriting from the International Institute of Modern Letters and a certificate in filmmaking from The New Zealand Film and Television School, Laura is the obvious choice to produce their music videos. As well as playing drums and singing she also keeps track of their accounts.

Sophie is a co-curator of Eyegum Music Collective and is a core organiser of Welcome to Nowhere, an indie music festival which has been putting on events in the Whanganui region for the past six years. She’s the lead singer, bass player, and administrator/organiser for the group.

Earlier this year, with a grant for new music from NZ on Air, Soft Plastics filmed their first music video. It’s for their single, Day Job, which is about disliking the boring aspects of your job. “I think most people can relate,” says Sophie. In the video she sings, “If I had my dream job, I’d quit my day job… then I wouldn’t have to work for you” as her character goes about the mundane tasks of her not-so-mundane job. “It’s not about my current job, and I’ve had to explain that to my manager,” she laughs. “It’s about working, in general, and feeling like you’re not doing what you’re supposed to be doing. But it’s not supposed to be taken too seriously, and the music video helps reinforce that. It’s supposed to be tongue in cheek.”

Soft Plastics are working on a debut album. Written collaboratively, many of their songs are moody (one is referred to as “Sophie’s Sad Song”) while others are more silly. Most are so catchy you can’t help bopping along – just try to get I Love My Wife out of your head.

Flying Nun have declared Soft Plastics one of their “current favourite local bands”, saying the trio “takes 90s shoegaze and 2010s alt-rock in its stride, and turns heartache into killer pop hooks.” Soft Plastics have also caught the notice of RNZ, who’ve labelled them “Ones to watch” for 2022, describing them as “one of those bands who are going to go places.” They hope to live up to expectations.


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