Plum (n.) – the saddest fruit.
Plum (adj.) colloquial – good, pretty sweet.
Plum (n.) – the subject of William Carlos Williams’ mundane poem This Is Just To Say.
Plums (n.) – a Boston-based band named after all three interpretations.
In an interview with three-fourths of the band, Plums, Zach Lieberman (guitar, vocals), Max Freedberg (drums) and Alec Mapes-Frances (keyboard, vocals) kept the conversation lively with unconventional answers such as these.
“And you know what? Sam’s never even had a plum before,” Lieberman added.
Plums was created in 2014 when Sam Glick (guitar, vocals), Lieberman, Freedberg and Mapes-Frances began collaborating two years after graduating high school. The four of them grew up in the suburbs of Boston and knew of each other before starting Plums.
Lieberman, who went to high school with Glick, explained: “I don’t think we’ve ever talked about this, but Sam and I had a little bit of a rivalry in high school. It’s kind of interesting that now we’ve teamed up. Alec and Sam were in a band called Sins, and I was in a band that no one gave a shit about.”
In 2015, Plums released their first album, Jen. It’s named after Lieberman’s grandmother, who happened to be grocery shopping with Lieberman during our phone call.
After instructing Lieberman to fetch her some butter pecan ice cream, she chimed in about the album and the song, “Jen,” that was written for her: “I come to find out they named an album after me, and well, they should. Nothing but this squeaky, horrible song.”
“She told me it sounded like it was from outer space the last time I played it for her,” Lieberman said. And justifiably so; the track is a minute-long instrumental crescendo of scratchy synth cycles that would work perfectly for an astronaut-gazing-back-at-Earth montage in a space movie.
The other women mentioned on the album, Julia and Madeline from “Julia Gloria” and “Fine Madeline,” are not grandmothers. Rather, they’re references to Lieberman’s and Glick’s high school love interests.
Overall, the album is about the hollowness of the American dream. Lieberman makes a side comment—“do you know where bread crumbs would be?”—which prompts Mapes-Frances to delve deeper into their album’s meaning.
“If I could pick a scene for a portrait of Jen it would be the scene that I’m envisioning right now – the grocery store.” For him, the album is about suburban emptiness and dreaminess. “The grocery store encapsulates that: full of voids and yet somehow phantasmagorical,” he said.
When asked to describe their style, Lieberman, Freedberg and Mapes-Frances had some interesting answers: escalators, linoleum and Honda Civics.
Although these descriptors seem haphazard at first, they actually do capture the album’s bittersweet theme. Escalators conjure images of suburban malls, linoleum is reminiscent of ‘50s homes, and Honda Civics elicit nostalgia for your first hand-me-down car.
In a reflective turn of the conversation, Lieberman, Freedberg, and Mapes-Frances touched on what they consider one of Jen’s weaknesses. “Nothing makes us stand out. We’re totally conforming. I don’t think Jen is that different,” Lieberman said.
However, Lieberman singles out their unique guitar progressions. “Like in ‘Julia Gloria,’ the first progression, you don’t find that in many other songs,” he explained.
Right now, the band is focusing on writing their next album. For inspiration, they’ve been listening to Britney Spears and the Beatles. “‘Toxic’ is incredible,” Mapes-Frances noted.
Freedberg spoke to the nature of their next album, saying, “The next release will be more original. [Jen] is definitely in the current genre that’s happening a lot, but the next release will draw on different influences.”
They may not be particularly confident in Jen’s originality, but the album is excellent, nonetheless. Jen set a ripple in motion throughout Boston’s indie music scene that is only expected to expand as Plums releases new work. In the meantime, the four musicians will continue grocery shopping, writing music and living in various suburbs around New England.