Soft Plastics (f.k.a. Frog Eyes) Premiere New Video, Explain Why Isolation Is Barely Different from Normal Life

Carey Mercer on writing another new album, building a basketball court and raising chickens in the backyard

Photo: Angela Fama

BY Alex HudsonPublished May 12, 2020

After spending nearly two full decades releasing fidgety, bookish art-rock under the name Frog Eyes, British Columbia songwriter Carey Mercer and his collaborators have reemerged under the name Soft Plastics. With the stylistically restless debut album 5 Dreams due out on June 5 through Paper Bag Records, the band have premiered an eerie video for the track "I Dreamed of Cold Clean Green Seas." With VHS static and shadowy modern dance, it's an appropriately cryptic accompaniment for the sparse, haunting track. Check out the video at the bottom of this page — and stay tuned for some more new Soft Plastics tracks to drop tomorrow.

We caught up with Mercer about how life is going under lockdown. According to the songwriter, his home life isn't actually all that different — which is to say, he's been working on yet more new music, spending time with Criterion films, intently absorbing some recent Bandcamp purchases, and living on a property that's become part barnyard, part basketball court.

What's your self-isolation setup?

We rent a house in Vancouver — "we" being myself, my partner Mel, who is also my longtime musical partner, and my 10 year old son Ivan.

Mel adopted three baby chickens recently, so the backyard is charged with a pastoral energy. It is calming to watch creatures go about their day. Melanie and Ivan recently constructed a basketball court out of discarded pallets, so there is a lot of bouncing and dribbling going on.

Melanie was gifted some power tools by her mother recently, so there is much sawing and drilling in the name of keeping the chickens dry.

I ride my bicycle by myself every second day, out to the mountains or to the river.

I am very suited to isolation, to be honest. 

Are you working on any music while on lockdown? 

Yes, I am knee deep in "I am writing a record" mode right now. I shouldn't speak about it more than that, because it is not a thing to describe — I am superstitious about talking about projects in this phase.

At first I thought, "Yes, this will be more time to work on music." Then I thought, "That is inappropriate, somehow inappropriate, don't do anything." And then I didn't do anything for a little while. And then the songs started popping out.

I guess I will say this much: being by myself is helping me be cool with myself. My songs are often masked in polyphony — choral debates. Not these; more dreams, memories, reflections: me songs.

What are you watching and listening to? 

Melanie and I often watch movies on the Criterion channel at night. We just watched the Alice Rohrwacher films on Criterion. She directed the two Ischia episodes of My Brilliant Friend, and I am on a bit of a post-war Italy reading and viewing jag.

My recent music purchases have been on Bandcamp. I am not a casual, background listener: I enjoy few things more than sitting cross-legged in the nexus of two stereo speakers. 

Here are some great things I have scooped up, gleaned partly from reading music websites, partly from Bandcamp's recommendations or past purchases:

Gormful in Maya by Ford Pier. You Wanted Country? by Fiver. Origens da Luz by Priscilla Ermel. Three by the Necks. Incidental Music by W.H. Lung. Suite for Max Brown by Jeff Parker. Pop Crimes and Teenage Snuff Film by Rowland S. Howard. Companion Rises by Six Organs of Admittance.

I just finished Spring by Ali Smith. A gift.

How do you feel about the response to coronavirus? 

Hmm, "response" is such an open word. Do you mean government response? I feel fairly ambivalent about the government response, on all levels. Every government can do more financially for people who need it: open the coffers, pay essential workers a COVID top-up that is retroactive, cancel student loans, 100% rent freeze for those who need it.

Coronavirus reveals the absolute lie of austerity to be a bloody strangling scam—the wealth is there, and it needs to be dispersed and shared. When the coffers run dry, dip into the billionaire's coffers. The headlines today are COVID flare-ups from workers returning from oil sands, workers given unsatisfactory access to sick leave in meat plants, and from jails. Our miasma. Read the tea leaves — our structural inequities and cruelties will be our undoing unless we dissolve them.

Have you picked up any new hobbies or routines in isolation? 

No, not really, my life looks fairly similar now when compared to "normal" times.

Find out what other Canadian musicians have been up to under self-quarantine with our Isolation Nation feature.

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