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Plant Parenthood's recorded life

On bringing pop out into the wild

Sam Petschulat upholds bedroom pop. Photo courtesy of Facebook

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I wonder what pop music historians (read: nerds) would consider to be the first bedroom pop album. A case could be made for Paul McCartney's solo debut, McCartney. Recorded at his home in the wake of the Beatles' breakup, it touts many of what would become the defining characteristics of bedroom pop albums: a homespun mixture of personal insights and idiosyncratic flights of fancy made possible by the one-man band nature of the recording. No one there to raise their eyebrows, it seems, naturally leads to diary entries and animal sounds.

About a decade ago, Cody ChesnuTT expanded the language of bedroom pop albums with his Headphone Masterpiece, a 36-track album that showed the breadth of one man's peccadilloes in an environment where he was fully able to explore every fleeting notion. Lo-fi R&B, folk creepers, a capella chants, experimental asides - nothing was off the table, and this freedom managed to telegraph the mixing and matching of genres that would eventually leave the venue of bedroom recordings and become the norm in independent music.

But, to bring it back to 2013, there's a certain nobility in upholding the traditions of bedroom pop, which is something Plant Parenthood does quite well. Sam Petschulat formed Plant Parenthood as a solo recording project, as you do.

"I'd never really done music until a couple years ago," says Petschulat. "I had a couple weeks, a winter break from school, and had nothing to do. So I went home to the Nashville suburbs for a month and worked for my dad for a while. I was spending a lot of time alone, so I started recording all of the little snippets of stuff I'd done, and then I started wanting to turn them into full songs. My girlfriend started playing drums, and it just went from there."

As with most bedroom recording projects, the sound of the recordings are as important an aspect as the nature of the songs, themselves. True to the form of the genre, Plant Parenthood's songs are choked with distortion and hiss. The chugging guitars that open "Transit Town" are soon overtaken by squealing tones and feedback, rendering Petschulat's vocals just another instrument in the mix. Scrape away all of the effects and overdubs, and this is a strumming guitar-rock anthem of restless youth.

"They sound really different live, to be honest," says Petschulat. "I don't really try to replicate how they sound when we play them live, because it might be impossible and it'd probably be kind of disappointing. I just try to deliver the spirit of it, and do it however sounds best. Yeah, I try not to emulate how the recordings sound. I try to take the essence of the songs and make them sound good live, whatever that means."

As with many bedroom projects, Plant Parenthood essentially has two lives. The life of the recording is separate and distinct from that one that you'll likely see in Olympia, after they've set out on tour. The process of recording is an individual one, while the ultimate test of relaying that experience to a live audience is eminently different and foreign to the true nature of the music.

"It's really satisfying to me to record, because it's a whole aspect of making music that you can't do live," says Petschulat. "The aspect of sitting back and obsessing over minute details, without the pressure of an audience, and without having to perform it right - that's really fun to me. Mastering stuff and tweaking stuff."

Exposing the internal life of a bedroom pop album to the external world is, ultimately, an experiment in the nature of music itself. Which is the truest form: the sound that drifts through headphones, or the sound that blasts from a guitar amp?

PLANT PARENTHOOD, w/ Generifus, 10 p.m., Tuesday, June 4, Le Voyeur, 404 E. Fourth Ave., Olympia, no cover, 360.943.5710

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