Denver’s dream pop duo Plume Varia recently released their debut LP ‘Fact | Fiction‘, produced by David J (Bauhaus, Love and Rockets) and is nothing less than brilliant. Cherie Cobbs’ pristine and mesmerizing vocals with textures of Shon Cobbs’ cascading melodies take you down a waterfall from fact to fiction and back again. Hints of the past can be heard throughout the album with elements of Dead Can Dance, Cocteau Twins, and Love and Rockets yet is still very much uniquely theirs. David J also lends his voice to the intro’s hauntingly beautiful and deep thoughts on what is real and what is not.
Working with David J was a real dream come true for long time fan, Shon Cobbs. The line between reality and fantasy is now blurred and twisted around one another with this once in a lifetime collaboration.
“It was a wonderful experience. Very talented couple. Making that album was a joy as they were so open to my direction. Trust! The music is so sophisticated and beautiful. Cherie is a wonderful singer and Shon, a musical architect. It was also great to have other brilliant musicians around who were working on their own albums but who were drawn like desert moths to the light of Plume Varia and inevitably ended up contributing to the record. Being out there in the middle of nowhere made for a very immersive experience. It was one of my all time favorite recording experiences. We got lost in the beautiful scary world of Fact/Fiction!” ~ David J
TM is pleased to have had the opportunity to sit down with Plume Varia’s Shon Cobbs to discuss working with David J, the concept behind Fact | Fiction, and growing up in military families..plus more..
TM – What was it like working with David J on your debut album Fact | Fiction?
PV – It was a dream come true. Bauhaus has been my (Shon) favorite band since I was like 14. Specifically, David J was a huge inspiration to me musically. His bass lines were what got me wanting to ever play bass guitar. It is a thrill to just be able to meet the people who inspire you. To be able to collaborate and work with on a creative level, almost indescribable how amazing that opportunity is.
TM – You say you both grew up in military families and moved often, do you feel like this lifestyle had an impact on you creatively?
PV – Oh definitely. One advantage of military life is the diversity you encounter. Every base, even those in the most remote of locations (such as the one we were at when we met in the Upper Peninsula of MI) is actually a diverse collection of people from all across the country. So the setting allows you to be constantly meeting new people. I don’t know that I would have been into the music, writing and art that I was into had I just lived in one spot my entire life. That is especially true considering that we are talking pre-internet. My exposure to art was through those I met and actually got to know in person. The constant influx of new people helps to fuel a broader appreciation.
TM – Who or what were some of your influences creatively?
PV – For me it was all about goth, industrial, punk rock, and beat poets. I gravitated to the dark sounds, ambient productions, and raw energy of those genres. Bauhaus, Sisters of Mercy, Front 242, Skinny Puppy, Leonard Cohen, Allen Ginsberg were among my favorites. While vastly different, they all had a similar element. They were able to tap into the unflitered and emotional dark sides of life. Cherie however is the soul of the group. She grew up connecting with those artists who could soulfully tap into the human experience, those who would make you feel. Prince, Fleetwood Mac, even songwriters like Gordon Lightfoot and Leonard Cohen were a few among the diverse inspiration that Cherie has always drawn from. When it comes to modern day influences, we tend to share a lot of them including Beach House, The National, Interpol, Wye Oak, etc
TM – Fact | Fiction, what is the concept behind your debut release?
PV – The inspiration behind our songs often changed from the factual, even personal to the fictional. One song Cherie might write from her own perspective on something that happened to her last week. While the next song might be written from the imagined perspective of a character in a novel she was reading at some point. I always enjoyed how despite the factual/fictional differences, the songs always seemed perfectly harmonious side by side. Cherie has a way of tapping into this powerful and emotive abstract and then outputting something so incredibly heartfelt, that it really didn’t seem to matter what the initial source of inspiration was. What was fictional became just as real as that which was actually factual. What was factual became just as imaginative as that which was based on fiction. And so we decided to explore this concept and see what we came up with. Half of the album is inspired by factual events, half inspired by works of fiction. The theme that came out of that then was how in our world, the lines between truth, lies, reality, and fantasy really are blurred and undefined.
TM – Is it hard to balance your everyday responsibilities with family and careers with Plume Varia or is this something that has just fallen into place?
PV – It is absolutely something that fell into place. We had kids and married early. We spent our early adulthood raising twin boys and working. It wasn’t until the boys got a bit older, that we began exploring, writing, and performing music. So when we did, we did so in the context of our family. While not something that we ever sought to do as a career, we treated music as more than just a hobby as well. It became part of who we are, part of our family’s story so to speak.
TM – How would you explain the sound of your music and your process in creating a song?
PV – At the end of the day we try to make our songs draw some sort of emotion from the listener. We like to explore textures, layered melody, and heavy driving rhythms. As for process, there are typically two methods that we approach. 1) Cherie will sit down at the piano and just write a gorgeous song. I’ll then take that song and build the production around it. 2) I will sit down with my gear (Maschine and Ableton with accompanying midi controllers) and just work on production, building beats and loops and soundscapes until I find something I like. Cherie will then come in and build melody on top of that.
TM – What are some of the challenges and/or benefits you’ve come that to realize by being a married couple as well as band mates?
PV – We get to collaborate 24 hours a day every day. Band life is infused into our day to day so we are always able to move forward. If Cherie has an idea at 6 in the morning on a Saturday, she can kick me out of bed to have me listen. We can work on our art at pretty much anytime without the pain of syncing schedules, etc. Also that deep connection we have helps us to understand each other creatively as well. Where as we might be too timid to be honest about ideas or opinions when in bands with others, we are able to be openly truthful with each other. Of course there are downsides as well. Trying to find the balance between and understanding the difference of ‘band time’ and ‘relationship time’ can be a challenge. It is difficult to not let relationship arguments affect band needs while not letting band arguments affect relationship needs. Understanding those lines, and the sensitivity around them is vital.
Perception creates the line
uneven, blurred and
the line where life resides
The Mask we bare
reality to the masses
fantasy to the self
a collection of lies
become truth when
Friendly faces of a
filtered through the mind’s
become those of the Piano
waiting for the kill
Life is truth,
composed of lies.
Life is the fact,
that inspired the fiction