PLY is the moniker of bedroom producer and Reading native Matt Simpson. Having first cut his teeth in acoustic duo WeatherVanes before fronting four-piece alt-rock group Qualms, he’s now taking his creative endeavours in a completely new direction, blending his experiences as a guitarist with slick hip-hop infused production.
As a personal challenge of sorts, Matt has tasked himself with releasing a track on the first of every month in 2019. Since the project’s inception, he’s been pushing himself to create new and interesting sounds, incorporating a wide variety of genres. “I got really into SZA and American Football at about the same time,” he told us, “but I’m just sort of mucking about for 2019 and seeing what happens”. Mucking about doesn’t really seem to do his tracks justice though, with each one distinct from the last, united through their eloquent production, from January’s twinkly math-rock inspired guitar set over hip hop beats “i like you… more than a friend is supposed to“, to February’s R&B tinged “Anything” to March’s acoustic ballad “Found” (featuring Sam Tidmarsh from Coffee Breath on trumpet).
He appears to relish the creative freedoms found through being a solo artist, as his music flies from genre to genre. “I just love that it’s an absolute free-for-all genre-wise at the moment,” he says, “Obviously there are still more selective sub-cultures and overarching trends in pop music, but we’re seeing people from all these different subcultures and scenes achieve mainstream success, which I absolutely love”. It appears increasingly in a playlist-driven age that artists are foregoing traditional genres and creating unique and distinct music to fit vibes rather than pigeonhole themselves onto one specific path. PLY is one of these new breeds of artists, equal parts unsure and nonplussed as to whether he would rather be the next Kurt Cobain or Drake.
Introducing itself by sampling “Planet” by Anamanaguchi, “No Friends” is a four-minute foray into Post Malone-inspired hip hop. This is PLY’s most polished and commercial-sounding track to date – it wouldn’t wouldn’t sound out of place in a playlist next to some of the biggest names in pop music right now, complete with slick production that could fool anyone into thinking he’s far more experienced than in reality. There’s also a strong sense of creativity and a drive for experimentation throughout, like how the chorus snare noise is just Matt clucking his tongue but drenched in a lot of reverb.
Where the song really stands out though is through the subversive meaning behind it, hiding the frustrations of a man in his early twenties just trying to make a name for himself under the guise of a feel-good summer anthem. Whilst he is by no means the first artist to do this, there’s a refreshing honesty in his self-deprecation and shows his alternative rock roots seeping through. Lyrically, the song starts with a very clear message: he really doesn’t like where he’s living (I was aiming for Massachusetts but I fucked up now I’m stuck in Basingstoke).
Having recently graduated from university, Matt is somewhat begrudgingly back in his hometown once again. “At the end of uni I was looking for jobs obviously, and I was thinking that it’d be good to work in Massachusetts, loads of science jobs over there, and it just sounded fun. I figured houses are cheaper so jump ship before Brexit, but then American Visa restrictions came and slapped those plans out the way after I’d spent a month applying, so now I work in Basingstoke. The key point to take from the lyrics of No Friends is fuck Basingstoke, horrible place”.
So why the name PLY anyway? “I like the word PLY and everyone will have to think of me when they buy bog roll”, jokes Matt. When asked for a closing comment, he leaves us with one little nugget of wisdom: “I sleep in my jeans, and I don’t give a fuck what you think”.