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On paper, it sure must have sounded great: drag your gear onstage, the same as you've done countless other times this tour. Set up the amps and drums. Do a brief sound check, and then leave a single guitar—set to maximum volume—tipped against an amp. Let it squeal. Leave the stage to get a drink while audience members either plug their ears or leave the club entirely. Then come back and play the set, having just eliminated a decent-sized portion of your listenership.
Bands joke about that kind of thing. San Diego's Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower tries it on unsuspecting audiences who, for the most part, the band doesn't seem to care about anyway. It's not the kindest way to win over a crowd, but for the up-and-coming art-punk act, it's working. Sort of.
"It's not like we're going out, trying to start shit," says Brandon Welchez, Plot's singer/saxophonist. "[But] the kids we play for for the most part are the most boring sheep you can imagine. They just want to show up and bob their heads, and that's fucking boring. Whatever the crowd gives us, we give back."
Which is, considering audiences' responses, quite a lot of shit. On tour, the band has succeeded in pissing off crowds in Salt Lake City ("These big dumb Mormon goons say, 'We've killed people,' and I tell them that Joseph Smith won't let 'em into heaven or whatever," says Welchez), Baltimore ("We got our tires slashed after a show") and Tampa (to the crowd: "When you're masturbating tonight, boys and girls, I want you to think of us").
His fuck-all attitude is a thinly veiled ruse, a distraction from Welchez's intense passion for playing. On record (last year's Dissertation, Honey and the If You Cut Us, We Bleed EP), Plot sounds like scientists trying to clean up after an experiment gone sorely awry: bluesy guitar riffs like MC5's; lyrics about alienation, politics and sexuality; and song structures that owe as much to Cap'n Jazz as Chicago post-rockers Gastr del Sol and fellow San Diegans the Locust. Their ambitions are so grand you can hardly blame these kids for being a little presumptuous. It's just their reaction to mediocrity, Welchez explains.
"Maybe I'm jaded, but I prefer that bands have some integrity," he says. "Franz Ferdinand, Interpol—all of them are ripping off shit, but none of them will admit that. Interpol will be my favorite band when they're in their caskets. If they have a plane, I hope it crashes."
So naturally you ask: If these bigger-name bands are nothing but nostalgia acts, who (if anybody) does Plot rip off? Welchez—a part-time substitute teacher at a special-ed school, which could explain his confidence in front of crowds—answers somewhat awkwardly after a long pause.
"No band goes into it attempting to rip something off," he finally says. "We're influenced by the Sex Pistols and other bands . . . so I guess that makes us hypocrites, too."
It does. But it also makes them brutally honest. Which makes up for it.