Rock’s hottest new band had just completed a solid headlining set, but there seemed to be just as much buzz surrounding the opening act. “Did you arrive in time to see Plush?” Several local musicians and industry friends asked as we left the room.
Alas, I didn’t make it to Mars Music Hall in time to see the Plush band open for Mammoth WVH, at the concert on October 20, Mammoth singer / guitarist Wolfgang Van Halen performed in Huntsville, Alabama, while he was sitting on stage and wearing a protective boot, having sprained his ankle on his tour bus earlier. By the deadline, I didn’t get there until the middle of Mammoth’s opening song, the provocative hit “Don’t Back Down.” It was a pleasure to hear Van Halen lead his band through the rest of their Tool-meets-Foo-Fighters song set. They crushed him.
Still, I felt like I missed out a bit because this young all-female rock band Plush has extraordinary talent. Plush singer / guitarist Moriah Formica is one of the best upcoming rock singers in recent years. Range, feel, power. She has it all. Plush drummer Brooke Colucci, bassist Ashley Suppa, and guitarist Bella Perron can play rings around more than a few musicians over a few years older than them. Oh yes, the four members of Plush are under the age of 21.
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But all the chops in the world don’t matter if you don’t have songs and chemistry. The plush is flush with both. Their self-titled debut album is one of my favorite rock albums of 2021. There’s no filling among the 13 tracks, from the epic overture “Athena” to the closest soulful “Walk Away”. And in a rarity among young rockers, their ballads are not zero, as we hear on stars like “Sober”, “Sorry” and “Don’t Say That”. The album is available for purchase via trottoirmusic.com.
As far as musical alchemy goes, the band felt it from the start. The first time they got together was in a room above the garage at the Colucci family home. The first song they played was the metal pedal “Hate”, a more recent studio version of which has now been streamed over a million times on Spotify.
“I felt really good,” Formica recalls. “I was like, ‘I can’t believe this is the first time that we are getting together. “It was all there. The grooves felt good and the energy coming from our parents (who were also there) was really great to see. They had felt something in the room.
Formica, Colucci and Suppa, all from New York City, used to play as a trio before that. But once Perron, a student at Maine’s Berklee School of Music, was added, things really zoomed in. “Like when you do a puzzle and put on the last piece,” Suppa said, “that’s how you feel.”
Their formation solidified into a quartet, the members of Plush bonded even outside of playing, recording or performing. They went together to a concert by British glam rockers The Struts. They often dine together too, with sushi being a favorite. “You can’t really force chemistry with people, but with us it worked,” Formica says. “We kind of got lucky that way. I really believe we’re all meant to play together for a long time.
Formica first rose to fame – and props from Miley Cyrus, herself a powerful singer – in “The Voice” on television at the age of 16. Formica connected with Colucci, who had racked up millions of views on YouTube with impressive drum covers of Black Sabbath, Rush Songs and Metallica. When the duo released a vocals-guitar-drums cover of Heart’s classic rocker “Barracuda” in 2020, the video went viral. After watching this video, my first thought was, “These kids are going to make someone a million dollars someday.”
Colucci contacted Suppa, a former School of Rock classmate influenced by David Bowie and Cliff Burton. Next, the trio launched a social media call looking for a young lead guitarist. That research was boosted when Halestorm singer Lizzy Hale shared it on Hale’s social media. This brought Perron, a Randy Rhoads-inspired grinder, into the mix.
Plush recorded their debut album with producer Johnny K, who has worked with artists ranging from Megadeth to 3 Doors Down to Enuff Z’Nuff. The result sounds like an album meant to be played live. “One of our big goals was to make sure it sounded authentic, real and raw,” Formica said of the album The Plush, released on October 29th. “Don’t disrespect people who have a lot of production and stuff. We just have more of an old school vibe, while also bringing something new to the table. With this debut album, we wanted to make a statement.
The opening track “Athena” was written in the studio and named after Formica’s boa constrictor. The song started out as a guitar riff. Then Formica says, “We found this metaphor about love so intense that it can almost be compelling, like a snake.” Finding inner strength and overcoming challenges are frequent themes in Plush’s lyrics.
Some of Perron’s best guitar solos on the Plush album include the piroueting break on “Walk Away”. “I love that she’s playing with a Floyd Rose,” says Formica, referring to the wild flourish-allowing guitar tremolo system made famous by ’80s virtuosos like Eddie Van Halen.
Grooves slam throughout the Plush album. The band saves time on the track “Better Off Alone” and there is a nice dynamic on “I Don’t Care”. For Colucci, it’s all about instinct and being in the moment. “I try not to think too much,” says Colucci. “I just listened, and then whatever I play first is normally what looks best to me.” Of course, it takes many hours with an instrument before the music really flows like that. Growing up, Colucci was first fascinated by the drums watching live videos of her father Godsmack, especially this group’s drum battles between singer Sully Erna and drummer Shannon Larkin.
Suppa’s father is Mike Suppa, an accomplished guitarist whose playing was featured in the HBO series “Entourage”. Mike’s friendship with original Kiss lead guitarist Ace Frehley led Ashley to sing backing vocals on a Frehley solo record (2017′s “Anomaly”) when she was just 6 years old. “The headphones were too big for my head because I was so small,” Suppa recalls, adding that Frehley is like an uncle to her.
After hearing the music of hard-rock legends Aerosmith at the age of 6, Formica began to learn guitar, “and I fell in love with the music,” Formica says. “I knew this was what I wanted to do.” My video chat interviews with Plush take place during the winter holidays, and unfortunately Perron was unable to join us. According to an interview with v13.com, Perron grew up listening to his father’s Led Zep, Beatles and Kiss CDs. She got her first guitar on her fifth birthday, and her guitar inspirations include Joe Perry from Aerosmith and Dead DeLeo from Stone Temple Pilots.
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And no, Plush isn’t nominated for STP’s 1992 grunge hit. Formica says, “When we first got together, we were like, ‘OK, now we need a band name. And I think somebody in management or something threw out the name Peluche. It’s kind of a tongue and cheek because it feels so delicate and soft. Yes, we’re four young girls and you can stereotype us as delicate and sweet, but when we take the stage our energy isn’t that at all. Plus, it (the name Plush) just rolled over the tongue. It’s an easy word to remember. More than a few artists have released music under the Plush name in the past, so how this band got that name in 2021 is probably a story in itself.
Formica is proud to be in a group made up entirely of strong women. “But,” she adds, “I think it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that we’re just a hard rock band. The feminine thing is cool, but it shouldn’t be a big goal, in my opinion. For me, it’s not something that makes us a band. Plush’s favorite songs to play live include anthemic songs like “Sober,” “Champion” and “I Don’t Care,” the latter featuring a fun interaction with fans.
During their short existence, in addition to Mammoth WVH, Plush landed supporting gigs with artists such as Sevendust and guitar legend Guns N ‘Roses’ solo group, Slash. Formica says a tour opening for its heroes Evanescence and Halestorm marked a turning point for Plush as a live unit. “We were so locked up with each other every night.” In the spring of 2022, the band will have an excellent chance to convert many more fans, when they perform in Daytona, Fla. At the Rockville Festival with lineup consisting of Kiss and GN’R.
“When people tell us, ‘People are talking about you,’ it’s kind of like, ‘Wait, really? “, Says Colucci of the buzz around Plush. “We couldn’t be more grateful for all the love and support we have received so far.” Formica adds, “It’s a very humbling feeling that makes everything you’ve been through so far to get to this point 100% worth it. Suppa puts it this way: “It’s this great build-up that you have been looking forward to all your time… And it is unlike anything you could ever describe.”
Plush will be performing at Mars Music Hall in Huntsville, 700 Monroe St., 8 p.m. on Jan. 1 as the opening act for Sevendust. Tickets start at $ 34.50 via ticketmaster.com. You can also pick up that same ticket at 8 p.m. on December 30 at the Souk Kitchen, 219 Dauphin St. in Mobile. Tickets start at $ 35 via eventbrite.com. More info on .plushrocks.net.