“The first band I really loved was the Beatles, and then Michael Jackson and kind of anything that was around the house,” says Plini. “At some point I found Steve Vai and that led me to all those guys – Joe Satriani, Yngwie. You know, all the iconic shredders. Then came Dream Theater and I also started getting into reading about bands, not just listening to them, so I got into Guitar World and Metal Hammer. That led to metal bands like Lamb Of God, Trivium and all the guys that were playing metal, but with interesting guitar parts and cool riffs. That then led me to Meshuggah, who are one of the only metal bands I still listen to religiously to this day, like five times a week.”
A quick listen to some of Plini’s catalogue and you’ll hear heavier influences and lots of big guitar moments. However, there’s definitely more to Plini’s guitar persona than just shred. “In the past few years I sort of decided that I didn’t hate jazz anymore,” he says. “There was a time when I didn’t like jazz because I didn’t think it was as powerful, which is kind of ridiculous. I guess I’ve wisened up and broadened my tastes and I now basically listen to anything with a good singer or good player or good production.”
Composing new music can often be as time consuming as the recording process itself, so how does Plini actually create new tunes? “I sit around with a guitar and fumble around until something seems cool,” he says. “Then I’ll go from there and try to build it up and add layers and different instruments. I sort of steal from all the bands I like, so I’ll try to combine a groove from Meshuggah with chords from a pop song and stuff like that.”
With luminaries such as Steve Vai singing the young Australian guitarist’s praises, there has been much anticipation for Plini’s latest release. Asked about the origins of the title Sunhead, Plini casually remarks, “I saw the cover of Gojira’s latest album Magma and there it is – a sun with a face on it. So I wrote in my phone Sunhead. I’ve got a list in my phone of words and phrases that I’ve seen or heard that eventually become titles for things.”
Simple as that, the EP title was decided on. Plini goes onto add some depth and context to the relevance of the title to the actual music. “I guess I realised at some point that the general vibe of the EP was positive with bits of darkness, and I think the word ‘sunhead’ is super bright because of the sun, but could also be dark and mysterious as some ancient evil god.”
Containing four tracks, Sunhead covers heavy riffs, odd time grooves, beautiful melodies and dense arrangements. The opening tune, ‘Kind’, tastefully sets the scene for the rest of the EP, combining accessibility and some quirkiness to boot. “I think that song [‘Kind’] is definitely the simplest song on there and the only one that’s strictly in 4/4,” says Plini. “To me, that’s a pop song on guitar. It gets a little weirder than a pop song, but there’s really only one main melody and one main riff, and the whole thing is just playing around with those. I think that’s sort of where I’m at for the moment with composing. Trying to take an idea that I feel is strong and then exploring it in as much detail as possible rather than trying to throw together eight pretty good ideas in a row.”
Continuing the use of guest artists and collaborations, Sunhead also features Devesh Dayal from Skyharbor, UK saxophonist John Waugh (known for his work with The 1975) and American jazz guitarist Tim Miller.
Plini keenly recalls Miller’s involvement. “He improvised that solo whilst he was travelling around Europe. He’s nuts. I’ve been listening to him for quite a while and ran into him at NAMM. He teaches at Berklee and had actually taught some of my songs to his students, so he knew of me and I was like, ‘Holy shit, I love you.’
“We kind of stayed in touch, and with the recording I had that solo spot left to record before it was done and I was going on tour. I was trying to mimic and after a couple of hours of failed attempts I thought, ‘Fuck this,’ and I hit him up and said, ‘I’m trying to be you, could you be you and play a solo on this track?’ And it kind of worked out.”
Sunhead is available now on Bandcamp, Spotify and other streaming services.