Plastic Dents is the musical brainchild of Austin based musician Justin Mendoza. Their latest album “quessstuin223” is a captivating collection of atmospheric synth pop songs and lush soundscapes. I sat down with Justin to talk about their early musical experiences, how they started writing and recording music and the making of “quessstuin223”. Check out all things Plastic Dents here.
CMM-What was the first music that really made an impact on you as a child and what artist did you enjoy the most?
Justin-I was mostly into various forms of pop and rock music as a kid — some of my earliest musical memories are enjoying the 80s mix CDs my parents would play on repeat in the car. I was also heavily influenced by the Rock Band and Guitar Hero series of games — their musical lineup of alternative and classic rock acts was great for a young music fan like me. Mid-2000s adult alternative radio was also a hit.
I don’t think I had a favorite artist or an “a-ha” moment, I think it was more a realization that music was exciting to me. It wasn’t until middle school that I stumbled across The Beatles discography, alt-pop bands, concept albums, and soundtrack music — I’d say that’s what really revved up my interest. There was more out there than I’d originally thought, and lots of it was dramatic and weird!!!
CMM-When did you first start making your own music and how have the sounds you’ve been creating evolved over the years?
Justin-I’d briefly played a few instruments in grade school, but my interest in making music really manifested after experiencing pot and psychedelics — I was probably 19 or 20 — I’m 27 now. I started messing around on GarageBand iOS one day, and a song came out — “You Know I Never”, from my first album Warped Static. I’m still proud of it, and I think it’s a good memory of when I first began my journey.
I made quite a bit of my discography just recording and creating on my iPhone, using whatever gear was around or given to me — it was only after I’d finished the songs that I’d bounce them to my computer and melt them together to form an album. I’d say that’s what gives some of my earlier stuff a rougher, unique quality: I’m not all that good at production and recording yet. Most of my early stuff isn’t even mastered.
Now I mostly use Reaper on an old laptop and I’m slowly gathering more gear to get a better recording setup going. The sounds have certainly gotten a little better fidelity-wise, but I try and keep the roughness intact somehow. I still occasionally use my phone as a mic, or to make tracks on GarageBand iOS though; for instance, I returned to that approach on one of my most recent projects “somber/sins”. I felt that particular recording method would accentuate and help me bring out the rawness I was trying to dig into and portray on that album.
I’ve experimented with quite a few sound palettes and genres in which I’m often meshing digital and acoustic elements. I’d say I try a different approach every project or two — I’ve always liked and respected artists who aim to surprise and follow their muse, no matter where it may take them.
CMM-Your latest album “quessstuin223” delves beautifully into the world of synth pop and lush soundscapes . What was the recording process for making the album like? Any particular gear you used that really helped shape specific parts?
Justin-Thank you!!! It was a blast to create!!! I completed the whole process in about 2 or 3 days. I was inspired by a whimsical drawing my buddy Alfredo Ortega did (featured on the cover art) and went from there.
I just got some new gear as well: the NUX Steel Singer, and the DigiTech Main Squeeze Compressor/Sustainer, as well as an old Casio CTK-496 mutual jammer Deep Lovinz gave to me. I also used a pedal called the Space Spiral by EarthQuaker Devices, which was gifted to me by fellow musician BLÜÜ — that thing is lots of fun and can create pretty wonky fx and delayed feedback soundscapes.
I used the pedals on most of the tracks, running my guitar and keyboard through them. All the elements mentioned created the right environment to let my instincts take over and make the project I was quickly envisioning.
CMM-If you could do a score for any film director who would it be and what would the film be about?
Justin-“I’ve always wanted to do soundtracks!!! I’m incredibly into David Lynch films, and I love the scores he and Angelo Badalamenti came up with. I imagine it’d touch upon his usual themes of the liminal space duality reality we live in…perhaps it’s set in a slightly surreal and hazy anachronistic 80s Seattle with noir elements, shot in black and white. The hungry effects of media saturation and loneliness eat away at the lead character’s sanity. I can already hear the icy pads, cold production, jazzy touches, ghostly vocals, disturbing pop tunes, phantom drums, and terrifying drones…”
CMM-What’s next for you? Any new recordings/shows etc etc?
Justin -I’ve got quite a few Plastic Dents albums and EPs in the works, including two collaborative EPs with an online friend and frequent collaborator against realism/silent now. As far as shows go, I’ve only done a few, but I’m currently trying to get back out there into the gigging scene and put on curated events of my own. Otherwise I’ve been seeking more collaborative projects: starting a free improvisatory band, making music more frequently with people in-person and online, reaching out to fellow artists for music videos or cover art…I think only bigger and better things are coming down the pipeline soon, so keep an eye and ear out!!! Thanks so much for the interview and interest, this was a lot of fun!!!