There are very few 19-year-olds who have almost 600,000 monthly Spotify listeners, over 50 million streams, support from Odesza, and the ability to say that they are about to release their second album. Pennsylvania native Sam Martinsen, better known as pluko, checks all these boxes.
Today, he announces his second album COLOR BLIND, which is set to be released on May 29th. pluko joins forces with artists such as Panama, Nate Traveller, ilo ilo, and Cassette Tapes, which caps off his most heavily collaborated album to date.
We got the opportunity to talk with Sam about his origins, the story behind the album, his clothing line Splendid Society, and more.
Coming from Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, can you describe the culture there when it first came to launching the pluko project? Were your friends and the surrounding community supportive of your artistic endeavors?
My hometown is pretty small and there was absolutely no electronic music culture here when I first started becoming interested in making it. It’s mostly a sports and school focused town, so what I was doing was definitely not typical for your average Hollidaysburg student. When I first started I was made fun of for making music, but that didn’t last long. It was definitely a rough start as far as how my peers adapted to what I was doing, but as soon as they saw that I was starting to see some success, most of the negativity stopped.
I don’t like to point fingers or blame anyone for not understanding my ambitions because honestly, I don't think that anyone around here had ever seen anyone doing what I was doing at the time. Kids (and teachers LOL) had no idea about the world that I was trying to build for myself so they just instantly felt like they had to be rude and judgmental about it. It’s sad but humanity’s natural reaction to a situation that they don’t understand is one of negativity and judgment. Now pretty much everyone has silenced their negativity. I do have a few close friends that have been supportive since day one. They’re also artists as well. They do different kinds of art, but the lifestyle is pretty similar for most artists.
At just 19 years old, you are about to release your second album COLOR BLIND and have already released an innovative mixtape, which is an accomplishment that not a lot of dance artists hold. What have been some contributing factors that have allowed you to produce quality music at such a fast pace?
I work very quickly and also get bored very quickly, so I find myself writing at least one new song a day. It’s a blessing and a curse though because I start so many ideas but get sick of them and never finish them. It usually takes someone from my team or one of my friends to say “hey, this is good dude, why don’t you finish it?” for me to get the idea to go in there and finish it. I don’t know… it's a weird problem that I have, but I’m always just thinking “I could do better, I could make this cooler” and so I am always starting new things. And honestly, I know that I actually could do better because every time I start a new idea, I’m always improving and always pushing my boundaries a bit more.
My favorite music I’ve written is always the music that I’m currently working on. I also have this natural sense of urgency, like, if I don’t put out this music ASAP, I’m only going to hurt myself. It’s just like this feeling that every single thing in my life is do or die and has to be done as great as it can and it has to be done right then and there. My team can definitely attest to this [laughter].
You did more collaborations than ever before on COLOR BLIND, with artists such as Nate Traveller, Panama, ilo ilo, and Cassette Tapes. Who was your favorite artist to work with, and can you take us through the creative process of building that track?
Damn, I definitely can’t answer this one correctly. All of these people have been so great to work with in every way possible. All of the collaborations on this album have their own little story and came together in such different ways. “higher” was written by 2 people — myself and Panama — in 2 different countries, strictly over email. “used to” and “blessings” were both created and recorded in person. Some of the collaborations were done with producers and it was awesome to expand my creative perspective.
The track with ilo ilo actually started with a completely different instrumental that the ilo ilo guys had been working on. When I heard the vocals it guided me to go with a more dark evening feel than what was already going on. So, I took the vocals from our existing collaboration and just started something different. I love the process of collaborating because you never really know what’s going to happen or how the song is going to end up sounding. I love all of the people that helped out on this album and I’m so thankful for all of them.
“higher (ft. Panama)” was recently released. Panama has been an influential artist in the past with releases through Future Classic and collaborations with artists such as Petit Biscuit. Could you tell us more about how this collaboration came to fruition?
The collaboration with Panama started with a conversation in January of this year. I’ve been a huge fan of Panama for the past 3 years and had never even thought to reach out about a collaboration. One day I just thought, “why not?” and I sent a message over to Jarrah. We started sending ideas back and forth and just caught a vibe! I really like to work with vocals that are already written as it can really speak to me. It can tell me where to go with the music and I think that’s really powerful. Jarrah’s voice is one of the most beautiful and unique voices out there. He’s such a great guy and an incredibly talented soul.
You released CLASS XIX around your birthday and are planning to do the same with COLOR BLIND. Can you explain what makes this time of the year your sweet spot for dropping new records?
This is actually really funny because it’s so true! I always end up wanting to put music out around this time. I think there’s something about that pre-summer excitement that has always made sense to me. In my own experience, music that has come out between April - July has always been my favorite music: Life of Pablo, DAYTONA, Skin, Leak 04-13. I could go on for days. I also think my music makes the most sense in the summer, especially the most recent batch of tunes. My birthday just so happens to be around the same time so it works out well as a way to celebrate the work I’ve put in other the last year. I am very fascinated with time and its importance to my life and music. So yes, you can be expecting the album in May [smiles].
About a year ago, you formally announced the founding of your clothing brand/record label Splendid Society. What inspired you to get involved in the fashion industry and what is your vision for the record label division?
My best friends and I dreamed about making a brand since we were in 9th grade. We came up with the name Splendid Society but never did anything with it. It wasn’t until the last year or so when I was like, “okay, it’s time to do this thing!” It was perfect timing and I’m glad we waited. Splendid Society is kind of the roof over all of my creative ambitions, whether it be music, fashion, or anything else. It’s a home for creatives, but also just a brand for good people doing good things. It’s fun coming up with ideas with my friends and it’s so cool that we have created a home for all of our work and ideas.
Fashion is something that all of us are very passionate about, and I think that fashion and music are much more closely related than most people realize. Brands like Gucci and Burberry have direct connections to rap music nowadays and it seems like almost every hip-hop song has some sort of fashion reference. And, honestly, this goes for all types of music. It’s almost as if what the artists are wearing is just as important as the music itself. We’re living in such an amazing time right now. I want to continue putting everything into designing clothes with my friends and I want to turn Splendid Society into a label as well. I think it would be so cool to be able to sign artists that I discover and give them a platform to showcase their work.
You are going to be unveiling a new line of exclusive merch for the album through Splendid Society. Would you like to give us some insight into the new drop?
I am so excited to release the designs that I’ve been working on. We’ve got a ton of cool things lined up for this collection. I’ve never actually done any sort of pluko merch before either, so I think this is going to be a really cool moment. The collection is kind of a PLUKO x COLOR BLIND x SPLENDID SOCIETY collaboration. I’m so excited to share these pieces and, more importantly, I’m excited to see people rocking that new merch!
After the release of an album, it would be normal for you to go on tour. Given the circumstances, do you have any alternative plans or ideas that can cover that area?
This is a tricky situation. We were planning on doing lots of touring for this album, but clearly everything is on hold at the moment. We have been brainstorming a lot of different ideas to still have some sort of live experience, so definitely keep your eyes open for that. We are still going to be touring in support of the album, but it just might be a little later than we had hoped it would be. But, on the bright side, I’m putting out more music this year than I have ever released, so people are definitely going to have plenty of pluko!
What are your plans for the pluko project for the remainder of 2020?
I have so much more in store for 2020. This is going to be an absolutely massive year, so keep those eyes peeled! Lots more tunes to come.
You can pre-order COLOR BLIND here.