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Plaid Brixx, a local alt-pop band, will perform at Fashion Meets Music Festival on Sept. 3. Credit: Courtesy of Paul Cunningham | Cool World Photography
Plaid Brixx, a local alt-pop band, will perform at Fashion Meets Music Festival on Sept. 3. Credit: Courtesy of Paul Cunningham | Cool World Photography

Columbus’ Own: Plaid Brixx to bring indie pop to fashion festival

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For Chris Duggan, Teen Vogue is the best place to find inspiration.

The songwriter and lead singer for Columbus alt-pop band Plaid Brixx cites teen magazines as an ideal place for finding the kind of trendy buzzwords that lead to song titles for the group.

“(The magazines) are always trying to be catchy and creative with their titles,” he said.

Duggan — along with bandmates Mark LeRose, a 2015 art education graduate from Ohio State, and Jared Sawaya — are set to perform in Columbus on Saturday as part of the third Fashion Meets Music Festival.

The trio performed as part of the first FMMF in 2014. After taking a year off, the group is ready to return to the arena district festival.

Duggan said he places a strong value on supporting the Columbus music scene and keeping local roots.

“Any band that finds success outside of Columbus, that stays in Columbus, is good for every other band in Columbus,” he said.

Duggan returned to Columbus after graduating from New York University’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music.

After the move, Duggan reunited with LeRose, a former bandmate from high school, who filled the role of drummer.

“I was living in a studio apartment, writing a bunch of sad songs on guitar,” LeRose said. “I had not been playing in a band in a little while, so I was itching to get back in bands.”

Sawaya learned keyboard in order to join the group, in which he also covers bass and, occasionally, electric guitar.

Since its formation, Plaid Brixx has traversed across the spectrum from alternative to pop. The group’s debut EP, “Chemistry,” featured pop punk-tinged electronica in the vein of groups such as Cobra Starship and Metro Station.

On its latest EP, “Plaid Brixx,” the band took on a more dance-pop sound, abandoning guitars entirely in favor of synthesizers and programmed instrumentals.

Genre doesn’t serve as a limitation for the band, said LeRose, who added that the group values a willingness to adapt to changing tastes.

“We aren’t trying to stay nailed down to a genre,” he said.

The transition in sound came, in part, due to the recording conditions. The band recorded in Los Angeles with Duggan co-producing alongside The Agency, a production team that has previously worked with hip-hop artists including Wiz Khalifa and Lil Wayne.

Duggan said the absence of guitars in the studio further influenced “Plaid Brixx.” Still, he said the future sound of Plaid Brixx is not defined by this release.

“There’s no reason we can’t go back to a more rock sound,” he said. “The key goal is just to make really good product, really well-written songs.”

One consistent aspect of the band is the importance of maintaining creative control.

The band has independently released both of its EPs, a decision that Duggan said came down to artistic independence.

“I think that before you get in bed with a label in this day and age you really need to think about it,” he said. “I think, in the majority of cases, they’re going to try and homogenize.”

Duggan said working without a label has allowed the band to control artistic direction, efficiency and spending. However, the approach does involve more work.

The work splits between band members. For example, LeRose handles artwork and Sawaya often focuses on curating the band’s live sound.

Sawaya and LeRose have also worked to create a cohesive backdrop for Duggan’s songs during live performances.

“Our role is taking what (Duggan and his songwriting collaborators) have and translating it to the live show,” Sawaya said.

The band took a break from Columbus performances for a while to prepare a new live performance, which it will feature at FMMF.

Duggan promises an energized set from the trio at their 1:15 p.m. set on the Donatos Stage during FMMF.

“We’re not one of those bands where everyone sits around and smokes pot and drinks beer all the time,” he said. “It’s a workout to put on the show we do.”

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