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31 May 2019

Graduating Into Stardom: Pluko Comes to Splash House as a Rising Electronic-Music Artist

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Pluko, aka Sam Martinsen. Pluko, aka Sam Martinsen. Scarlett Rayner

Pluko could be the next great electronic music artist—even though he’s only 18 years old.

Within days of his high school graduation, he’ll be appearing at Splash House in Palm Springs, on Sunday, June 9.

Pluko (Sam Martinsen) released his album Sixteen on ODESZA’s Foreign Family Collective label last year. Before I called Martinsen for our scheduled phone interview, I listened to Sixteen as it rained here in the Coachella Valley. I found it calming—as if it were made for a rainy day. Strangely enough, Martinsen said that’s what influenced it, in a way.

“I think my biggest inspiration for Sixteen is where I live,” Martinsen said. “I live in Central Pennsylvania; it’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere. I’m constantly driving around and getting inspiration from being out on the road. The summer, when I spent a lot of the time writing the album, was pretty dreary and rainy. A couple of the more-uplifting songs were written when it was sunny out.

“What really made me want to write that album was my headspace and where I was in my life. It was also where I was at in terms of actual location.”

I asked Martinsen if he approached electronic music as a music composer.

“I like to think of it being more like that,” Martinsen said. “I definitely put a lot more care in the detail and the emotion; it’s not really the traditional DJ mentality. I’m not a DJ. I’ve never done a DJ set as Pluko. It’s been all live-set shows.”

Sixteen includes two tracks that feature guest vocalists.

“The stuff that I do is mostly by myself, because it’s hard to get other people to understand what you’re trying to do,” Martinsen said. “It’s much easier to explain when it’s done, and you can show them. But with the song ‘Asleep,’ MOONZz really understood what I was trying to do. We really worked well together. We both got what we wanted and what we were envisioning for that track. But it’s hard to get everyone to understand what your vision is.”

ODESZA not only signed Pluko to their label; the electronic-music duo personally supported him as he took the final steps in releasing the album.

“When I first started talking to them, and they said that they wanted to do the record, I figured I’d be talking to all the people who work at the label,” Martinsen said. “But as soon as I was on board, I was on the phone with them right away, and they were sending me e-mails and notes. I went to one of their shows to meet them for the first time. They were really welcoming; they are super-great guys. It was such as a crazy feeling to have that support right away and for them to be so genuine and helpful with the entire project.

Sixteen was pretty much done when we were trying to find the home for it. When they said they were going to give me an e-mail with notes, it felt very nerve-racking to see what they had to say. Once I got all the notes from them, it really made me feel good, because most of it was positive, with just a little bit of critiquing here and there. To have the support of two guys who I’ve listened to since I began making music—it was a really crazy feeling.”

Martinsen was focused on film and photography while growing up—until he suddenly found the inspiration to make music while in middle school.

“I never played an instrument when I was growing up,” Martinsen said. “I would go to my sister’s band and orchestra concerts, and that made me not really want to see anything with music, because it was so boring, and I was so young. I’m someone who gets really involved when I find something that I’m excited about. I dive in, and I work as hard as I can. I discovered the world of making electronic music, and I was super-interested in that. I just kept working at it and finding my sound.”

Being in high school while also being a rising music star was tough at times, he said.

“Once I started to make more of a name for myself and get more traction with shows, it was difficult to be able to do those shows, because I was still in school,” he said. “… I always found time to make as much music as possible, even if that meant not hanging out with friends and (instead) staying inside making music. I was willing to do whatever it took to get better and make music I was happy with.”

Martinsen will be releasing a mixtape right around his high school graduation, CLASS XIX—just before Splash House.

“The mixtape is going to have a brand-new and refreshing version of the Pluko sound and vibe,” he said. “It’s a lot more summer-y and a lot more upbeat. It’s a mixtape, so it has a lot more energy behind it, and it’s a lot more fun. It’s something I really haven’t done before. I’m putting it out right before summer, and I want it to be something people can throw on and enjoy.”

Splash House’s June edition takes place Friday, June 7, through Sunday, June 9, at various venues. Passes are sold out, but may be purchased through a fan exchange; after-hours passes remain, starting at $45. For more information, visit www.splashhouse.com.

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