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Plus One plays what it wants

Isabella Thatcher (left to right), Martha Thatcher, Jade Bates and Samuel Thatcher play during the Malibu Community Alliance’s “Summer Soulstice” event on June 21. Photos submitted
Isabella Thatcher (left to right), Martha Thatcher and Samuel Thatcher pose in an undated picture.
Chris Bashaw, Assistant Editor
1:18 pm PDT July 8, 2014

“When you go into the arts, everyone wants to immediately tell you what you are,” said Martha Thatcher, representing 25 percent of Malibu’s newest local band, Plus One. “But it gets hard and messy when you start to label things.”

Primarily a cover band, at least this early in the game, Plus One is comprised of Thatcher, her siblings Isabella and Samuel as well as her best friend – “since the second grade,” she said – Jade Bates.

The quartet’s first gig occurred during the Malibu Community Alliance’s “Summer Soulstice” event on June 21, but the musicians didn’t even have a name for their band until 30 minutes before they hit the stage.

“We kind of just made up the name in my car as we were driving there,” Martha said, explaining that Plus One was essentially derived from Bates’ presence in the band, which was the “plus one” to the Thatcher family trio.

The band members pool their musical tastes and cover whichever song from whichever artist they feel like. That can range to anything from tunes by Stevie Nicks and Iron and Wine to Dixie Chicks and Crosby, Stills and Nash. What’s more, Martha has penned a few songs with her siblings about “geeky” movies and television shows such as “Star Trek,” “The Lord of the Rings,” “The Hobbit” and “Dr. Who.”

In short: These teenage Malibu musicians don’t care what you think because they’ll do as they like, but they mean that from the sincerest parts of their warm hearts – and with good intentions. For them, Plus One pays respect to the freedom of expression in spite of whatever someone thinks, and Martha said she personally finds solace in the “safety of uncertainty.”

Part of that uncertainty stems from the fact that Martha said she would rather forgo any labels for what the band is in terms of its musical style, although adjectives such as “enthusiastic” and “quirky” are A-OK.

“I prefer avoiding labels, but I don’t mind those that show who we are as people as long as they do not limit our band,” she said. “I think that labeling puts you in a box and as soon as you say you’re one thing, people expect you to be that one thing and they get angry if you try to do something else.”

When the band plays, Martha sings and pulls a bow to and fro on her violin; her sister, Isabella, plays cello and sings while Samuel strums out rhythms on his guitar – which, Martha said, can be acoustic or electric depending upon whichever he feels like doing in the moment.

All of the members contribute to percussion, which is a sort of nod to their mother – a classical composer who writes for silent films – who Martha said often jokes she had children for the same reasons farmers have children, except they help her with various percussion instruments instead of tending to fields.

“Everyone does percussion because we don’t know what exactly we’re doing, but we just go for it,” Martha said. “That’s just how we’ve been raised.”

Bates sings along with the Thatcher sisters and can play piano, but hasn’t done so yet for Plus One, which is something Martha said she intends to “coerce” Bates into doing, eventually.

A lot of the time, Martha said, the band’s dynamics ends up being “girls versus boy” situation. 

“Jade, Isabella and I can work for hours and not realize the time goes by before Samuel said something,” she said. “I think a big thing is that we’ve been working with each other for so long that someone will start singing something and someone else will sing a harmony and then we come up with a song that works.”

But although Isabella and Samuel will continue their education at Malibu High School this fall, Martha and Bates are recently graduated from Malibu High School and will respectively attend courses at Marymount Manhattan College in New York and University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

Even if 50 percent of the band’s going to be wrapped up in college studies in different locations, however, Martha said it’s not necessarily a death toll for the newly formed band.

“Whenever we’re together, the plan is to keep the band together and keep doing it,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that we found this just now when everyone’s going away, but we’re going to try to play as much as we can and keep it together. I might even fly out of New York if we get a good gig.”