Friday, August 9, 2013

Interview With Farewell Fighter

One of the up-and-coming bands we're huge about at MuzikDizcovery is Nashville's Farewell Fighter; I had a particularly timely connection with the band's music as it carried me through the tumult of high school. I had the opportunity to speak with members Kenny Fleetwood (guitarist/lead vocalist) and Lee Morton (guitarist/supporting vocalist) about the band's latest release Challenges--which is fantastic, by the way--the process of developing the album, and what the band's plans are for the future.

You guys talk about themes that are fairly universal in your music, even if they’re mostly about growing up; but the pop-rock genre usually draws a much younger crowd. When you write your lyrics, do you have a young demographic in mind, or do you try to make it more accessible to everybody?

Lee: I can definitely say that we write about things that happen to us. For example, we have a song on our new record that is a direct response to our band breaking up ("Bridges"), but we definitely try to word our own experiences in a way that people can relate to. Songs can mean one thing to one person and something completely different to another person, and we’ve always tried to keep that quality about our music. Even now, I can listen to old songs that we’ve written and gain something new from them. It’s pretty cool.

If you look at the audiences at your shows, for instance, what walks of life are the audience members generally from?

Lee: All sorts, which I think comes from the fact that our music is pretty universal. We don’t like to exclude anyone from what we’re trying to do. Our whole message is that we’re ALL trying to grow into ourselves and find our purpose, and we get as much from our relationship with our fans as they get from our music, if not more. So, we see a lot of different types of people at our shows and that’s the way we like it. Variety is the spice of life.

This album is interesting in that it’s technically only half an album. How did you end up bringing in your last EP into this one?

Lee: Well, we were really proud of our last EP, so when the option to record a full length came up, we all felt like it was a great opportunity to give those songs a new beginning. We’re hoping that releasing them with the new songs will put them in front of a new set of ears. Those songs have been our pride and joy for a little while so we’re excited to see how they do with our new fans.

The sequencing on this album was interesting for me. Was there a rationale to ordering the tracks? Was it just whatever sounded good or was there a different logic to it?

Lee: There was definitely a lot of deliberation when it came to ordering the album. We had a great one-two punch in "Well Wishing" followed by "Growing Pains," so we definitely wanted to start the album off that way. We also knew that we wanted to end the album with "Where I Belong" and it’s transition into "Golden," but everything in between was all pretty carefully calculated.

Kenny: We wanted to keep the album very dynamic, so we had to really think about how everything was going to flow in order. I think we did a pretty good job of keeping the album interesting throughout. At least I hope so. Haha.

How many new songs did you record for this album?

Lee: We recorded six new songs for this release. The first three were recorded with Josh Cain up in Minnesota, and the rest were recorded with Nick Curtis here in Nashville. Of course we had some other song ideas that didn’t make it onto the record, but we feel like it definitely turned out the way that it was supposed to. We’ll save those songs for another day.

Kenny: I’ve got a hard drive literally packed with song concepts that may or may not ever see the light of day. Barring a catastrophic failure of technology, hopefully the prior will prevail.

Does this mean we’ll maybe get a few songs that were cut from this album on the next one, or maybe on some sort of B-sides compilation?

Lee: Well, we didn’t actually record any other tracks aside from the ones on the record because of our limitations financially (studio time isn’t cheap!), but we may revisit some of those other ideas sometime soon! We’ve had a whole lot of fun jamming some brand new ideas lately, though, so it’s hard to say weather or not those older song ideas will even see the light of day. Only time will tell!

The new songs are some of the most layered you’ve done, especially in terms of instrumentation. How did the instrumentation develop throughout the process of recording Challenges?

Lee: I think we’ve just evolved a lot as musicians and songwriters, honestly. When we first started playing, I think we subconsciously limited ourselves to the instruments we play. As time has gone on, though, we’ve started to really open our minds in terms of instrumentation.

Kenny: A lot of the extra things that went into Challenges were ideas that I came up with while just messing around on Garageband or Logic, and those little ideas would turn into other things. After successfully writing a few songs with some different instrumentation, I think we started to realize that the sky really is the limit with our sound.

Lee: Who’s to say we can’t have strings, flutes, and didgeridoos in our music? You never know what you might hear from us in the future. That’s what makes it exciting.

What were some of your influences (in terms of bands or just artists)?

Kenny: Major influences included Passion Pit, Transit, Vampire Weekend, Happy Body Slow Brain, Frank Ocean and tons more. We’re an eclectic bunch of dudes when it comes to our music.

You include curse words for the first time on this album. Did anything inform that decision?

Kenny: A whole lot of frustration, haha. We didn’t sit down and say “we should really say some curse words on this record to make it fresh and edgy.” We transitioned from worrying about keeping things PG and more into keeping things real. The words in our music are absolutely the words we would use in conversation. We prefer to keep it that way because that’s what music is: a conversation.

This album has your first ballad in “The Bend.” Was that an interesting song to write? How did its development differ from your typical songwriting process?

Kenny: I was actually laying on the floor of our van on our last tour trying to sleep when the first verse came to me. It’s interesting because it was the first line that was written for the newer songs, but that first verse sat around for about 8 months before I finished writing the second verse. That didn’t happen until literally minutes before I recorded the final vocals in the booth at the studio that day. That song is quite literally my introspective suggestion into what this life is really about.

One of the symbols you constantly go back to is a cartridge: on your debut, you said you were looking for one; you still don’t have it on The Way We Learn; and you’re still looking for it here but you think it’s a waste of time. What do you think is the meaning in that?

Kenny: We have this running theme in our lyrics regarding a color printer cartridge that is sort of a metaphor for success, and for a second we literally thought “The Bend” would be the last song we’d ever record together. That had a massive impact on the way the bridge on this track fleshed out and the whole song really is one big story that eludes to the defeat of our band as it was. Luckily, the story didn’t end there. It only started a whole new chapter.

Do you plan to include a reference in every album from now on?

Kenny: We’ve always been a band who rolls with what is thrown at us. Musically speaking, we’re more confident than ever in the heights we’re capable of reaching in terms of our sound. To say we know what our next record will include or sound like would be a stretch. Your guess is as good as mine.

What is your personal favorite song off of Challenges?

Kenny: My personal song off Challenges is "Epitaph." We’ve never delved too deeply into the world of strings or the more jazz chord variations. To say we’re a pop/punk band and then have this be the first song someone who had never heard of us before hear would be pretty perplexing. I like that about that song.

What song do you think will be your favorite to play live?

Kenny: I already know. "See" is a BLAST of a song. It’s got every bit of dynamic level that our entire record spans in just under 3 minutes. I can’t get enough of that song in the practice space.

What places would you especially like to visit and tour in the future?

Kenny: Australia, UK and Brazil. The entire world, really, but those three are really on our radar. The fans are really vocal in those places. We see you guys. Hopefully we’ll do it with our eyes soon enough.

One weird request: my friend Dahyun loves you guys and she’s been having a hard time with college applications lately. Could you please tell my friend Dahyun hello?

Kenny: Hi, Dahyun! Don’t worry about the college applications. The process is a whole lot more stressful than the result and the ride that follows. You got this. ;)

It was a pleasure to find that the band is as nice and encouraging as its music is to everybody who listens. A sincere thank-you to Farewell Fighter for taking the time to do this interview with me, and for those of you who'd like to know more about the band, you can find Farewell Fighter's page here, stream Challenges in its entirety here and read my review here.

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