Fair To Midland interview (07/2012)
|With:||Darroh Sudderth, Matt Langley, Logan Kennedy, Ryan Collier|
Fair To Midland
Saturday, July 7, 2012 I had the pleasure of sitting down with several members of Fair To Midland before their show at Track 29 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The previous night I saw their performance at The Valarium in Knoxville, and what amazing show to see twice! After their sound check I sat down with Logan Kennedy (drums), Ryan Collier (bass), Matt Langley (keyboards), and Darroh Sudderth (vocals). Guitar player Cliff Campbell couldn't join us for the interview but happened to walk by at the end just in time for the group photo.
Susan: So how's the tour going so far?
Logan: It's been a lot of fun. It's been hot. Besides the heat, everything's been really cool.
Susan: Cool. Now you guys were just touring in Australia, right?
Susan: So, it sounds like you guys kind of tour like crazy. What's coming up for recording and what's after all the touring?
Logan: I think the idea right now is just, we'll finish this leg up and maybe take a little time off, you know for writing purposes. We might knock out another tour before the end of the year but we'll focus primarily toward the end of the year on demoing some new stuff.
Ryan: Yeah, we've got a lot of ideas we're working on but it's really uncertain exactly what we're going to do next.
Susan: What are some of the directions you're thinking about?
Logan: I don't necessarily think that we're thinking of a certain direction; just, you know, whatever comes natural.
Ryan: Yeah, just let it happen.
Susan: Nice. Who does the songwriting primarily, how do the songs get written?
Logan: I think in the past Darroh has been a main focal point as far as writing goes. I think we're all, you know, decent enough musicians to where we can all kind of sit at a table and throw it all together.
Susan: Do you ever just jam stuff out?
Logan: Whenever we have a chance to.
Matt: Yeah, don't get many chances.
Logan: Whenever there's been an opportunity, yeah.
(Cliff opens the door and sticks his head in, the guys laughingly say SHH!! Interview!)
Logan: Well, hello there, Cliff Campbell of Fair to Midland. Enter!
(Cliff goes back out, everyone laughs.)
Susan: And I assume, Darroh, you're responsible for most of the lyrics?
Susan: I love all of the turns of phrases and interesting puns you come up with. Do you have any writers that you draw inspiration from or do you just enjoy writing like that?
Darroh: Before we did the first… I guess the debut album that was under the major label that got internationally released, Fables, I put together just a whole book of colloquialisms and turns of phrases and all kinds of little fun words like that, because I've always been a big fan of stuff like that, too. So, I'll write a lot of stuff and kind of refer to that and replace things sometimes if it fits or make sense.
Yeah, I spent like two weeks before we went to Toronto to make that record, it's basically like my colloquialism/phrase/cliché dictionary that I just divided up into sections. You know under "people" I'd put like "busy bees" or "worry warts" or "doubting Thomas" or stuff like that, little characters like that. Then, also, adverbs, little prepositional phrases that might suit some of those things. I just revert to that if I want to get some weird stuff.
Susan: It comes out really well in the lyrics. A lot of people really enjoy it.
Darroh: Thank you very much.
Cover art for 2011's Arrows & Anchors
Susan: Can I ask a little about your vocal technique? Because I was really impressed last night at the Knoxville show with how you sounded, like you do such a wide range of styles on the record and then you did it all live last night.
Darroh: Well, I'm a little over ambitious. The hard part is replicating it live. I get too over ambitious when I write half the stuff and then we go out on tour and I'm like shit, now I have to do that in front of people. When I'm on I'm decent but there's just as many times that I'm off. And I'm sure we've lost plenty of fans because half the time they want to come out and hear me do half the shit I do on the record and if I'm sick or something else is going on then, you know...
Susan: Have you had vocal training?
Darroh: I've had a little, not much. I was in choir when I was in middle school but that wasn't really applicable in pop and rock music. When we were making Fables my voice went out and I had a guy come out for two days and just from probably 9 in the morning to 9 at night he just kind of shoveled everything he could at me and I have it all recorded so I'll just go to that sometimes if I need help or if I think I'm having problems. So, never extended vocal training.
Susan: Just a little crash course.
Darroh: Uh-huh, I taught myself. I didn't originally want to be a singer.
Susan: You started off as the bassist didn't you?
Darroh: Well, I tried, yeah. And then we went through a bunch of singers and Cliff talked me into doing singing. The 8-track that I usually have, which is stuck at an airport warehouse somewhere (the other guys laugh) is what I've more or less taught myself to sing on. I'd more or less record my voice then listen back and see what I liked and what I didn't and see how I could change it and if I couldn't change it, like I say if I wanted a fast, like an over exaggerated fast vibrato like an Eddie Vedder or something like that then I was like, well, I can't myself so I'll just do it manually, just start tugging on my throat. Just… I'm not talented, I'm just resourceful. Which, I guess in and of itself is a talent.
Susan: That's totally a talent.
Darroh: But... I don't know if I do it the right way. Pretty damn certain I don't.
Matt: Yeah, he's not talented. Anyone could do what he does (they laugh).
Darroh: Well, I sincerely believe that, I just work my ass off figuring out how to do it.
Susan: Well, you guys have such an eclectic and unique sound.
Susan: I'm really curious about personal influences, both from you guys (I gesture to Darroh and Matt) who've been here for so long, and from you two (new members Ryan and Logan), maybe what we can expect creeping in in the future. Who are some of the musicians and bands who've influenced you?
Matt: Tori Amos and Nine In Nails.... J. S. Bach, A Perfect Circle.
Susan: Nice. How long have you been playing keyboards?
Matt: Off and on since I was about 4.
Susan: Good! Can I ask what equipment you use?
Matt: I play on Korg right now. But... yeah... so, they keep breaking so I don't know what I'll be on tomorrow.
Logan: He's going to iPad (they laugh).
Susan: What about you, Darroh, any singers you admire?
Darroh: Not particularly, no.
Susan: Or bands you've loved over the years?
Darroh: I mean I grew up on a lot of classic rock, stuff like that. Honestly, the more I got into vocals the more I listened to music that had a lot going on, harmonies, stuff like that. I built more of an appreciation for like the Beach Boys, The Who, where everyone in the band sings and they add all sorts of counter melodies and harmonies… some crazy shit going on.
I mean I listen to everything under the sun. Also, by that token I've been getting into a lot of bluegrass 'cuz they have all the crazy harmonies. Now, I listen to a lot of stuff built on vocals.
Susan: Can we expect to hear a little bit more bluegrass inspired stuff? You play the banjo too don't you?
Darroh: I've got a solo song that's straight bluegrass that I've done
Matt: It's really good.
Darroh: I don't know if I'll do anything with it or if it'll ever see the light off day, it was just an off thing.
Susan: How long have you played banjo?
Darroh: Oh, I'm not that good. Even on the song that I did I had to double it, punch in, punch out, because I suck at it. I've been trying for like a year but I still have to, the same way I learned guitar, I just basically make up my own tunings, make it sound like I'm better than I am.
Susan: Also that goes back to a special talent.
Darroh: Yes, being resourceful (laughs).
Susan: So, Ryan, how'd you find these guys, or how'd they find you?
Ryan: I've known them for probably almost 8 years. I'm from LA, I was in some bands in LA and I was trying to network and we were branching out and stuff and they came to LA and I was actually at their first show in LA, I was like the only person in the whole entire room.
Matt: Yeah, he was.
Susan: It's meant to be.
Ryan: Yeah. And their manager came up to me, he just handed me a CD so I started listening to it and I was like, oh, this is different, this is cool. They came a few months later and I went down there and saw some people I knew and there was kind of a buzz generating about them and I've just been friends with them ever since, and networked with them and played shows, swapped shows and stuff like that.
Susan: That's awesome. What kind of music are you into?
Ryan: Oh, all kinds. I don't know, lately it's just been whatever rocks.
Susan: I know what you mean. Do you have any favorite bassists?
Ryan: When I was first picking up the bass I was listening to a lot of Chili Peppers and trying to pick up on Flea's style, because that really stuck out to me. That's one I can think of off the top of my head.
Susan: I noticed in the show last night, you guys, especially you and Cliff, had an amazing rapport. Like you'd do that thing where you run toward each other and run into each other... it looks like you've been in the band a lot longer.
Ryan: Yeah, yeah, it was just like seeing them and seeing their energy, and I had my own energy and other things I did so it's just like I couldn't wait to get up there and just do that, you know, with Cliff, rock out with everyone up there.
Susan: Logan, how did you stumble upon this band?
Logan: It's sort of a similar situation to what Ryan had, I think I met them back in 2004 or 2005 at just a lousy show in Arkansas one night, one of their stops on tour.
Darroh: As opposed to one of the good ones in Arkansas?
Logan: Yeah, yeah, I mean it wasn't one of the best shows… I just stayed in contact with Cliff and the other guys. I would come to see them play if they were close, if I weren't on tour, and just played with random bands and played with them from time to time. Just got a call from Cliff one day and I think 15 or 16 days later I was in Texas, running through songs for the first time.
Susan: That's exciting. Are you from Arkansas?
Logan: Yeah, Little Rock.
Susan: What other kinds of bands were you playing with, mostly metal?
Logan: Uh, no, just whatever was available. And I would even conform to styles just to be playing, just to have something to do. Anything to keep me from working dead end jobs.
Susan: Yeah. Seriously.
Logan: Yeah, no particular style. Just as long as it's energetic.
Susan: What kind of equipment do you like?
Logan: Equipment, well I guess as far as cymbals go I've always been a Zildjian fan until here recently, I started playing a bit on Meinl cymbals, which Pepe from Kyng has an endorsement to. I've been talking with him a little about them and I'm actually going to meet up with one of the representatives tomorrow from Meinl in Nashville. So I'm pretty big into those guys, and Zildjian. Silver Fox drumsticks out of Boston. I'm endorsed to a drum company out of Chicago, Chicago Custom Percussion, for the last 3 or 4 years now. They've always been really good for me.
Susan: Awesome. So, how did you guys get hooked up with E1 and why did you leave Serjical Strike Records?
Matt: (to Darroh) You wanna take that? ….I'd rather you did.
Darroh: Just like the first time around, we got courted by a few different labels. We chose E1 because in all honesty what it came down to was if we were going to put out an album we wanted to make sure it was up to standards more or less with the last and they offered us the biggest recording budget. Because, I mean that's our legacy. Regardless of what kind of press we get, 10 or 20 years from now all it's going to come down to is the product. We wound up going with E1, as shitty as it sounds, for money. We didn't see any of it, but we were able to get a better producer and do what we needed to do to make the album we wanted to make.
We left Serjical Strike… just, I mean he's a very business savvy man and he's a good friend but he's got a lot on his plate and it was just… it just made sense for us. It's hard enough maintaining a relationship with one label much less one who's going to work as a subsidiary under a major, so then you're not only complaining and airing your grievances with the major, you're also doing the same with the subsidiary, and there's just more room, a larger margin for error. It just made sense he's doing all his solo stuff, then there was the rumor of System Of A Down doing reunion stuff and, it just made sense for us to try to do it on our own. It just wasn't good timing. I don't know if that sounds bad. Hopefully that's as politically correct as I can get.
Matt: Much better than I could have done (laughs). That's why I passed that one to you.
Susan: Do you have any fun stories of tour with them?
Darroh: With Serj?
Darroh: Not really, I'd kind of keep to myself. I would do stuff all the time: there'd be these idiot kids who wanted Serj's autograph and stuff like that (the guys start laughing). So anytime anybody would come up to me, or these kids would go up to one of us, of course they're like, "Where's Serj?" and, "Get me Serj's autograph," and I'd always be like, "Yeah, sure!" "Just give me that, and we'll go take it to Serj," or one of these guys would be like, "We'll take it to Serj" so there's probably tons of kids who don't know but they have my autograph as Serj. I'd even spell it wrong sometimes on purpose…
Matt: Yeah we'd sometimes spell it "Surge"
Darroh: Yeah, we'd spell it s-u-r-g-e.
Darroh: They'd be like, "thanks, dude!" and we'd be like, "Yeah! You bet." (laughs) But, yeah, not really any crazy stories.
Matt: You did walk on stage once with your shirt off and your hair all…
Darroh: Yeah, there were some end-of-tour pranks and I got the Robert Smith hair and walked on stage with a shirt off and acting like an idiot. I mean there's no cocaine off a stripper's ass (everyone laughs).
Susan: Well that makes a tour!
Darroh: You've heard our music and you've seen what we look like so, no.
Susan: Well, since you guys tour so much do you have any routines that keep you sane from each other?
Matt: Nah, not at all! (He laughs, grabs a bottle of whiskey, and pours some into his cup.)
Susan: So there's no drinking at all then. It's a completely dry tour.
Matt: It's not allowed… not professional ☺
Darroh: I very much enjoy my personal space and keep to myself as much as possible… and drink a lot.
(Matt takes a sip of his whiskey, says "Ahhh.")
Susan: So is E1 who hooked you up with producer Joe Baresi for Arrows & Anchors, or did you meet him separately?
Darroh: We tried to reach out to a few people but we kind of tried to... we always wanted whoever is going to reach out to us because then they're sincerely interested in the project. And we don't have to sell ourselves on them, like, "please, it's a great album." We're not good salesmen; that's not going to happen. So if they're already sincerely interested it's more likely that they're going to spend more time, more personal time since they're sincerely interested in the project. So, we went with Baresi for that reason.
We did talk to other people and there were other people that were interested but yeah… he kept contacting us and had a good track record with bands like Queens Of The Stone Age and stuff like that.
Matt: That was a selling point for me, Queens.
Susan: Nice. This last album was the first you worked with him on and you can hear the difference. How did he work, how did he get that out of the product?
Matt: A lot of vintage type equipment, a lot of old school methods, and just being willing to... I don't want to say "sloppy" but just let the chips fall where they may. You know, it's a rock record, it's not supposed to be perfect and polished it's supposed to be rough. It's kind of the album we wanted to make; he was perfect for it.
Darroh: And people weren't necessarily expecting that after the last record, which was so polished. It still had a place but you know I think a lot of people like that sound. Not everybody's a "muso" so they hear a lack of, I don't know... it's not as polished.
Susan: In a good way.
Matt: Yeah. And nothing wrong with the other album that was polished, it's just that we wanted to try something different.
Darroh: They're both good albums.
Susan: It really works. Do you think you'll work with him again?
Matt: I would.
Darroh: I wouldn't, just because I don't want to make the same album twice.
Susan: Makes sense. Do you guys have any favorite songs to play live? Or ones that are just really difficult?
Matt: Live songs…
Logan: I think I have as many favorite new songs equally as I do old songs that we play. And it's really hard to say that a certain song is your favorite.
Darroh: What about our most difficult?
Logan: Hmm... I really like "April Fools And Eggmen." You know, energetic stuff of course.
Ryan: I always like the stuff with more energy but it has to be few and far between because, you know that one song, "Dance Of The Manatee," is probably the one we use the most energy on so if we don't play that last, which we haven't been, it's like you kind of have to save something, that kind of thing. We would play that last in Australia and it's great because it's like, there's no song after that so you can just not worry about it.
Susan: Let it all out.
Ryan: Yeah. For difficult I think the first song is difficult for me in the set, everything's just brand new, it's always been "Whiskey & Ritalin" since I've been in the band, and I'm more of a finger player and in that song I play with a pick and it's just been like, it was a little awkward at first. It's just the first song we play and it tends to be more difficult than the others. But, I'm used to it now.
Logan: I like the entire set that we have right now, every song is fun.
Susan: Well, I was happy with it last night. How about you guys (gesturing to Matt and Darroh)?
Matt: "Amarillo Sleeps On My Pillow." It's one of my favorite songs in general.
Logan: That's a good one.
Darroh: I don't know if I necessarily have a favorite… most difficult would be… "Amarillo" is pretty tough because it's so gruffy and then I have to try to do the high shit in the end. Anything that has a lot of the higher stuff in it. "Dance Of The Manatee" is pretty hard to sing. To consistently sing.
Susan: Oh yeah, did you have someone teach you on the throat singing at all?
Darroh: Nah, I tried to teach myself how to do that. I'm still working on that.
Matt: I'd say he did it. I'd say he DID teach himself.
Darroh: It was funny while we were in Australia, too, because you'd hear me and all of Dead Letter Circus all just backstage all the time just like (imitates throat singing), everybody just doing that and trying to throat sing…
Matt: It sounded awesome doing that.
Darroh: (laughs) So, people would walk by like crew or like staff workers at the venue, and just hear a bunch of people grunting in a room, wondering what the hell is going on.
Susan: That would have been amazing.
Darroh: They probably thought there was some sort of aboriginal thing happening.
Susan: Well, a lot of Metal Storm readers are in Europe, do you have any plans on heading back there?
Darroh: It's very expensive. Flights are expensive.
Ryan: We're working on it!
Darroh: I'd love to. But there's no telling. One of our favorite words we always use is "tentative."
Logan: Yes, it's tentative.
Ryan: Certain things have to happen for that to happen but I think it probably will happen…
Darroh: Only time will tell.
Susan: Well, that's about all I have for you guys. Any last words on the future of metal?
Matt: (looks at Darroh and chuckles) Do we have any last words on the future of metal?
Darroh: I've got some words for the current state of metal.
(they all laugh)
Darroh: And not nice ones.
Ryan: It's going to be a do-it-yourself industry.
Susan: Absolutely. Well I really appreciate this, guys! I'm a giant fan so this was pretty amazing. Thank you so much.
Band: Thank you!
Yours truly with the band after the interview.
Posted on 17.07.2012 by
Susan appreciates quality metal regardless of sub-genre. Metal Storm Staff since 2006.
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