Monday, November 14, 2011

Fake Problems Interview with front man Chris Farren and guitarist Casey Lee

Photo by Bryan Sheffield
 Fake Problems, the Naples Florida group made up of vocalist/guitarist Chris Farren, bassist Derek Perry, drummer Sean Stevenson and guitarist Casey Lee have gained a great deal of attention since the release of their second full-length album, Real Ghosts Caught on Tape. On this record, the band flawlessly combines a wide variety of genres to create a unique one-of-a-kind sound. Currently the group is working on new songs for their next full-length record.
I had the chance to briefly speak with guitarist/ vocalist Chris Farren and guitarist Casey Lee, before their show with Carter Hulsey, A  Rocket to the Moon, Plain White T’s and Never Shout Never.
For more information on the band, and latest tour dates please check out their website:
How has the tour been thus far?
Farren: it's different. We been touring for six years, and it's the first time we've ever been on a tour like this before. I mean, we've been on the force before but we haven't played for such a youthful audience. But it's cool because I think about how excited I was to go to a show when I was 13, it's really exciting. We’re shaping their brains to like the music.
Lee: They’re that young that their skulls are still soft. They're basically newborns, so that's how we are shaping their brains, physically. I go out into the crowd every night and do at least five or six. Want to know how I make them? Long. Real long. So in about 10 years, you see some guy walking around anywhere we go with a really long face, you'll be like "Hey have you ever seen Fake Problems live?” An they’ll be like “no, I just have a really long face (Laughs)."
Farren: “Yeah, people ask me that all the time (laughs)."
As far as new music goes are you guys working on anything new right now?
Farren: We’re just writing I guess. We’ve been talking with Ted Hutt, the producer of the last record, just making another record. Is coming together kind of slowly, but are we definitely writing as many songs as normal.
How does the writing process normally pan out for you guys?
Farren: Usually all write a song on my computer or acoustic guitar, and then we'll just bring it all together and write our own parts to it and everything like that.
Are you a continual writer?
 Farren: Like constantly? Any time we’re at home, I'm writing songs.
Listening to the last album, you guys definitely seem to pull together a variety of genres. Why doyou think that is so? Is it because you guys have completely different influences?
Lee: Yeah, I think it's because we have different influences and we are all over the board anyways. It makes sense that sounds like a mishmash.
Farren: Also, definitely on our last record I think it all comes to a cohesive level or point.
What kind of genres do you think mix in? I hear a bunch of different stuff personally.
Farren: We used to be pretty heavy on country, I’m not to say it's gone away, but it's definitely not the primary thing anymore.
Why do you think that is?
Farren: Once you do something for long enough, you're like “well, I know how to do that. Let's see what else I can do." On Real Ghost Caught on Tape, we tried to make classic pop arrangement songs, a lot like the Phil Spector and Girl Group arrangements. That was the emphasis for sure.
Before you guys began writing and recording, did you have an idea of what direction you wanted to go in?
Farren: Not before we began writing. Usually how will go is I will probably write 20 songs and there will be like five, that sound like this, and five that sound like this. There are a few different directions, whatever direction we are most excited about steers us.
Are they for songs? Or are they just ideas?
 Farren: Yeah, they're always full songs. Sometimes they might just be acoustic, but rarely will I just bring a riff or part of the song. That seems like it would be annoying, four people trying to write one song (laughs). I mean we all write the songs, but that would specifically be a weird process.
Casey do you bring any songs in specifically?
Lee: I would never (laughs), let them be part of the genius in my brain. I don't think they deserve it. Everyone else is pretty good, but I don't know if you noticed, I'm pretty amazing.
Farren: we do have one Casey's songs on How Far Our Bodies Go, called “Crest on the Chest.” We named it after his own tattoo (laughs).
Lee: I did not name it. I was too distracted with shaping heads and writing more genius ideas down.
Who are some people that you guys are into right now? Anyone you specifically see shaping your music?
Farren: I have just been listening to podcasts. I'm really into podcasts right now.
Which podcasts?
Farren: I like Comedy Big Bang, Professor Blastoff, WTF, Adam Corrolla, the Nerdist, the Judge John Hodgeman and This American Life.
Lee: I like a few the podcasts.
Farren: Casey and I are going to make our own podcast, called “Gabbin’”. It's just, at least once in seen I try to go for a walk around town that we are in, like maybe walk to Starbucks, and just the whole way there we talk about stuff and then we play some games. Casey has some games where the stakes are that if I guess some correctly…
Lee: I will buy whatever he want wherever we go. I usually pick where we go (laughs).
Farren: I can't think of any music right now, specifically.
What were some of the main influences when the band began?
Farren: They were mostly “saddle creek” bands like Bright Eyes, Cursive, the Faint and Rilo Kiley. Just all the kind of early 2000's indie rock. That got us into more classic country music.
Like who?
Lee: Randy Travis (while pointing at was shirt). We have a 7 inch of a Waylon Jennings cover, so that makes us cool (laughs). So if anyone is listening or reading, if you are wondering if we are cool or not, I am. We are.
I'm excited to see you guys play tonight, and I've heard you guys have a pretty energetic show?
Farren: These shows are some of the funniest shows that we’ve ever played, because the crowds are so different.
Do you find yourself calming it down when you're on stage?
Farren: No! I kick it up a notch for sure. When I'm playing shows, I don't feel as judged as I normally do. I'm free to do whatever I want. Don't get me wrong, I love playing with The Gaslight Anthem and Murder by Death, but the crowds consist of a bunch of old jaded dudes. These kids are just impressed by you walking out on stage (laughs).
What do you have coming up after the tour?
Farren: We are going to be home for the holidays and then I don't know! Write 20 or 30 more songs? Who knows?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Graham Colton Interview Part 2

Photo by Josh Welch
After a number of years of doing the whole “major label” thing, artist Graham Colton has returned to his independent roots where he began. Colton’s most recent release, Pacific Coast Eyes Volume 2, includes all of Pacific Coast Eyes Volume 1, plus several new songs and remixes. I had the chance to sit down with the singer/songwriter before his recent sow in Atlanta to discuss a number of things including his latest release, embracing social media and future plans for his music. Also, please check Graham's special acoustic performance of "Everything You Are" below! 

For the latest news on Graham, including tour dates, check out

How has the tour with Matthew Mayfield been thus far?

Colton: The tour has been good. It definitely feels like I am kind of re-connecting the dots in a sense, but also there is definitely a new audience that is coming out. Which kind of makes me feel old, but I realized that when I first started I was super young. It’s going really good man.

So is it kind of a younger audience?

Colton: No, you know it’s weird because it is such a wide range of people that come to the shows. Some people know me from my first album, some people know me from the stuff that is floating around the internet and some people know me from the new record. It’s been cool, because I feel like every night when I play, it kind of feels like that whole group is kind of coming together.

Have you heard any specific feedback from the people that first heard about your music via social networking and sites like

Colton: Yeah, for the last six months it definitely feels like I’m sort of reaching people through social media in the right kind of way. I feel like I’ve been late to the game with the whole Facebook/Twitter thing, because I always thought it was cheap. But, when I started really using it and trying to be myself when using it, which is the hardest thing. Some people use Twitter and Facebook, and they are really funny, while others write motivational sayings and stuff. I just never felt like I was either one of those things, and I think I have found a good way to be interactive using social media, but still make it be about the music first. I feel like a lot of people are really responding to that. I really get a kick out of talking to everybody. Anybody who writes me on Facebook or Twitter, I make sure to write them back. If they are going to take the time to write me, I definitely think I should write them back. Which is awesome, because when you are on tour you have the iPhone with you all day and so you get to interact with people constantly.

Has anyone come up to you at a show and thanked you for writing them back on Facebook or Twitter?

Colton: Yeah, I don’t know how cool it makes me. I think it makes me less cool, but that’s okay. I will be less cool to show my appreciation for people that write me all of the time (laughs).

Right now you have Pacific Coast Eyes Vol. 2 out, so the obvious question would be why a second volume and not a new EP? What sparked the remixes?

Colton: That’s a good question, being an independent artist again there really aren’t any rules. I have spent the last six or seven years on a major label where one formula exists. You write twelve songs, you release them every two or three years and you tour on those songs, or you try to get those songs only out there. Now it is a totally different landscape. The new songs that I wrote for volume two didn’t feel like a new EP, they felt connected to what I’m doing now. So I didn’t necessarily do a new thing, I still wanted it to be a part of this new album Pacific Coast Eyes and so far it’s working.

Do you think that the album, Pacific Coast Eyes, didn’t get the shot it deserved?

Colton:  I think as an independent artist, because it isn’t getting major marketing, it is never going to get “the shot.” But, I also think that with albums these days, as long as you are moving forward and not trying to re-create things and looking back, albums are like living breathing things. They change, they evolve and it’s this big thing that you are trying to get out to people. To me, whatever you can do to get it out there, do that.

Photo by Lauren Leone
What are some of the bigger advantages of being an independent artist?

Colton: The biggest thing is that you are in control of everything. You get to call the shots and you have complete creative control. That was certainly instrumental in making the album and writing the songs. There isn’t a person(s) looking over your shoulder saying “well, we really need this to be a single” or “this song needs to lean more towards ‘top 40’,” or “this song needs to be in this certain radio format.” For the most part, it has given me the opportunity to think “small” again. Which I know that sounds counterproductive, because I have been doing these ten years now and I think the idea is to get bigger, and bigger and bigger. Really, I’ve found that the last six months for me, since I have released the album, now that I’ve started to think small and began interacting with people on the ground level, touring more and meeting just one person at a time(Facebook, twitter and in-person). That has really served me well. When you are on a major record label, you’re just forced to think big. You are forced to think about things like “how many radio spins did we get this week?” or “how many albums did we sell across the country. Being independent, you are just focused on the city that you are playing in tonight. How many people can I meet and become friends with tonight. That’s one of the great things about being an independent artist.

Is there anything you really miss, in terms of working with a major record label?

Colton: (laughs) I mean you certainly miss big album budgets. I was nice to have a bottle of wine in the studio every night that I could expense. But to be honest, I do think that the way that I made this album I can kind of hear the passion that I put into this album, not to sound too corny. I really pulled every favor that I could. I sang a lot of the vocals in my friends’ living room and put guitar amps in the closet. There was no big studio and there was no big budget, and I hope that comes through. I hope people really hear that I did it myself. I really did.

How does the writing process pan out for you now, after ten years plus years? Do you have a set process, or is it all over the place?

Colton: It’s all over the place. That is the most exciting thing about where I am. Everything that has happened to me in a good way, I never thought in a million years those things would happen. Now that I have achieved those things, there’s kind of always another mountain to climb. The exciting part about sitting down and writing songs, playing shows, or being a musician in general is that you never know where those songs and that music is going to take you. There’s such a cool feeling about that the phone could ring tomorrow and someone could say “he guess what? your song…” That really is cool.

Are you a continual writer?

Colton: I write all the time. I do find myself kind of having seasons where I just don’t want to write anything, and nothing’s coming out. I’m not inspired by anything.

So it’s never forced…

Colton: Every time I’ve tried to write where it’s pencil, paper, light a candle, glass of wine, or whatever, it just doesn’t work. It always seems to fall out of the sky. I have dozens of memos on my iPhone where I am just singing. “Pacific Coast Eyes” was written in my rental car and I just had most of that idea and I just sang it to my phone.

Did the idea for “Pacific Coast Eyes,” come together in clumps or did it all come together at one time?

I had the girl from the story in my head, before anything else. I just kind of saw her. I saw her packing up her care and driving to the west coast. Then I kind of had the instrumental part and the vocal part, the “ba ba ba” part(laughs) if that makes sense. It is amazing when you try and write songs without an instrument. It kind of forces the melody to be honed it. It has to be good. A lot of what I think are my best songs were made without an instrument.

After this tour what do you have lined up?

Colton: This tour goes until December 17th, so there will definitely be a break for Christmas and the holidays. In January, I have a couple of possibilities lined up. I find myself in this spot of not really knowing what’s next which is really exciting. There are songs that I’ve written that are very, very different…

Different in what sense?

Colton: I don’t know, it’s weird. Different instrumentation, a different spot in my voice, totally different themes that I am writing about and that’s scary and exciting all at the same time. So I don’t know, but I know January is a month where I am definitely going to catch my breath and look at these songs and figure out if they are “Graham Colton” songs, or if they are maybe songs for another project, or whatever that means. It is the first time really ever in my career, where I have thought to myself “these songs are coming from a totally different place, and it scares the living crap out of me.” We’ll see.

Have you ever flirted with the idea of setting up another project?

Colton: Yeah, I have. I’ve just started to flirt with that idea. I’ll just say we’ll see. I just know that the songs that are sticking with me that kind of started out as this exercise, they are just becoming a reality pretty quick. I’m not sure what that’s going to look like yet.

Are the songs looking like they are cohesive?

Colton: They feel like they are all cohesive, they just don’t feel like the songs that I have been writing for the past ten years. I am definitely going to chase it down in January, because that will be a really good time re-examine everything. It’s a good feeling you know.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

La Dispute Interview with Front Man Jordan Dreyer

Combining elements of progressive rock, screamo, blues and soul, La Dispute aims to create a unique and passionate experience for their listeners. Their latest release, Wildlife, has gained a great deal of praise from critics, as well as fans since its October 4th release. The band is currently on tour with Thrice, O’Brother and Moving Mountains, delivering a must see live performance. For the latest La Dispute news, check out their site
I had the chance to speak briefly with front man Jordan Dreyer and discuss the new record, Wildlife.

How has the tour with Thrice, O'Brother and Moving Mountains been thus far?

Fantastic, man. Three incredible bands, three unbelievable groups of people--every night has been
A blast to this point and I don't see how that could possibly change from here to the end. And, on
Top of the abundance of good people, the shows have all been really, really great.

Your latest LP. *Wildlife,* dropped earlier this month to rave reviews. Are you guys surprised at?
How well it's been received?

Honestly, I try not to pay too much attention. It's enough for me that we're all immensely proud
With the end product after so, so many months of work. What people think of it is kind of
Arbitrary in that sense, although I'd be lying to you if I said it didn't mean something when
Someone gravitates towards it. Obviously you want people to enjoy what you've done, and you want
People to find something in it that they enjoy or that resonates with them personally, but if no
Does it's alright. We put a lot into making this record and we're really happy with how it turned
Out. But, again, it's amazing to see people singing along and to hear from them that it means
Something to them. It's just an added bonus.

Before writing and recording the album, did you guys have a direction that you wanted to take the
album in mind?

We had a concept pretty early on, but as far as how that was going to play out we didn't pre-plan anything or pick a direction to pursue sonically, that just kind of happened naturally. Three years passed since our last full length, and with it three years of growth and experience. If anything, the record's sound and direction is just a testament to the passing of time, and three years more making music, hearing music, and making friends. Of course, having a specific concept in mind influences tone and mood a bit, so there's that, but as far as arrangement and style and all that goes, it just kind of came together.

How did the writing process pan out for this album , maybe in comparison to your previous releases?

Previously we've almost always worked music first and then lyrics but we wanted this record to be more cohesive and more collaborative so we started with a story or a theme and built the song accordingly. Some stories required structural direction, and some needed to capture certain moods, so we'd sit down at practice and discuss amongst everyone and someone would either write a part to push those things across or they'd bring out a part they'd already written that they felt fit. Sometimes they'd take the ideas home and hammer out a whole song and then bring it out at practice where we'd all give our ideas and adjust it as needed. After everything was done musically I'd sit down and put the actual words down. It was definitely a different process, but we're all pretty happy with how it worked.

How does a song normally come together for you guys? Is it a collaborative process?

Definitely collaborative, but to varying degrees depending on the song (see above). It almost starts with one person's part or idea, but we assemble the actual songs at practice bit by bit as a group.

Specifically, how did "Harder Harmonies" come together?

"Harder Harmonies" started with a part that Chad had written. I had an idea for a song and typed up a summary of the idea for everyone to read and Chad suggested the aforementioned part and we built it from that. The biggest thing to consider for us when writing that particular song was the structure, specifically the end where everything kind of falls apart, and that was very much a collaborative effort amongst the five of us.

The album seems to have an overall lyrical theme, was this intentional?

Yeah, absolutely, but a lot of different themes came out in the process that we didn't plan for, which I think is probably pretty often the case when creating anything. You never really know what will come out until you sit down and fully immerse yourself in what you're doing. And then who knows what other people will take out of it when they listen, that's a whole different conversation. It's an interesting thing, really, the artistic process or whatever, and then people's interpretation. It's one of the best parts about any art. But I'm rambling. So, as I mentioned earlier, we had a concept early on in the process and along with that concept came certain themes that definitely show up consistently and intentionally throughout the record.

Who did you guys work with during the recording process? What attracted you guys to work with them?

Friendship. But seriously, as corny as that sounds, that's the first thing that really attracted us to working with the people we did, being our friend Andrew who plays keyboards in Thursday and his friend (and Steve from Thursday's brother) Joe who is an exceptional engineer. We started talking with Andrew while we were on tour with Thursday a while back about working together and then made it happen for the two splits we did last year. Long story short, we were happy with how those two things turned out, and we built a really strong relationship in the process, so working with them on "Wildlife" was a really easy decision for us.

What would you like for listeners to take way from the album?

I don't know, to be honest. Or, maybe more specifically, I don't want to say. For the most part, the intention in writing this record was to leave it open-ended so that people could take from it whatever they wanted or needed when they listened. I have my own ideas and I'm sure my band mates do as well, but we really just want people to take from it what they want.

I had the chance to see you guys play live at the show in Atlanta, and put on an amazingly energetic show. The crowd participation was unreal! What kind of advice would you guys have for band starting up, in terms of creating a good connection with the audience?

Again, I don't really know for sure. I don't think there's a formula for success other than work hard and be honest about what you do. More and more people see through gimmicks and people will take to you on a personal level if you put yourself out there personally. Being dishonest or fake or having some sort of marketing angle might sell you records but it doesn't have any lasting power. At least I don't think so, but again, I don't know. I'm not an expert. I only know what works for us. And every band is different.

Who are some people that you have looked up to in the past in terms of live performance and stage presence?

Well, a long time ago Zack from Rage Against The Machine made me want to be in a band and a little while after that Cedric from At The Drive-In, but the bulk of the people that inspire or influence me now are all friends of ours. Kyle from Pianos, Jeremy from Touche, Chris from Hostage Calm—the list is pretty extensive. We're privileged to know a lot of immensely talented people and being around them so often is inevitably inspiring.

What do you have lined up, after the tour ends?

Nothing concrete at this point. Some time off, Europe and Australia at some point, and then a headliner in the States in the Spring sometime. Details to come.

Perfect day, driving with the windows down, what are you listening to?

Changes with the day and the weather. Right now, in the spirit of Fall and being from the state of Michigan, "Our Own Wars" by Small Brown Bike. But there are so many great records out there. "This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About" by Modest Mouse is a great one to drive to, as are "Lonesome Crowded West" and "The Moon and Antarctica." Anything Mountain Goats. I don't know. The list is endless.