Fallen From Grace: Rising To The Occasion
By John Foxworthy, Garage Radio [10-06-2003]
Rarely does a band come along that affects your psyche in such a way that you become addicted to their music. Fallen From Grace is just such a band; with only three members they produce a full sound that appeals to all generations on a level deeper than molecular. Their unique style sheds a new light on the question of what acoustic actually means. Using electronic back-ups to acoustic guitar pieces, Fallen From Grace are fabled to sound as good live as they do in studio. I was so impressed by their obvious capacity that I asked them for an interview. What I found were three musical geniuses, savvy businessmen and dedicated artists traveling the road to greatness.
[Garage Radio] How long have you guys been playing together?
Greg It's been about a year and a half now.
[Garage Radio] Has it been mostly practice?
Greg Yeah, doing a lot of practicing - actually, just to give you a run-down - three days a week we're in an office situation where we run the actual business. We have laptop computers; we make phone calls to labels, magazines for interviews and calling other bands that will play shows with us. That's basically how we get into all the venues. We put together our own press kits - really; we're our own business. We're our own secretaries, our own management and our own promoters.
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That's the way we are for now - we're building our own list of contacts as we move along, which is actually getting long and we do have a lot of resources that we use. Our manager's pretty well connected. He has a good sense of business, so he kinda paves the path for us - we follow him and, actually, it works out.
[Garage Radio] Your style of music is pretty distinctive. Do you ever find it difficult to shop your music to clubs and other venues or is it pretty well received?
Greg I think in the beginning, actually, it was kind of hard just because the development of the new sound. We've had shows with five people showing up and other times we're over capacity at some of the venues we play at - 500 plus.
I think once we got our following together we and started creating some noise at these venues we've been playing, people started to talk and our phones started to ring. People started asking us to play places, we developed a very professional looking press kit - we've had a lot of people comment on that. There's a lot of useful information that really digs into the whole background of the band. We have a little section called Quick Peeks - all the way down to what type of cologne we wear. It's a very personal layout. Also we send the full eleven-track CD, which is pretty professional looking. I think it opened a lot of doors for us, but with that said there are still a lot of venues we don't fit in.
[Garage Radio] So it's pretty important to you to have your fans and audience know who you are.
Greg We try to let people know as much as possible about us.
[Garage Radio] Give us a breakdown of your influences.
Greg In college I made a living playing solo acoustic sets in coffee houses and mainly all my influences were drawn from solo Folk acoustic musicians. Dave Matthews, Noel Gallager of Oasis, and Richard Ashcroft from The Verve - basically I think in the music that I write, a lot of those influences come out.
Steve Growing up all I played was Hard Rock when I learned how to play guitar, learning all the Rock riffs and I'd been doing that for so long I just switched over to, actually, the complete other end, which was doing Techno. That's about what got me into it - with the Hard Rock I was playing New York City clubs and stuff like that and just later education brought me up to, you know, playing Techno and stuff like that - but I was always influenced by bands like Incubus, Nine Inch Nails, Faith No More, Living Colour - those were kind of like the riff-oriented bands I got into.
Dave I was pretty much a DJ in the early '90s in New York City. The Rave scene pretty much influenced my earlier stuff, Techno, but there was always that soft spot for the female vocalists like Tori Amos, Sara McLaughlin, and Indigo Girls.
[Garage Radio] You're three guys playing like seven instruments. How do you pull it off live?
Greg That's a great question. We were waiting for people to ask us something like that, but it's more of a philosophical question than mechanical - so if you got a couple minutes I'll explain it.
When we started out basically we wanted to figure out what kind of sound we were developing and what kind of audience we wanted to capture by using electronic sounds and beats creating a familiar sound that resonated the acoustics Rock listeners. Basically, you have a lot of people that out to clubs on Friday and Saturday nights that go dancing and to watch and listen to DJs play other music. So when we started out to develop the FFG sound we realized that taking soulful acoustic guitars, soulful singing and a DJ spinning pretty much covered all those aspects S
basically doing it live.
Everything on stage is done except the bass lines. Steve was able to sit down and create the beats from scratch S
they're individually burned to CD and spun out live on stage in a classic DJ setup. What you can do is scratch over that on a separate CD. Unlike other bands, electric/acoustic guitars are performed live by the respective performer, piano and strings are played by Dave on the keyboards, and then the bass lines are mixed in with the beats. We're about to add a percussionist to the line-up just to add to the texture and also the action on the stage - and then as everybody usually says, 'when we get to be rich and famous' we'll hopefully bring in a nice 36 piece orchestra for shows, but for right now I think that the Roland keyboards are doing us just fine.
[Garage Radio] So you guys aren't really shopping for more band members.
Greg I think we have a handle on it right now. Like I said, we pull it off live on stage. There's no reason right now to bring in someone else. We have had people mention that the appearance on stage - what it actually looks like - when you're playing on an eighty foot stage, three people kind of get lost in the mix, so if we had to bring people in for that reason - that would be the only reason. We're able to pull it off - just the three of us musicians.
[Garage Radio] What are your audiences like? What would you consider are the musical interests of the main quotient of your fans?
Greg When we first started out we thought we were going to appeal to the usual college audiences ... our sound has pretty much a college flare to it. As we played it out the audience developed into college kids to suburban soccer moms. It's a very diverse crowd. We get mostly people from their mid-30s and up and then sometimes we get exclusively 21 to 30-year-olds. At the end of the day it's old and young. I think it depends on the venue as well
[Garage Radio] Do you guys have any music school under your belts?
Greg Dave and I are self-taught and actually I'm going to pass this question off to Steve because he's actually the one who has the education under his belt.
Steve The long and the short, I have a BA in music. I studied everything from education and playing down to spending a lot of time in audio recording, all of which - you know learning everything you can and then hopefully forgetting it all so you don't write anything too complex and too 'out there.' Where it helps out now - it's just a good reference for when we're writing music. Besides that, you know, studying that and as far as how much you use it and what you do just depends on what you're trying to work on - you know?
[Garage Radio] The music you produce is very powerful. Most of the time I don't even realize that it's mainly acoustic. I also noticed that you have a very professional, radio-quality mix on your CD. Who does your engineering?
Greg Actually, we do now. I'm not afraid to give him a plug right now. His name is Phil Mann at www.wideblacksky.com. He did an amazing job for us in the studio. Basically, he showed us how to make a commercial product.
When we were making this album we were at a crossroad - we weren't sure if we wanted to do what most bands do and just make a short demo - basically a basement recording - or do we really step it up and, you know, do the 'Full Monte' and make a professional recording. So that's what we did - we quit our jobs, sold our cars, went to the bank, asked for a nice, handsome loan and we just went all out. We hired an engineer; we hired a producer, spent about a month in the studio and just banged it out. And that's the product we were left with, which most people compliment us on.
[Garage Radio] Where does the inspiration for your music come from?
Greg Basically they're just the experiences of life, like most songwriters write about - women, family, and trials and tribulations that everyone else in the world shares. My life's no different than yours or anybody else out there, but I just have a knack for taking it and creating lyrical content. Unfortunately, some of the best stuff I write is probably from some of the lowest parts of my life. It all works out. You take it, you turn it into a song and that negative event turns into a positive.
[Garage Radio] You guys add some trippy genre blends in your music. I refer to songs like "Moments Away", where you present a kind of Caribbean feel with a Rock downbeat. Are these mixes something you experiment with a lot?
Steve You know, about 'Moments Away' - it's one of those times when experiments turned into a great crowd pleaser, I mean, probably, I guess, everything I learned in college that we talked about earlier, you know? We wrote it and it was kind of challenging in the beginning. Part of it is one guy will come up with a riff or a part and then seeing where the other guy is gonna take it, so that Caribbean influence you hear, or that sound wasn't necessarily the goal when we experimented - it's just what happened, and that's part of the writing process.
[Garage Radio] After listening to the CD I was blown away by the diversity you guys have. None of your songs sound the same. Is this planned or does it just happen?
Greg Actually, I'm going to respectfully disagree with you on this one, John. One of our goals in writing the album - if you can believe we had goals - was to create a sound that was unique and memorable. We didn't want all the songs to sound the same, but basically we wanted fans to realize when they were listening to an FFG track. There's always some piece in the music that, like, we like to call a signature move. Maybe it's a drum beat or a type of guitar sound, which we tend to use delay a lot, we just want people to remember it - even if they haven't heard the song before.
The order of the songs is important in telling a story and keeping a listener listening, but I think the diversity of the individual's background and influences in music really come into play in the making of this album and I think you can tell who actually spearheaded in the writing of each of these songs. I wouldn't say they all sound the same, I think there are little aspects of each individual track there that sound similar. Actually, next time I'd like to quiz you on who wrote each track to see if you can figure it out.
[Garage Radio] So, what kind of stuff do you guys do when you're not Fallen From Grace?
Greg We sleep. Honestly I think there are a lot of great musicians out there and I think this is where they fall down. Like I said, we quit our jobs and completely dedicated ourselves to this - both the music and business side. And, there are a lot of great musicians out there that go unnoticed because they aren't spending enough time and putting forth the effort to get a name for themselves and I think at the end of the day, signed or not, you just gotta say you gave it your best shot. I think all three of us sit here with our fingers crossed because we know that we have to pay bills.
[Garage Radio] What are you working on currently? Next CD, promotion, gigs?
Greg We have a lot of things going right now. As far as a new CD, we're getting ready to put together our sophomore album. We've got five new tracks that are ready to actually move into the studio with, so hopefully we'll be looking at releasing a CD at the beginning of next year. The band is currently headlining an abstract independent music series in Northern New Jersey - it's a little mini-tour that we're running around here, playing at different venues in North Jersey and it's a six month tour - we play twice a month and we get the top unsigned acts to come out and perform with us. We've been drawing heavily on that, so that's worked out very well for us. It's helping us add credibility back to the New Jersey music scene. A lot of people are traveling to New York City to find the new and upcoming acts and we're trying to, you know, make the acts that are in our back yard shine - that people tend to forget about.
[Garage Radio] So you guys are also interested in helping out new musicians too?
Greg Yes, of course! It is about the whole music scene itself. When we started off there were places we couldn't get gigs at, but because we knew somebody in another band that we'd spoken to one night they were able to help put our press kit in the right hands and within a week or two weeks we'd get a phone call - we'd get into these places. It's things like that we remember and, you know, we're gonna give back to other people. I think that's important rather than just shrugging your shoulders, playing your set and leaving the venue.
[Garage Radio] The radio - what do you listen to when it's not your own music? What do you like in the mainstream?
Greg Usually you'll find me listening to Coldplay, Radiohead, Chili Peppers, Incubus, U2 - but as far as like, the serious mainstream: Top 40 radio stations. I'm enjoying the whole Michelle Branch, Avril Levine, Linkin Park; anything with, you know, a tight melody, good catchy lyrics and I'll pass this off to the other guys.
Steve The same thing as, you know, Greg said for the most part. I'm always listening to Top 40 for the most part, because it's our business - pay attention to your competitors, you know - to see who else is out there. Besides that I'm probably listening to the same stuff as Greg. Again, from what I told you about my background, I have a tendency to go, like I'm waiting for the new Sevendust album and I do dig the new Linkin Park album, you know what I mean? Always into Incubus because I like the way they're moving around and I'm also waiting for the new Basement Jacks album or Chemical Bros. 'cause all those Techno bands and breakbeat bands have great rhythms and great grooves. And, you kinda got to take a little from everything. Part of what I listen to is research and the other part is what I love to drive to.
[Garage Radio] Off the subject a bit - what's your stand on music trading? Are you for it or against it? Why?
Greg This question's definitely a double-edged sword. I think it's good for both parties. For the up-and-coming bands I think it's a great vehicle to get their music out there. We're doing the MP3 and garage band web sites - we give our music away for free, but because of that, people like yourself have been able to contact us. As far as the established musician, I think it's highway robbery. I think they're getting beaten over the head.
I think it's the people's response for paying $18 for crap CDs when really they only want one song. I think with the downloading they're able to get that one song. Record labels are going to have to change the way they do business, whether it's lowering the prices, which I know they're trying to do that - is it working? I don't know, but eventually I think it's going to weed out the one-hit-wonders and it's gonna add demand to these musicians to start producing eleven to twelve track albums with solid hits on them if they want people to pay the right money for them. I think the people that are just mediocre musicians are no longer gonna get the record deals or get the chance to be on the radio like they were in the past.
Steve Everything Greg said was right and one of the things, like you took notice to, was a great job of engineering - like Phil Mann. People like him also hurt from all this free music. Those are the people that are really losing money, you know, like engineers. Those are the people that get paid to do it. It's not just about the artist, it's about everybody that contributed - the manager, the producer, the engineer, the label - and that's where it's a real problem. All these people maybe don't get paid right away. Maybe they get a percentage of your sales. If your sales aren't up there because people are getting it for free, maybe now you know why your getting the crap albums you are and things like that. Great producers won't take a chance on something that's not guaranteed.
[Garage Radio] What's going on in your careers now? Are you getting radio play?
Greg It's definitely something we're looking into. We're possibly thinking about entering a radio campaign, but we've learned right now that everything needs to be in place. There's really a timeline when you're doing these things. An example is, if you're gonna go to radio and stuff you want your fans to be able to pick it up - for radio stations playing it they like to know you have a distribution deal in place, which is something we're working on.
We're gonna spearhead this with a lawyer that we're working with named Gary Klein who just left a firm to start his own, and with him and the artist development company we're working with, I think that's when we're gonna unleash the radio campaign, but not until we see that we're at that stage where we're ready to do it. It's definitely something that we look forward to.
[Garage Radio] I like to ask this of everyone I interview: Do you want to give props to anyone like supporters, family, or friends?
Greg Definitely our engineer, Phil Mann. Abstract Productions, who is actually the production company we that work close with S
they've basically gotten us to where we need to be. Our manager, John Gretch, all of our family members, girlfriends and probably one of our biggest supporters is this fan that shows up at every show Teddy DuChamp. Every show, no matter where we play S he's coming down to Virginia with us. We're playing the American Music Festival down there - this guy's just nonstop. And, if I could just add one more name to that, Jen Francis - our web designer. Fallen From Grace really breathes fresh air into the new indie attitude. Self-ordained businessmen, talented artists and advocates of those trying to make their own break, these guys are teaching us what it really means to be a part of the independent music scene. As always, I thank the guys for their time out to do this interview. For pictures, lyrics, CD info and other Fallen From Grace paraphernalia please visit their web site: www.fallenfromgrace.com.
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