Fathom Lane on music composition, the Pearl, and Polica's Channy
|Photo by Tony Nelson|
Gimme Noise spoke with Michael before the band's album release on Friday to talk about his long road to Fathom Lane.
Band Members: Michael Ferrier (vocals and guitar), Ashleigh Still (vocals and piano), Ben Glaros (guitar and vocals), Shane Akers (lap steel guitar and dobro), Brian Roessler (bass), Pete Hennig (drums)
Gimme Noise: Why do you think you veered in such a different direction from what you were doing with Electropolis?
Michael Ferrier: Frankly, I was a little lost after Electropolis. We had a crazy last run at the Southern Theater involving aerialists, dancers, silent film, human powered surround sound, the works. I just felt like I had taken that aspect of what I do with the saxophone and electronics to the end of the road, and I wanted to reboot, but not in the same direction.
Simultaneously, my personal life was imploding in just about every aspect. In the midst of the turmoil, I picked up the guitar and started singing again. I noodled around with the Fender Rhodes, which is a seriously inspiring instrument. There were some songs laying in the weeds for a while, so I started there and then ended up writing a bunch of new songs.
How do you feel that studying music composition benefited you when making this album?
I have always been inspired by music that breaks rules, both large and small, and studying composition showed me all of the rules out there that need breaking. I also learned that you need to churn through a lot of seemingly useless crap to get to the good stuff. In order to get the material you want to keep, you have to make a big pile of stuff that will never see the light of day.
It also helped me hone in on material that all hung together, both thematically and musically. Composition is about telling a story, understanding that without tension there aren't those cathartic or orgasmic moments of release. Those moments of release are what I do this for.
Do you feel it was beneficial to go to school for music, or do you think it was something you could have learned on your own?
Well, for me it was beneficial. I learned so much that I would never have come to on my own, but it also had its soul-sucking drawbacks. I ended being so jaded by the process of evaluation by the time I got my degree that I just stopped playing for years. I had to get back to the place of: "Hey, music is a good thing to be enjoyed!"
Performing music isn't just a yardstick to see how you stack up against the insurmountable wall of music history or your peers. It's something to be shared between the audience and the performer, and it's also not just a stream of perfectly played notes and rests that you shoot at the audience. I'm not sure how you find that when you're in the middle of the "Land of Evaluation" -- certainly not the way I found it. I feel like I lost a lot of time being chased down by the demons of academia.
How do you feel the music industry has changed since performing in in your first band Fire Under Water?
Wow, how has it not changed? Just speaking about our little world of the Twin Cities music scene, we now have The Current, which has expanded the opportunity for radio play for local musicians. Also, the explosion of blogs, social networks, and other ways for fans to talk about and share music has been revolutionary. It's a bit daunting going from being in a fairly established band like Electropolis, knowing the rules of how to promote the music and performances, to now being in a "baby band," but it's also exhilarating doing something fresh, taking that leap into the new paradigm.
You worked with quite a talented roster for Fathom Lane. What did each musician bring to the project?
Ashleigh Still brings the breath of life to these songs. She's the other side of the story I'm trying to tell with Fathom Lane, and she got that right off the bat. "Sweet Sept" is a great example of that. That's rare. Ben Glaros is my oldest friend in the world. I don't have to say much to Ben for him to know exactly what I mean, and he puts it into the music. Shane Akers plays the lap steel guitar, and I swear that thing is strung with heartstrings. So much soul. Brian Roessler is the MAN. Just check out that bass on "Snowbride." He left us shaking our heads in the control room, saying, "Did that just happen?" Brian does that a lot. Pete Henning is so versatile, and makes his drum set into a little mini orchestra. So many great sounds and expression. This band is really an embarrassment of riches; each of the members is an artist in their own right.