Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images Nine days after the deadly tornado that touched…
- Posted on Mar 15th 2010 10:28AM by Liz Raftery
New York quintet Fang Island released their self-titled debut in February and have already attracted attention from the indie rock blogosphere. Originally formed at the Rhode Island School of Design, the members all recently reconvened in Brooklyn to record and promote the record. Undeterred by the fact that their tour van was stolen just days after it was purchased, the band is gearing up for a US tour that includes an appearance at SXSW. Spinner recently spoke with guitarist Jason Bartell about the band's plans for the festival and the rest of the year.
How did your band form?
We formed at RISD. The original four members are all from RISD. All the people that are in it have been from Providence. We added Nick Sadler, who played with another band in Providence, and just sort of, you know, met him through playing there. But it was originally a RISD project.
Since you were all in design school, what would you be doing if you weren't musicians?
We were studying print-making, which was kind of the closest thing that the school had to just a straight-up drawing major. But I don't think any of us would be print-makers (laughs). I can't imagine, like, printing other people's work. I think we'd all be some other form of visual artist.
How did you come up with the band name?
It was in an Onion article. I think it was just a funny blip about Donald Rumsfeld having a secret hideaway, and it was on Fang Island. We like how it was sort of this, like, fictional space that we imagined our music was played on.
Your MySpace page describes your sound as "everyone high-fiving everyone." Can you elaborate?
I think it was one of our old roommates that came up with it. I think it resonates with people in some weird way. I guess, in non-musical terms, that kind of described the feeling we were going for, of sort of all-encompassing positivity or a feeling of excitement. But in terms of actual sound, we try to draw from as many influences as we can and kind of not stay in one place for very long -- take all the things we like about music and put it into one sort of unifying theme, and add sort of an energetic, positive spin on it.
Why did you decide to move to Brooklyn, and where do you see yourself fitting into the Brooklyn music scene? Is it a blessing or a curse?
With the new record, and just trying to make a real effort to do this full-time or make the most of it, everyone's moved to Brooklyn now, so we can all be in one spot. I'm wondering where we fit into the Brooklyn music scene myself. Or if we will at all. We've played shows here, and I know a lot of other musicians here. It doesn't really feel that competitive, I would say. I would agree that it's kind of a blessing and a curse, but only because, I think the curse element is people's, like, instant perception. If you're a band from Brooklyn, you're like, well, I kind of know what they're going to sound like. We try to not let that drive us, in terms of what music we make. But all in all, it's probably more of a benefit. Just, being in New York, I think in general, is a benefit for a lot of reasons. There's so many people around. It can be really inspiring.
What are your musical influences?
Personally, there's a few that we really share. All sort of mid-'90s distorted pop, guitar rock. The list is kind of infinite, especially when you ask all of us, but I think Smashing Pumpkins and Weezer are big ones. I guess '90s rock.
What's your musical guilty pleasure?
A lot of pop radio, like Chris Brown. Rihanna, I guess, is kind of a big guilty pleasure. Basically, anything that's on the radio right now, because that's all I'm listening to.
Beatles or the Rolling Stones?
From year 1 to 18, I would say the Beatles, and from 18 to the present, I would say Rolling Stones.
What's the craziest thing you've experienced while on tour?
There was one time that it was, like, one of the worst blizzards I've ever seen, and we were driving to play this one-off show in Vermont. All the other bands had canceled because of the blizzard, but we didn't know because the promoter didn't get in touch with us. So we were just hoofing it through these crazy conditions in a 16-passenger van, a complete whiteout. We were driving, like, 15 miles an hour and it was still terrifying. And we get there, and the other two bands have canceled, the ones that we wanted to play with. And the only band left was the local band, which was a band made up of, like, 13- and 14-year-olds. Who were actually pretty good. It was them and then all of their moms and dads and, like, friends from their school. So then, they're done, and all of them, because they're not interested in seeing (us), probably went to go get pizza or something. So we just played to nobody. And then we drove back. It was a real bummer at the time, but we tried to just power through it. That was about two years ago.
Are you excited to play SXSW? Who are you looking forward to seeing?
We're psyched to be there. I'm excited for the carnival element of it, just being kind of off the wall. That's the consistent element of what people tell me. Some people are like, "Oh, it's terrible, there's just a thousand bands and all this, and it's you can't move around. It's just really crazy there." And then some people say the exact same thing, but in a positive way. I'm excited just to be there and see it for myself. We're going to try and catch Roky Erickson. There's a lot of bands on the Pitchfork showcase that I'd like to see. And other than that, I just kind of want to walk around and see what we can find.
What's in your festival survival kit?I think I have a sleeping bag in there. That's, like, number one. Other than that, just a lot of white T-shirts (laughs). Hanes five-pack.
Liz Raftery is a contributor from Seed.com. Learn how you can contribute here.