So that wee ‘avant-prog supergroup’ has only gone and done delivered on their promise. They’ve released a four track EP for download, and it’s a fizzing, concentrated dose of dense beauty.
Get it here: http://infantephant.bandcamp.com/album/cyclelicoptippopacalypse
I’ve played in a lot of bands over the years, I’ve worked with several dozen musicians on one level or another. I’ve had moments where I thought I could walk away from music and more or less be okay with it. There are bands and people whom I’m eternally grateful to have been able to play with or meet or work with in the studio, etc. But Infantephant, my band with Keith Abrams and Eric Fitzgerald, has become THE band that best represents me as a musician and person, and I’m going to tell you why.
I want to start with a bit of personal history regarding the line up.
Eric Fitzgerald and I met at Tara Nicoletti’s 16th birthday party. He was wearing a T-shirt with a picture of Primus’ Pork Soda album on the cover and I was such a huge Primus Fanboy that I couldn’t NOT strike up a conversation with him. We jammed once and I showed him that I could play “Prelude to Fear” by Sausage and I think that convinced him I could actually play. He joined my first band, I joined his first band which I consider my first REAL band (hi Andre!) and we started learning how to really play together. When I look back on our friendship and musical adventures together, I’ve come to realize that ANY major musical growth stems from this relationship, directly or indirectly. On several occasions (including that first Sand jam/practice) he has rekindled my love and passion for music. His unique vocal/guitar style and compositional approach more often than not forces me to find different ways to compose my own parts as a drummer. Without Eric, then I’d never have heard Phish (just don’t say anything if you can’t say anything nice), my understanding of odd meter music would have been lacking, I’d never have explored and surpassed my limitations as a musician, and so much more. But most importantly I would have never heard, loved, or joined Time of Orchids. Without Time of Orchids, I wouldn’t have known about Cheer-Accident, US Maple, The Cardiacs, Behold the Arctopus, Kayo Dot, and I would have never met Keith.
Eric and Keith went to college at SUNY purchase together. When the second guitar player in Time of Orchids quit, Keith got Eric to join the band. From the instant I heard Keiths playing I was blown away at how much he could do, and how instinctively he knew when to play something and when not to play something. When he left ToO and I was asked to join, I was ecstatic because it was the kind of band I’d been looking to play in my whole life and hadn’t known it until I heard them. This was also the first time that I’d replaced a drummer and wondered what the hell I’d gotten myself into. Keith’s drum parts ranged from high energy math assaults to Nebulous floaty-mabobs (it’s a real thing!) and anywhere in between. I remember putting on “Gone Fishing” and listening to just the middle section over and over again for days trying to get it just right. These songs were equal parts challenging AND fun, and that’s not an easy thing to do! In the end, I never really played the songs the way Keith did, and I suppose that’s a good thing because he got to keep his mark on the band, and I could make a new one. During those years Keith and I cultivated a friendship and I got to see that he’s not only a fantastic drummer but a fantastic musician across the board. Honestly, I can’t wait till you guys hear his playing in Infantephant, it’s so good. Lastly, he may just be the funniest human being I’ve ever met in my life. Now on to the band!
So Keith and I had started throwing song parts at each other in 2006 or so and tried to compose with several other people unsuccessfully until 2007 when Time of Orchids ceased to be. A few months later Eric joined up and we all just knew it was a perfect fit. Musically, we were all on the same page, but also our mutual experiences working with so many musicians influenced how we all decided we were going to behave as a band as well.
I’m going to take a moment to talk about band politics. Let’s start with broader strokes and say that to begin with, the band is either going to be somewhat democratic songwriting ensemble, or one or two composers writes entire songs for all the other musicians to play. Now, the democratic bands all start out really well, but as time goes on different personalities begin to take on different traits and inner band relationships start to grow, shift, or deteriorate. What ends up happening is one or two people begin to believe (either correctly or incorrectly) that they are what’s essential to the band and begin to take up leadership roles (whether asked for or just assumed). The problem is that what usually ends up happening is this person begins to shape the band in their own image (or at the very least attempts to). This affects EVERYTHING, from songwriting, to the relationships between band members to the time frames in which things get done. Keith, Eric, and I decided that we were NOT going to make this band anything less than truly democratic, and respect that each person brought their own voice and style and was going to play the way they knew how. We also decided that were not going to push a deadline and instead let our lives and schedules run the way they do, and we’d get things done when they were DONE, not forced to a conclusion due to some real or imaginary pressures. Because of various tours, weddings, child birth, jobs, and just life in general the end result is that we’ve gotten three songs written in close to five years, but god damn are they good songs. We’ve let them breathe and grow (because songs truly are alive, and therefore they grow) into their own shapes.
I can honestly say that I’ve been pushed to my most creative and forced to really test my boundaries as a musician. I have to keep shedding these songs for months to get them to where I can confidently play them. While I was learning them, if I made ONE mistake I couldn’t recover, and that’s just not how I’m used to things going. Also, this is the first time in many years where I’m THE drummer from the beginning of the band, meaning I don’t have other peoples aesthetics setting the tone. I get to play whatever it is I hear, and Eric and Keith have been remarkably accepting of whatever I want to do.
So there it is, summed up in a nice, overly-wordy note. I’m not sure why I wrote it, except that I felt the need to, and so I did. I hope you’ll all take the time to check it out, I think you’ll really like it!