I recently had the opportunity to talk with chat with our friends Adam and Frank by By Land Or Sea (previously known as Frankie and His Fingers) about their newest release, transitioning names and whats to come from the band. You can check out my review of their album here or visit their myspace here. Also, remember the name, because you will be hearing it again soon!
Mind Equals Blown: What was the mentality behind changing your name from Frankie and His Fingers to By Land or Sea?
Frank: To be honest, we never really liked the name Frankie and His Fingers. I had come up with it as a solo project name and Sammi and I couldn’t think of anything else when we turned it into a band. For the past 6 years we just never considered the fact that we could change it anytime we wanted. One day, on the way to the studio, we just started discussing it. We figured our happiness was more important than anything, and we weren’t happy with the old name.
Adam: We also had changed a lot as a band and we felt that the old name didn’t represent who we were anymore – we were basically a brand new band, and a new name was deemed appropriate.
MEB: I don’t mean to create any animosity, but some people, including myself, find your new name to be somewhat generic as opposed to your original name. Do you have a rebuttal to this sentiment? Do you think the name change has alienated many of your fans?
Frank: Like I said, we wanted to be happy with our band name. We figure that people who can’t understand that may need to evaluate their priorities and their criteria for liking a band. Though it was important enough for us to want to change it, it really should come down to the music we play and whether or not people like it.
Adam: I agree with Frank. I don’t think the name change has alienated many people, at least not to the point of hating us or something silly like that. Part of the reason for the change also was to remove all the emphasis on Frank as some kind of “band leader.” We all have an equal stake in the band and honestly everyone assuming that Frank did everything got annoying after awhile.
MEB: How has the inclusion of your new bassist, Adam Stoutenburgh, affected your songwriting process?
Frank: Adam joined the band in October of 2007. We actually all hit it off immediately and Sammi and I did our best to make it clear that his say in the songwriting process was extremely valued and equal with ours. He has contributed more than I could have hoped or forseen. He doesn’t play root note with half and whole step walk-ups. He songwrites on the bass. That’s wonderful.
Adam: I’ve definitely affected the songwriting process – I helped craft these songs with Sammi and Frank. We generally write as a team, all contributing ideas to create the final result. I’m not a bass player normally, so I think that’s helped me view the bass with a pair of fresh hands – I’m not restricted to all the things that many bassists do because I don’t know what those things are.
MEB: What does that process usually entail?
Adam: Someone usually has a basic idea (like a riff or melody) and then we all jam on it until we come up with a final song. Then, Frank writes lyrics and a melody. Some of the songs came together really quickly (I think we wrote “Fizz” in like an hour) but others we labored over for months before we felt like they were finished. “Children” took us forever to be happy with.
Frank: Lyrics are a whole other process. Sometimes they take forever. Sometimes they pour out of me. They’re extremely important to me, so I really like to make sure they’re saying what i wanted to say, how I wanted to say it. The lyrics on this album were especially taxing, due to the emotional events and attempts at soul-searching that inspired them.
MEB: Samantha (Niss, drums) has serious chops, and it’s pretty apparent on Hell Broke Loose [the band’s most recent release]. Good female drummers seem to be a commodity in rock music, and great ones seem to be even fewer and farther between. How did you find Samantha?
Frank: We met at Bennington College in Vermont, where we both attended for one year. A bunch of the musicians that lived in our dorm set up their instruments on the patio one night, and when she laid down a groove, jaws dropped. Needless to say, everyone wanted her. Somehow I got lucky.
Adam: Sammi isn’t just good for a girl, either. She’s damn good, period.
MEB: Speaking of your new album, are there any songs you’re particularly excited about performing live?
Adam: Well, we’ve been playing all of these songs live for awhile now, so none of them are exciting in that “it’s a new song” kinda way. But, I personally love playing “Wood/Lead” and “Hell Broke Loose.” Fun songs.
MEB: You guys are based out of Kingston, NY. What are your thoughts on the current music scene in the Woodstock/Kingston/Nyack area?
Adam: The music scene in Kingston kinda sucks. There are a few good bands, but there are basically no good venues. Keegan Ales has been great to us and we love playing there, though.
Frank: Yeah, music scenes in general are, sadly, a dying thing. We all need to fix that. Seriously.
MEB: Do you have good/bad relationships with other bands in the area (i.e. the guys from Fire Flies, Kiss Kiss, Dandelions, etc)? Any local bands you’d like to recommend?
Frank: Dead Unicorn. They’re a wonderfully nasty noice/punk duo of just bass, drums and vocals. Amazing energy. Great creative musicians and just awesome music.
MEB: Thoughts on labels? Do you have yet to be asked to join a label, or do you choose to remain unsigned?
Adam: We haven’t really been offered anything significant. If we were approached by a label with some kind of offer we’d absolutely be excited to consider it.
MEB: Are you already thinking about the future, as far as the direction of your band goes? Do you think that you will go with a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach with your music in the future, or will you continue to reinvent yourself like you have in the past?
Adam: Who knows what’s next? We aren’t the kind of musicians who like to do the same thing repeatedly, so I’m sure that new songs will always be going in a different direction. That’s the exciting part about being in a band to me.
Frank: Couldn’t have said it better myself. Music is to wonderful to force it in any way. Whether that means forcing oneself to do the same thing or to do something different. We just make music and try not to think about it TOO much.
MEB: Are you live show-oriented, or are you more of a post-Revolver Beatles studio type band? If the former, what about playing live “does it for you”?
Frank: We LOVE playing live. Its what rock and roll is. Our record is even kind of a snap shot of a live show. A sepia one. Tacked to an attic wall with blue lights on it.
Adam: Live for sure. We almost didn’t put any overdubs on this album at all. Kevin convinced us to do a few, but most of them are textural and are only there for “fleshing out” purposes.
MEB: Do you guys have any places you hope to play in the near future? Any east-coast tours in the works?
Adam: We don’t have any tour plans yet, but we’re always playing out. We’re going to try to focus on playing shows in the city I think, you can only play Kingston, NY so many times before it gets stupid.
MEB: How about Boston? You should definitely play in Boston. (Note: it’s difficult to convey facial expressions like shifty eyes via an email interview).
Adam: You know a place? Hook us up, man!
MEB: What would be your biggest guilty band?
Adam: I never feel guilty about music that I listen to. I’d probably be made fun of for liking Copeland, but I love ’em.
Frank: My friends poke fun at me for liking a lot of sugar-coated whiny emo. But every know and then, I need a twinkie. If you get what I mean.
MEB: If you had the chance to pick three bands to tour with, to form the ultimate show, who would they be?
Frank: If death was not an issue: Nirvana, The Beatles and Elvis Costello.
Adam: Yeah, three current bands or just three bands in general? I’d pick The Beatles, Television, and Wilco.
MEB: Any last words? (Not before I kill you, before the interview ends)
Adam: Thanks for the interview, bub.