Interview with FM Down – This Is How You Rock In Eau Claire

Interview with FM Down – This Is How You Rock In Eau Claire

FM Down

Let’s get the pleasantries out of the way. Who are you? Where are you from? What style of music do you make?

I’m Will Wall (Vocals, Guitar) of FM Down. We’re from Eau Claire, WI. We’re a loud bombastic rock band with some cool 80’s style synth leads tossed in from time to time.

How long have you been at it? Was there an “ah-ha” moment when you knew music was your path?

I personally have been doing this way too long, with seemingly little to show for it… *lol* And no, there really wasn’t an ‘a-ha’ moment for me. Started playing guitar seriously in 7th grade, and just haven’t quit. Nobody in my family has really ever been big on music, but I just grabbed it and ran, for whatever reason. I think it was the rock-n-roll appeal that I clung to.

How did the band come together?

Well, a bar called the 5 O’Clock Club and a local 24hr resturaunt called Heckel’s was the main catylist for getting Andrew (Liss – Keys, Vocals) and I together. We developed a pretty solid friendship over way too much whiskey and several million calories in cheese curds. When we met, I was playing in a band called The Holy Rifles, and was playing with some spectacular musicians. After a while, though, attitudes and our ambitions just seemed to fizzle and drift apart, and after the band dissolved, I thought, “Well, hell. Why don’t I just play music with someone that I get along with?”

Andrew will tell you he was probably a little bit gunshy, because he’d never been in a band prior to this. But we got a rehersal spot in a cool old converted bread factory, and went to work, just the two of us. Just slamming out concept after concept, idea after idea, grabbing at any sound we thought interesting. Over about a year and a half, we ended up recruiting an old buddy and bandmate of mine, Bill Cooney, to play drums. Zack Morganroth ended up flushing out the group on bass about a year and a half ago. Most of the songs on White Noise ended up being written by myself and Andrew during the time we spent trying to figure out what in the world we were doing. We just flushed out the ideas as the band began to assemble itself.

The beauty of the band is that there are no egos – none. For me, it’s incredibly refreshing. We’re four of the most ridiculously ultra-regular guys you’d ever want to meet. And that’s exactly what gets me excited about the future.

If I understand this correctly, you used to be called Formerly the Simian? What led you to change to FM Down?

Yeah. I could give you the PR answer and say that we changed it because we believe the FM Down name better suits our contempt for the majority of mainstream music, particularly current top 40 radio, and the major labels essentially cherry-picking pretty faces and having other people write their songs, and how they spoon-feed the public this really superficial stuff without any sense of shame.

But in reality, it’s marketing. Formerly The Simian proved to be way too long and such an odd phrase that people had a hell of a time remembering it. The back story I just listed just provides a underlying answer that we actually do believe, but it’s not the primary reason. But dont’ tell anyone that…

Who or what influences your music and songwriting?

Musically, there are way too many artists that I draw on for inspiration to even begin to list. Lyrically, I like the poetic nature of Tom Waits & John Samson from the Weakerthans, but I also appreciate simplicity in message, like Tom Petty or Springsteen. My lyrical ideas generally draw from current events in relationships and life. And an aim at storytelling. Also whiskey.

What producers or other bands do you work/play with?

We produced and recorded our album completely DIY. It was a really long, drawn out process that we learned how NOT to do things… *lol* It was fun, but the next time around, we’re likely to change the process a bit and streamline a few aspects of it, primarily tracking scheduling. We let it get way too far apart.

We really haven’t done a lot in the collaboration department. That will change as we get more comfortable with our own writing style. As far as other local bands go, we particularly like playing with The Jim Pullman Band, Dead Dogs, DIY Daisy, and a cover band called the Pheromones. There’s a legendary local rock band we love by the name of Smack Davis that we’re hoping to coax out of retirement soon for a show…

In a chat we had a few days ago we got into a discussion about microphones. What are your favorites? What was used the most on this record?

Ahh, microphones. I’m a big believer in the Shure Beta line. We’ve got three 57’s and two 58’s. All of the guitars, bass, and most of the vocals were recorded with Beta 57’s. Just can’t beat it for quality and affordability. We also used an Equation drum mic set which was dirt cheap, and just spectacular – too bad Equation went under. A couple of CAD GXL1200’s phased over the cymbals, an Apex ribbon mic for a few things here and there, and that’s White Noise.

What is the scene like in your area?

Excellent and rough at the same time. We have an over-abundance of pretty darn good original bands, and a severe shortage of good venues for them to play. The venues we do have treat the bands very well, and we’re grateful for that, but the majority of folks in Eau Claire just don’t seem to be universally dialed into what’s happening in the original music scene. There are, however, plenty of great venues for cover-style bands. That’s why we’re trying a time-tested, classic delivery system; we’ve just wrapped up learning a whole 4 hour night of unusual, yet well-liked covers, and we’re going to intermix our originals. Heck, it worked for virtually every rock band that’s ever been big up until the early 2000’s. Why not try it? Far more folks show up to a cover band’s set, so why not tap that market, and slowly weave your originals onto their musical radar.

How has the Internet/social media helped (or hurt) you and the promotion of your music?

We’ve found the internet to be an awesome source for communications. We’ve just started to gain some traction on a few music blogs here and there, and we’re grateful for that – we’re hoping to get more. Andrew and Zack are the social media gurus in our band, and I’m just the guy that throws the witty comments in there from time to time.

What social media does that is absolutely invaluable to independent music is the ability to network with virtually anyone who will listen. I’m discovering that to be challenging, but rewarding when you find an individual or group that gives you the time of day.

What’s in store for 2013?

Lots of shows, another EP or possibly a full length, and a zillion hours of promotional work on the computer to further spread the word about FM Down.

Where can people find you online? Where can we buy your album?

You can find us at www.fm-down.com, www.facebook.com/f.m.down, www.reverbnation.com/fmdown, and a few other spots (we don’t generally check the other ones often…). For the time being, the album is available on iTunes under the old band name, Formerly the Simian. We’re working to get that changed. You can also buy the album on ReverbNation, or you can get a hard copy delivered to your door through our website.

Any last thoughts or shout outs?

Thanks to you, good sir. We appreciate the opportunity, and we dig BUNKS! We wish Mid Tenn Music the best and we’ll be sure to stay in close contact.

Polarized (live footage)

About Joshua Smotherman

Father, emcee, producer, music blogger. Joshua is a member of Manchester, TN Hip Hop collective BUNKS and co-founder of Middle Tennessee Music. Now in Sactown, CA, he actively tours, works with MPC Recording Company as Media Director, and is also signed as an Artist. Connect on Google+.

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