This month's New Groove, once again selected by our readers, is Echofission. In the following interview, the New Jersey band pines for some favorite fallen venues, discusses liberating Lo Faber from his doctoral studies and offers some thoughts on its upcoming plans.
Can you talk about the development of the group? How did you meet and how did the current line-up solidify?
Echofission formed when our drummer Jon, guitarist/vocalist, Rango and vocalist/guitarist Geb combined solo projects in 2001 that were simultaneously being recorded by our mutual friend and engineer/producer Mod of the band Elefant. Our bassist/vocalist, Mike, solidified our lineup in 2007. Great story: He is Rangos estranged step-brother and they got in contact after 16 years of no contact. Turns out he is a killer musician!
It seems that on those rare days when Lo Faber performs, he does so in conjunction with your band. How did that first come about? Can you talk about your relationship with him?
Our relationship began with Lo in 2001 when Rango contacted him to master our debut self-titled album. After God Street Wine disbanded, Lo built a studio called Great Northern outside Saratoga Springs, NY where he self-recorded and mastered his own work Henrys House. We chased an opportunity to work with him and we have been ever since. Lo has a great time playing with us and it gets him out of the house and away from his doctorate studies! He even played at Rangos wedding during the bands three song set.
You’ve also shared the stage with Chris Barron. Again, how did that come about? Can you talk about those experiences?
Yeah the legendary Underpass in Elmwood Park, NJ. We are very good friends with Underpass owner Joe Beets and he set it up the show so we could jam with Chris. It was amazing jamming with him on some Spin Doctors tunes. Plus, that it happened at the Underpass was even more special since we played that place since it began and we were the last band to ever play there when it closed in 2007.
Echofission is based is New Jersey, how would you assess the vitality of your local music scene?
It is getting better for sure. We have put ourselves with like-minded musicians like Brian Fitzpatrick and The Band of Brothers, Roy Hobbs Agenda, and guys like Lo Faber who value original music and want to keep playing it. There is a lot of great music happening in NJ but people have to cut through cover band monopoly.
Can you talk a bit about the challenges and successes gaining traction in New York City, which certainly an important major market?
Weve played a lot of successful shows and received airplay on a number of NY FM and college radio stations. In fact, we are playing the Rocks Off Concert Cruise in NYC Saturday. Sullivan Hall is a cool venue that always treats us right and The Elbow Room used to be our homebase so to say. For our debut CD release party, we chartered buses full of fans and packed the place breaking the venues attendance record for a single band draw. Then it burnt down and now its a Duane Reade. So I guess between the grind of NY and places burning down on you, you have to work that much harder in NYC.
Who writes the band’s music? How it is typically presented to the group and how does it then come together?
Rango and Geb write a lot together and present ideas to the band. We then work on building parts, running them during rehearsals and then assessing and editing from there. Also, Geb writes a ton of songs on his own and brings them to the table to see what fits the bands taste and direction.
You released your latest disc this past spring, how would you compare it with your earlier efforts? Can you talk a bit about the band’s evolution in that regard?
Being comfortable with exploring sonic space set this album apart from anything we recorded previous. We experimented with sounds and instruments we never used before and setting up amps in unorthodox places. Earlier recordings were a bit more detached from a single focus; we were sort of figuring out how to incorporate traditional song writing with improvisation. It was a collective learning experience that we needed to go through. With The Straights we married the two elements and really focused on creating a flow from track one to thirteen. Our co-producer and engineer Mod did this album and has worked with us on our previous releases so it was a maturation process for both of us. I think we hit our stride with this album.
Can you talk a bit about your relationship with radio and what sort of experiences you’ve had there over the years?
Local FM, college and online radio in NJ and NY have been very receptive to playing our music and interviewing us. College and online radio like to test the waters more before FM, so we have found great success with those stations. The ones who have really supported us for a while now are Lindsay Klein of 105.5 WDHA, Jared Migden of Rutgers University Radio WRSU 88.7, Kevin Baxter of William Paterson University Radio and Lazlo of Blowupradio.com.
How do you approach its original songs in the live setting?
While staying true to the original form of the songs. This is how songs take shape. It means having confidence in the parts that were written on the record and being able to incorporate new and spontaneous elements. That always boosts the energy of the band and the audience. They know we are having fun and exploring new musical ground.
What about covers, can you talk about what songs you toss in from time to time? Who selects them?
The covers we play live are songs we like and are a mix of classic and modern rock. Sometimes they are songs people know, other times they are those more obscure tunes. Lately, we have been playing One Big Holiday by MMJ, Down With Disease by Phish, Tangled Up In Blue by Dylan, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down by The Band, Overkill by Men At Work and Red Mosquito by Pearl Jam. When Lo Faber sits in we break out the God Street Songs with him. Rango and Geb usually select songs that we think we could pull off on all levels.
In terms of cover tunes can you talk about any spectacular successes and failures?
Certainly the ones that come to mind first as successes are Day in the Life and Down With Disease. But probably our most successful moment was when we did a cover medley of Tangled Up In BlueHandle With CareRed Mosquito; we tried out the medley concept and it sounded great. As far as failures go, thankfully our audience is very forgiving but if I had to name one that we did and never did again it had to be Ferris Buellers Day Off Beat City that plays during the scene where Ferris and his friends drive into Chicago.
How often do you rehearse? What do you focus on when you get together for rehearsal?
Four times a week roughly. We mp3 each other and prepare that way so that everyone is ready to go because they have listened to the song and practiced at home already. At rehearsal we usually practice on making new setlists of all our songs and the covers we want to run. When we are recording, or getting ready to do so, we run our songs endlessly.
Can you talk about some of your performance highlights thus far. Is there a gig or gigs that stand out? Why?
This year the Quick Check Ballooning Festival was great because a ton of people were there that never heard of us before. Also, we have the Rocks Off Concert Cruise that will be awesome and is on its way to being sold out. The Evolve Festival was great too. Blues Traveler had the HORDE but we have the Black River Music Festival in Chester every summer! (laughs) This festival is always getting bigger each year and this year it was packed for our set. Festival Promoter Alan Tepper has does a great job since the festivals inception in 2006. The kind of guy you want running a festival, and an Echofission fan taboot!
Any final thoughts to folks across the country who may be hearing about you for the first time from this piece?
Give us a listen. Go to echofission.com or our myspace page and go from there. The music speaks for itself. Were really nice guys, really, and we just love music and are fortunate enough to know how to play it. People just have to sift through the multitude of sub-par uninspired music and give bands like us a listen. After six years we still want to keep making music. If you like it, great. If you dont, thats cool too. At least you took the time to listen which is greatly appreciated.