Interview with FIYAMarch 18, 2007
I found a great interview with the the Gainesville band FIYA. In short – they play fast, urgent, and uplifting punk rock. They have released a “s/t” 7″ on Gainesville’s Obscurist Press in 2002, the “Room For One More” 7″ on our in-house label Dead Tank in 2003, a full length “Make Joy, Make Strength” on both Obscurist Press (LP) and Dead Tank (CD) in 2004, and finally another full length “Better Days” on Obscurist Press (LP) and No Idea Records (CD) in 2005. The website has tracks available for download.
The interview was done for the German fanzine Ox. I found the interview because I was recently trying to make a mixtape – digging through my records, etc – And two hours later I realized I had spent nearly all that time listening to FIYA and reading lyric sheets. Downtime at work meant looking online to see what the band was up to these days. They had taken a pretty long unofficial break after the european tour. Most likely due to band members being in plenty of other active bands as well – Reactionary 3, Nervous Dogs, etc.
I know alot of time interviews with bands get breezed over by anyone who doesn’t like, or know of, the band. This interview has alot of great perspectives on European touring, Gainesville, and the punk, scene in general. I think this interview could be appreciated by many different people, not just fans of the band or of punk music.
Anyway, I found this interview and loved it! Enjoy.
Ox: For the people who haven’t heard of FIYA yet: Please introduce yourself briefly. When, how, why, who,..
P–Im Patrick, I play guitar and sing; Ive been in this band in some version or other since I was 17. Im 23 now. Fiya has had the same members now for about 3 and a half years, I think. Before that, it was really a very different thing, and not really relevant to now except that Ryan and I were in it.
D–Im Dru, I play guitar and sing too. I joined FIYA shortly after I moved to Gainesville. I had been in other bands before I moved to Gainesville (Spirit Assembly, Encyc. Of American Traitors) and was really looking to get into a political hardcore band again. I saw Patrick and Ryan play a few shows as another incarnation of FIYA and was really stoked about it. Later we talked and ended up getting together a few times to practice. I eventually joined the band.
R–Im Ryan; I play drums. Also, Joey plays bass. He’s out of town.
Ox: You have just finished your first European tour some weeks ago. How was it like? Compared to your touring in the US, what where the differences / similarities?
P–The tour in Europe was great! From what we’ve been told, a lot of US bands say the same things after touring Europe, which is that they were surprised and excited and humbled by how well they were treated and how well-organized things tended to be. Thats true of our experience, too. We felt lucky to have the chance to come over and meet so many great people, play at some really nice places. It was really good. (And we thank Ingo, Jan, and everyone else who helped us out! We miss you!)
We have good tours in the states, too. As far as a comparison, the shows in Europe were definitely better-organized more regularly, and I think the people we met were often more interested in interacting with us, which is always nice. But, of course, it just depends. You encounter generosity and kindness all over the place, and there are days on tour in the states that are wonderful, too. And it always seems to get betterthe more you tour, the more likely youll know someone youre looking forward to seeing at the show, and the more likely people will come. Our last tour in the US went really well.
D–Yeah, touring the States is awesome fun, but when all you’ve been exposed to is America and the American punk scene its really inlightening and inspiring to get a new perspective. The Europe tour refreshed the idea of a hardcore punk COMMUNITY in my mind. Hardcore punk being an ethos or something to believe in that’s always relevant to my life.
Ox: You are from Gainesville, Florida and even in Germany it’s well known that a lot of punkbands (like AGAINST ME!, HOT WATER MUSIC, etc) are from that town, as well as your label No Idea Records. Tell us something about this town, is it really some sort of a punk-Mecca? What’s it like to live there? What about “The Ark”?
P–Well, there are a lot of bands here, some good, some not so good. Basically, its not that big a place, but theres a huge state university here, so there are always young people here who want something to do. That’s the key. And for years punk has been a big thing in Gainesville, and so it just keeps on going, being fed into with new young people all the time. I guess thats the simplest explanation. I came here for college, but I was also aware of some of the music from Gainesville, and into some of it.
I dont know about the rest of it, the idea of Gainesville. This is the only place I’ve lived since I left my moms house. I’ve lived here for five years. I cant compare it to much else.
R–Having been to most of the cities (in the U.S., at least) that are considered punk meccas, I think that Gainesville is probably a little disappointing to people who come here expecting the streets to be paved with Against Me! test presses or whatever. Most people that visit here for the first time are pretty amazed by how small the place is, although there are definitely an inordinantly high amount of punks and good resources for such a little town.
The Ark is a huge warehouse in northeast Gainesville where, generally, between five and seven people live. I am in my third year there now; Joey just moved out after four years, and Dru lived there twice for a few months each time. We have the bigger D.I.Y. shows in Gainesville, and also host things like a Books To Prisoners project. The Ark is now in its 7th year, with about 35 residents in that time. Right now we are working on a few projects to make the Ark, hopefully, more of a lively, creative space and not quite so punk-specific.
D–I love living in Gainesville, there is so much potential with all the new energy and new people constantly being injected into the town. New bands and new community projects are always popping up. It’s an exciting place to live. There is a curse to living in a transitory town too. Sometimes it feels like people are just putting their time in until they enevitably leave rather than building a lasting community. There are exceptions to that rule. Recently, a few punks I know have been buying houses and property. Its nice to see that aspect of Gainesville too. Maybe I just get sad when people I love and respect move away.
Ox: “Better Days” is dedicated to little babies! I heard about bands dedicating their records to John Lennon, motorcycles or beer – why little babies? And how does that match with the good old “no future”-punk-ethic?
P–That record is about just not knowing what in the world to do. We’re mired in all this hate and violence and fear and sadness. It’s just everywhere. We dont know where to begin; it’s hard to even know what’s good and what’s worthwhile. Meanwhile, you’ve got your family and your friends, and they need help, too. Everyones worried and scared. And there are babies being born all the time; what do you say to them? I feel like we all enter into this agreement with each other, with our friends and families, where well take care of one another and encourage one another and stay alive for one another. We wont give up, and it cant matter that we dont entirely understand why. We do it for the little babies, because its too painful to believe that things wont get any better for them, or that they will have the exact same problems as us. Some of it is acceptable, some of it isn’t. We want them to have enough to eat, and we want them to be able to love and be loved better than we can, and we want them to not grow up hurting each other all the time, I guess.
D–That dedication is the reason I love being in this band; the hopeful sentiment of making something, a community maybe, sustainable and believable (and relevant) for more people than just punks for a longer period of time than the immediate.
Ox: On your first LP “Make Joy, Make Strength” there is a line which says: “Our songs could be national anthems if we sang them right.” How do you mean that? Do you really think so?
P–No, I dont actually believe that. That was just sort of a song about kindness, I think. It sort of relates back to the Little Babies question. That song was sort of about this irrational hope that if you could figure out a way to articulate just what everyone wanted, that everyone wanting it would be enough. It wasnt a literal thing.
Ox: Patrick and Ryan, what’s it like to play in a band with your twin-brother? Do you think there’s a difference in playing music with your brother than with other people? And what’s it like for the other 2 guys?
P–I think its different, yeah. I mean, we grew up playing music together since we were little, and talking to each other all the time, and liking a lot of the same things. Ryan understands me better, knows me better than anyone else. And I’ve been the odd one out, playing with other brothers in other bands before, so I know how hard it can be to break into that wavelength.
D–Yeah, there is a definite unspoken connection between siblings that occasionally leaves Joey and I in the dark. I have been in other bands with my own brother, Gus, and the same sort of connection was present.
There are uncomfortable times when Patrick and Ryan yell at each other, not in anger but in the way that only siblings fight. Its funny to be in that situation. At times like that I just look over at Joey and we smile at each other and laugh about it.
Ox: You tend to have albums that are as long as commercial breaks on German television Why such short records and what about a FIYA-double-album with ten-minute-songs, guitar-solo-action, etc.? By the way, I like short records, that question is for the metalheads
D–I love short punk records and short punk songs!
P–The records just sort of ended up being that short, it wasnt planned. Im not scared of a double LP. In fact, well take that as a challenge, and well do it for the metalheads. Watch out for it in 2009.
R–I do still believe that brevity is a virtue, to quote our friend Mike, but I admit that our new album is pushing that a little. Also, I would like to go on record as saying that I love guitar solos in punk music. Look at that last Propagandhi album! Fantastic. (I also love guitar solos in metal, but I suppose that should go without saying)
Ox: Am I right, that your lyrics deal with growing-up-stuff sometimes? Did you have a hard time getting older, maybe not having the same carefree view into the future anymore that children have? Would you consider yourself as “kids”?
P–I guess they do. I think everyone has some trouble with that, with growing up. And no, I definitely dont think wed consider ourselves kids. That word sort of sums up for me a lot of the most unsatisfying elements of punk culture.
D–I dont think the term kids is necessarily negative. I like the reference to energy, vitality and sponteneity. I think those are important qualities to have. But also, it is important to realize the responsibilities that we as punks have coming from (largely) a white, middle-class background. I think that irresponsibility or ineptitude is what Patrick was speaking of.
R–I know that I still use the phrase kids in the punk-slang way from time to time and I always get annoyed with myself for doing so. I have developed a pretty serious problem with that part of punk in the last few years- the idea of being young forever, or this bizarre, anti-grown-up sentiment that some of the more (ahem) positive kids involved in punk have is so insulting to people with problems. Ill put it this way: I have had cancer. My dad has multiple sclerosis. When some 20-year old white kid in a punk band talks about how we can live this way forever, thats bullshit to me. Live like this forever? You mean be completely unable to deal with problems when they arise? Im going to dumpster-dive some cancer medicine? I dont think so.
Ox: LEATHERFACE, I SPY, Those are bands which come into my mind when I’m listening to your music. What are the influences for FIYA? Musically and non-musically.
P–I love both of those bands. Its funny you should mention them, because we usually get compared to bands I dont like. But yeah, I think they are great, and Im sure they have been influences. I think a lot of the biggest influences are different between the members of this band, and I think they are mosty not so obvious. Im personally really into a lot of older music, I like a lot of blues stuff and soul music. I also love the Mountain Goats, the (Young) Pioneers, and a lot of other rock bands we probably will never be compared to. I think Ted Leo is really good. All those bands are really important to me lyrically, also. And by the way, since you asked about Gainesville before, my favorite Gainesville record is probably the Burnman LP.
Nonmusical influences are mostly writers and friends, I suppose, and I’m sure some would be obvious and some not. I read a lot of fiction.
D–I definitely like being compared to good bands. But as far as influences go, I listen to a wide range of stuff from Lee Perry to Blind Guardian, from James Brown to Dinosaur Jr. or Bad Brains. I can’t draw a specific connection to those bands and our music but those are the songs that roll around in my head when we write our music so I guess it’s in there somehow. Its important to have the most possible information to draw inspiration from even if it doesnt make logical sense. Otherwise the ideas and the music get stale.
Ox: You are on No Idea Records now, was it just a natural thing that you both ended up working together considering the Gainesville-connection or how did you fall in love?
P–We had asked them a while ago if they wanted to put out a recording we’d done, but they were pretty swamped at the time, and then Dead Tank and Obscurist Press did it. That worked out great. After a while, Dru was doing the artwork for Glass and Ashes, and one day Var asked him what we were up to. We were just about to record Better Days. Thats sort of how that happened. It’s all gone well, its nice that they are right down the street, and our friend Travis who does Obscurist lives with Ryan. Its all easy and friendly. Also, Josh, who does Dead Tank, is totally great. We’ve been extremely lucky.
R–I have known Var for a few years through working at Wayward Council, volunteer record store and show space, and I always liked talking to him and respected how he runs the label side of No Idea. And weve all known everybody who works there for years and were friends with them, so, yeah, it did seem pretty natural. I should point out that the LP versions of both of our full-lengths and our first 7″ are on Obscurist Press, which is my roommate, other-band-mate, and close friend Travis label, which is even more natural. I mean, all of our records are under my bed, you know? Being on No Idea is a really minor change.
Ox: Is Dru doing the artwork for your albums, because I think he said that he is doing graphic-design-stuff? Could you imagine to let some “stranger” do the artwork? Is FIYA a D.I.Y. band? What are the members of the band doing besides making music?
D–I do graphic design for a living so it seemed a natural progression for me to start working on the album art. Plus, I was really excited to work with the rest of the band on concepts that relate to the music. The aspect of having the band working on the art together is really appealing to me.
P–Yeah, Dru does the layout stuff, and we all sort of pitch in ideas and talk out the artwork.
I definitely could not imagine a stranger doing the artwork. The artwork on the first two 7″s were done by friends of ours, Mara and Yvette, and were happy with those, too. It made me feel great to have friends willing to be invloved and lend us their talents.
I dont know – I think were a DIY band. No Idea is a professional record label, to be sure, but I feel like our relationship with them is similar to our relationships other people we’ve worked with. We book our own shows in the states, and in Europe we didnt go through a professional booking agency. We dont really have any interest in that. Its not a real issue for us, we just sort of do what we do. Were not professionals, either.
Outside of the band, I was in school until just recently. Right now I work full time at a grocery store and wonder what to do next. I read a lot. Thats about it.
R–Thats a really good question, whether or not we are a D.I.Y. band. That phrase is thrown around so much, I think it has meant less and less and less over the years. I think at the root level, we book our own tours, we make the fliers for the shows we play in Gainesville, we make the decisions about recording and touring and all of these things. Does it make us less D.I.Y. that somebody else puts our records out for us? That we got somebody else to print t-shirts this year? I dont know. I feel like we are a band that makes all of its own decisions, and that there are not people that are really involved with things that we do that we would not want involved. Thats what is important to me.
Oh, and outside of this band and my other band, Reactionary 3, I try to work on the Ark a lot, do a little art work, and have a job at a liquor store.
Ox: What song would you like to get played on your funeral and why?
P–David Grubbs Seagull and Eagull or Mississppi John Hurts Let the Mermaids Flirt with Me come to mind. The David Grubbs song because its probably my favorite song ever, and the Mississippi John Hurt song because of this lyric: When my Earthly trials are over, cast my body out in the sea. Save all the undertaker bills, let the mermaids flirt with me.
R–Damn, if I die before Pat I swear Ill take Let the Mermaids Flirt with Me. Sorry, brother. If not, I guess I’d probably pick some metal song about hell because I’d think it was funny.
D–Interesting question, I dont think I’ve ever really thought about that seriously. I think Jimi Hendrixs Castles Made of Sand is fitting. That song embodies the sad passing of time for me. Plus, it has a wicked guitar solo, so thats kinda cool.
R–No thanks. Sike! Thanks.
FIYA is currently planning on a 3 week US tour in July. So hopefully you can see them soon.