One of the better bands that you have probably never heard of, Fair To Midland is starting to make quite a name for themselves. After releasing two full-length albums, they caught the attention of System Of A Down frontman Serj Tankian, who signed them to his record label, Serjical Strike. After releasing one CD with Serj, they are now with E1 Music, who represent bands like Black Label Society, Crowbar and Hatebreed. Their debut with E1 was the 15-song Arrows And Anchors, which was made available on July 12 and recently reviewed in The Aquarian.
These guys have a sound that is comparable to none. Seriously, have you ever heard of a hard rock/metal band that includes a banjo? The creativity from these guys is exceptional and they are on the road to something great. Speaking of being on the road, they will be making a few appearances in the Tri-State area for the Inked Magazine Music Tour.
I interviewed keyboardist Matt Langley, who was checking in from the West Coast. Matt talked about their new album, the band’s rowdiness and the upcoming tour for the following conversation.
Did you enjoy shooting the music video for “Musical Chairs?”
Yeah, we did. It’s a strange thing because we were kind of new to the whole video thing and maybe not the most comfortable bunch of guys on camera, but yeah, what we did basically was just our live show in front of the cameras and just sort of, you know, kind of ignored all of the equipment and the help and everything else going on and just went on and did what we normally do.
How would you describe Arrows And Anchors compared to Fables From A Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times Is True?
It’s a darker and edgier offering. It’s more raw, I would say. We use a lot more analog equipment and aim for a more live sound, a lot more accidental noises like guitar feedback and other noises just to give it a rougher kind of sound.
Also rougher with a banjo incorporated.
(Laughs) Yeah, yeah it is. It’s a bit more of the folk/Americana element to it. I also think it’s an angrier album.
Is there any particular reason why you only recorded one full-length album with Serjical Strike?
That just, you know, by virtue of the way things go in this business with the length of the usefulness of that relationship, I mean, mutually. That’s just the way it is in this business. Relationships and associations, they run their course and you do all you can for each other and take each other as far as you can and then at some point it’s time to move on.
I like to say it’s a rare and lucky few, very few, that find one home throughout a career or even most of a career and don’t have to look for another anytime soon.
Was it difficult transitioning from Serjical Strike to E1 Music?
It was amicable and I think mutually desired. Basically, E1 paid our debt that we owed to Serj and Serj called us their’s, so it was pretty smooth.
What was it like going from a guest musician to a permanent member of the band?
(Laughs) I don’t know. I felt like from the beginning it was what I wanted. When I went to see their first live show, I was immediately impressed with their stage antics and the unusual musical offering and the size crowd that they drew, even at such an early stage. I decided when I first saw them that I was going to have a position with these guys, I made up my mind, and this is what I wanted.
As luck would have it, Brett [Stowers] the early percussionist [now full-time drummer], invited me to come down to the studio and play on a couple of tracks and I thought, “This is my foot in the door, here we go, I’m going to really show them what I got.” And I just kind of kept showing up for practice and they had me play the CD release show with them and no one ever told me to go home and here I still am.
Speaking of stage antics, how would you describe lead singer Darroh Sudderth’s presence up there?
(Laughs) Well, he’s a little dangerous to himself I would have to say (laughs). He likes to climb things and jump off whenever the opportunity comes and every once in a while, I think he pushes the boundary and sometimes I’m afraid that when he picks up the mic after a long fall, instead of singing, he’s going to scream, “Call 911!” But it’s never happened yet.
He’s landed on his feet and takes the blows just like a cat, so it hasn’t been a problem yet and the crowd loves it and it gets everybody in the house excited, onstage and offstage alike, and it’s a fun thing to be a part of, really.
Are you looking forward to the Inked Magazine Music Tour, and if so, anything specific about it?
Yes, very much so. It’s an old school, all-star cast and we’re going to play some really nice venues and probably freak a lot of people out with our show, as we usually do. But I think it’s equally likely that we will earn a lot of new fans.
Are you a fan of The Damned Things or any of the other bands playing?
You know, I wasn’t familiar with them until we got booked with them but I did check them out after the offer was made and, yeah, I do like the music and I look forward to hearing them every night.
Who has been your favorite band to tour with so far?
That’s a tough one because in different ways, there have been a lot of them. Like we’ve done four shows with The Smashing Pumpkins and I’ve always been a gigantic fan of them and being able to work with them was really kind of a dream come true. Even though, maybe not the friendliest of hosts, not to bad mouth anyone, it was nothing more or less than I expected and I would do it again and I love all the records still and it was great.
Karnivool was a lot of fun. Those fellows were a lot of fun to roll with and drink and party with and do shows with and I enjoyed their show every night. Some friends of ours from back in Dallas, The House Harkonnen, we did a U.S. run with them which was also great fun.
Do you look forward to touring more or recording in the studio?
That’s also difficult because I love both parts of it so much. There is so much satisfaction in doing a good recording and listening to playback and being satisfied and thinking how it’s going to be received and looking forward to reviews and just to see how it does and being proud of what you’ve done at the end of the day.
On the other side of the coin, the live show, to be able to stand in front of all these people and pour yourself out to them and affect them this way and to see their reaction first hand and immediately is a high that’s not like anything else.
How have the past few shows been?
They’ve been a lot of fun. Let’s see, we’ve been coming down the West Coast and across the Southwest, which is some of my favorite parts of the country, and yeah, I say it’s been good.
Do you have any plans after your done touring?
You know, I don’t think we’ve looked that far ahead. I think right now, we’re just trying to concentrate on one step at a time. We still have some unfinished songs that didn’t make the cut for Arrows And Anchors so we’ve got a head start on whatever comes next. I’m hoping the next release will be sooner than four years, I think everyone is. I would like us to get to work on that almost immediately.
Fair To Midland will be playing on Aug. 24 at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, Aug. 25 at the Northern Lights in Clifton Park, NJ, and Aug. 26, at the Gramercy Theatre. Find more info at ftmband.com.