Interview: Filligar On New Albums, Sibling Rivalries & Band Reunions

When Filligar first introduced themselves to Live4ever via an impressive live display at London’s Good Ship venue last summer, our eagerness for the latest polished fruits of their labour was planted. The resultant album certainly didn’t disappoint, and the scope, creation and variety which is packed into ‘The Nerve‘ makes it one of 2011’s best exponents of US rock and roll.

Now, with the British release just around the corner, it seemed like a good time to catch up with the band to find out more about the processes which went into the creation of ‘The Nerve’, and their thoughts on making waves in the UK after a decade’s worth of toil and endeavour.

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Thanks for taking the time to chat with the Live4ever Ezine. We were both holed up in New York last month for the CMJ Music Marathon, how did that go for you guys?

We love playing New York City – it’s always a hard-partying crowd and we’ve gotten to play some great clubs there. CMJ is especially cool because of all the other bands and musicians you get to see and meet. Adam Duritz, lead singer of the Counting Crows, came to one of our showcases and we ended up hanging with him in our tour van. He’s really cool.

How’s the rest of your recent touring been going?

So far, so good. We were out on the West Coast for the past few months where we played some fun shows, including one at LA’s Roxy Theatre, a legendary nightclub with a ridiculous history. But for us some of the most fun shows are at nondescript venues across America. We just played a show in a friend’s garage in Rhode Island. It was pretty minimalist as far as sound equipment goes (no PA or anything – we were singing through amps) but it was a crazy show.

New album ‘The Nerve’ will be your first release in the UK, but your eighth overall since forming in 2000. How does it feel to finally gain some well deserved recognition overseas after ten years of making records?

It’s exciting, especially when you’re talking about UK music fans, since it’s the birthplace of some of the greatest rock music ever. A lot of our favorite bands are British. We are already beginning to plan a return tour….

Has the song-writing process changed much for you over the years?

It’s always dynamic, there’s no formula for it. We’ve always had the same line up – just the four of us. We have a pretty collaborative song-writing process. Each song is a collective effort. A song might start with a lyric idea, or a vocal melody, or a chord progression or a beat. We just roll with what we think is cool and don’t care where it comes from.

‘The Nerve’ is an album that is full of variety – was that a conscious decision you made when recording it?

We wanted to make an album that conveyed our love for live performance. This was really the only criterion we imposed; we didn’t want to go crazy with production elements or pad the mix with synths or anything. We have pretty diverse musical backgrounds: Casey is a classically trained pianist, Pete’s played in a number of world percussion ensembles and contemporary music labs, and both Teddy and Johnny have performed in a number of different vocal groups. When we’re writing music, all those influences come out.

‘Health’ is a highlight on your new album – what’s the story behind that song?

With ‘Health’ we wanted to write a heavy rock song with a slow, burning pulse and pair it with a general optimism in the lyrics. Casey used a Mellotron for the melody, which gave it a classic sound. Towards the end of the song where its structure unravels, you’ll hear lots of delay, reverse harmonica, and even a breaking guitar string (we kept it in from the original take). It’s really fun to play live and usually we use it as our live show’s climax.

How many of the songs on this album were borne out of jamming sessions? Songs such as ‘Slow Night at the Red Sea’ sound as if you made it up as you went along – with impressive results.

Every song recorded on ‘The Nerve’ was borne out of jamming sessions. We compose by playing them together and listening to where the music wants to go. If we can’t play them live, we don’t record them. It’s a rhythmically diverse song – Pete plays a Haitian rhythm in one section, a New Orleans Dixieland part in another, and a classic rock beat in others. All of that was the result of jamming together and finding out what would get people moving.

filligar1Which track on ‘The Nerve’ has been the most enjoyable to play live?

They all have nice things about them. Sequencing a live show is different than sequencing an album. What begins and ends an album isn’t always the best way to begin or end a live set. The songs all take on new forms the longer we play them, with lots of improvisation. Each night is different, so it’d be hard to pick a favorite.

Which process gives you the biggest buzz – touring or recording?

Recording is more like work, and touring is more like play. While we do like writing new content, it’s hard to beat the experience of touring. It’s really an extraordinary experience to travel and perform in new cities and for new people.

What’s it like being in a band with family members? History has shown us that it can be quite detrimental.

We’ve obviously have had our fair share of showdowns between the brothers but you know, since we have been playing together for almost a decade, there are very few things which we have not already fought or argued over. So we’ve developed a certain amount of tolerance, or indifference, and most disputes are short-lived. Except when it comes to girls… we’re still pretty competitive about that.

Have you written any material for your next album? If so how are the songs sounding?

We always have new material going. We’ve got about 40 unfinished songs that we’ll be farming from for our next album. We just put a couple of new songs up on filligar.com that will be on our next record.

New Filligar Tracks: Knock Yourself Out / Dead Wrong by Filligar

The Rolling Stones are clearly an inspiration to you. What do you think about bands that carry on well into old age?

We have great admiration for bands with long careers. Our goal is to make the best music we can for as long as we can, and hopefully not burn out in a few years. One thing about bands like the Rolling Stones is that they have become institutions and have long careers because they are all great musicians and make great music. We look up to those bands such as Wilco who have such great catalogues and will carry on well into old age.

So what does 2012 hold for Filligar? Will you be back in the UK to support the new album?

A lot of live shows and a lot of new music. We’ll definitely be back to the UK in 2012. We had too much fun last time to not come back. We’re just waiting for the Border Patrol Agency to approve our entertainment Visas.

And finally, we have to ask your opinion on reunions which are very popular at the moment. Paul Weller thinks they are harming new bands, but what do you make of them?

Our parents’ generation produced rock music that still reigns as the best out there. We think it’s up to new bands in our generation to produce music good enough to stand beside great bands of the past like the Allman Brothers, Zeppelin, The Doors or the Rolling Stones. Reunion tours shouldn’t be an issue if the music is good enough, and if the dudes can still play, right? We just saw Robby Krieger and Ray Manzarek from the Doors play live, and it was a real treat.

‘The Nerve’ will be released in the UK on November 28th.

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