AN INTERVIEW WITH FADE AWAAYS
In a city that is currently struggling with its identity as a “music city,” with local venues closing and a community now left to figure things out for themselves, it’s becoming a challenge for young up and coming bands to find opportunities in the scene and gather a following. Thankfully, there’s a band called Fade Awaays that are showing by example that it’s still possible to make it as long as you know how to rock out and just be yourself. This group from Toronto (consisting of members Reid MacMaster, Duncan Briggs, Sean Hackl and Owen Wolff), are making some of the most fun and hopeful rock music that we’ve heard in a while. They are unapologetically themselves and are leading the way by showing that yes, you too can do this if you’re willing to be as authentic as possible.
At the beginning of the year they released their debut album A Taste of Life, a 7-song record packed full of high energy that is meant to make you forget about all of your worries and just let loose. It’s party rock, minus the goofiness. It’s a great example of their potential as a future stadium rock band, but until then you can catch them ripping it at a local club in the city and putting on for the youth in Toronto.
When catching up with them last month, we had some very lengthy and in depth discussions about the state of popular rock music and Toronto’s loss of local venues. While those discussions have been left out of this Q&A for editorial purposes (for they probably would have taken up this entire article), we also discussed a number of other things like how their new record came about, how popular rock music has influenced their songwriting and much more.
FIRST OF ALL LET'S TALK ABOUT YOUR NEW ALBUM TASTE OF LIFE. TELL US MORE ABOUT IT.
REID: The whole EP was kind of a process of bringing songs together that we’ve had for a long time. It’s not like it was written at a very specific time and then recorded immediately after that. It was a long period of time that brought all of those songs together, but a couple of them were newer when we were recording it, like “Kentucky” was maybe a month old. “Taste of Life” as well, was a couple months old at that point - but it really was a long time coming when it came to bringing these songs together. We had been playing some of them in our live set for so long that we finally wanted to have something to represent where we were at a little bit.
“Seal Beach” and “Feelings Don’t Show” were both two years old at the point when we recorded them, so there’s definitely things that we wanted to perfect. It really is a great feeling to finally put that final punctuation on it, where it’s like - “this is the song, it’s out now for people to listen to” - and you can move on to the next thing.
DUNCAN: Our old EPs didn’t sound like us anymore too. We’ve changed so much in those 3 years that we’ve been playing together and we just needed to capture what we sound like now and it felt like an attempt at a “best of.”
OWEN: The whole album is a package of our best material narrowed down to like 7 songs, because there were plenty of songs that also didn’t make the record. This is us presenting our best.
DOES THAT THEN TIE INTO THE TITLE A LITTLE BIT, A TASTE OF LIFE?
SEAN: Taste of Life is about being “you” in the moment. It’s about a situation where you’re realizing that you’re in this moment of life but that you’re going to move on from it because it’s only just a taste. I don’t know, it sounds kind of cheesy.
WELL HOW DID YOU END UP DECIDING ON THIS TITLE?
REID: The hardest part about being in a band is naming the band and then the hardest part about making an album is naming the album. So we just decided that that song’s [“Taste of Life”] theme was definitely a part of it and represented what the record was about. It was also just this new song that we were all really excited about.
OWEN: I think it’s very fitting too. The four of us are a younger band and Taste of Life represents this sort of coming-of-age theme. So it has a lot to do with us growing up. This is our first studio album and I think personally the four of us individually have grown a lot and we’ve experienced a lot things in life since we were in high school, both good and bad. A lot of this has gone into our songwriting, so it’s a good amalgamation of the perils of human experience. Period!
DUNCAN: I was also really drawn to it because this album really holds a bit of everything that we do. It’s loud, it’s soft, it’s fun, it’s kind of sad and it’s exciting. It’s everything that we do. It’s life.
NOW I KNOW THE QUESTION OF INFLUENCES GETS ASKED A LOT, BUT DOES THE STATE OF POPULAR ROCK MUSIC INFLUENCE THE SONGS THAT YOU WRITE?
REID: Definitely! You need to make music that you like and that you believe in! That’s the main thing for us.
OWEN: Yeah for sure and there are parts of me that want to write music that is progressive and always go for the “new” thing, but at the same time you can be flogging a dead horse with that. I’m getting nowhere fast or I could just write a ripper of a rock song that I’m going to love and a lot of other people are going to love. It’s either going to take me an hour or a couple months to write it depending on which way I go.
DUNCAN: If you go out on stage and play a song that you know is sick and that you know that you’re going to have a good time playing it, people are going to see that.
YOU GUYS OPENED FOR WOLF ALICE LAST YEAR, WHICH WAS A PRETTY BIG DEAL. HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT?
DUNCAN: That was the most last minute crazy thing. We found out the night before.
REID: They got us on that show less than 24 hours before it was going to start.
OWEN: I was sitting in my grade 12 history class when I got the news.
REID: Their opening band couldn’t get a visa.
DUNCAN: I have a funny story from that show. I was on the phone with one of the guys, talking to them about how much I wanted the show to go well and how I wanted everything to sound perfect. I was trying to think of what I could add to my setup and I think maybe Owen was like “here you want to borrow my EQ pedal?” I was like, sick that sounds super professional. So during soundcheck at the venue, I put it on and my bass is just buzzing like crazy and I’m kind of freaking out. I didn’t even think that it would be the EQ pedal since my bass was a little fucked, a little bit of a garbage bass at the time. So what I did was I ran to the closest music store, which was five blocks away, I bought a bass and returned it three days later because they wouldn’t rent it to me. I spent 800 dollars and then I got all of my money back. Turns out it was actually the pedal that was causing the buzzing.
WHAT IS SOME ADVICE THAT YOU WOULD GIVE TO YOUNGER BANDS THAT ARE OUT THERE STARTING OUT?
OWEN: To me, one of the things is as long as you rock hard, you’re going to get the hard rocking shows. You just have to keep practicing and keep writing new music. People take notice when you’re doing cool shit. That’s why some bands just come out of nowhere and blow up in a couple days. Other than that another key advice that I always give is worry about the business when the business is knocking.
SEAN: You also have to decide what you want. I think for us we’re all very set on doing big shows and touring more. So, in terms of bands that are strictly DIY, what does that mean right? Does that mean that you’re never going to accept a show at a big venue or you’re never going to work with a promotion company? For us, I’d say that we started with DIY roots and we still have that mentality. I did the design for the album cover and Duncan’s girlfriend Maddie did the photo and our friend Nicky did the logo. These are all people that we’re very close with and so we still foster that mentality of working in a close community and making good art. I would never go to a company to help us design a logo because we have too many friends and people that we know here in Toronto that are already good artists, that we could rely way more on to do that than like “logo.com”.
SO NOW AS A BAND WHEN DID IT COME TO THE POINT WHEN YOU STARTED SETTING THESE IDEAS OF WHO YOU ARE AND WHAT YOU WANT? WHEN DID YOU GUYS DECIDE THAT IT WAS TIME TO LEVEL UP?
DUNCAN: That’s kind of funny, me having the mind of a 12 year old mind that I have I was just thinking about how the stages of being a band are kind of like a video game. There’s different levels. When you’re at level 1, you’re playing as many shows as you possibly can and then like Owen just said, when the business comes around the main goal should be to show people how much you love music but know where your place is.
REID: I think it’s a constant thing. Being in a band, you’re always trying to make yourself the best that you can be and we’ve had countless times where we’re like “we need to up ourselves, we need to make ourselves better and improve in this way.”
OWEN: I was just thinking about this while I was peeing earlier. There was one year in my life where I was gigging five nights a week and working really hard to establish myself as a tight musician because whenever you go to a show it takes ten seconds to determine whether this band is tight or not you know? So that’s what I wanted, that’s what I was craving. When I just joined this band, we were doing the exact same thing. Gigging five nights a week, playing and practicing a lot just to get really really tight and about last year was when we started working with our first manager, Julien, to have someone help us to get in contact with people. He found us, we didn’t find him. He shook our hand and said, “I want to help you guys” and that’s kind of when everything started rolling. We met one guy and all of a sudden we had so many more opportunities.
DUNCAN: I think we definitely needed that, too. We needed that confidence boost and outside look from someone to come and say “hey I love what you’re doing and I want to help.” Just to hear that, was like oh someone came to see us once and then sent us an email being like “yo you guys have something.” That’s so inspiring for us and we now want to keep that momentum going.