This year, I started writing bios for bands to use in their press materials and online. So far, it’s been great work. One of my biggest concerns when writing up a band I really like for a publication is that they like what I have to say about them, that they think it’s fair and that I “get it,” whatever it is, that they think makes them special. That doesn’t mean I would ever change what I have to say about a musician to try to appease them. Rather, it’s my hope that the way I see them and the things I take away from their music, they feel like has some basis in their creative reality.
Writing bios for bands just does away with that tension completely. Instead, I get to find ways to help people talk about themselves and say exactly what they mean. In the process, we usually have the kind of banter and friendliness that’s often lacking in the sometimes stilted construct of interviewer/interviewee. Here’s one I wrote for the band FIGHTs, which was a recent favorite client of mine.
Art is for the observer, not the creator. This was the revelation FIGHTs’s J Burton had in 2009, en route to SXSW from Lafayette, La., with his band at the time, Dire Woods. That was the day Burton heard his future, somewhat ironically, in a record from the past — Brian Eno’s Before and After Science. 3 minutes and 57 seconds — the length of the track “King’s Lead Hat” — was all it took for Burton to decide. He had to quit Dire Woods and start making dance music.
Making people think had always been the goal, but now that was displaced by a need to make them move. So Burton set about gathering a veritable super-group of local music luminaries, chosen for their soul as much as their chops, to realize this new dream. Burton’s enthusiasm for the project, bolstered by an immediate and fervid response from local fans, could not be contained, and he found a place for myriad local musicians to lend their talents. At one point, FIGHTs (also known, cheekily, as The Formal Institute of Great Hit Tunes) boasted seven members, with two bassists and two drummers. Eventually, that was winnowed down to six, with one of the bass roles switching to synth, leaving the seasoned line-up of J Burton on keys and vox, Matthew O’Neal on bass, Brycen Gaddis on synth, Danny Devilier and Dallas Griffith on drums — though Devilier sometimes doubles as a fiddle player, leaving Gaddis to take over drum duty — and Jessie Lalonde singing backup.
Music for Villains is the group’s first full-length, following last year’s acclaimed EP Summer Hits. A titular nod to Griffith’s position in the local Mardi Gras Courir as Le Villain, the album is a loosely tied together “day in the life” concept of a lowlife who wakes up hung over after a camping trip, goes to school, laughs at his bereaved teacher and eventually gets arrested. That story is told through largely up-beat and infectious dance grooves, packed with dense arrangements featuring fuzzed-out bass, blooping synths, driving percussion and ebullient vocals from Burton and Lalonde.
FIGHTs’s impressive duo of EPs (including their original, The Mature Sound of FIGHTs) has garnered them an invitation to Louisiana’s Festival International for the second year in a row. And while being recognized publicly is a great reward, the greatest of all is the sight of crowds pressed against the lip of the stage, the sound of fans chanting FIGHTs’s name. Burton set out to make art for the observer, and if the response he gets from audiences is any indication, he’s succeeded.