Boston has churned out many popular bands over the years, but I'll bet none are as eclectic or as genre defying as Fluttr Effect. Their sophomore release, and first for brand new label 10T Records, is called Marking Time, and contains elements from all sorts of different musical styles, such as prog rock, metal, electronica, gothic, and folk. It's an album that will peak your senses on many different levels, and the use of electric cello and MIDI marimba adds plenty of interesting elements to their sound. Sea of Tranquility Publisher Pete Pardo recently caught up with the band to discuss their history and the new album Marking Time.
Read on for the full interview!
Sea of Tranquility: Can you give us a little history of the band-what you all did previously, how you came together, etc...
Troy: Vess and I had another band before this one that was comprised entirely of Berklee cats. One day all of our musicians graduated and moved away. We were left bandless so we started playing in her basement for fun. J was her roommate at the time and he heard us practicing "Frame By Frame" by King Crimson, came down and sat in which was a surprise because we didn't even know he was a drummer . We'd only ever seen him playing banjo! (he's good too). I knew Val from a film score we worked on together and invited her. Kara just materialized like a Cheshire cat in reverse.
Val: Before the band I had never considered playing rock. Thank god that Vess and Troy asked me to play with them! I was a student at the Berklee College of Music when I met Vess and then eventually Troy. Prior to playing with the band I had been in a string band in the Boston area that played an unusual mix of jazz, klezmer, bluegrass, and avantgarde music. I was playing a lot of freelance classical and folk music gigs.
SoT: Electric cello, MIDI marimba-unusual instruments to use in rock music. What made you decide to go with these rather than traditional bass and keyboards?
Troy: It was never a fully conscious decision. Originally Vess played vibes or a 5 octave marimba but those are a hell of a pain to carry around so when she found the MIDI marimba it was mostly a practical matter. She still used vibes and marimba sounds. The synth sounds didn't start happening until we figured the damn thing out a little bit. As for cello instead of bass- I didn't know any bass players. So we had to try something different. I looked into getting a DJ or a tuba player but we didn't have much to offer except rehearsing my back catalog of songs in a smelly basement in Allston. Val didn't mind the smell and played an instrument that generated low frequencies.
Vessela: We didn't decide to put marimba and cello in the band. We decided to play rock after years of learning to play marimba and cello respectively. For Val and I it is not a concept – it's what we do.
SoT: The music on Marking Time is pretty hard to classify. How would you describe the bands style to someone who has never heard Fluttr Effect?
Val: There are bands that describe themselves as a kind of indescribable love child of this style and that style that is really unique and hard to catagorize. When I hear these bands, I can't help but think "Oh, you sound exactly like ________." If I had the balls, I would like to describe us as "Your New Favorite Band." However, I guess you could call us dynamic genre-jumping thinkrock that actually rocks.
Troy: Think Rock. Not quite prog but not just rock.
SoT: What are some of the influences that go into the making of the Fluttr Effect sound?
Troy: Faith No More, King Crimson, Mr Bungle, Primus, Garbage, Tool, Tones On Tail from my end. Vess and Val are classical players. Val brings the Celtic influence and Vess is from Bulgaria so that's where the gypsy/middle eastern european sound as well as the odd time signatures come from. J is a reformed metalhead into bluegrass and Kara brings the dark gothic mysticism and the visual performance to the project.
Val: From a practical standpoint, I think general sonic problem solving makes an interesting contribution to our sound. The guitar and cello have very similar ranges and the marimba can do just about anything, so finding the perfect place for every sound to fit has forced us to play differently than we might if the band had a typically lineup.
SoT: How did the band get in contact with the folks at 10T Records?
Vessela: Word of mouth. We are strong believers in building a network of people who appreciate alternative forms of entertainment, music and art. We seek out bands we like to play with and people who are interested in breaking the mold of the music industry and looking for new ways to survive as an artist. When Andy from Frogg Café mentioned 10T, it took just a couple of phone calls and we knew we had found the right partner.
SoT: You are based in the Boston area-how is the music scene up there for stuff that falls outside the mainstream?
Kara: Boston seems to have become tolerant of the "art rock band" again, ever since the emergence of many cabaret and art bands from this area. Our music and live performance has been very different, and in return, we have attracted a lot of curiosity and publicity. I think the scene was thirsting for something new. We have some negative critics in the area, but I think, overall, the public is happy to have a choice when it comes to a new live show. It seems as though a lot of cover bands have dominated the scene. I'm proud to say that I feel we have been part of a musical and live performance revival.
Val: Once you scratch the surface of the Boston music scene, you start to see that there really is a community for music that is outside of the mainstream. There are definitely people in the scene who like their rock straight up, overtly recycled and will trash anything that doesn't fit neatly in a box, but in general I think there is an open minded audience in Boston that wants to hear music that surprises them. There are also a number of bands in the Boston area that are trying to make music that is not bound by the constraints of commercial radio. We've been fortunate and have been able to put together some really unique shows here. There is a community of listeners who are actively seeking out unique music, one just needs to find how to reach them.
Troy: About like anywhere else. For anybody doing something different it's always a long search to find those kindred souls who actually listen to music rather than just hear it. People tend to like what they know. If you do something too new most people think "huh, that's weird" and move on to some more familiar territory. Others get excited
at the thought of new possibilities and those forward thinkers are few and far between no matter where you live.
Vessela: All that said, I believe that Boston has a pretty open-minded audience and they are young and not too jaded. Yet.
SoT: There's a pretty good live scene all along the East Coast-how often does the band get out to play live?
Val: We play out quite a bit. It varies from month to month. Nothing can replace the feeling of playing music in front of real live people, so we try to play out as much as we can handle.
Vessela: We just closed October with 16 shows – that was the peak for this Fall. It will slow down by the end of the year and pick up again in February. If I had my ways I would play 16 shows every month!
SoT: There's some material on the new CD that is fairly accessible. Have you had any luck with radio airplay at all?
Val: We are really excited about the radio response we've been receiving. This is the 6th week out of an 8 week college radio campaign and we've been played in over 70 college markets in the U.S. We are in rotation at about 100 different college stations. We've also gotten some radio play in niche programs internationally. The emergence of independent and internet radio programming has been a great venue for our music. The audience that is inclined to listen to independent/internet radio is one that is searching for something different than the mainstream and I think our music appeals to a broad range of listeners who want to hear something new.
Vessela: As far as commercial radio goes… let's talk about something more cheerful.
SoT: Although the music of Fluttr Effect is much more than your typical prog rock, have you considered trying to get on any of the many progressive music festivals here in the US?
Val: We would love to play in front anyone who will appreciate our music, whether it's at a prog rock festival, a rock club, or at an art gallery. We definitely plan on trying to play more festivals in the future. We've already gotten great response from the progrock community at the shows that we've played opening for more typical prog rock bands.
Troy: We've tried but we're not quite prog enough for some of them. Conversely, we're too prog for a lot of rock festivals.
SoT: Now that you have this album finished and released, what's next for the band?
Val: More writing, more improvisation, more experimentation. We've just begun to really understand our potential as performers, arrangers, writers, and sonic technicians. Now we just have to bring that potential to fruition. I have a feeling that I might be adding some MIDI to my setup (Troy and J have been getting excited about that.) And I'm working on trying to add a fifth string to my cello.
Troy: We'll sell this album and then we'll make the next one.
(Click here to read our reviews of Marking Time)