By Mandi Kimes
Seattle psych rockers Fauna Shade are gearing up for an expansive 2016. With two releases and two separate lineups under the belt, the band is ready to release more material, play more shows in the surrounding areas of Washington, and eventually venture outside of the Pacific Northwest to bring their music to new listeners. Since releasing Baton Rouge last year, Fauna Shade have captured the attention of Consequence of Sound to premiere their single “Marzipan,” which writer Ben Kaye describes it as “a strange, swirling, wonderful example of what (Scotty) Smith is capable of…feeling like rolling waves of drug-induced color.”
In the meantime, Fauna Shade have a variety of shows across the Seattle area coming up. Thursday night, I will be feasting my eyes and ears upon them at Sunset Tavern, along with Great Spiders and Spirit Award. Below is my interview with lead guitarist, vocalist, and primary songwriter Scotty Smith. Click here for show information.
MANDI: When I listen to your music, I hear a mix of The Growlers and Mystic Braves. Can you tell me some of your band’s influences when it comes to songwriting and performing?
SCOTTY: Our influences range as wide as the Mississippi, but I feel the strongest influencers that shine through in this group are:
1. Nirvana -- Their use of beautifully driven punk rock guitar tones tore me open as a confused adolescent, but they also offered the young mind tracks that featured cello and acoustic guitar that translated emotion just as passionately. I found that very eye-opening to have that versatility in a rock and roll band. The use of dynamics based off The Pixies formula was engaging and infectious: soft, loud, soft, loud.
2. MGMT -- They threw me for a loop with their sophomore album Congratulations. I couldn't see very many patterns in the music, so it felt like there was a surprise around every corner. It kept me guessing and by the end of it, all I could do was listen to it over and over again. I perceived it as a playfulness, so now when I'm working on a song I don't like the thought of listeners being able to predict where the song is going to go.
MANDI: You’ve been receiving a lot of local press from KCWU (University of Washington College radio station) to KEXP to playing EMP’s Sound Off! Festival. How were you able to capture the attention of Consequence of Sound for your single premiere for “Marzipan”?
SCOTTY: We've learned that in order to succeed in delivering our music to the ears, we have to play this whole music game. Part of that game is engaging a team that helps us spread our music around. I'm really excited about the team we've built and am extremely surprised at all the attention it's getting. As for musically capturing their attention: I have no clue, I'm still quite puzzled by all this. I love music and making music is way too much fun to feel like any of this is deserved. I've spent a lot of thought trying to justify our successes but what it comes down to is I have no idea what I'm doing. Music is a magical thing and who am I to question its reasons? We're just along for the good times and free food.
MANDI: You stated in your KEXP interview that you would like for your music to be “the equivalent to a beam of light that found its way into your kitchen only to illuminate a crystal doorknob you’ve never seen as anything special before.” What other sources of imagery can you provide for your music?
SCOTTY: It's winter now. The days have been so gloomy and short that this quote makes me laugh. I always say, never take a beam of light for granted, it came all the way from the sun just to hit the corner of your medicine cabinet mirror and leave your bathroom littered in rainbows. The least you can do is let it shine in your eye and question why such a thing would exist. I would hope that if our sound had a smell that it'd be reminiscent of a book of family photographs that was kept in your basement since 1955, and while looking at a picture of your grandmother at your age you breathe deep and the scent of the aged pages consume your senses. You wonder if your life will look and smell as romantic and timeless as hers in the eyes of your grandchildren.
MANDI: You’ve gone through a line-up change with your band recently. Are the current members the ones we hear on the album? If not, when can we expect to hear the next recordings?
SCOTTY: On the first release, which was a 3-song EP, you hear Ryile Smith on drums and bass and me on guitar and vocals. Since those days, Ryile has left and started his own group called Crater Lakes. The most recent release Baton Rouge features all current members, Derek Johnston on bass, Richie Owen on drums, and I. Our next studio recordings are due out in spring and we are now a year deep with this line-up so shit should be sounding pretty on point and tight.
MANDI: Do you guys have any plans to tour outside of Washington?
SCOTTY: We're all currently on probation restricting us from leaving the state, but as soon as that's lifted we're hitting the road...ha. We've been making short runs around to Canada and down the West Coast and they were really fun. We'll definitely be making some rounds outside the state. I haven't traveled much and I can't imagine a better way to see the country than with good friends and some rock n roll.
MANDI: What do you like to do when you’re not doing music?
SCOTTY: You can find Richie tearing up the skate park or traveling, trying to fill out all the pages in his passport. Derek has a wonderful wife and a great group of friends that enjoy hikes and assorted board games. You'll catch me strolling through the alleys with an acoustic guitar or sleeping on the floor with a small dog sleeping on my back.
MANDI: What are you currently listening to?
SCOTTY: We've been writing new music recently, so my head feels clouded with words and riffs; I've been bumping a lot of classical and some jazz. I watched "Love & Mercy" not too long ago and went on The Beach Boys kick of a lifetime. Brian Wilson's story is beautiful and heart breaking. I never knew the depths of the Pet Sounds record. I highly recommend watching that movie and learning about his life if you haven't already. Here's a short list of note worthy jams: Connan Mockasin’s "It's Choade My Dear," Lake’s "Roger Miller," Kevin Morby’s "All of My Life," Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s "Can't Keep Checking My Phone," Dent May’s "Born Too Late" and a classical track, Gary Shocker’s “Cherry Blossoms”.