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Fair To Midland Q+A

Rock Sound
Rock Sound 1 July 2011 at 12.03

Check out our new interview and listen to music from Fair To Midland’s fourth album ‘Arrows And Anchors’.

Rock Sound is proud to be streaming a new track from alt behemoths Fair To Midland, check out 'Musical Chairs' below and read on for an interview with frontman Darroh Sudderth about the band's stunning fourth album 'Arrows And Anchors', due for release on July 11.



Hey, it’s been four years since your last album, ‘Fables From A Mayfly…’ What’s been happening in Fair To Midland-land?
Says frontman Darroh Sudderth: “Well… I could sugar coat it for you, tell you that we went into hiding in some search for enlightenment, but then you’d expect some revelatory answer and God knows I can’t deliver in that department! We struggled, we fought to stay afloat as individuals and as a band. We left our label, management, booking agent and essentially started over. The bulk of our time was spent writing and just attempting to get back on our feet and keep our footing. It’s taken longer than hoped for between albums, but we don’t want a weak link in the chain. We’re a band that still wants to make albums, and we don’t believe in filler.”

Rock Sound readers are able to stream new track, ‘Musical Chairs, by just scrolling a few pixels upwards. What can you tell us about this one?
“This is our keyboardist Matt [Langley]’s baby for the most part. It’s one of the first written for this album and, like most of our songs, took a while before we were happy with throwing our name on it. Lyrically, I’ll let you all make it your own as I like to do the same with these songs and other musicians, not that this song is particularly vague. Both live and on album I enjoy the outro section most. Matt did an excellent job with that string section. It just sounds big, pretty, mean, and dark all at once. I’d say that’s quite the accomplishment.”

…And your lyrics are once again both brilliantly abstract and strangely poignant. Is this a headspace you’re able to get into quite easily? Are you one to write while sober or do you prefer a little Dutch courage?
“Well, thank you. Like anyone and everyone I think I’ve still got loads of room for improvement. The lyrics are always in a constant state of revision until put to tape, but it’s the one thing I don’t struggle with much when it comes to songwriting. I honestly don’t know why that is. If only I had the same luck when it came to writing the music, but when it comes to lyrics I’m usually in a strange and chaotic enough headspace to not need any assistance. It’s when writing the music that putting myself in different places is beneficial… and I couldn’t tell you why. The bulk of the music I personally wrote for this album was done [mail bomber] Ted Kaczynski-style. I secluded myself dangerously so for extended amounts of time while consuming large quantities of whiskey and Ritalin earlier on in the writing process. I wouldn’t recommend it. The lack of sleep coupled with complete isolation is not a complimentary cocktail for anyone who suffers from bouts of severe anxiety and borderline agoraphobia. The only positive thing to come from it were strong songs.”

The last track on the album, ‘The Greener Grass’, is a 10-and-a-half minute epic written as the sister song to ‘The Wife, The Kids, And The White Picket Fence’.
While ‘TWTKATWPF’ is tremendously uplifting, ‘The Greener Grass’ speaks of crocodile tears and cold graves. What’s the correlation between the two songs?

“Well… you’ll have to forgive me. In both interviews and lyrics I really struggle with knowing how to get my point across and just articulating in general. With ‘The Greener Grass’ I wanted to challenge myself as – and I use this term loosely – a ‘songwriter’. I wanted to try write a long, both pretty and dark pop song. I won’t go in depth too much at the risk of misrepresenting the songs, but I wrote both and am very close to them. When writing ‘The Wife…’ I felt it was one-sided and wrote both intros to both songs within the same week. At the time, ‘The Wife…’ came to me quicker lyrically and musically, and it wasn’t till it was completed that I inexplicably felt it was a call without an answer. As odd and pretentiously artsy as that sounds, it’s the truth. This is the only song I’ve ever written with a preconceived notion of what it should be and where it should go. I plan at some point to tie the two together on a recording for myself. I’ve demoed the sync and it’s actually quite creepy how they line up, but I know if I attempt to explain lyrically how they’re related I’ll fail miserably, but they are related musically and lyrically.”

Which songs on ‘Arrows And Anchors’ were the easiest and hardest to write, and why?
“Oddly enough, in my opinion the hardest and easiest was one in the same. At one point during the writing process we were feeling pressured to write at an uncomfortable pace. Basically, I just spit something out. Not a concept we embrace or practice regularly. ‘Rikki Tikki Tavi’ was the result. A bipolar monstrosity that we made ourselves walk away from after its initial completion. It’s going to be different depending on which one of us you ask but just walking away from a song after two or three hours at most is a foreign and unsettling concept to me. It’s a great song but I’m a tenacious and indecisive bastard. It takes a lot for me to leave it be.”

Was the recording process for ‘Arrows And Anchors’ different from your previous experiences?
“We knew it was a darker much more cynical and bleak album as a whole. It wasn’t what we set out to do but a result of where we were. We weren’t good company… myself probably more than the rest of the guys. We do what each individual song calls for. We’re not going to put a circle in a square peg. It just so happened that this album and the bulk of its songs had much bigger and sharper teeth, so why not let it bite? The recording process, though, has always been a challenge for me. It’s too contained and it never fails for me… with each studio visit an outbreak of alopecia is inevitable. My nature won’t allow me to have fun in the recording process. Instead I’m plagued with what kind of small footprint I’m leaving. The only difference with this album and previous releases is that we spent substantially less time and tried to focus more on recording a performance as opposed to having it too clean. Being in the studio with us is like watching a tennis game with vertigo. I’ll let you all figure that little analogy out.”

With the new album about to drop, do you consider ‘Arrows And Anchors’ to be the definitive Fair To Midland album?
“I don’t know that we’ve made our definitive album. I think if we thought we’d even come close we’d have no reason to continue – we’d want to leave on a good note. Hopefully we’ll be given the opportunity to write and record that album, but I think each one of our albums has differed so much from the other. You can tell when you hear one album to the next and often one song to the next that we are sincerely confused and mismatched people working together. And I’ve always felt what makes a definitive album definitive is when said artist finds their voice and captures it in a way that is completely unmistakably different and relatable at the same time. It’s easily one of the finest lines there is to walk as a musician and we are still gauging the wind.”


'Arrows And Anchors' is out on July 11, for more on Fair To Midland head to ftmband.com.


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